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Putin’s Speech: Self-Praise or Boost for Medvedev?

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Yesterday saw Vladimir Putin give his final annual report to the State Duma before next year’s presidential elections, and his emphasis on stability and long-term investment in key areas such as defense and infrastructure has led to most commentators assuming that his is preparing to run for office again.   
The speech touched on a number of issues including goals for ensuring the country’s prosperous future, and a prediction that a full recovery from the recession would by made in 2012, but of particular note were his attempts to distance himself from Dmitry Medvedev’s program.  For example, Putin referred to corruption only once, and in contrast to Medvedev’s plan to turn Moscow into an international financial hub, stated that technology and know-how from abroad were useful, but that Russian investment was ‘the source of innovation‘.  In his most underhanded swipe at the current President, Putin said that what Russia needs most is ‘decades of stable, calm development, without any sways or rash experiments based on unjustified liberalism or social demagogy.‘  It’s difficult to see how he could imagine that such a statement would sway public opinion in his favor.  Perhaps the Institute of National Strategy head quoted by The Other Russia has the correct reading: Stanislav Belkovsky suggested that ‘Putin’s report can be seen as part of President Dmitri Medvedev’s electoral campaign, because Putin has once again positioned himself as an anti-modernization conservative.‘ 

The speech certainly has its critics.  One described it as ‘a litany of self-praise‘, and another likened it to ‘an address by the director of a sanatorium for high-ranked psychos in for follow-up care.‘  But perhaps the most critical response to the report thus far came from Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Zhirinovsky accused Putin of not thinking about the lawmakers, who had no chance to take a snack or smoke break while listening to the long report.  “You should have taken a break. You don’t think about people. It’s lunchtime. No one has had lunch. You’ll spoil everyone’s digestion system,” he said. 
PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talks to the media after addressing the parliament at Russian State Duma in Moscow April 20, 2011. REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool