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Russia's Putin Urged to Assume Premier Post


Russian presidential nominee Dmitri Medvedev and protege of President Vladimir Putin is calling for the incumbent to become prime minister. VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky has details.

Just 24 hours after President Putin voiced support for Dmitri Medvedev as his successor, the Kremlin leader's protégé returned the favor, calling on Mr. Putin to agree in principle to become prime minister following the election of a new president.

In a nationally televised address, Medvedev praised Mr. Putin for improving Russia's economy, defense posture, and global respect. But he noted that decades are needed to improve the country's standard of living, international position, and quality of rural life. Medvedev says achieving these goals requires continuity.

He says it is not enough to elect a president who shares his predecessor's ideology. He says it is important to maintain the team formed by the current president. He says for this reason Vladimir Putin must become prime minister.

Medvedev began working under Vladimir Putin in the early 1990s in the Saint Petersburg municipal government. Medvedev has served the president in various capacities in Moscow, including chief of staff, head of the Gazprom Russian state energy monopoly, and, currently, as first deputy prime minister.

With Kremlin support and no serious competitor, Medvedev is virtually assured of becoming Russia's next president. His call for a Putin premiership appears to answer the question of what the president will do after he leaves office.

What is not clear is how both men will share power. Currently, the Russian president has more power than the prime minister, but Medvedev in his speech indicated the prime minister is Russia's top executive.

Political columnist Alexander Minkin of the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper says Mr. Putin will most likely take the power with him, because he enjoys the support of the country's ruling elite. In remarks to the VOA, Minkin drew a parallel with a movie in which the popular Russian actor Vladimir Vysotsky plays a subordinate military officer.

Minkin says it doesn't matter what Vysotsky's rank was. He had the lead role and that's that.

Traditionally, Russia has always had a rigid power structure. Before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the czar was the only source of power. Under the Communists, the presidency was subordinated to the secretary-general of the Communist Party, who occasionally held both positions. Post-Soviet Russia has had only two presidents, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, and both were the unquestioned leaders of the country.