Medvedev Calls for Putin to Become Prime Minister

Dmitry Medvedev, the man in line to succeed Russian President Vladimir Putin, called for the long-time leader to return as prime minister after the March 2 election - a move that would keep the main levers of power in Putin's hands.

Tuesday's brief announcement by Medvedev was the second major development from the Kremlin in as many days. On Monday, Putin endorsed Medvedev for president.

In a three-minute televised speech, Medvedev said Putin "prevented the collapse of the economy and social sphere in our country, a course that prevented civil war."

It was vital to retain Putin's team, he said.

"Therefore, I think that is principally important for our country that we keep in the most important post in government – the position of chairman of the Russian government - Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," he said.

The emerging scenario - one that Putin himself hinted at months ago - would see the popular president wielding considerable and possibly ultimate power from a beefed-up prime minister's position.

Putin, who took over from Boris Yeltsin about eight years ago, is barred by the constitution from a third consecutive term.

Putin's support virtually ensures that Medvedev would win the presidency, and Putin's enormous influence with parliament, where his party controls 70 percent of the seats, ensures he could become prime minister if he chose.

At a Kremlin meeting with Yevgeny Primakov, an influential Yeltsin-era prime minister who now heads the Russian Chamber of Commerce, Putin made no reference to his anointed successor or the possibility of becoming prime minister.

Medvedev's announcement suggested that he would essentially serve as a figurehead controlled by Putin.

The 42-year-old lawyer from St. Petersburg projects a milder and more sympathetic image than the steely and occasionally bitingly sarcastic Putin. Medvedev's comments Tuesday, though, echoed Putin's often-expressed national pride and distrust of the West.

"The world's attitudes toward Russia have been changed," Medvedev said. "They don't lecture us like schoolchildren. They respect us and they reckon with us. Russia has been returned to its overpowering position in the world community."

Medvedev, currently a first deputy prime minister, also praised efforts under Putin to restore Russia's armed forces after years of post-Soviet neglect and underfunding.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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