Medvedev Ducks Questions on Early Election

President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated in an interview published Thursday that a proposed constitutional amendment extending the presidential term to six years would apply only to the next president but sidestepped a question about whether he would leave office early.

Asked by the French daily Le Figaro whether he might step down before the end of his term to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin, Medvedev said he is "in the process of working right now."

"Why are you pushing me into certain decisions?" Medvedev was quoted as saying. "I can say only one thing for sure, and that is that the new terms will benefit only whoever is elected to the office of president once the necessary amendments have entered into force."

He made no mention of possible early elections, telling Le Figaro only that "[t]he current term in office for the president is four years."

Medvedev submitted the bill this week to the State Duma, which will begin considering the amendment Friday, Interfax cited Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov as saying.

The Duma will pass the bill in a third and final reading Tuesday, said Vladimir Pligin, head of the Duma's Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Building, Interfax reported.

Putin gave his backing to the bill on Wednesday.