IAAF president Lord Coe says that the Russian authorities have “grasped the enormity of the challenge” as they tackle doping in the country.
The IAAF has banned Russian athletes from all competition in the wake of allegations of state-sponsored doping.
“The tough decision we made is starting to bear fruit,” he said.
The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has been “encouraged” by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s admission his country’s own system “didn’t work”.
While denying allegations of a state-sponsored programme of systematic cheating, Putin said his country should acknowledge its anti-doping failures.
Coe admitted that “there is a real possibility” of Russia being reinstated to international athletics, as expected, in November, after August’s World Championships in London.
“The new federation is populated by people who I do genuinely think have grasped the enormity of this challenge,” Coe told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We should acknowledge the progress that is being made.
“We need to make sure that we continue to do everything we can to get clean Russian athletes back into the international fold.
“That was always the task once the federation had been suspended.”
The Wada-commissioned McLaren report claimed in December that more than 1,000 Russian athletes had benefited from state-backed cheating between 2001 and 2005.
That followed the suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency by Wada after it was declared “non-compliant with immediate effect” in November.
On Monday, Alexander Zhukov, the head of the country’s Olympic Committee, dismissed the McLaren report, telling Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1 on Monday, it was “clear that the serious evidence in the report does not exist”.
Wada has said that it has full confidence in the report, despite discrepancies in the supporting evidence.
President Putin struck a more conciliatory tone as he promised to move responsibility for anti-doping to an autonomous body – a key part of the requirements set out for its readmission by Wada.
“We will transfer this system from the sports ministry to an independent organisation, as has been done in many countries in the world,” he said, adding that a new testing facility would be built at the Moscow State University.
Both the International Association of Athletics Federations and Wada have drawn up conditions that Russia must meet to be re-admitted to their organisations. The IAAF’s list includes an “appropriate official response” to the points in the McLaren report.
“Wada is encouraged by this sign of progress,” said president Sir Craig Reedie.
“This public admission is an important step in the right direction.”