MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin confronted criticism over his decision to seek a return to the presidency next year, warning in a television interview shown Monday of a return to the volatility of previous decades should Russia swerve from its current course.
“They say that things cannot get any worse,” Putin said, referring to his critics. “But I would be wary. It is enough to take two or three incorrect steps and all that came before could overcome us before we know it.”
He continued: “We lived through the collapse of the country. We lived through a very difficult period in the 1990s. Only in the 2000s did we begin to get to our feet. We are stabilizing the situation, and of course we need stable development ahead.”
The session, which was shown on Russia’s three major government-connected television channels, followed a similar interview last month by Dmitry A. Medvedev, Russia’s current president, in which he tried to allay frustrations, particularly in liberal circles, over his decision announced in September to cede the presidency to Putin.
Supporters credit Putin, who has been in power for 12 years, with pulling Russia from the chaos that enveloped the country after the Soviet collapse. But there are fears that his return to the presidency, possibly for another 12 years, could mire the country in stagnation, or worse, lead to further limitations on political and human rights.
In Monday’s interview, Putin acknowledged such sentiments, but dismissed his critics, saying they offer no alternatives.
“Our opponents need to propose their own program,” he said. “And more importantly, they need to show through practical work what they can do better.”
Since coming to power, Putin has eliminated most legitimate opposition, leaving Russia with a smattering of parties loyal to the Kremlin and little in the way of civil society. Few doubt that he will win elections next year, though he took issue with critics who said Russians would have no choice in the matter.