STAYING POWER

Don't Count Putin Out

It has long been speculated that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is just a placeholder for Vladimir Putin, who has to wait until 2012 to run for president again, because the Russian constitution prohibits more than two consecutive terms. Putin is fanning the flames, saying Thursday he’d “think about” running for president again. On Thursday, the steely leader spoke for a marathon four hours as part of his annual town-hall forum, which debuted in 2001 when Putin was president. When asked if he would retire into ordinary civilian life, Putin responded, "Don't count on that." And when questioned about the 2012 presidency, the ever-popular prime minister responded, "I will think about it. There is plenty of time for that." Putin fielded questions from the live audience and also via phone, email, and text messages, addressing topics ranging from terrorism to the economy to pensions to hip-hop music.