Wed, May 11, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Medvedev to find his modernization aim usurped: media

AFP, MOSCOW

By setting up a new agency to champion the modernization of Russia’s economy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is stealing President Dmitry Medvedev’s thunder ahead of polls, media said yesterday.

The powerful prime minister sprang a surprise last week by announcing the establishment of the Agency of Strategic Initiatives that he said would promote business start-ups and promote young talent.

The modernization of the Russian economy beyond oil and gas has been a key plank of policies of Putin’s junior partner in the tandem, Medvedev, who seeks to build the Skolkovo high-tech innovation center outside Moscow, billed as the country’s answer to Silicon Valley.

In March, Medvedev unveiled a new plan to boost the country’s embattled economic climate that many analysts said was part of a plan to thrust himself to the forefront of the country’s leadership with less than a year to go before presidential polls.

Now Putin, who has just recently cautioned against “liberal experiments,” appears to be seizing the modernization drive, offering his own alternative to Medvedev’s projects, said leading business daily Kommersant.

“The issue of giving the Agency of Strategic Initiatives the status of at least the main innovation institute is a done deal,” the newspaper quoted a source in one of the Kremlin’s “innovation structures” as saying.

“Presidential innovation projects, the Skolkovo fund in particular, will be moved to the back burner,” the source said, suggesting that the new government agency would be in control of key money flows ahead of the presidential polls next year.

Vedomosti business daily said the sole purpose of the new agency would be to polish “Putin’s image as a modernizer.”

Both Putin and Medvedev may run in next year’s presidential vote. They have said they would agree between themselves who would run so as not to compete with each other, but analysts say signs that Russia’s two most powerful men are increasingly stepping on each other’s toes are multiplying.

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