Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are seen walking through a corridor at the Kremlin in this 2006 file photo.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are seen walking through a corridor at the Kremlin in this 2006 file photo. Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he will support First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as his successor, saying Medvedev would keep Russia on the same course that Putin set eight years ago.
Putin's announcement came during a meeting with representatives of the United Russia party — which is his power base and dominates parliament — and three other parties. The parties told Putin they all supported Medvedev.
"I completely and fully support this proposal," Putin said, according to video on state television.
Putin had long been seen as trying to choose between Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov. Medvedev is a 42-year-old business-oriented lawyer and board chairman of state natural gas giant Gazprom. Ivanov is another first deputy premier who built a stern and hawkish reputation while defense minister.
"Medvedev is not an extremist. He is not known for any kind of harsh views on politics, and apparently Medvedev better suits Putin's view of how to achieve continuity," said Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Medvedev Espected to Win
Putin's popularity is so great that most observers expect that the candidate he supports will be elected easily in the March 2 presidential election.
Although Putin is banned by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term in office, he has indicated a strong desire to remain a significant power figure. He has raised the prospect of becoming prime minister, and his supporters have called for him to become a national leader with unspecified authority.
Medvedev holds powerful positions, but he projects a mild-mannered public image and has been seen widely as an official devoted to Putin.
Putin reinforced that perception Monday, saying that electing Medvedev would pave the way for a government "that will carry out the course that has brought results for all of the past eight years."
The Russian stock market surged on the news, led not only by Gazprom shares but also boosted apparently by the end of long uncertainty over whom Putin would designate as successor.
Some have speculated that Putin could eventually try to return to the presidency — a goal that could be easier if Medvedev succeeds him, said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a prominent liberal politician.
Putin Extends Power
"If Putin wants to return in two, three years, Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him," Ryzhkov said on Ekho Moskvy radio.
Both Medvedev and Putin worked under St. Petersburg's reformist Mayor Anatoly Sobchak in the early 1990s. After Putin became prime minister in 1999, he brought Medvedev to Moscow to become deputy chief of staff of the Cabinet. He then moved up to become deputy chief of staff for the president, was appointed to head Gazprom's board in 2002 and became full presidential chief of staff in 2003.
In 2005, Putin named him a first deputy prime minister, and, almost immediately, Medvedev began to receive extensive television coverage - even more than that accorded to the prime minister.
The disproportionately lavish coverage raised speculation that Putin saw Medvedev as his preferred successor. But Ivanov later was appointed to another first deputy premiership and began to receive equally wide TV coverage, suggesting that Putin was conducting an unstated competition or that there was jockeying for influence among Kremlin factions.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press