News / Europe

Russian PM Medvedev Defends Record After Putin Warning

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gestures during an address to the Lower House of Parliament in Moscow, April 17, 2013.Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gestures during an address to the Lower House of Parliament in Moscow, April 17, 2013.
x
Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gestures during an address to the Lower House of Parliament in Moscow, April 17, 2013.
Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gestures during an address to the Lower House of Parliament in Moscow, April 17, 2013.
Reuters
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev defended his government's record in a combative speech to parliament on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin signaled he may be losing patience with his long-time ally.

There has been speculation for months in the media and among political analysts that Putin, now 60, could make Medvedev a scapegoat if Russia's economy continues to decline.

Medvedev hit back after unauthorized video footage showed Putin threatening to sack unnamed senior officials over a failure to implement his social spending plans - for which responsibility ultimately lies with Medvedev's government.

Putin had just told the cameras to stop rolling at a meeting with regional officials and government ministers, and his angry, unguarded remarks revived months of speculation that he has lost confidence in Medvedev.

Medvedev, 47, who has been prime minister since last May, asked for parliament's support in a long-planned report on his government's work that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.

"We live in a dynamic, fast-developing world. It is so global and so complex that we sometimes cannot keep up with the changes," he said, acknowledging that Russia could be dragged into recession if global commodity prices keep falling.

"On the other hand, we live in a society that offers huge opportunities. So I hope that... Russia tomorrow will be a country that is strong and comfortable to live in," said Medvedev.

In a rallying cry to parliament, he called for unity and respect for his government's work.

Deepening his problems, though, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov criticized Medvedev's performance and said he should "draw the conclusions." The Just Russia party threatened to call a no-confidence vote if Russia sinks into recession.

Medvedev would have every chance of surviving such a vote, because the State Duma, the lower house, is dominated by his and Putin's United Russia's party. Retaining Putin's support is vital, however, for his political future.

Medvedev said he had plans for improving the economy, which is heavily reliant on exports of oil and gas. He gave few details, only reiterating his refusal to raise the pension age and saying he would not sell off state assets cheaply.

He said Russia risked sliding into recession because of falling commodity prices, and that the government would consider other stimulus measures to push growth closer to the target rate of 5 percent this year if an economic slowdown continued.

Last year the economy grew 3.4 percent, and last week the government cut its growth target for 2013 to 2.4 percent.

Long-term partners

Putin and Medvedev have been allies since working together in the St. Petersburg city administration in the 1990s, and swapped jobs last May after Putin won a third term as president after four years as prime minister.

In the footage - published online shortly before Medvedev started his speech to parliament, and later shown by state TV - a stern-looking Putin called for more action to fulfill pledges he has made on social spending to improve the lives of millions of Russians.

Putin had made the promises as he tried to win back support after the biggest protests of his long rule.

"If we don't do it, we will need to acknowledge that either I work inefficiently or you work badly and you will need to resign," he told Tuesday's meeting in the footage published by the Lifenews.ru website, which has close ties with the Kremlin.

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that I am currently inclined towards the second scenario."

Putin's press secretary denied the president was referring to sacking the government but the remarks were widely seen as a warning. The Kremlin's anger over the footage - Lifenews said it had been barred from the presidential pool - also underlined the sensitivity of Putin's comments.

A professionally produced video by an anonymous filmmaker, posted on YouTube earlier this year, used archive footage and apparently recent interviews to present Medvedev as weak and ready to surrender Russian interests to a conniving United States. The word "treason" is uttered by a narrator.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is among the list of potential replacements for Medvedev, but Putin has a record of loyalty to his long-standing allies and many political observers say he would remove Medvedev only reluctantly. A significant change of policy would be unlikely as this is dictated by Putin.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs