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End of the Bromance?

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Back to the future: At the annual convention of the United Russia party this week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that his political mentor and predecessor, Vladimir Putin, would be running to return to the presidency in 2012. As he is almost guaranteed to win, Putin can now theoretically rule Russia until 2024, when he will be 71 years old.

The announcement ended years of speculation about whether Putin would return to the presidency, speculation that began almost immediately after he announced he was stepping down -- in compliance with constitutionally mandated term limits -- in 2008. It also marks a transition point for one of the most intriguing partnerships in modern politics.

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Seeing double: In a political experiment unique in Russian and world history, Russia has been ruled for the last three years by two men: a technocratic lawyer turned businessman turned president, and a KGB veteran turned president turned astonishingly powerful prime minister. The contrast between their styles was obvious from the beginning, but has only been reinforced by the Kremlin PR machine's taste for photographic pageantry.

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Gone fishin': Even as speculation raged over their political future, the two men found time for some R&R in the Astrakhan region, about 800 miles south of Moscow. On Aug. 16, the two fished in the Volga River.

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The Life Aquatic: Putin's solo maritime exploits were somewhat more dramatic. On Aug. 10, he went scuba diving at an archeological site in the Black Sea and -- naturally -- came back to the surface with two priceless amphorae.

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Knight rider: Putin went hell for leather on Aug. 29, appearing at a nationalist biker rally in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Speaking at the rally, Putin extolled the contribution Soviet motorcyclists made during World War II.

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The quiet life: In contrast to the theatrics of his prime minister, Medvedev kept a low profile in the run-up to last week's announcement. Here, he drinks tea as he visits a hostel at the Peoples' Friendship University in Moscow.

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Workin' at the car wash: Affection for the prime minister can sometimes take some very strange forms. Here, young women from an online fan club called "I really like Putin" set up a car wash (for Russian cars only) in front of Moscow State University on July 21.

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Give me an M! Not to be outdone, members of an Internet community supporting Medvedev practiced yoga in cheerleader outfits on Red Square on Sept. 22. The president is a well-known yoga enthusiast.

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I'm back: "I want to say directly: An agreement over what to do in the future was reached between us several years ago," Putin told his supporters on Sept. 24. While his return to the presidency answers one major mystery about Russian politics, it's still an open question as to whether Medvedev will stick around to retake his former seat as prime minister. They're all smiles for now, but can Vova and Dima continue to work together smoothly? (In one early sign of friction, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said he would resign rather than serve under Medvedev and was summarily dismissed.) One thing's for sure: Russia's leading pair will continue to be interesting to watch.

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