PITTSBURGH (Reuters) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he could run for a second term in 2012 but made clear a job swap with his powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was also possible.
The issue of who will take the Kremlin post in 2012 is a sensitive one for investors in Russia drafting their midterm plans.
"If I work well, if people trust me, why not run?" Medvedev, in Pittsburgh for a summit of the G20 group of leading economies, told a student during a question-and-answer session at Pittsburgh University.
Medvedev was elected president last year with the strong support of his predecessor and mentor Putin.
Putin remains more popular and influential than Medvedev and some Russia-watchers speculate Putin is planning to return to the presidency in 2012.
He fueled a wave of speculation earlier this month by telling foreign academics and journalists he and Medvedev would decide which of them will run in the next elections.
Putin said he and Medvedev would not compete.
Economic crisis has not damaged the two men's popularity ratings and either would be favorite to win the next presidential poll if he ran.
In Pittsburgh, Medvedev moved to soften the impression given by Putin's remarks.
"This does not mean we are deciding for others, this only means that we politicians should hold consultations," he said.
"I am ready to work in a different job as long as it is useful for the country," he said, after being asked whether he was prepared to swap jobs with Putin in 2012.
"I do not want to look into the future, but if the country sees it as useful, I am ready to work at any post," Medvedev added. "The president's job is difficult, the premier's job is also difficult. The main thing is to be useful to the nation."
In recent speeches, Medvedev has outlined a plan to modernize the Russian economy, reduce its dependence on oil and gas exports and make it more investor-friendly.
He has also admitted that Russian democracy remains "weak" and promised to make the political system more flexible and open.
That course would contrast with Putin's during his eight years as president.
Putin is credited at home with presiding over eight years of economic boom, but is blamed by critics for concentrating too much power in the hands of the Kremlin.