Medvedev takes Russian presidency from his mentor Putin
Medvedev takes Russian presidency from his mentor
By JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 22
MOSCOW - Dmitry Medvedev was inaugurated as Russia's
president on Wednesday, pledging to bolster the
country's economic development and civil rights, in
what may signal a departure from his predecessor's
Medvedev took the oath of office in the Kremlin's
golden-hued Andreyevsky Hall, bringing to an end
Vladimir Putin's eight years as president. But Putin
is sure to continue to wield huge influence in the
Little more than two hours after becoming president,
Medvedev nominated Putin to be prime minister.
Medvedev has pledged to continue the policies pursued
by Putin, and some observers see him as more likely to
be a handmaiden than an independent leader.
But in his inaugural address, Medvedev referred to
civil rights issues several times a possible
indication that his presidency would take a different
course from his mentor's.
Under Putin, Russia's economy soared from
near-disaster to astonishing prosperity. But the role
of civil society came under question, as opposition
groups were marginalized and non-governmental
organizations came under heavy pressure.
In his address, Medvedev said that one of his most
important tasks would be "the development of civil and
The March election of Medvedev was seen by many as one
of the most marked signs of Russia retreating from
democracy. Most of the prominent opposition aspirants
to the post were kept off the ballot.
But Medvedev highlighted civil rights on Wednesday.
"Human rights and freedoms ... are deemed of the
highest value for our society and they determine the
meaning and content of all state activity," he said.
The 42-year-old president, formerly a first deputy
prime minister and chairman of the state-controlled
natural gas giant Gazprom, also pledged to fight
endemic corruption, a problem that Putin has been
unable to stifle.
"I'm going to pay special attention to the fundamental
role of the law. We must achieve a true respect in
law, overcome the legal nihilism which is hampering
modern development," Medvedev said.
He pledged to help make life "comfortable, confident
and secure" for Russians and to modernize industry and
agriculture, encourage the development of new
technologies and attract investment.
Russia's economic boom has been driven largely by
soaring world prices for its vast oil and gas exports.
Concerns are high that the country is vulnerable to a
downturn in commodities prices unless it diversifies
its economy and expands its manufacturing and services
Putin, in a short address to the crowd of Russian
dignitaries and foreign ambassadors in the lavish
hall, declared that when he became president in 2000,
"I made a commitment to work openly and honestly, to
faithfully serve the people and the state. And I did
not violate my promise."
He also took an apparent swipe at critics, saying
Medvedev's election and the transfer of power were
conducted in "strict adherence to the laws and
principles of democracy."
The nomination of Putin as prime minister is expected
to be voted on Thursday in the parliament, where
approval is a virtual certainty.
His transfer to the premiership has raised wide
question about how much power Medvedev will actually
wield and even whether Putin would try to undermine
Medvedev obliquely touched on the issue in his
address, thanking Putin for his support and saying,
"I'm sure it will be this way in the times ahead."
The inauguration ceremony, although awash in pomp,
including goose-stepping guards, was low on drama and
lasted less than a half-hour.
Putin arrived first, shown in live TV broadcasts as he
strode across one of the Kremlin's squares, bid brief
farewell to presidential guards regiment and entered
the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Medvedev came next, in a black Mercedes limousine. He
was shown making a long and solemn walk through two
sprawling reception halls before entering the
Andreyevsky Hall which had also been a throne room
in czarist times.