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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Sees Surprises in Presidential Election

Surprise contenders could emerge in the race to succeed President Vladimir Putin, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday after ruling out running for the State Duma as a pro-Kremlin party candidate.

Medvedev, 42, is one of a small group of Kremlin insiders who has been tipped as a possible successor to Putin. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov also have been seen as contenders.

Some political analysts have focused on United Russia, which says its main aim is to support Putin's policies, as a way to elevate potential candidates ahead of December parliamentary elections. A senior United Russia official said last week that Ivanov would likely be placed on the party's ticket during a two-day party convention that starts Monday.

But when asked by a reporter whether he would run for the Duma, Medvedev said, "I will probably disappoint you, but I am not going to be in the party list."

He refused to answer directly when asked whether he would run for president.

"I can say the following: I am convinced that there will be a sufficient number of worthy candidates, both expected and rather unexpected," he said.

Also Sunday, New Regional Development Minister Dmitry Kozak said he would not run.

"I'm now excluding the possibility because I feel I am not ready," Kozak said, Interfax reported.

Putin, who has not ruled out returning to power in 2012, has played a careful game to keep everyone guessing about whom he would anoint with his popularity, currently running at over 70 percent in opinion polls.

He surprised observers by appointing Zubkov, a little-known 66-year-old former head of an anti-money-laundering unit, as prime minister on Sept 14.

Putin, 54, has said Zubkov is one of five people who could succeed him. Among the others are Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, said a U.S. professor who asked Putin to elaborate on the five during a meeting with foreign experts in Sochi last month.

"Not long ago, no one was really visible [as a possible presidential candidate], and today there is a specific number of people who are spoken about," Medvedev said. "That is good for a young democracy."

Medvedev, who also serves as board chairman of Gazprom, said he would not seek election to the Duma because he had other concerns.

"I have other very important affairs," he said, speaking at a conference organized by United Russia. "That does not mean that I don't have sympathy with this political force. On the contrary, my presence here is an obvious demonstration of sympathy."

Reuters, MT