|Dmitry Medvedev, right, has tried to step out of Putin's shadow [EPA]
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has said he wants a second term, but will not stand against Vladimir Putin, his former mentor and the current prime minister.
"I will tell you one thing: I believe that any leader who holds the post of president simply must want to run," Medvedev said in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper on Monday.
The interview appeared riddled with mixed messages, with Medvedev saying Russia needed political competition yet expressing concern that running against Putin could hurt the country's development.
The Russian president said he would announce his decision later. Medvedev added that he and Putin sometimes had different approaches, but denied that there was any kind of rift between them.
"The thing is that Vladimir Putin - both my colleague and old friend - and I still largely represent the same political force," he said.
"In this sense, competition between us could, in fact, harm those tasks and goals we have been pursuing for the past years. Therefore probably this would not be the best scenario for our country and this concrete situation."
Both the leaders have said repeatedly that they will decide later which of them will run for president in the vote.
Putin, who anointed Medvedev as his successor in 2008 after serving the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms as president, has been maneouvering himself to reclaim the job.
Medvedev's statements challenging Putin's legacy have stoked speculation about tensions between the two leaders.
The Russian president last month held a major solo news conference and on Friday gave a keynote address to the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum, where some of his supporters hoped for a clear statement of his intentions.
But on both occasions he failed to give clear signals.
Earlier this year, Medvedev, made several bold attempts to show he was his own man, notably criticising his former mentor for his stand on Libya conflict.
Many observers believe the final decision on who will run in the March 2012 polls rests with Putin, whose political coalition will meet for a major convention in early September.
But Medvedev's caution over his future sometimes sits awkwardly with his stark admissions that Russia is in need of radical change.
"For many reasons people in our country have for centuries put their hopes in a good tsar, in the state, in Stalin, in leaders but not themselves.
"But we understand that any competitive economy is first and foremost means hope in yourself, that you yourself is able to do something. This is a challenge that every man responds to," Medvedev said.
Russia is to hold a presidential vote in nine months time.