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JAMES HATTORI, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I am James Hattori.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

In Russia today, President Vladimir Putin chose his successor. It is first Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Even though there are elections next March, Putin is so popular in Russia that Medvedev is considered a shoe-in to be the next president.

We're joined now by NPR's Gregory Feifer in Moscow. And Greg, he put an end to months of speculation by choosing Medvedev. What did he say today?

GREGORY FEIFER: Well, Putin said that he fully backed Medvedev's candidacy for the presidency. He said that Medvedev would be able to form a stable administration that would be able to take Russia forward in the next four years.

Medvedev is very close to Putin. They have known each other for 17 years. They first met in St. Petersburg, where they both worked for the city administration. And this choice is seen largely as Putin's alone.

BRAND: Of course Vladimir Putin, formerly associated with the spy services, former KGB. Medvedev also have cut from that cloth?

FEIFER: As far as we know, Medvedev hasn't had any connection to the KGB or other security services. He is a soft-spoken, relatively liberal former lawyer from St. Petersburg. Most people expect that he will continue carrying out Putin-style policies if Putin chooses to hold on to power behind the scenes.

But the main question is, what will happen to the Kremlin clans fighting for power behind the scenes? Now these are various groups that are controlled largely by former security service officers, most of them former KGB officers, and who control a lot of the money that's pouring in from Russia's vast natural resources, its oil and gas wealth.

And as Putin's term limit is - has been drawing to an end, there has been a behind-the-scenes fight that's actually flared out into public view. This is seen as the main question. After Putin leaves and leaves his key post as arbiter between these groups, what's going to happen to them and will Medvedev be able to essentially hold the ship together?

BRAND: Greg, is it seen then that Medvedev is simply a kinder face of Putin's power - that Putin will continue to wield control and power in Russia long after he has stepped down?

FEIFER: That's what many are saying. Now, in a system in Russia in which so much power is concentrated in the hands of the president, it's not clear what will happen after Putin leaves that very important post and Medvedev takes it up.

When Putin came to power eight years ago, he was an unknown who is seen as very loyal to the forces of former President Boris Yeltsin. Now, what Putin did when he came into office was to very quickly consolidate power in his owns hands.

But I think that it's pretty clear that Medvedev is seen as at least utterly loyal to Putin and the expectation is indeed that he will continue carrying out Putin's policies and in some way enable Putin to hold real power in a as-yet-unknown position behind the scenes.

BRAND: NPR's Gregory Feifer reporting from Moscow. Thank you.

FEIFER: You're welcome.

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