Putin Once More Moves to Assume Top Job in Russia

Discussion in 'Europe and Russia' started by SpArK, Sep 25, 2011.

  1. SpArK

    SpArK SORCERER Senior Member

    Oct 24, 2010
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    Putin Once More Moves to Assume Top Job in Russia


    MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, who transformed post-Soviet Russia by imposing Kremlin control over most aspects of public life, moved on Saturday to return to the presidency and could remain until 2024, giving him a rule comparable in length with that of Brezhnev or Stalin.

    President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced at a party convention in Moscow that he would step aside for Mr. Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008 but was limited by the Constitution to two consecutive terms. Mr. Medvedev is to take his place as prime minister after presidential elections in March that Mr. Putin is assured of winning.

    At the announcement, wave upon wave of applause washed over the hall, where 11,000 members of Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, had gathered. Mr. Medvedev’s face was projected on a giant screen above the stage, and he gave a flickering smile as the crowd roared, rose and swung its attention away from him toward Mr. Putin, who was sitting in the audience.

    The move brings an end to years of uncertainty, inside and outside Russia, about whether Mr. Putin intended to loosen his grip on power. Neither leader offered any reason for the decision, but Mr. Putin said the deal had been made years ago. If that is true, Mr. Medvedev’s presidency, and the tension that accompanied its end, now looks like an orchestrated political drama that drew in much of the world.

    “I want to say directly: An agreement over what to do in the future was reached between us several years ago,” Mr. Putin said. Mr. Medvedev also said there had been no conflict, though his account was less definitive.

    “What we are recommending to the convention, it is a deeply thought-out decision,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Moreover, we really discussed this possible turn of events at the time when we formed our comradely union.”

    The change casts uncertainty on the future of the so-called reset in relations between the United States and Russia, which benefited from an easy rapport between Mr. Medvedev and President Obama. But a senior Obama administration official played down such concerns on Saturday, saying that American officials “have very deliberately sought to avoid playing favorites.”

    “Everyone knows that Putin runs Russia,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Remembering this obvious fact means that Putin has supported the reset with the U.S.”

    As the news filtered into the street, most Russians expressed little surprise. Mr. Putin’s rise to power accompanied an oil-fueled rise in income, and most Russians feel no nostalgia for the chaotic political pluralism of the 1990s. Opposition to Mr. Putin’s government is growing, however, in places like Moscow, whose residents get information from the Internet and are less dependent on government social payments.

    “I don’t know what feelings I have about it because on one hand, it seems like we don’t have any alternative, we have to accept that Putin will be president,” said Yulia Belova, an advertising manager. Ivan V. Chaikin, 71, was similarly philosophical, saying his own hopes for democratic reform had withered a decade ago.

    “They decided between themselves who will hold which job,” he said. “It’s like a swap in chess — my bishop for your rook.”

    There is little evidence that the change will portend dramatic policy shifts.

    Mr. Medvedev has called for political and judicial reforms that would decentralize power away from the Kremlin, and his rhetoric won him the backing of many in the West and in progressive circles. But he was widely viewed as a weak executive whose initiatives were subject to veto by Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin, meanwhile, has signaled in recent months that he may restyle himself as an economic reformer, wrapping himself in the mantle of the tsarist Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin.

    In his speech on Saturday, he proposed raising some taxes on the rich and addressed problems that had been considered Mr. Medvedev’s territory.


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