An online glimpse of Putin's heir

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The Independent Online

He enjoys endless coverage on state television, the personal backing of President Vladimir Putin, and polls say he is expected to win seven out of every 10 votes.

Dmitry Medvedev will almost certainly be Russia's next president and has said he will not even bother to attend television debates with the other candidates. But presumably to put on at least some show that he is taking the elections seriously, Mr Medvedev's team have launched a campaign website.

Medvedev2008.ru contains a biography, selected speeches and a gallery of several dozen photographs of Mr Putin's heir at work and play. He is featured fondling a giant rabbit, touring an art gallery, and sitting pensively at his laptop. More than one photograph has him with Mr Putin. There are not many photos of Mr Medvedev standing near other people, perhaps to conceal just how short he is, about 5ft 4ins.

Perhaps in a sign that Mr Medvedev will attempt to use a different tone to address foreign and domestic audiences, the front page of the English version of the site quotes, in large print, from a speech a year ago by Mr Medvedev. "Today we are building new institutions based on the fundamental principles of full democracy," he said. "This democracy requires no additional definition." This was widely seen as a gentle rebuff of the term used by Kremlin ideologists to describe Russia under Mr Putin as "sovereign democracy". In the Russian version, the quote is absent.

Russia's presidential elections will be on 2 March, and the winner will be inaugurated in May. This week, Mr Putin warned Russian security services to be on their guard for foreign attempts to meddle in the vote.

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