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Putin denies authoritarian rule and personality cult in Russia

Moscow, 5 June: President Vladimir Putin has said the Russian presidency should have a time limit.

"Two terms are enough. Whether it will be four years or five is an internal affair. It is important not to break the constitution. There may be two five-year terms but no more. But this is not topical for Russia at all," he said at a Thursday [5 June] meeting with student winners of a writing contest on the subject "My home, my city, my land".

Putin said that he was categorically against amending the constitution. "If someone wants to do it, let them do it without me," he said.

He does not think the Russian system of government is authoritarian. "I don't think there is an authoritarian system or a personality cult in Russia. There will no longer be a situation in Russia where power is vested in one group of people. The people have made their choice for democracy," he said.

It would be a big mistake to take the laxness and indecisiveness of the authorities for manifestations of democracy, he said. "Power is much tougher in countries with an advanced democracy. It is important that the law be the same for everyone and that everyone observe it," he said.

Putin considers it necessary to strengthen the system of justice and the independence of the media and legislative bodies.

"Unfortunately, in the election sphere, very much still depends on taste and personal ambition. Once parties have a practical influence on life in the provinces, then there will be more concern for the provinces and democracy will grow stronger," he said.

Later, the president answered students' questions.

Asked why a person should not stay in office for three or more terms, Putin said that when someone is in power for long, he "loses the ardour of the first years of being in power".

"More than that, he develops what the people describe as an entourage," Putin said.

Asked whether he is satisfied with his team he said: "I am not satisfied even with myself but, of course, the team does do a lot."

Asked whether there is too much emphasis on the personality of the president in Russia, Putin said: "In our country, this is what we would describe as a promoted brand and everyone uses it with greater or smaller success, clumsily or not. Either for one's own purposes or to earn money." He expressed confidence that the time for that is passing.

Asked what a president cannot afford to do, Putin said after a pause, he "cannot go outside the boundaries of the Russian constitution", and then added with a smile, "but sometimes badly wants to".

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