Medvedev urges business to pick sides ahead of polls: report
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged top businessmen to decide who they want to see as the country's next president amid the uncertainty ahead of key polls, a report said on Wednesday.
At a Kremlin meeting this week, Medvedev told tycoons that it was time for them to pick sides between him and his mentor Vladimir Putin, Vedomosti business daily said, citing several unidentified businesspeople who attended the gathering.
“You have to decide whether you support my programme or leave things as they are,” one businessman told the newspaper, summing up his impression of Medvedev’s message.
“It was so unexpected that I simply went numb.”
With just eight months left before the key March presidential elections, neither Medvedev, 45, nor Prime Minister Putin, 58, have announced their candidacy amid warnings from businesses that the uncertainty was now hurting the investment climate.
Medvedev has indicated he wants a second term and said his decision on whether to run would depend on a number of factors including the elite’s political preferences and people’s support.
Many observers believe however the final decision on who will run rests with former president Putin, who remains Russia’s most powerful politican.
Analysts say support of Russia’s top tycoons could help sway the unspoken contest between the country’s two most powerful men in Medvedev’s favour.
Medvedev has repeatedly said Russia needed decisive reforms instead of steady development, championed by his mentor and predecessor Putin who has said earlier he wanted to steer clear of “liberal experiments.”
The Kremlin chief also called for decentralising decision-making in Russia, which could mark a possible erosion of the carefully-constructed vertical system of authority implemented during Putin’s decade in power.
Medvedev’s appeal to 27 businesspeople including billionaires Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg came up unexpectedly at the end of the meeting which focused on Russia’s battered investment climate and ways to improve it, said Vedomosti.