Dmitry Medvedev elected Russian President

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Moscow, Mar 3 (UNI) Mr Dmitry Medvedev, incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin's protege, has won the presidential polls by a sweeping margin amid clear indications that there would be no major change in Moscow's domestic as well as international policies.

After his landslide victory in yesterday's election, Mr Medvedev vowed to continue the course of Mr Putin and follow the foreign policy conducted by his predecessor over the last eight years.

Talking to reporters at his campaign headquarters, he said, ''my presidential programme would be the 'direct continuation' of the path chosen by our country eight years ago.'' Mr Medvedev, 42, stressed that he would control foreign policy with the defence of Russian interests as his top priority.

Russia's priorities would continue to be its fellow former Soviet Republics, Mr Medvedev said, adding the President ''defines Russia's foreign policy according to the Constitution.'' Asked where Mr Putin would work now, he said, ''The place of the Prime Minister and the government is the White House.'' Mr Medvedev, cornered 70.22 per cent votes of the 99 per cent counted, while his nearest rival Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov could only garner 17.77 per cent followed by ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky with about 9 per cent, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said.

The mainly pro-Kremlin media have already welcomed Mr Medvedev's victory.

Russian daily Izvestia said the vote was a ''triumph of the majority'' that created a ''bridge to the future for Russia.'' Many political observers said Mr Medvedev would struggle to make an impact as President with Mr Putin as Prime Minister, hinting that a change in the Constitution may give the Prime Minister more power.

However, Mr Medvedev dismissed such suggestions as groundless at his press conference.

''According to the structure of authority, the President has his own powers and the head of government his own. This is derived from the Constitution and the law. No one is proposing to change this,'' he said.

Election officials said the polls had taken place without serious violations.

Mr Medvedev was publicly backed by the President as his successor in mid-December, and was later nominated by the ruling United Russia party as a presidential candidate.

Mr Medvedev would be sworn in as President on May 7.

UNI XC KD AT VP1325

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