Vladimir Putin has said he won't remain Russia's president for life and will step down in line with the constitution no later than 2024, according to an interview with a Russian news agency. Staying in office beyond that would be "detrimental for the country and I don't need this," he told the Tass news agency. Putin, 62, has effectively led Russia since he was first elected in 2000. He stepped aside after two four-year terms to abide by constitutional term limits, but he retained power as prime minister and was elected president again in 2012 to a six-year term. Putin said his decision on whether to run for a fourth term in 2018 will depend on the situation in the country and his "own mood."
Putin said Western sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses over Ukraine were an attempt to punish his friends and were "driven by a desire to cause a split in the elite and then, perhaps, in society." He acknowledged that not all Russians support him, which he said was fine as long as their criticism was constructive and they didn't violate the law. But he said his government would crush anyone who tried to weaken the state, likening them to bacteria. "They sit inside you, these bacilli, these bacteria, they are there all of the time," he said. "But when an organism is strong, you can always keep back the flu because of your immune system." (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)