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.

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape