Friday, March 14, 2008

Medvedev Moves to Kremlin Early

MOSCOW (AP) — He will not be president for weeks, but Dmitry Medvedev has already moved into an office in the Kremlin — the seat of power in Russia.

State-run television showed Medvedev dressing down officials in a Kremlin office Thursday, and the Kremlin press service confirmed that he is now working from an office in the red-brick-walled compound at Moscow's heart rather than Russia's less grandiose government headquarters upriver.

Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor, was elected by a large margin March 2 and is scheduled to be inaugurated May 7. The popular Putin is set to become his prime minister, prompting widespread speculation about who will really hold Russia's reins.

The office move looked like part of an effort to create the impression of a smooth transition and boost Medvedev's authority in the eyes of the public and officials used to working for Putin.

Medvedev won more than 70 percent of the votes, according to the official election tally, but Russians saw his victory as a foregone conclusion because of his backing from Putin and the Kremlin in a closely choreographed election. The sense that he was chosen to lead Russians, rather than vice versa, could take the edge off his authority.

State-run television footage of Medvedev's talks with two top officials involved in fishing and ports marked the more soft-spoken former law instructor's latest attempt to embody the firm, powerful image Putin has conveyed in meetings with sometimes squirming officials called to the Kremlin to report to their leader.

Facing the two officials from behind a sizable desk with three telephones at his side, Medvedev grilled them about orders he said they had failed to carry out on time. One of the officials was shown looking down at the desk in front of his and nervously scratching his forehead.

A presidential press service official who refused to be quoted by name, citing policy, would not say when Medvedev had moved into the Kremlin.

She said the change was provided for by a decree Putin signed the day after the election to provide Medvedev with support from the Kremlin staff and other trappings of the presidency.

On that day, Putin, 55, also put the 42-year-old Medvedev in charge of presidential State Council meetings, a symbolic show of trust in his younger protege who has made continuity of Putin's policies his chief promise.

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