`Strange` Medvedev befuddles Russia

Russian President stayed mum about his plans for presidential polls.

Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev disappointed widespread expectations by staying mum about his plans for presidential polls during the biggest news conference of his presidency, media said on Thursday.

"Dmitry Medvedev`s first major news conference turned out to be strange: he neither summed up the results nor shared his plans for the future," said top business daily Vedomosti.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin chief convened over 800 journalists at the Skolkovo technology centre outside Moscow that is the centrepiece of his modernisation drive in a news conference that many had hoped he would use to finally clarify his plans for 2012 elections.

Both he and Vladimir Putin, his prime minister and mentor, have not ruled out running for a new Kremlin term. Medvedev said last month he would announce his decision "soon" and reiterated that statement on Wednesday, saying the news conference would not be the right time to announce any such decision.

"It is unclear why he had to choose this place and time. To say that it is not the right place and time to speak about things that are of most interest to us," broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted analyst Mikhail Delyagin as saying.

Some analysts have lately detected an increasing swagger in Medvedev who Putin installed at the Kremlin after serving two consecutive terms as president himself.

In recent months, Medvedev has publicly disagreed with Putin by bluntly contradicting his statements on Libya and even expressing concern last week that the over-concentration of power was dangerous for the state.

While some expressed satisfaction with the Kremlin chief`s cautious comments, saying he did not want to become a "lame duck", Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Centre suggested Medvedev might have been asked to tone down his rhetoric.

"I have a feeling the President has been wrapped on the knuckles," he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Another analyst, Lilia Shevtsova went further, saying Medvedev`s apparent indecision might have amounted to political suicide.

"All of that looked not merely helpless. In front of the entire country Medvedev was committing political hara-kiri," she wrote on the site of popular Echo of Moscow radio.

"Why did he have to take the stage if he`s got nothing to say?"

"The endless gabbing about modernisation without an ambition or readiness to do something undermines any idea of change," she said, noting that his passive stance may help Putin retain his decade-old grip on power in Russia.

Bureau Report

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