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    Russians not Surprised by Putin's Presidential Plans

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    Russia was not surprised by Vladimir Putin's declaration on Saturday that he was ready to return to the Russian presidency.
     
    The threatened exit of finance minister Alexei Kudrin on Sunday is, according to an analyst, not necessarily the end of Russia's fiscal hawk.

    Ending months of speculation over which of them will be president, Medvedev proposed at a congress of the ruling United Russia party on Saturday that Putin, now prime minister, take the post of president in 2012.

    Putin, widely regarded as the driving force in the country for the last 11 years, invited Medvedev to take his place as prime minister.

    Political analyst at Moscow's Carnegie Centre Nikolai Petrov said the political tandem's decision was no surprise, but that reform might be expected after the March 2012 elections.

    [Nikolai Petrov, Analyst, Moscow’s Carnegie Center]:
    "Putin never went anywhere, he has always been the main acting person in the Russian power system. The fact that he is now stepping into the role of the formal leader, to me seems to mean that he will no longer oppose the carrying out of political reforms, and political modernization which, in his current role - the role of the real leader who is not in the formal center of power - can only seriously weaken his position."

    As one fallout from the announcement, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin threatened to boycott Russia's next government.

    Petrov, however, said that it was too early to count out Kudrin, and that he might very well make a return as prime minister.

    Meanwhile, on a central Moscow square, opposition protesters gathered for a meeting against Putin's return to the presidency.

    Over 100 protesters showed up, representing 17 different political opposition groups, many of them holding signs with messages such as "Putin must leave" and "I am for a Russia without Putin." ...