Vladimir Putin Coy About Running for President Again

Putin says he and current president Medvedev won't challenge each other.

MOSCOW Sept. 11, 2009— -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said today that he hasn't yet decided whether he'll run for president in 2012 after current President Dmitry Medvedev's term is up.

If Putin decides to run, he would be going for his third term, having served two terms between 2000-2008. Under Russia's constitution, a president is allowed to serve more than two terms, but not consecutively.

Putin said that he and his hand-picked successor Medvedev would come to an agreement before the election as to who would run, but they would not compete against each other.

"My term expired [in 2008] and I thought Medvedev was the best person to replace me and I backed him," Putin told a gathering of academics and journalists at his home outside Moscow, according to Reuters.

"In 2012, we will think together and will take into account the realities of the time, our personal plans, the political landscape and the United Russia party, and we will take the decision," he said.

Soon after Medvedev took the reins from Putin in May 2008, the new president proposed a constitutional amendment extending the presidential term from four to six years, starting in 2012. That raised eyebrows, leading observers to believe that Medvedev was paving the way for his mentor's return.

Under the new law, Putin could technically rule the country until 2024 following a potential re-election in 2012.

Putin was named prime minister the day after Medvedev was inaugurated and though the duo said they would rule the country "in tandem," many experts and Russians believe that Putin is still in charge.

Victory for either in 2012 is all but assured and both men enjoy sky-high approval ratings. A poll released last week by the independent Levada Center put Medvedev at 62 percent. In August Putin's approval stood at 78 percent according to Levada, 10 points shy of his high of 88 percent following the five day war with Georgia last summer. In comparison, President Barack Obama's approval rating now hovers just above 50 percent.

Putin has maintained a robust image of himself. Earlier this summer he was photographed barechested while riding a horse and swimming the butterfly stroke. Earlier this year, he was credited with saving a camera crew by shooting a charging tiger at the last minute.