Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that he will not run for a second term in office because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is a more popular and authoritative leader than he is.
"Prime Minister Putin is now unquestionably the most authoritative politician in our country," he said in an interview with Russian TV. "His rating is somewhat higher".
Putin's bid to return to the presidency has angered some members of the Russian opposition, who say it weakens the strength of Russia's democracy.
Medvedev had previously said that "stagnation" in Russian politics was damaging to both the opposition and the dominant United Russia party. However he officially recommended Putin for the post when the elections take place in March, and the party has in turn approved Putin's suggestion that Medvedev become prime minister.
Medvedev denied that the election result was a foregone conclusion, and said that it would represent a 'renewal' of the government.
"It will be a pivotal renewal of the government - a government consisting of new people. This is fundamentally important," he told Russian TV
"How can [the elections] be predetermined? Such talk is completely irresponsible, misleading and even provocative.
"The choice is made by the people, and these are not empty words - that's absolutely the way it is."