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      Medvedev May Be Shunted Aside but Still Backs Putin

      Dimitry Medvedev appeared to be opening some liberal space between himself and Putin, but urged a Putin victory and rejected US criticism.
      By Amiel Ungar
      First Publish: 12/19/2011, 7:00 AM

      He is still president for another few months, but Dmitry Medvedev has become Russia's almost forgotten man. At Vladimir Putin's four and a half hour call-in show last week he received precisely one mention. This is a far cry from the glory days of the tandem and Medvedev as Putin's protégé'.

      Unless you are a prime minister who controls real power, as Putin did during the nominal presidency of Medvedev, being a prime minister in the Russian presidential system means that you can be unceremoniously dumped and then called a crook. Putin did that to his former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who reciprocates Putin's warm sentiments. In Medvedev's case, there are already rumors that he will not need to be dumped since he may not be given the prime minister's job once Putin reclaims the presidency.

      Nevertheless, while he is president, Medvedev can still command some media attention and his address to United Russia party activists got coverage. Medvedev showed flashes of the good cop-bad cop routine that he had successfully run with Vladimir Putin. He  claimed that the country's political system (of which he had been a part) had exhausted itself and that the streets are not the US State Department. The streets reflect the mood of our people.”  

      This was in marked contrast to Putin who insinuated that the protesters were marching to the tune of foreign interests.

      According to Medvedev, political parties had to reinvent themselves every decade to a decade and a half. This timeframe corresponds to where the United Russia party is now. "We need new ideas and we need new names, and we must be open to cooperation with all forces unconditionally, with all the smart people interested in the fate of our country."

      Medvedev seemed to differ from Putin in his belief that all the leaders and parliamentary candidates "without exception" should be official members of the United Russia party to prove that the party was not merely a vote gathering machine.

      Dimitry Medvedev headed United Russia's list for the Duma, but was not a party member, while Vladimir Putin is United Russia's chairman without joining the party.

      This has led to speculation that Medvedev is trying to establish a power base in United Russia to assure that he is not a powerless prime minister.

      However, to avoid giving the mistaken impression that he is splitting from Putin, Medvedev called upon the party activists to work in favor of a worthy victory for Putin in the presidential elections.

      He also firmly rejected American criticism of the Duma elections warning that if the Americans pushed, the Russians would have no choice but to push back.