Vladimir Putin: I may be in power until 2024
But Putin says he does not wish to be president for life, which would be 'harmful' to Russia
In an unusually candid interview, Vladimir Putin has hinted that he will run for president again in a move that would almost certainly keep him in power in Russia until 2024.
The pronouncement confirmed what many Russians suspected as long ago as 2012, when a poll found that a third of the country thought Putin would stand for another six year term as president in 2018.
However, in the interview broadcast on the state-run Tass news agency, Putin said that he does not wish to be president for life, which he said would be "harmful" and "not good for the country".
He said that his decision on whether to seek re-election would depend on "my inner feelings, my mood", AFP reports.
Putin has effectively been in power in Russia since 1999, when his predecessor Boris Yeltsin stepped down and made him first prime minister and then acting president. He was elected to the presidency for the first time in 2000 and then again in 2004, but then stepped aside after the two terms to comply with constitutional limits. For the next four years he maintained his influence by serving as prime minister with his loyal ally Dmitry Medvedev acting as president. In 2012 Putin was elected president again for a further six-year term.
In the Tass interview, the Russian leader said he understood that not all Russians supported him, but said that he was happy for his critics to express their opposition as long as they did so within the bounds of the law. But he said that he would not tolerate anyone who attempted to weaken the state, describing such people as "bacteria".
"They sit inside you, these bacilli, these bacteria, they are there all of the time," he said. "But when an organism is strong, you can always keep back the flu because of your immune system."