Russian President Vladimir Putin held his ritual mega-press conference for Russian and international press outlets last Thursday. He touched numerous issues dealing with Ukraine and energy politics, especially due to proximity of Yushchenko’s visit to the Kremlin and continued controversy over gas relations between the two countries.
Putin calls Ukraine’s steps towards NATO un-democratic since they don’t follow public opinion, dismisses Poland’s concerns over the Nordstream pipeline and a resurgent Russia, praises Yushchenko’s cooperation on the Ukrainian gas issue, believes corruption to be the most pervasive problem he’s faced as president, decries the politicization of European and Russian energy deals, scoffs at claims of his immense wealth, claims to be prepared to hold the post of PM under Medvedev, and accepts Chechnya’s 99% voter turnout–99% of whom voted for United Russia–in the last elections as a legitimate expression of yearning for “stability.”
There are also some interesting responses on the Kosovo issue, as well as plenty of fluff–it was Valentines Day, after all–that I didn’t quote.
Following the break are some choice excerpts from the transcript (my emphasis added). Continue reading
Long-rumored to be a leading possibilty to succeed Vladimir Putin as Russia’s President, Gazprom chairman and first deputy prime minister Dimitry Medvedev was tapped to be the candidate from Putin-led “United Russia” for the March 2008 elections. I will get into more of the potential effect this could have on Gazprom later, but for now, here is a section of my senior thesis on Gazprom and the Russian government that deals with Medvedev (I have excluded the footnotes only because they do not translate into blog format. If anyone has interest in the sources, feel free to contact me.):
In 2000, Swiss officials claimed that tens of millions of dollars had been transferred into accounts controlled by [former Gazprom head Viktor] Chernomyrdin. Following that assertion, the government managed to have Dimitry Medvedev, a close ally of Putin, elected as Gazprom’s chairman of the board of directors in July 2000, replacing Chernomyrdin. Putin then appointed Chernomyrdin as ambassador to Ukraine, thus removing him from the Moscow political scene. Medvedev had served under Putin at the External Relations Committee of the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office from 1990-1995, establishing a close relationship with Putin. Medvedev then served in the Office of the President from 1999-2000 before leaving to run Putin’s presidential campaign. From there, he was chosen as the first step in the restructuring of Gazprom’s leadership.
After being chosen to chair Gazprom’s board of directors, Medvedev remained involved within the Kremlin. In October 2003, Putin chose Medvedev to head his Presidential Administration, the high-level office that works closely with the President on all important issues. In November 2005, Medvedev was appointed as one of the two First Deputy Prime Ministers.
Medvedev is a member of Putin’s “tea-drinking group,” the moniker attached to a number of high-level officials who meet together with Putin frequently, yet discreetly. These advisors typically have a shared background in either the security services (siloviki) or the St. Petersburg mayor’s office (Petersburgers, sometime referred to as piteri)—or both—and represent those who have the highest level of presidential access and influence. Medvedev, like [Gazprom president Alexei] Miller, is considered more of a technocrat. His promotion to head of the PA (i.e. Putin’s chief of staff) in 2003 was seen as a balancing choice to prevent too much power to accumulate with the typically hard-line siloviki. By placing both Medvedev and Miller as the top two figures in Gazprom’s leadership structure, Putin has both strengthened the presence of the technocrat bloc while ensuring comprehensive connections between the Kremlin and Gazprom’s operations. The connections go both ways, however, giving the group an influence on policy decisions beyond everyday business dealings.
Through Medvedev’s dual role as chairman and deputy prime minister, he has a wide range of powers. When it is suggested that such influence might create various conflicts of interests or facilitate overt control of Gazprom by Putin’s government, Medvedev has disregarded the worries, saying that he was just “a lucky man” to hold both jobs. However, some conflict of interest may be expected, given that Medvedev heads the company that pays the most taxes to the government he helps run. The upcoming 2008 presidential election will be a chance to see exactly how Medvedev will balance the two positions.