Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Putin Taps Medvedev as Presidential Successor

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Putin Taps Medvedev as Presidential Successor

Article excerpt

President Vladimir Putin ended years of suspense Monday by naming a longtime aide, Dmitri Medvedev, as his chosen candidate to succeed him in presidential elections slated for March 2.

"I have known him very closely for more than 17 years and I completely and fully support [his candidacy]," Mr. Putin said at a meeting with leaders of four pro-Kremlin parties, including the giant United Russia, which is expected to endorse him at its convention next week.

Putin has repeatedly insisted that he will step down, as Russia's Constitution requires, when his second term expires early next year. Surveys have indicated that up to 40 percent of Russians are ready to vote for any candidate the ultrapopular Kremlin leader nominates, and experts say Mr. Medvedev's ratings are likely to skyrocket once the state-run media begins to seriously promote him.

But nothing appears settled about Putin's own future, and the choice of a weak and politically dependent successor such as Medvedev suggests that Putin may be planning to wield power from behind the scenes.

"This solid front of support from pro-Kremlin forces means that Medvedev will definitely run and almost certainly be elected president in March," says Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. "But Medvedev has no power base of his own; if he didn't serve Putin, his name would be completely unknown to the public.... It's hard to see him as a strong and independent candidate."

Medvedev has been first deputy prime minister for the past two years, and also serves as chairman of the state-owned natural gas monopoly Gazprom. A lawyer from Putin's hometown of St. Petersburg, Medvedev is considered among the most liberal members of the Kremlin's inner circle and is known for his ardent declarations of loyalty to the president.

Along with former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Putin's old KGB colleague, Medvedev has been long discussed as a likely heir. …

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