Fri, May 09, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Putin takes on new role as prime minister

AFP , MOSCOW

Vladimir Putin will retain a “key role” in Russia for years as prime minister, new President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday, as the two men opened an unprecedented era of dual rule.

Putin was confirmed as prime minister by 392 of the 448 deputies at an extraordinary session of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, one day after Medvedev was inaugurated at a lavish Kremlin ceremony.

“I think no one has any doubt that our tandem, our cooperation, will only continue to strengthen,” Medvedev said ahead of the vote.

Putin “as head of government will play a key role in implementing” the country’s strategy for development to 2020, he said.

Medvedev listened as Putin, 55, made his pitch to the assembled deputies, outlining plans to make Russia an economic and financial powerhouse, while improving social conditions.

Shortly after Medvedev signed a decree to make Putin’s appointment official, a Kremlin spokesman said.

The dual leadership is unprecedented in Russia, where overwhelming authority has traditionally rested with the Kremlin.

There was no indication of who will serve in his first government and while Putin vows to cooperate closely with Medvedev, both men have claimed major power for their respective new offices, leading some analysts to predict a potentially unstable partnership.

In his speech, Putin focused on domestic policy, the traditional sphere of the prime minister, calling for lower taxes on oil companies, a battle against inflation and a boost to spending on healthcare and education.

“For us the vitally important task is to significantly increase the effectiveness and the stability of the national economy,” he said, calling for improvements in productivity, infrastructure and the investment climate.

Putin said Russia had turned into “a different country” since he was last prime minister for a few months in 1999, shortly before being elected president for two terms.

Russia is now the seventh-largest economy in the world and will overtake Britain to become the sixth-largest by the end of the year, Putin said, adding that would turn Russia into a major financial center.

Russia has seen a startling economic revival in recent years.

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