Forgotten man – Medvedev fades from public view

 

Amid all the commotion surrounding Vladimir Putin's likely return to the Kremlin, one man has been surprisingly quiet.

Constitutionally, President Dmitry Medvedev is the most powerful man in Russia and has been for the past four years. But in reality his star has always been eclipsed by Mr Putin's. And ahead of the polls, he has faded even further from public view.

When he came to power in 2008, Mr Medvedev, below, gave hope to liberals that he might pursue a different agenda than Mr Putin did. He uttered phrases such as "freedom is better than lack of freedom" and at times seemed genuinely committed to a reform agenda. But the results sheet of his four years in charge looks blank.

He has been so absent from the public eye since the September announcement that he would not seek a second term as President and would instead step aside to give Mr Putin another shot at the presidency, that a group of prominent Russians have released a rap song poking fun at him. "It seemed that you were suggesting reform, but all we got were stupid police uniforms," run the words of the rap, voiced by a television journalist, Leonid Parfyonov, and a socialite, Ksenia Sobchak, who accuse Mr Medvedev of managing only the most superficial of reforms.

The most noticeable legacy of the Medvedev era has been the bizarre decision to cancel the changing of the clocks in winter, which this year has left much of Russia in murky darkness until mid-morning on winter days.

Even Mr Medvedev's few attempts to assert his independence have ended in humiliation. In September, he gave Alexei Kudrin, the long-standing Finance Minister and close Putin ally, a public dressing down and told him to resign after he voiced disagreements with him publicly. But when questioned about Mr Kudrin in December, Mr Putin said the former minister remained part of his team and had "not gone anywhere".

Mr Putin reiterated this week that he intends to make Mr Medvedev his prime minister if and when he wins the presidential election. But most analysts expect that, at best, Mr Medvedev will be a stop-gap prime minister and be pushed aside after a few months.

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