The Russian president is due to step down next year in line with a constitutional ban on heads of state serving more than two consecutive terms.

Retaining power

However, Putin has suggested that he intends to retain power in some capacity after he steps down and in recent elections he headed the parliamentary list for the United Russia party raising the possibility of his premiership.

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The party holds 70 per cent of the seats in the Duma after the election and it would be relatively easy for them to amend the constitution to increase the prime minister's powers 

"If Medvedev announced it, then the likelihood is that it will take place," Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Kremlin-connected analyst, told the Interfax news agency.

But, Yevgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute of Political Analysis in Moscow, suggested that the statement could simply be a strategy to sideline any potential rival for the presidency.

"It seems to me that Putin still hasn't decided on his next job," he said. "Plan A - Putin really becomes prime minister. Plan B - this is pre-election technology that will allow Medvedev to win in the first round with Putin's support."

Presidential endorsements

The current head of state-run energy company Gazprom has already received some serious endorsements for his campaign.

Sergei Ivanov, his fellow deputy prime minister who had been previously tipped for the presidency, and Alexiy II, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church, have both given their backing.

In his television address, Medvedev said his guiding principle if he became president would be to continue Putin's policies.

"Russia is different now, much stronger and better-off," he said. "We are being respected and we are being listened to. We are not being treated as schoolchildren."

While the Kremlin has portrayed Medvedev as a liberal, giving him responsibility for social programmes, his actual political views are unclear. He is best known as a technocrat able to find creative ways to implement Putin's policies.