Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Putin picks successor and is likely to become prime minister

This was originally published in December 15, 2007 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan and Nareg Seferian

WASHINGTON – Russia’s president ended months of speculation about his likely successor when he approved the choice of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as the ruling party’s candidate for president in the elections set for March 2008.

President Vladimir Putin said on December 10 that he “fully and completely” supports the choice of United Russia and three smaller pro-presidential parties of the 42-year-old Mr. Medvedev as a candidate for president, news agencies reported. Another deputy-Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov, who oversees security agencies, was believed to be the other top contender.

Mr. Putin remains overwhelmingly popular in Russia and his endorsement is seen as decisive for Mr. Medvedev’s election. On December 2, the Putin-led United Russia and other pro-presidential parties won an overwhelming majority of seats in parliament.

Russian stock markets have rallied on the news. Mr. Medvedev said on December 11 that, if elected, he will invite Mr. Putin to serve as prime minister.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent member of the outgoing parliament, said that Mr. Medvedev was picked as successor because he would “without a doubt give up the path” for Putin, if he should choose to return to the Kremlin at some future time, The AP reported.

Like Mr. Putin, the would-be successor is a native of Saint Petersburg, where he was trained as a lawyer. Mr. Medvedev began his professional career in 1994 as an aide to Mr. Putin, then a mid-level official in the city government of Russia’s second-largest city, and then followed him to Moscow in 1999.

There Mr. Medvedev rose to become Mr. Putin’s chief of staff in 2003 and then deputy- Prime Minister in 2005. Mr. Medvedev has also served as the chair of the board of Gazprom, the state-owned oil and gas conglomerate, which also co-owns Armenia’s natural gas monopoly.

In addition to other duties, Mr. Medvedev coordinated the Year of Armenia in Russia in 2006. In May 2005, while working as Mr. Putin’s chief of staff, he visited Yerevan to discuss bilateral cooperation.

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