U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called Russian President Vladimir Putin's preferred successor a man of a new generation but said Russians will face no real choice in electing a president.
Secretary Rice told USA Today newspaper interviewers Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is a very intelligent person who has sought to implement some very interesting programs in Russia.
But she expressed concern that Russian authorities will deny voters a real choice in the March 2 presidential election. She expressed hope the time will come when Russian voters will face a chance of a really contested election.
Mr. Putin Monday endorsed Medvedev as his preferred successor. Russia's constitution bars Mr. Putin from seeking a third straight term.
The secretary also expressed hope Russia will play a constructive role in determining the future of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province.
The United States and most European Union countries have backed the aspirations of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority for independence from Serbia.
But Serbia, backed by its traditional ally Russia, insists on maintaining sovereignty over the area and offered only wide autonomy. The Kosovo Albanians insist on independence.
Kosovo has been under United Nations administration since 1999, when NATO air strikes drove Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from the province.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.