President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he might run for a fourth term in the Kremlin, raising the possibility that he could lead Russia until 2024.
Putin said at a meeting with international experts on Russia that he might run again in 2018, when asked point-blank by former French premier Francois Fillon.
Putin had asked Fillon at the discussion session held in northwestern Russian, whether he planned to stand for president.
Fillon, who was French prime minister between 2007 and 2012, said he would not answer unless Putin revealed whether he himself planned to stand for another six-year presidential term after returning to the Kremlin last year.
"I do not rule it out," Putin said, without elaborating.
"Nor do I," Fillon retorted.
Putin is allowed to hold office for a maximum of two consecutive terms under the Russian Constitution. Now aged 60, he would turn 72 in 2024.
Putin has never specifically vowed to run for presidency again in 2018, but has compared himself to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who stood for office four times.
He served two terms as president from 2000-2008 after which he temporarily handed the Kremlin to his protege Dmitry Medvedev, now prime minister.
If he stayed in office until 2024, Putin would have held power as Russian president for a total of 20 years.
That would be even longer than Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev, who held the top post of general secretary of the Communist Party and ruled for 16 years from 1966 to his death in 1982, despite a long period of ill health.
Joseph Stalin held onto power for longest of any Soviet ruler, from 1924 to his death in 1953.