Putin hints at end to his presidency

During his annual televised news conference, Vladimir Putin spoke out in favour of an amendment to the Russian constitution: the last three words in the passage specifying that the Russian president can serve a "maximum of two terms in a row" could be deleted, he said. This would mean that Putin could not stand for election again. Commentators are unsure whether the statement portends real change.

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Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

He'll stay in power regardless

In a Facebook post republished by Echo of Moscow, St. Petersburg opposition politician Boris Vishnevsky welcomes the announcement - even if it doesn't mean the end of Putin's leadership:

“It means he can no longer be president after 2024, even if he takes a break. That's a good idea in itself - but no reason to rejoice. Firstly, it's just a hypothetical option. Secondly, who really believes Putin will be willing to give up his power after 2024, with all the consequences that entails? Even if you delete the term 'in succession', a number of options have already been evoked which those close to him believe can keep him in power. Parliamentary rule, strengthening of the State Council, a union with Belarus. There is only one option I rule out: Putin relinquishing real power of his own free will. That will only happen if society forces him to do so.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Change is coming to the Kremlin

Radio Kommersant FM sees this mainly as an indication that a restructuring of the political leadership is in the offing:

“Putin has in effect launched a major political campaign with the title 'Change of Government 2024'. But nothing has become any clearer - except that the process has begun. ... So in less than five years we will have a new head of state. ... The president has ushered in a new political season. After all, Putin can't just choose a place to settle for himself - he wants to be asked. And this requires the appropriate preparations. The main conclusion is that the power hierarchy is starting to change. ... The elites have good reason to be anxious, because changes are imminent.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

No Europeanisation - despite the weak economy

Not surprisingly, this year's annual press conference offered little that is really new, the Wiener Zeitung sighs:

“After all these years what can Putin possibly offer that is new? An entire generation of young Russians knows only one Russia, where Putin is boss of the Kremlin. ... If Boris Yeltsin hadn't designated Putin but someone else as his crown prince, Russia would perhaps be a freer, more open and possibly also more prosperous country today. ... Because despite its oil and gas reserves, natural resources, forest and arable land and almost endless territory, its per capita economic output is lower than that of any EU country (except Bulgaria). Nevertheless, Putin has clearly rejected Russia's Europeanisation.”