Asked what he plans to do when he leaves the presidency, Vladimir Putin paused and smiled. “But I haven’t decided yet if I will leave the presidency,” said the Russian leader, to laughter and applause from an audience made up almost entirely of Russians who were born after he first became president in 2000.
A month after thousands of young Russians took to the streets to protest against corruption among the Kremlin elite, Putin held the set-piece discussion event on Friday with hundreds of children, in an apparent attempt to portray himself as a youth-friendly president.
Presidential elections will take place next March and Putin is widely expected to stand and win another six-year term. An opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, who organised the recent round of street protests, has said he would like to stand but his name is unlikely to be allowed on the ballot paper.
Putin spent three hours speaking with the assembled children, in a session that was broadcast live on Russian television. Those present appeared to have been screened to ensure there would be no hostile questions.