Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin played down rumors by Russian media on Tuesday that he plans to lead the Just Russia party and become a possible presidential candidate.
Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov abruptly stepped down as leader of the Just Russia party over the weekend, sparking speculation that he was vacating the spot for another heavyweight like Rogozin or even President Dmitry Medvedev.
On Tuesday, Novy Region internet news agency published an interview with Konstantin Zatulin, a United Russia party member and deputy in Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, where he said the party would be headed by Rogozin.
"I have been paying attention to Dmitry Rogozin's gradual return to politics and assume that Rogozin will in September, when the new party lists are formulated, return and become the leader of Just Russia, or will be the first person on the [presidential] ballot," Zatulin was quoted by Novy Region as saying.
Rogozin played down the prospects of becoming the new leader of Just Russia or becoming a presidential candidate.
"It's not important what a person says but why [he said it]," Rogozin told RIA Novosti in a Facebook message, adding: "But not even that is important to Zatulin."
Nikolai Levichev is presently the acting leader of the Just Russia party after Mironov stepped down; however, Zatulin believes that Levichev is merely a stand-in until September in order to make smoother the transfer of power to Rogozin.
On his Facebook page, Rogozin posted the Novy Region's story with the comment: "It would be better if Zatulin looked out for his own future and didn't decide theirs for others."
Rogozin failed to respond when asked by RIA Novosti to comment on whether he had any plans to lead the Just Russia party or was considering running for president in 2012.
Zatulin has been a controversial figure in politics, losing his mandate in the State Duma in 1995 and returning only in 2003. He become persona non grata in Ukraine and later banned from entering the country for his statements on the Crimean Peninsula.
MOSCOW, April 19 (RIA Novosti, David Burghardt)