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Putin says he won't remain Russia's president for life, will decide later on a 4th term

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MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin has said he won't remain Russia's president for life and will step down in line with the constitution no later than 2024, according to an interview with a Russian news agency released Sunday.

Staying beyond that would be "detrimental for the country and I don't need this," he told the Tass news agency.

Putin, 62, has effectively led Russia since he was first elected in 2000. He stepped aside after two four-year terms to abide with constitutional term limits, but retained power as prime minister and was elected in 2012 to a six-year term.

Putin said his decision on whether to run for a fourth term in 2018 will depend on the situation in the country and his "own mood."

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at a monument to Russian Czar Alexander I during an unveiling ceremony in Alexander Gardens at the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. Czar Alexander I reigned as Emperor of Russia from March 23, 1801 to 1 Dec. 1,  1825. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at a monument to Russian Czar Alexander I during an unveiling ceremony in Alexander Gardens at the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. Czar Alexander I reigned as Emperor of Russia from March 23, 1801 to 1 Dec. 1, 1825. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

Throughout the interview, Putin described efforts at home and abroad they he said were trying to undermine his rule.

He said the Western sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses over Ukraine were an attempt to punish his friends and were "driven by a desire to cause a split in the elite and then, perhaps, in society." But to the West's chagrin, Putin said, Russian society remained consolidated behind him.

He described Russian laws that restrict foreign funding of non-governmental organizations and foreign ownership of media organizations as necessary to prevent outside interests from influencing Russian politics.

Putin acknowledged that not all Russians support him, which he said was fine as long as their criticism was constructive and they didn't violate the law. But he said his government would crush anyone who tried to weaken the state, describing them as "bacteria."

"They sit inside you, these bacilli, these bacteria, they are there all of the time," Putin said. "But when an organism is strong, you can always keep back the flu because of your immune system."

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