President Dmitry Medvedev defended his decision not to seek a second term in an interview broadcast yesterday, saying the nation preferred Vladimir Putin.
Mr Medvedev told Russian television that he and Mr Putin shared the same goals, but said Mr Putin had broader public support. "Putin undoubtedly is the most authoritative politician in our country, and his ratings are higher," he said.
Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin, who is Prime Minister, announced last weekend they would swap places. Mr Putin stepped down in 2008 after eight years as Presi- dent because of a term limit, but he continues to call the shots and is sure to win the March presidential election.
Mr Putin has used television to cultivate his image, riding a horse bare-chested, swimming in a Siberian river and riding motorbikes. The iPad-toting Mr Medved- ev looks boyish compared to his steely-eyed mentor. Opposition parties have denounced the planned swap as a show of contempt for democracy.