Russia 2012

Russian Presidential election

Kremlin pets: cat follows dog

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It is still unclear to what extent Russia’s next president, Dmitry Medvedev, will follow the course of his predecessor Vladimir Putin. But he shares Putin’s love of pets.

Throughout his eight years of rule, Putin carefully shielded his private life from the public eye. While his wife Lyudmila had a low profile and his daughters were never reported on at all, the Kremlin leader’s black Labrador Connie became a true celebrity.

The friendly and tranquil dog often appeared in front of cameras during many of Putin’s meeting with international leaders. When Putin was discussing plans for Russia’s own  satellite global positioning system (GPS), he asked aides when he would be able to buy a collar for Connie with a built-in GPS tracker so he could keep an eye on the dog’s whereabouts.

On May 7, when Putin hands over to Medvedev the symbol of presidential power — a golden chain of the Order of St Andrew –  Medvedev’s cat Dorofei (Dorotheus in English) will take over the title of First Pet from Connie.

Dmitry Medvedev wins Matryoshka immortality

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Matryoshka dolls/Sergei KarpukhinIt has been less than a week since Dmitry Medvedev was elected Russian president and he already has the ultimate kitsch accolade: his own matryoshka doll. These are painted wooden figures hollowed out inside to contain a smaller doll, which in turn has an even smaller figure inside, and so on until the penultimate figure opens up to reveal the last tiny doll, usually the size of a fingernail.

The dolls are a Russian folk tradition and a favourite tourist souvenir. Outgoing President Vladimir Putin has long had his own matryoshka. Now his protege does too, selling for 350 roubles ($15) at Izmailovsky market, a vast open-air maze of stalls that sells tourist trinkets.

from Photographers' Blog:

Photographing the Russian Election – as exciting as watching a Formula 1 car compete with a tractor

Covering Russia's presidential election campaign in pictures has been about as exciting as watching a slick Formula 1 racer compete with a Soviet tractor and a pimped-up Lada.

That is, until within the space of a week, the three main candidates discovered their mutual love for guns.

Predicting Russian election result is child’s play

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Medvedev drawing -  The Russian reads: 'A strong president - a strong Russia. Yelena Panferova, 16'

When Russian newspaper Express Gazeta announced a competition of children’s art entitled: ”How do you see the future president”, the entrants proved astute judges of Russian politics: they all submitted drawings of Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin-backed favourite.

Reuters Moscow correspondent James Kilner went along to an exhibition of the artwork to see how children saw life after the March 2 presidential election for Medvedev and outgoing President Vladimir Putin. 

Medvedev’s apprenticeship nearly over

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Medvedev (right) and Serbia's President Tadic Reuters Kremlin correspondent Oleg Shchedrov was the only reporter from a foreign media organisation allowed to travel with Russia’s likely next president Dmitry Medvedev on a flying visit to Serbia and Hungary on Monday. Here is what he saw and heard:

 Medvedev, at least for now, wears several hats: he is a first deputy prime minister, the chairman of Russia’s gas export monopoly Gazprom and Kremlin-backed frontrunner in Sunday’s presidential election. That makes life tricky at times for the reporters covering his trips.

Vodka and guns: on the Russian election trail

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Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Reuters Moscow correspondent Guy Faulconbridge was among a group of journalists invited on Sunday to a shooting range with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the nationalist firebrand who is running in the March 2 presidential election. Here are his reflections on what he saw and heard:

What better to blow away the election blues than a bit of shooting and vodka? And who better to liven up the atmosphere than Vladimir Zhirinovsky?

Sleeping through Russia’s election

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This video is an eloquent comment on the Russian presidential election. It is a parody of a televised debate, in this case featuring two of the candidates, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The spoof moderator says the debate is going out on air at 5:00 a.m. and when the camera cuts to the two debaters, they are both asleep. The moderator wakes them up, but when he asks them to talk about their policies they start reminiscing about 1996, the last time Russia had a hotly-contested presidential election. ”Yes, those were the days,” says the Zyuganov puppet. “And what do we have now?” With that, they get up and leave the studio.

The video is a bit of fun but in many ways it rings true.  This election really is short on excitement. Dmitry Medvedev, the first deputy prime minister President Vladimir Putin has anointed as his favoured successor, is overwhelming favourite to win on March 2. Opinion polls put Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky, his nearest rivals, nearly 50 percentage points behind him. Medvedev has declined to take part in televised debates, saying he could not fit them into his schedule of visits to the provinces. He has not been challenged in earnest on his manifesto. He has given no press conferences, only chats with groups of deferential provincial journalists. The only one-on-one interview he has given was paid for by his campaign.

Failed Machismo lesson

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Russians love tough, macho leaders.

Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev won applause by famously banging his shoe on the U.N. rostrum in the 1960s. Boris Yeltsin had a reputation of a true “muzhik” (a Russian version of macho) after addressing crowds from a tank during a coup and conducting an orchestra while drunk when on a visit to Germany.  On the contrary, the softer and more intellectual Mikhail Gorbachev soon lost popular appeal at home.

President Vladimir Putin has been a classical example of a “muzhik”, or macho, leader and his love of everything military has served him well with voters.

Medvedev tries to look tough

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Reuters correspondent Denis Dyomkin, who travelled with Dmitry Medvedev last week to the eastern city of Khabarovsk on Russia’s border with China,  reports:

Many in the West assume that First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a former St Petersburg lawyer anointed by President Vladimir Putin as his preferred successor, is more liberal than his tough mentor.

How will the Kremlin work after the elections ?

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There is no doubt that President Vladimir Putin will get the result he wants in Russia’s March 2 presidential polls. Pollsters confidently predict the victory of his anointed successor, Dmitry Medvedev, with a solid 60-70 percent of the vote. Most analysts think Putin is pretty serious about his promise to become Medvedev’s prime minister, at least initially, in order to keep a close eye on his successor.

But what happens next? Will the Putin-Medvedev tandem last and can the two work smoothly in a bizarre situation when the mentor is supposed to report to his pupil ? Or, as one ambassador here put it:  “Will Putin hang Medvedev’s picture on his office wall ?” There are no answers yet.

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