Putin warns West his successor to be just as tough
RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday warned the West
against expecting an easier ride under his successor Dmitry Medvedev.
"Dmitry Medvedev will be free to demonstrate his liberal views,"
Putin said after talks at his Novo Ogaryevo residence outside Moscow
with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"But he is no less a Russian nationalist, in the good sense of the
word, than I am, and I do not think that with him the partnership will
be more simple."
Putin was speaking at a press conference just before Merkel went to a
separate meeting with Medvedev, the first between a Western leader and
the new president-elect since his controversial election March 2.
Merkel did not respond until seeing Medvedev.
"President Putin just told me that it won't be easier with you than
with him," she said in televised comments. "But I restrained myself and
didn't say that I hope that at least relations won't be more
Medvedev answered with a chuckle that he expected to continue "the
frankness and friendship... of your relations with President Putin".
Putin also lashed out at the Western military alliance NATO, accusing
it of trying to become a "substitute for the United Nations."
On another sensitive question - the imprisonment of businessman and
Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky - Putin would not comment on the
likelihood of a pardon.
"Questions of pardoning are in the hands of the head of state," he
Merkel came to Russia to take the political temperature ahead of
Putin handing over to Medvedev, who has crafted a more liberal image
than his ex-KGB mentor.
But Putin says he will become prime minister after he steps down in
May, leading analysts to predict that real power may lie with the
outgoing president, not his inexperienced replacement.
Moscow, Sunday, AFP