Putin's heir struggles to come out of his master's shadow

It should have been the moment when Dmitry Medvedev finally staked an aggressive claim to the Russian presidency and implored Russians to vote for him. His campaign team suggested it would be the perfect place to see him in action ahead of Sunday's election, where he is expected to win around 70 per cent of the votes.

But in the end Vladimir Putin was the star turn yesterday as Russian ministers and top officials gathered at the Kremlin to discuss the outcomes of the National Projects – huge social initiatives in health, education and housing that Mr Medvedev has led since their inception in 2005.

Mr Putin made a ceremonial entrance to the lavish hall that staged the meeting, gave an introductory speech, fielded questions and suggestions on the projects and gave a summary, saying that Mr Medvedev had "succeeded" with the projects but there was much work left for "us" to complete.

All that was left for Mr Medvedev to do was to give a brief speech, delivered in a steady monotone, that was high on statistics and low on charisma. Many sentences were prefaced with: "As Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] has said..." Mr Medvedev reeled off future plans to build more sports halls, improve medical equipment and increase life expectancy. There was no sense that this is a man running for the country's highest office in three days' time.

Past acquaintances and colleagues have described Mr Medvedev as diligent, loyal and sharp-witted, but few would claim that Russia's next president has much charisma. While Mr Putin is an austere but engaging orator, the diminutive Mr Medvedev, with his soft features and measured voice, comes across as pleasant but utterly devoid of presence. He himself has admitted that he may appear to be "Mr Dry".

Many have dismissed Mr Medvedev as simply a puppet, with Mr Putin expected to continue calling the shots as Russia's next prime minister. It was clear from the start of his campaign that Mr Medvedev was running on a double ticket. He used his first speech after receiving Mr Putin's backing to say that if he won the election, he would continue the successful course of the last eight years and would ask its instigator to be his prime minister. A giant billboard near Red Square shows the pair grinning, and reads: "Together we will win!" Analysts say it is unlikely that they will have major disagreements, and that if they do, Mr Putin will retain the upper hand.

The 42-year-old Mr Medvedev first worked for Mr Putin in the early 1990s, when both men were part of the St Petersburg mayoral administration. Unlike many in Mr Putin's close circle, Mr Medvedev is not ex-KGB. A lawyer by training, he went into business in the mid-1990s, but came to Moscow in 1999 to work for Mr Putin. He has never left his side since, and has worked as Mr Putin's chief of staff as well as fulfilling his current roles as deputy prime minister and chairman of Gazprom.

But despite his submissive role, there is a noticeable discord between the words of the master and the protégé. While the enduring theme of Mr Putin's speeches is the stability and dignity he has returned to his country during eight years in charge, Mr Medvedev has talked repeatedly about economic and political liberalisation.

"We are fully aware that no undemocratic country has ever become truly prosperous," Mr Medvedev told the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. He also said in a major campaign speech in Siberia earlier this month: "Freedom is better than lack of freedom – this principle should be at the core of our politics. I mean freedom in all its manifestations – personal freedom, economic freedom and, finally, freedom of expression."

During Mr Putin's time in charge, Russia's television has come under state control and a combination of pressure from the authorities and self-censorship has muzzled most of the press. Whether or not Mr Medvedev's words about freedom of expression represent a genuine desire for change remains to be seen.

"Medvedev has very little political resources to conduct an independent political course even if he wanted to," says Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst. "Right now, everything is being done to ensure that he has as little power as possible when he takes over."

Some analysts suggest that political attacks on potential "liberal" Medvedev allies such as Finance minister Alexei Kudrin have been engineered by hardliners in the Kremlin keen to ensure that Mr Medvedev does not slip his leash. After all, says Mr Oreshkin, Russia has a long history of leaders moving from supposedly subordinate positions to take power, including Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice