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Russia's finance minister rebels over Putin plan

Sep 25, 2011, 4:23 a.m.
Russia's then President Vladimir Putin (L) and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin speak to each other during a meeting of Russia's economic ministers in Moscow, in this file photo taken March 19, 2004. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin/Files

"It's a sign of growing stagnation in the Russian political elite and it means that Mr Putin, if elected, can rule for another 12 years until 2024," said Yevgeny Volk, deputy director of the Yeltsin Foundation think tank.

The U.S. government said it expected to keep making progress in the "reset" toward better relations with Moscow, whoever was the next Russian president.

Putin's decision is likely to cause some nervousness in the West, where he is considered less liberal than Medvedev and more outspoken in his criticism of Western policies.

"This shows that Russia is far away from open, democratic competition for the presidency," said Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

James Goldgeier, a Russia expert at American University in Washington, said: "There will be a businesslike relationship (between Washington and Moscow), but not a warm one."

In his previous, eight-year spell as president, Putin oversaw an economic boom during which household incomes improved on the back of a rise in global oil prices and his tough talking helped restore Russia's self-confidence on the world stage.

But Putin, who was once a KGB officer in East Germany, is accused by critics of riding roughshod over human rights and democracy, and expanding the power of the security forces.

Many economists say his return to the Kremlin makes it less likely that Russia will carry out pension reforms and reduce its

dependency on natural resources. Oil and gas revenues make up half the budget.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine in Moscow, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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