Putin: From president to PM in a day

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Dmitry Medvedev yesterday had his first full day as president of Russia, but television screens across the country were dominated by the familiar face of Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin took just one day’s break in between stepping down as Russia’s president and becoming its prime minister.

Mr Medvedev, far from stepping into the limelight, played a familiar supporting role to his mentor. His main appearance of the day was to entreat the Duma to vote for Mr Putin as PM. He said that Mr Putin “needs no recommendation,” but gave one anyway.

“We are continuing to work together, there is no doubt that our cooperation will only become stronger,” said Mr Medvedev. Many expect that as prime minister Mr Putin will continue to play the dominant role in the power-sharing arrangement, even though in the past Russian presidents have fired their prime ministers at will.

After listing to the brief speech from his successor, Mr Putin took to the lectern and spoke for nearly an hour instead of the planned fifteen minutes. He was regularly interrupted by applause and was given a standing ovation at the end. He at least did his successor the courtesy of staying away from foreign policy and sticking to domestic policy. One of Mr Putin’s biggest tasks as PM will be to deal with inflation, which is currently running over one per cent per month and causing discontent as food prices rise. Mr Putin said he wanted to see single digit yearly inflation in the next few years.

The pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which Mr Putin leads, has an overwhelming majority and Mr Putin also enjoys the support of two of the other four Duma parties, with the only opposition coming from the Communists. Liberal opposition forces were squeezed out by tougher electoral laws at last December’s parliamentary election. Mr Putin’s candidacy was approved by 392 votes to 56.

In the same session, the parliament approved a law that will allow relaxed visa regulations for foreign visitors to major sporting events. The law will ensure that British fans travelling to Moscow for the Champions League final on May 21 will be able to enter Russia with just a passport and valid match ticket.