MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian president Vladimir Putin has thrown his support behind deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to replace him when he steps down as the country's leader next year.
First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev pictured on the left of President Vladimir Putin.
Following a meeting of four pro-Kremlin parties Monday, Putin said he "fully backs the candidature" of Medvedev in comments broadcast on Russian state television.
Medvedev, who is also chairman of the state energy giant Gazprom, was officially nominated as the candidate for Putin's United Russia party.
During a televised address, three other political parties -- Fair Russia, the Agrarian party and the Civil Force party - also declared their support for his candidature.
Putin backed the current deputy prime minister and said that he "knows Medvedev and 1/8that he3/8 worked fruitfully with him for over 17 years."
Medvedev was present for the nomination, which was announced by the leader of United Russia and the speaker of the Russian parliament Boris Gryzlov.
A former lawyer who hails from Putin's native St Petersburg, Medvedev, 42, managed the president's election campaign in 2000 and is considered part of Putin's inner circle of advisers.
He is widely expected to win presidential elections scheduled for next March due to the huge popular support that Putin and his party enjoy in Russia.
United Russia swept up in elections earlier this month, winning nearly two-thirds of the national vote. The party now holds 315 seats in the 450-seat parliament while Fair Russia has 38 seats.
The Russian leader, who has already made clear he wants to continue to have a political role in Russia, is tipped to be appointed the country's prime minister.
Putin, whom critics accuse of undermining political and media freedoms while president, has already said he would consider taking on the post.
Opposition groups were skeptical about Monday's announcement, claiming that the heavy influence of the president in the selection process made the choice of candidate "immaterial."
"The name is immaterial to us, as we do not accept the very notion of a successor. People will vote for him the same as they voted for United Russia. What's the point in discussing his personal qualities?" Nikita Belykh, leader of the Union of Right Forces told Interfax, the state news agency.