Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says his country needs more political competition, but only under continued rule by a strong president.  He spoke with journalists representing the G8 countries, which hold a summit next week in Japan.  VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports Mr. Medvedev addressed the issue of Russian democratization as a criterion for continued G8 membership.

President Medvedev wove the current and future state of Russian democracy into a number answers to questions from journalists, ranging from U.S.-Russian relations to the country's ability to compete on a global level.  

Asked about U.S. presidential candidate John McCain's call to eject Russia from the G8 as punishment for allegedly rolling back democratic freedoms, Mr. Medvedev said any attempt to exclude or pressure Russia is not serious.

The G8, he says, exists not because somebody likes it or not, but because its membership consists of the largest economies and most influential players in foreign affairs.  He says an attempt to limit anyone would, at a minimum, damage the entire world order.

In remarks to VOA, the deputy director of Moscow's USA-Canada Institute, Viktor Kremeniuk, notes that all other G8 members have democratic institutions, principles and procedures that have yet to be established in Russia.

Kremeniuk says Russia's acceptance into the G8 was a form of credit that would encourage the country's development toward democracy.  But he notes this did not mean Russia was recognized as a fully mature and developed democracy.

President Medvedev said all countries of the former Soviet Union must still travel a long and winding road toward creation of their own democratic values, adding that he would not want to idealize the situation in Russia, which he described as a young and incomplete democracy.  While expressing respect for parliamentary democracy, he said its adoption in Russia would spell the death of the country.

The Kremlin leader says Russia should remain a presidential republic for decades, if not centuries, in order to remain a unified state.

He adds that Russia's global competitiveness depends on sensible domestic political competition that is based on the law and involves political forces concerned about improving the country's future.

Analyst Viktor Kremeniuk agrees that Russia needs a strong leader, because its current social structures are still weak.

Kremeniuk says that until there are fully developed political parties and until a mechanism for discourse is created within a national framework among various groups in society, then obviously a personality of some kind will be needed to embody national unity and also the highest level of the political system, which is a president.

Former President Vladimir Putin is the country's prime minister and also the head of the United Russia Party, which enjoys a substantial majority in parliament.  Observers and ordinary Russians are still not certain who controls the country, and some government officials display portraits of Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev in their offices.