Times 2

Putin to return as Russian president

MOSCOW, Sept 24 (AFP) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Saturday said he would stand for an historic third term as president after current Kremlin chief Dmitry Medvedev agreed to step aside for the 2012 polls.

In a carefully-choreographed job swap announced at a glitzy ruling party congress, Medvedev said he was ready to be prime minister under Putin, who has dominated Russia for over a decade and could now occupy the Kremlin to 2024.

The long-awaited announcement at the United Russia congress ended months of uncertainty over which of the men would stand and was greeted with howls of dismay by liberals who predicted that the country was heading for catastrophe.

“I think it would be correct for the congress to support the candidacy of the party chairman, Vladimir Putin, to the post of president of the country,” Medvedev told the annual congress to cheers from thousands of delegates. Putin rapidly accepted the offer and made clear he wanted Medvedev to take his own job as prime minister. “For me this is a great honour,” Putin said in his acceptance speech.

Presidential elections are scheduled for March, with the United Russia candidate almost certain to win the country's top job due to the emasculated state of the Russian opposition and the Kremlin's control over the media.

The announcement marks a dramatic comeback to the country's top post for the former KGB officer, who had left the Kremlin in 2008 after serving a maximum two consecutive terms and installed his former chief of staff as president.

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