Putin backs Medvedev as presidential candidate

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Moscow, Dec 10 (UNI) Russian President Vladimir Putin today backed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as presidential candidate to replace him after he steps down following election on March 2.

''This proposal has my full support,'' Mr Putin said at a meeting with the leaders of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, Just Russia, Agrarian Party and Civil Force party, who offered their common candidate today, Russian news agencies reported.

Mr Medvedev was previously Mr Putin's chief of staff and is chairman of Russia's gas giant Gazprom. He also hails from Mr Putin's native place St Petersburg.

He came to national prominence in Russia recently after the President put him in charge of key national projects to make improvements in agriculture, housing, education and health across the country.

The announcement has taken the political world by surprise.

Mr Putin's United Russia party, which won a landslide victory in recent Duma parliamentary elections, with 315 seats in 450-member lower house, was not expected to reveal its candidate until December 17, when the party holds its Congress.

Several people have already declared their willingness to run for President. Among them are Communist leader Gennady Zuganov, Liberal Democrat Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and well-known former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.

UNI

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