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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice Expects Putin to Leave in '08

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she expects President Vladimir Putin to leave office next year and allow a constitutional transfer of power to a successor.

"I take President Putin at his word that he will allow constitutional change to take place, that he doesn't have any intention of changing the Russian Constitution," Rice said in an interview with CNBC television. "It would be very bad for Russia if there were some change in the Constitution."

Rice said the Russian people were expecting a change in the leadership in the elections set for next March.

She also said Washington had emphasized to Moscow that the run-up to the elections and the elections themselves should be free and fair, with candidates having access to the media.

Many analysts assume Putin plans to endorse either Sergei Ivanov, 54, or Dmitry Medvedev, 41, as his successor. Both are first deputy prime ministers.

Separately, the State Department called "unfortunate" comments by Ivanov last week that Moscow could put new missiles in Kaliningrad if Washington pursued plans to build a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

"But I don't think it distracts us from the fact that we are having a constructive conversation with the Russians on the issue now," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Thursday.