Medvedev: Putin protege to remain in his shadow | world | Hindustan Times
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Medvedev: Putin protege to remain in his shadow

world Updated: May 07, 2008 19:23 IST

A mild-mannered yoga fan and an economic liberal, Dmitry Medvedev, who on Wednesday took over as Russian President from his domineering predecessor Vladimir Putin, is expected to remain in his mentor's shadow and follow his course, including in relations with India.

The 42-year-old, who served under Putin as first deputy prime minister and was also the chairman of Russia's state-run gas monopoly Gazprom, campaigned on a platform of pursuing the policies of Putin, who remains immensely popular after overseeing the economic transformation of Russia after the demise of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

With his powerful predecessor set to take over as the prime minister, the Kremlin insider is not expected to forge his own independent path and remain under the influence of Putin, to whom he mainly owes his meteoric rise in the murky Kremlin politics.

Medvedev, who has a surname which can trace its origin to Sanskrit, will be Russia's first Yoga-practising head of state and the local media says as Putin's obsession with judo led to the popularity of martial arts in the country, Medvedev's love for yoga could result in Russia having more yoga schools.

The former lawyer who has proved himself as a bureaucrat but has a long way to go to be successful on the political stage, is also a fan of rock music of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

Western countries hope that Medvedev, seen as more liberal than the former KGB spy Putin, will be more flexible and open in his dealings with them.

In January 2007, he told the World Economic Forum in Davos: "We aim to create big Russian corporations and will back their foreign economic activities."

Unlike Putin, Medvedev had no background in either the Soviet KGB or its successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Medvedev worked on a building site and as a street cleaner to help fund his studies at university. At the age of 23 he was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church.

While still a teenager, he fell in love with his future wife, Svetlana.

When Putin was chosen as a successor by the late President Boris Yeltsin, Medvedev followed him to the Kremlin, to serve as deputy chief of staff.

In 2000, he took charge of Vladimir Putin's presidential election campaign and in October 2003 he was appointed Kremlin chief of staff. Two years later, he took over as the First Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of social programmes.

Also in 2000 he became chairman of the Gazprom energy giant, retaining the post until his inauguration as president apart from a brief period of 2001 to 2002.

Putin endorsed his protege in December, thereby virtually ensuring him victory at the March presidential polls.