Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's approval rating slumped this month to the lowest level of his two-year premiership, a poll showed on Thursday.
The number of Russians who said they had confidence in Putin slid to 61 percent on June 6, the lowest level since April 2007, the poll by the Public Opinion Foundation showed.
The pollster gave no reason for the fall, though analysts said growing discontent over corruption and the economic crisis combined with confusion over who really rules Russia may be driving the decline.
The approval rating of Putin's handpicked successor, President Dmitry Medvedev, also fell with 53 percent of Russians saying they had confidence in him, the lowest level since April 2009.
Two years into his presidency, Medvedev is still widely viewed as a junior partner to Putin, who even after the recent decline remains Russia's most popular politician.
One of Russia's leading sociologists, Olga Kryshtanovskaya, said the slide in approval ratings could be due to uncertainty over who really runs the country.
"People cannot figure out who plays the first role -- Putin or Medvedev -- and who is going to be the next president, which stuns them," she told Reuters.
When asked this week if he would run for president in 2012, Putin, whose approval rating last year reached a high of 71 percent, said he was happy as prime minister.
He added that he had agreed with Medvedev that they should focus on current policy issues rather than complicate the political situation by making statements about 2012.
Just months after Putin stepped down as president after two four-year terms in the Kremlin, Russia was hammered by the economic crisis, suffering in 2009 its worst annual economic performance since 1994.
The economy is forecast to rebound this year, though polls show there is rising discontent on issues ranging from unemployment and lax industrial safety rules to high-levels of corruption and police brutality.
"People are demanding change, be that with campaigns to protect the environment or historic preservation. There are protests against the perks officials enjoy and miners are walking out," said Mikhail Vinogradov, head of the St Petersburg Politics Foundation, a think-tank.
"But Putin has not responded to these demands so far."
Last month, police violently dispersed anti-Kremlin rallies in Russia's largest cities and detained more than a hundred protesters just two days after Putin said he did not oppose peaceful protests.
Several weeks earlier, riot police were called in to disperse miners and their families in a Siberian town after a mine blast killed 66. They had blocked a railway line to protest over low pay and poor safety at the mine.
In February, Russia was shocked by a 10,000-strong rally in the Baltic region of Kaliningrad, where growing unemployment and surging costs united rival opposition forces for one of the largest protests in Russia since Putin came to power.
ReutersLast Mod: 10 Haziran 2010, 20:30