Tags: Putin | Vows | Step | Down | 2008

Putin Vows to Step Down in 2008

Sunday, 10 September 2006 12:00 AM

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to step down in 2008 and said he would recommend his successor fight poverty and ensure strong economic growth, said experts who attended a lunch with the president.

Putin spoke for nearly four hours over the weekend to a group of about 50 foreign experts over lunch at his Novo-Ogaryovo residency outside Moscow, according to people who attended the meeting.

"The most interesting point was that he reiterated that he does not plan to run again for office in 2008 as he believes he has a moral duty not to break the constitution," said Angela Stent, director of the center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.

A Kremlin spokesman confirmed the meeting but said he could not immediately give comments.

Putin, 53, declined to give any details about who could succeed him in 2008, when he must step down after two four-year terms in office. Because the Kremlin has so much power, the issue of his successor is the hottest political topic in Russia.

During the lunch of artichoke soup, octopus carpaccio and sea bass, Putin did not say what he would do after he stepped down but at one point even expressed weariness with politics and said he had not been successful in rooting out corruption.

"He spoke about things he would recommend his successor do," said Nikolai Zlobin, director of the Russian and Eurasian project at the World Security Institute in Washington.

The recommendations would include the struggle with poverty, the creation of a real multi-party system, regional reforms, the diversification of the economy and high levels of growth, said Zlobin, who sat next to Putin at the lunch.

Answering dozens of questions, Putin ranged across foreign and domestic policy, speaking out against sanctions on Iran, implicitly opposing independence for Kosovo and heaping praise on Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko.

He said it was his job to improve relations with the United States, which have cooled because of differences over gas supplies to Europe, accession to the World Trade Organization and competition for allies among ex-Soviet nations.

"My impression was that he was doing his best to improve relations with his international counterparts," said Marshall Goldman, professor of economics at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.

"He tried very hard to make positive comments about President (George W.) Bush and he did not have to make such positive comments."

But he criticized Bush's "bad advisors" and said the European Union "was very difficult to deal with," although the Kremlin wanted a closer partnership with it, people at the meeting said. He also praised Russia's relationship with China.

(c) 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.

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MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to step down in 2008 and said he would recommend his successor fight poverty and ensure strong economic growth, said experts who attended a lunch with the president. Putin spoke for nearly four hours over the weekend...
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2006-00-10
Sunday, 10 September 2006 12:00 AM
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