Moscow - President Vladimir Putin toldRussians on Wednesday that the time would come when he wouldname his possible successor in the Kremlin, but said the choicewould ultimately lie with voters. Putin, 68, has been in power as president or prime ministersince the turn of the century. His current six-year term in theKremlin is due to end in 2024 and his remarks are being closelyparsed for clues as to whether he plans to extend his rule. Russia changed its constitution last year at Putin's behestallowing him to run for two more six-year terms in the Kremlin,and potentially remain president until 2036.
The Kremlin is at a delicate political juncture with itsrelations with the West badly strained and its oil-dependenteconomy emerging from the pandemic with high inflation and aweak rouble, sensitive issues for voters. Russia holds parliamentary elections in September that areseen as a dry-run for the 2024 presidential election. In therun-up, authorites have cracked down hard on the opposition andoutlawed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's network as "extremist". "A time will come when, I hope, I can say that such and sucha person is worthy in my opinion of leading such a wonderfulcountry like Russia, our homeland," Putin said. The Russian leader was speaking during his annual questionand answers session on state TV that the Kremlin uses forpolitical messaging and to show he is in touch with regularRussians' day-to-day concerns.
"A signal. There will be a successor," Alexei Chesnakov, apolitical analyst who used to work in the presidentialadministration, wrote on Telegram messenger. Putin, a KGB officer in the Cold War, came to power afterbeing named acting president in December 1999 by his ailing predecesor Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first post-Soviet president.