MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he would not leave Russian politics any time soon, telling a questioner asking about his departure: Do not hold your breath.

Putin's future has been the subject of speculation since Dmitry Medvedev replaced him as president in May last year. Some analysts have predicted he will quickly return to the Kremlin while others have suggested he could gradually leave politics.

Asked during an annual marathon question and answer session with the Russian people whether he was planning on taking part in Russia's next presidential election in 2012, he said I will think about it.

A question sent by Leonard from Krasnodar about whether Putin was yearning to spend more time at home with his family drew laughter from the audience.

Do you not want to leave politics with all its problems and to live for yourself for your kids, for your family and to finally relax. If you want, I'll replace you, Leonard's question said.

Don't hold your breath, said Putin with a smile. But if you want to work, we'll look into that separately.

(Writing by Conor Humphries, editing by Richard Williams)