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JACKI LYDEN, host:

While Dmitri Medvedev has served as deputy prime minister in Russia, he is little known to Americans, as candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out in a recent Democratic debate. You may remember she had a bit of trouble pronouncing his name, but she did have this to say about him:

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Well, I can tell you that he's a handpicked successor. That he is someone who is obviously being installed by Putin, who Putin can control, who has very little independence the best we know. You know, there's a lot of information still to be acquired.

LYDEN: We want to acquire some of that information now, so we've called on Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center, and we've reached her in the Russian capital.

Welcome to the show, Masha.

Ms. MASHA LIPMAN (Analyst, Carnegie Moscow Center): Thanks for having me.

LYDEN: Dmitri Medvedev recently gave a campaign speech in Siberia and he said some things that sounded vaguely liberal. He talked about the importance of freedom of expression, and he said that freedom is inseparable from the recognition of the power of love by citizens. Should we be taking him at his word?

Ms. LIPMAN: I think there's very little evidence to believe that with President Medvedev Russia will return to the liberal track. His rhetoric indeed has been liberal mostly, talking about the freedom of the press and the need for the rule of law. However, we've heard such rhetoric repeatedly from President Putin as well. And the difference between the rhetoric and reality has almost treated the Soviet range these days.

LYDEN: Dmitri Medvedev has talked about the need to separate government from business. Mr. Medvedev is himself though the deputy prime minister and chairman of the board of the energy giant Gazprom. How sincere is he about distancing himself from business?

Ms. LIPMAN: Throughout his campaign, Mr. Medvedev has said a lot of things that are commendable goals. However, the question arises whether he realizes the connection between problems such as a lack of rule of law and corruption with the policies conducted by (unintelligible) Putin and in fact Mr. Medvedev himself because he was a very high ranking official in Putin's administration.

LYDEN: Why do you think Putin chose him? They both went to the same law school, Putin went into the KGB. Dmitri Medvedev became an academic. Why do you think he chose him?

Ms. LIPMAN: Putin was facing a difficult task. He presided over a major redistribution of power and property in Russia. He stands as the only safeguard of this redistribution. This calls for the need for Putin and elite to preserve (unintelligible). This being the main task Putin was guided by it in selecting a candidate.

So I think he probably helped and expected that with Medvedev being his choice, the chance for preserving his stability in Russia will be the highest.

LYDEN: Putin took a different tact from his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Is it at all possible that Dmitri Medvedev will take a different track from Vladimir Putin?

Ms. LIPMAN: Well, the situation, of course, is very different. President Yeltsin was stepping down. His popularity was barely above zero. He had to, or he chose to, completely disappear from the political scene as soon as he stepped down.

Now, Putin has left his position of the Russian president at the peak of his popularity whether or not he will indeed accept the position of the prime minister as he repeatedly (unintelligible) remains to be seen. But he certainly will play a big role in the Russian politics, and I would say a role more important than that of the new Russian president Dmitri Medvedev.

This being said, of course, there's always a chance that Mr. Medvedev, as he becomes president maybe gradually he will resolve as his own man. But I don't think there's a chance to see this in the near future.

LYDEN: Masha Lipman is an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. Thanks very much, Masha.

Ms. LIPMAN: Thank you.

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