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Putin to return as Russia's president


(Reuters) - Vladimir Putin declared on Saturday he planned to reclaim the Russian presidency at March elections that could open the way for the former KGB spy to rule until 2024.

The announcement, greeted by cheers at a congress of Prime Minister Putin's ruling United Russia party, ended months of speculation over whether he or President Dmitry Medvedev would run. The two have ruled in a power 'tandem' since Putin was forced by the constitution to yield the presidency four years ago after serving a maximum two consecutive terms.

"It is a great honor for me," Putin said to a long standing ovation from thousands of party members in a Moscow sports stadium after Medvedev proposed his mentor return as president. "Thank you, I hope for your support."

Putin, 58, described in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables as the "Alpha dog" in the tandem, then left the stage and embraced Medvedev. He also proposed his younger and more liberal protege replace him as prime minister after the March election to lead a young reformist government.

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