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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Won't Be Pulling The Strings Next Year

Despite an increase in public demonstrations calling for him to serve a third term, President Vladimir Putin will not just leave office next year, he also has no intention of trying to retain political control, a Kremlin spokesman said.

At a meeting with foreign journalists late Wednesday evening, Dmitry Peskov denied suggestions that Putin would try to pull strings from behind the scenes after stepping down.

"He's definitely not going to be president," Peskov said, adding that Putin was "not going to continue to rule the country."

Putin has never indicated that he would try to maintain political control, although he has said that he will remain active in public life.

Peskov also said Putin would likely remain the country's most influential individual for at least some time and that he would be more popular than the new president.

"In any country, the president can't ignore a person who's more popular than himself," Peskov said.

Putin has repeatedly denied plans to try to amend the Constitution, which limits presidents to two consecutive terms, even though pro-Kremlin parties hold a constitutional majority in both chambers of the federal parliament and are likely to continue to do so after State Duma elections in December.

This has not stopped groups from staging rallies calling for him to stay on, however. Five such events were held this week.

On Tuesday, residents of the southern city of Volgograd and the far eastern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky took to the streets to call for Putin to remain in office, Kommersant reported.

Then on Wednesday, some 20,000 people rallied in the Chechen capital of Grozny, carrying signs with slogans like "V. Putin has stopped the war in the republic of Chechnya." Smaller rallies were also held in Gudermes and Achkhoi-Martan, two smaller cities in Chechnya.

Rallies with the same message attracted 10,000 people in the city of Tver, Kommersant reported. On Thursday, 800 people rallied in Pskov calling for Putin to stay, Interfax reported.

Similar rallies are to take place in the Tver region city of Rzhev, as well as in North Ossetia, where more than a year ago a local nongovernmental organization was the first to call publicly for Putin to remain in power, Kommersant reported. Another rally might also be held in the republic of Sakha, the newspaper said.

If Russians were to vote in a referendum on whether Putin should stay or go, most would opt to have him stay, Peskov said.

But "for the sake of the future of the country, he prefers to stick to the Constitution," Peskov said.

When asked by one journalist why the process of transferring power has not been transparent, Peskov said the presidential campaign had yet to begin and that it would only become clear in December who is running.

Peskov sidestepped a question on how many current government members could run.

"The wrong person has very little chance of being elected," he said.