'Putin the most popular leader in Russia'

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Moscow, Aug 24: As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev remained the most important official in the last two weeks during the Russia-Georgia conflict, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is still the most popular political leader in the country, a public opinion poll has said.

''On the whole, the President has been the most important official for most Russians for the past 15 years, and that has not changed for Medvedev,'' Valery Fyodorov, general director of Russia"s authoritative pollster, VTsIOM, told mediapersons. ''His (Putin"s) name is cited most often (55per cent ) when respondents are asked to name five or six politicians they like. Medvedev ranks second with 40 per cent,'' Fyodorov said citing the latest survey.

Medvedev's first 100 days in office culminated in the military conflict in Georgia, which in fact sent his popularity up as well as strengthened Putin's ratings.

The conclusions have been drawn by Russia's leading public opinion services from their ongoing monitoring of public sentiments.

Although Russians obviously recognize Medvedev as the first man in the Russian government, Putin remains the most popular politician with them.

The 'peace enforcement' operation in Georgia hasn't sent the two leaders' popularity soaring for a simple reason, sociologists maintained.

''Their ratings had been extremely high even before the latest aggravation of the Georgian-South Ossetian tensions. According to the Moscow"s prestigious Levada Center pollster, 70 per cent of Russians approved of the President's policies in July. The figure is now 73 per cent.

Putin's popularity grew by a similar margin, to 83 per cent from 80 per cent a month before. Levada Center analysts have also established that the number of Russians for whom it was unclear as to who really runs the country has also reduced.

UNI

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