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Russian Daily Removes Interview With Pundit Predicting Putin Stepping Down 

Russian political scientist Valery Solovei
Russian political scientist Valery Solovei

Russia's Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) daily newspaper has removed from its website an interview with a Russian analyst who speculated that President Vladimir Putin might step down before the next presidential election in 2018.

The interview with analyst Valery Solovei appeared on MK's website on November 10, but was swiftly removed. Sources close to Solovei told Current Time TV, a Russian-language television network run by RFE/RL and VOA, that he immediately left Moscow after the interview. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Solovei is well known for his often accurate forecasts about the Kremlin's political decisions and appointments.

In his interview with MK, Solovei said Moscow might call early elections in 2017 because Putin understands that Russia will not be able to normalize ties with the West with him in power. He also said Russia’s economic woes were expected to gradually worsen year on year.

Solovei also said that Putin will have "some problems" and will be absent from the political scene for several months next year. He did not give any details.

Solovei expects the Kremlin to make an announcement about the elections in December.

He said Putin would be replaced by either Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev -- the Russian president from 2008 to 2012 in between Putin's second and current term in office -- or Putin's former chief of staff Sergei Ivanov.