Putin rejects acting president role ahead of March vote

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today rejected the idea of becoming acting head of state ahead of March 4 presidential elections where he is the favourite.

In his latest defiant brush-off of the protest movement that has rocked Russia ahead of the presidential polls, Putin also dismissed his opponents as lacking any programme or representatives with whom to hold dialogue.

"We have not discussed this," news agencies quoted Putin as saying following speculation that he could give up his post as prime minister and take on the job of president to get a full grip on Russia amid the protest wave.

"There is no need for this," Putin said.

Some analysts and media had suggested that Putin might be taking on President Dmitry Medvedev's role imminently, after agreeing to a plan earlier this year that would see the two allies swap jobs after the elections.

Putin also said that he had no intention of giving up his post as prime minister ahead of the elections to meet what some analysts claim is a constitutional requirement to ensure a level playing field in the campaign.

"I like this work," Putin told Russian reporters. "It is very concrete. The government bears responsibility in the area of the country's economic policies. It is directly responsible," Putin said.

Putin insisted he was in favour of dialogue with the Russian protest movement but said this was complicated by their lack of a platform or a leader.

"Do they have a common platform? No. They do not have one. Is there anyone to talk to? We need to discuss all of their issues, their problems, but this requires some sense," Putin said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Asked whether he intended to meet the opposition movement's leaders who spoke at the two Moscow rallies that gathered tens of thousands, Putin responded: "I do not even know who spoke there."

Pointing to the fractured nature of the opposition, which includes nationalists, liberals and left-wingers, Putin said the opposition should formulate a joint position for there to be any talks.

"Then people could understand what they want, because they are all different," Putin said.

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