Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would reverse the collapse of the Soviet Union if he had a chance to change Russian history, Russian news agencies reported.
Putin's remark rueing the loss of the Soviet empire on March 2 came one day after he asserted in an annual address that Russia has an arsenal of nuclear-capable weapons that no foe can defeat, in comments that raised concern about a new arms race like that between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War.
It was not the first time that Putin, who served in the Soviet-era spy agency the KGB, expressed regret over the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2005, he called it the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."
Putin's nostalgia about the Soviet system weeks before a March 18 presidential election he is expected to easily win are likely to be welcomed by millions of older Russians who also view the Soviet years nostalgically.
Taking questions from supporters in Russia's European exclave of Kaliningrad on March 2, Putin was asked what Russian historical event he would like to change.
"The collapse of the Soviet Union," Putin immediately said.
But in answer to another question -- if he could choose what period of history to live in -- Putin said he prefers to live in the present day, Russian news agencies reported.
"You see, all my ancestors in the past were peasant serfs, while I am the president," Russian state-run news agency TASS quoted Putin as saying.