Source AP ©

Putin to become PM

President Vladimir Putin said Monday that he would lead the dominant United Russia party's candidate list in December parliamentary elections and later could become the premier.

The statements were the strongest indication yet of Putin's plans after he steps down as president at the end of his second term early next year.

Putin is barred from seeking a third straight term as president when his term ends in March, but has indicated he would seek to keep a hand on Russia's reins. Heading the United Russia party list in the December parliamentary vote could open the door for him to become prime minister under a new system in which the power of the president would be diminished.

"I gratefully accept your proposal to head the United Russia list," Putin said at a congress of the party, which is expected to maintain its dominance of parliament in the Dec. 2 election.

Putin called a proposal that he become prime minister "entirely realistic" but added that it was still "too early to think about it."

He said that, first, United Russia would have to win the parliamentary elections and a "decent, competent, modern person" must be elected president.

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