Medvedev pledges shakeup after polls

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has promised major changes to the country’s government after upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

“There should be continuity, we should understand who’s at the helm but there should also be change,” Medvedev said in an interview with state TV channels due to be broadcast on Friday.

Medvedev has said he is ready to take over the government if Vladimir Putin, the current prime minister, triumphs in next March’s presidential polls.

The president has also agreed to lead the ruling United Russia party into the parliamentary vote in December.

“The government should be modernized. So if it so happens that the Russian people entrust United Russia with forming the government and if our people vote for our presidential candidate, and this government is formed by me, then it will be an absolutely new government consisting of new people,” Medvedev said.

The president said he was making way for Putin because the ex-KGB agent had “greater authority” and “higher approval ratings.”

Medvedev also said he believed that the authorities should listen to opinions voiced by the country’s bloggers and web users.

“I believe that the government altogether should respond to what is happening in this sphere [Internet], but should not come under pressure from it,” Medvedev said. 

Runet – the Internet’s Russian sector – has been free of the kind of government controls that dominate television and much of the press.

“If I felt the [Internet] pressure in the literal sense of the word, it’d make my job as president a lot harder,” Medvedev said.

Commenting on the dismissal earlier this week of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Medvedev said the issue was a “matter of government discipline.”

“If we are talking about differences of opinion…about spending, including spending on the military, funding for military wages, support for defense capabilities, these decisions were agreed naturally by the government and were overseen by all of the responsible individuals. The former finance minister’s signature is under all these decisions,” Medvedev said.

Kudrin, credited with helping Russia weather the global financial crisis, left the cabinet after exchanging sharp words with Medvedev on Monday.

“I think that a situation needs to be approached honestly – if you don’t allow such expenditure, considering that it’s harmful for some reason, then it’s clear what you have to do, because if you’ve approved this spending, then there’s nothing left to say. So, in this case with Alexei Leonidovich, it’s a case of government discipline, nothing more,” he said.

He reiterated that Russia was a presidential republic and not a parliamentary one, which meant following the president’s line.

“Whoever doesn’t agree with it, is on the sidelines,” Medvedev said.

Kudrin had long known that he would not be part of the future government, Medvedev said.

“I have the impression that for a while he just sat there in this post and became bored,” he said.

“He came to me in February or March and said that he understood that there’d be no point in him working in a new government, as he’d been finance minister for a long time. So, he’d had no illusions about this for a long time. So these statements were surprising to me. But a decision was taken. Regarding the man himself, Alexei Kudrin, he is an experienced person, a good specialist, and he will find useful work in the government,” Medvedev added.

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