Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday vowed tostep downin 2008 and said he would recommend his successor fight poverty and ensure strong economic growth, said experts who attended a lunch with the president.
|Russian President Vladimir Putin steps downstairs in this undated photo. [AP]
Putin spoke for nearly four hours 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 torun again foroffice 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 inrooting outcorruption.
Answering dozens of questions, Putin ranged across foreign and domestic policy, speaking out againstsanctionson 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.
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.