MOSCOW - President-elect Vladimir Putin tried to distance himself from the fraud-tainted ruling United Russia party on Tuesday, announcing he was stepping down as its chairman.
Keen to protect his own ratings which are higher than those of a party discredited by claims its victory in a parliamentary election in December was achieved with the help of fraud, Putin proposed outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev as its new leader instead.
"In line with political practice here, the president stands above parties," Putin told the leadership of United Russia, describing the head of state as "a consolidating figure for all political forces in the country."
"In this regard, after the inauguration in May I deem it necessary to step down as chairman," Putin said. The powerful prime minister, who will be sworn in as president on May 7, suggested that a party congress in the second half of May should elect Medvedev as the new chairman.