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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Confirms He'll Follow Constitution

In a nod to foreign concerns over democratic institutions in Russia, President Vladimir Putin said Monday that the Constitution would be strictly observed in the election of his successor in the March presidential vote.

Speaking at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks in Wiesbaden, Putin touched on the topic of his future by saying the letter and spirit of the Constitution -- which requires him to leave office next year after two terms -- would be observed, although there is much speculation that he will keep power in another post, such as prime minister.

He referred to Gordon Brown's succession as Britain's prime minister, replacing Tony Blair.

"One prime minister has left, another has come, a change of the head of executive power has occurred without an election," Putin said. "And clearly conditions have been created to make sure that the ruling party stays in power. There are other similar examples.

"In Russia not only the letter but the spirit of the Constitution are going to be observed. It does not mean at all that those who are in power today cannot take part in the life of their own country. Only Russian citizens, voters, can define who can take part in this work and to what extent."

Putin also said authorities could reconsider a controversial law on nongovernmental organizations that critics say threatens to cripple the country's fledgling civil society.

Putin conceded that there might be "excess bureaucracy" that changes to the law, which came into effect in April 2006, could alleviate, RIA-Novosti reported.

But he said "everyone who wanted to register has registered."

"There are one or two cases where [NGOs] have been simply asked to correct their documents," Putin said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Alison Gill, head of the Human Rights' Watch's Moscow branch, criticized Putin for not giving "the complete picture."

"During the last year, we have seen Russian NGOs liquidated by court orders and lots of attacks on them by the authorities," Gill said.

Putin also made assurances that the investigation into the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya was near completion.

"The Prosecutor General's Office announced that the case was in its final stages, and I think that's the way it is," Putin said. "The question is about those who ordered this murder. But those who carried it out and the active participants in the preparation of this crime are obvious. They have confessed."

Putin and Merkel had an easygoing exchange at Monday's public closing session of two-day talks, where the only hints of friction were Merkel's reminder of the need for strong civil societies, and where Putin called for more educational exchanges so Germans "would not get a biased and politicized view of our country."

AP, MT