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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Says 4-Year Term Is Too Short

Itar-TassPutin meeting reporters from Group of Eight countries at his Novo-Ogarevo residence outside Moscow on Sunday.
President Vladimir Putin has renewed his opposition to serving a third consecutive term, but he said he backed a longer stay for his successor.

The speakers of the State Duma and Federation Council promptly promised Monday to consider constitutional amendments to extend the presidential term from four years.

Putin, speaking in a lengthy interview with Western media ahead of the Group of Eight summit this week, noted that Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov had floated the idea of a five- or seven-year presidential term.

"I am not speaking now about the length of the term -- it could be five or seven years -- but four years is certainly too short a term," Putin said in the weekend interview, posted on the Kremlin's web site Monday. "But I think the term should still be limited."

In addition to advocating a longer term, Mironov has repeatedly called for a constitutional amendment to remove the clause barring the president from running for a third consecutive term.

But Putin, whose second term expires in May 2008, again rejected the idea of such an amendment -- although he sidestepped a question on whether he might run for president at a later time, such as in 2012. "So far we have had only one Russian president, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, who died 40 days ago," he said when asked whether a former president might become the nation's leader. "We have no other former presidents, and my term is ending. I do not understand what you are talking about."

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said his United Russia party, which has the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to amend the Constitution, would discuss an extended presidential term in early July. Mironov suggested that the term be extended starting from 2012.

Putin has suggested extending the presidential term before, but it was not until the G8 interview that the speakers of both chambers started a practical discussion on how it might be implemented.

As in the past, Putin refused to answer questions about what he might do when his second terms ends. Putin, who remains hugely popular with ordinary Russians, has earlier said he would rely on the public's trust in him to play a role beyond his second term. National media have been awash with speculation on what position Putin might chose, including prime minister, Duma speaker and Gazprom chief.

"I will certainly work, but I cannot say for now where and in what capacity," Putin said. "I have certain ideas, but it is too early to speak of them.

"Let's wait and see. Many things will depend on how the political process develops in Russia at the end of this year and at the start of next year. There are different options."

Putin again refused to say whom he would back in the presidential race, saying his preferred successor would have to be "decent, honest and highly professional." But the president added a new detail to the multifaceted description of his successor: He hinted that the next president might be a current or former governor rather than a career federal official. He said the candidate should have a good track record "either on the regional or federal level." Later, when advocating an extended presidential term, Putin said that if a governor were elected president, he or she would need at least two years to learn the ropes and by that time would need to start preparing for re-election.

Currently, the two first deputy prime ministers, Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, are considered the front-runners in an informal race for Putin's support. Both have been assigned portfolios that allow them to oversee publicly the spending of billions of rubles on various projects and claim credit for successes.

Other potential candidates suggested for the position include current and former regional heavyweights such as Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Khloponin, Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachev, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, and Sergei Sobyanin, the former Tyumen governor who now serves as Putin's chief of staff.

In addition to taking questions about his plans after office, Putin spent a substantial amount of time deflecting criticism of his government's policies, including the treatment of the opposition, state control over national media and the problems of foreign investors. The president countered each criticism with what he said was a similar problem in the West.

"Let's look at what happens in North America -- the sheer horror of torture, the homeless, Guantanamo and keeping people in custody without trial or investigation," Putin said.

"Look at what's going on in Europe: the harsh treatment of demonstrators, the use of rubber bullets and tear gas in one capital or another, the killing of demonstrators in the streets." he said.

Putin jokingly described himself as the world's only "pure" democrat, saying he had no one to talk to. "After the death of Mahatma Gandhi, there's nobody to talk to," he said, referring to the Indian leader who preached nonviolent resistance to Britain's colonial rule and championed civil rights.

Putin also used the opportunity to drum up war rhetoric on U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile defense shield in Europe, reiterating an earlier threat to point Russian missiles at the planned facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic. He accused Washington of "increasing the possibility of unleashing a nuclear conflict."

Putin's threat prompted an angry response from NATO on Monday. Calling the remarks "unhelpful and unwelcome," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said, "As far as I am aware, the only country speculating about targeting Europe with missiles is the Russian Federation," Reuters reported.