Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday it was to soon to say if he will run for president in the 2012 election but it will not be long before he announces his decision.
"Such decisions should be made at a time when the conditions are right and they can make a conclusive political impact," the president said at his biggest news conference to date.
The lack of an announcement on his plans for the presidency was a major shock to the assembled press. World media had speculated that Medvedev would make his plans clear at Wednesday's event.
Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have made clear that one of them will run in presidential elections on March 11, 2012.
"The electoral process is governed by certain rules, which I will follow," Medvedev said. "If I decide to make such an announcement, I will make it."
Medvedev, who succeeded Vladimir Putin as Russia's president in 2008, has cast himself as the more liberal side of Russia's ruling tandem.
The news conference was held at the Skolkovo research hub, the cradle of Medvedev's ambitious plans to diversify Russia's $1.5 trillion economy away from its dependence on oil and gas.
“Medvedev is playing for time to secure more room for political maneuver,” said Russian political analyst Konstantin Eggert, adding that Medvedev “is very seriously considering this matter, and I believe that he would like to run.”
Alexei Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Information, said both Putin and Medvedev were waiting for the outcome of the Duma election in December, “when it becomes clear whether [ruling] United Russia [party] has preserved its constitutional majority in the new parliament.”
However, he suggested that neither Medvedev, nor Putin would run, saying that the final decision “will be a surprise” and that a “third candidate” will emerge.
Mukhin said this figure could be one of presidential chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin or First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.
"I hope that they [NATO] will respond to the questions put forward by President Barack Obama and me, and we will be able to forge a missile defense cooperation model. If we don't, then we will have to take retaliatory measures... then we will have to intensify the development of our offensive nuclear capability," Medvedev said.
"It would be a very bad scenario, this scenario will take us back to the Cold War era," he added.
Britain, France and Germany have been pushing for the UN Security Council to condemn Syria's crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Syrian President Bashar al Assad has been using tanks and troops to crush the dissent.
"I will not back this resolution even if my friends beg me to," Medvedev said.
"It is sad that these resolutions can be manipulated," he said.
Russia also abstained from supporting Resolution 1973 authorizing airstrikes to protect Libyan civilians against forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
European integration was a "normal path" for Ukraine, he said, "but if Ukraine chooses that path, it will be difficult for it to [integrate] into the common economic space [with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan] or the Customs Union."
"One cannot sit on two chairs at the same time," he added.
"It is a short question, and the answer will also be short: Absolutely not dangerous in any way," Medvedev said, offering no indication as to whether Khodorkovsky might be released before serving out his term in 2017.
MOSCOW, May 18 (RIA Novosti, Alexander Stelliferovsky)