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Medvedev: Taking On Putin In St Petersburg?

6_Russia_International_Economic_Forum.sff_custom.jpgIt is unsurprising that observers have eagerly anticipated President Medvedev’s keynote address at the St Petersburg Economic Forum.  With Vladimir Putin safely stowed in Moscow, the event has been viewed as an ideal place for the modernizing President to assert his own identity, a fact of particular import this year as the presidential elections loom.  One analyst quoted here in an analysis of today’s speech by Reuters argues that the President’s words were a ‘campaign message: Medvedev has decided to declare clearly that he is planning to stay for a second term, that the decisions he has taken are essential for the country‘.  The FT also suggests that even if the economic messages conveyed belong to the classic Medvedian realm of reform and modernization, the political message, is, it would seem quite novel:

What stood out to the audience, however, was not a new Russia, but a new Medvedev.

While the president hit upon familiar themes in his address -improving Russia’s investment climate, privatising state-owned groupsand weeding out corruption – he did so with more precision than he haspreviously and indeed with more assertion, a word that’s rarely beenassociated with Medvedev in the past.

It may be soon to christen a “Medvedev 2.0″ but forum participants noted the president’s repeated use of the phrase “my choice” to claim many of the country’s new modernisation reforms and initiatives as his own – and not a collaborative decision with the Kremlin or more specifically with Vladimir Putin, his predecessor and mentor.

“The economic model [of state-controlled companies dominating a significant number of sectors] poses a danger for the future of the country. That’s not my choice,” he said at one point.

“My choice,” he emphasised, “is different”.

In regards to state-controlled companies, Medvedev’s choice appears to be a more aggressive privatisation programme and a further delineation between state and business interests.

“I want to make it absolutely clear: we are not building state capitalism,” he said, adding that Russia needed to move away from the principle that “the government is always right”.

Read on here.