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Putin says stability needed but won't lift lid on his future

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he doesn't want to scrap presidential term limits or resort to other suggested ways of extending his rule, but otherwise he kept mum about his plans.

Putin has proposed a sweeping set of constitutional amendments, which are seen by his critics as part of his efforts to stay at the helm after his current six-year term expires in 2024. The Kremlin-controlled parliament is expected to approve the changes next week. After that, they will be put to a nationwide vote on April 22 for final approval.

Political pundits and Kremlin foes have speculated that Putin could use the changes to scrap term limits and remain president; move into the prime minister's seat with strengthened powers; or continue calling the shots as the head of the State Council.

But Putin rejected all those options during a meeting with workers and activists in Ivanovo, a city northeast of Moscow famous for its textile industries. Asked if he really wants to step down after completing his term because he's tired of his post, Putin responded coyly that he likes his job and is thankful to the people who support him.

“It's not that I'm tired or willing to step aside,” he said. “Any person in my place would take it not simply as a job, but as destiny. That's how I see it.” He noted, however, that he considers scrapping presidential terms harmful for the country's future even though Russia would benefit from political stability.

“Why don't I want to scrap limits?” Putin said. “It's not that I fear myself: I'm not going to lose my mind, it's not about me. Stability, calm development of the country may be more important now, but later when the country becomes more confident and gets richer it will definitely be necessary to ensure government rotation."

Putin added that transforming Russia into a parliamentary republic isn't a good idea because the country needs a strong presidential authority. “Our country lacks stable political parties, unlike in Europe where they have developed for centuries,” he said.

He also dismissed suggestions that he could shift into the post of the head of the State Council after his term ends, saying such a move would divide the government and would be disastrous for the country.

“That would create dual power that will be deadly for Russia,” Putin said. “I like my job,” he said. “But to use use a scheme that would be unacceptable or ruinous for the country in order to keep power — no, I don't want to do that.”

The 67-year-old Putin, who has been in power for more than 20 years, becoming Russia's longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, didn't offer any clue about his political future.

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