5 Dec 2008

Putin rules out early Kremlin bid

3:46 pm on 5 December 2008

Russian PM Vladimir Putin has ruled out an early return to the presidency.

He told the BBC he would wait until 2012 - when presidential polls are due - to decide whether to run at all.

Recent efforts in Russia to extend the presidential term from four to six years have fuelled speculation that Mr Putin may return to the post soon.

He was obliged to step down this year after serving two consecutive terms. Dmitry Medvedev was elected as Russia's new president in March.

Mr Putin said he had a "very effective tandem" with Mr Medvedev, adding that they have worked together for several years.

Mr Putin warned Russians of tough economic times ahead, during a nationwide question-and-answer broadcast.

But he reassured his audience that the current economic troubles would not compare with the collapse of the 1990s.

Mr Putin also said he hoped for better ties with the United States under Barack Obama.

Mr Putin also said Moscow would be forced to reduce gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev did not pay $US2.5 billion it owes for gas.

He said Russia was having a "difficult dialogue" with Ukraine, adding: "If our partners do not fulfil the agreements or, as in previous year, permit themselves to illegally tap our resources from a transit pipe, we will be forced to cut down the supply. What else can we do?"