Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the 2012 Russian presidential elections are of greater concern to him than to anybody else, in an interview with Kommersant newspaper.
Ever since Dmitry Medvedev replaced Putin as president in 2008, there has been widespread speculation that Putin plans to return as president at the 2012 elections.
Putin has refused to be drawn on his plans for the election, in contrast to Medvedev. Speaking at Stanford University during his landmark U.S. visit in June, Medvedev said he may run for a second term if he secures enough public support.
"[The 2012 presidential elections] are of concern to me, just like they are to everybody, but actually of greater concern to me than to anybody else. But I am not making a fetish out of them," Putin said.
"On the whole, the country is developing steadily," he said. "I can't see any major problems; the crisis has hampered us a little, of course, but on the other hand, it has helped [us] concentrate on our priorities."
"It is important that the 2012 problem doesn't pull us away from this path of steady development," he said.
Despite growing public dissatisfaction with the government, most recently over the state's apparent inability to take control of the wildfires that ravaged central Russia this summer, Putin continues to be the country's most popular politician.
Opinion polls show that most people in Russia believe that it is he who actually runs Russia, not President Medvedev.
Putin said he was not bothered by the recent fall in the approval ratings of Medvedev and himself.
"I don't follow [the ratings] but I see that they are wobbling; it is the crisis. After all, so many people have fallen on hard times, I understand them," Putin said.