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Medvedev: Putin should be PM

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  • Dmitry Medvedev says Russian President Putin should be prime minister
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- The man tipped to be Russia's next president said Tuesday he wanted incumbent President Vladimir Putin to become the country's next prime minister.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev pictured on the left of President Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Medvedev said on Russian state television that he has asked Putin to head the government if he wins elections scheduled for March next year.

The announcement comes only a day after Putin's United Russia party formally nominated Medvedev to be the party's candidate for the presidential elections. Russian law bars Putin from seeking a third term as president.

"I call upon him to agree in principle to head the Russian government after the elections of the new president," Medvedev, currently the deputy prime minister, told state television.

Medvedev, who is also chairman of the state energy giant Gazprom, said he wanted Putin to remain at the center of Russian political life because it was important to "continue the 'political' course that has been started in the late 1990s."

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.

Medvedev's comments, coming just 24-hours after the announcement of his candidature, end a long period of speculation over the future political makeup of Russia.

With Putin's backing and no major political figures announcing plans to run against him, Medvedev looks likely to coast to victory in next year's presidential elections.

Victory would pave the way for the incumbent Russian leader to take over the running of the government.

Putin, who has consolidated power in the hands of the Kremlin during his eight years in power, had already made it clear he was keen to play a role in Russian politics after he left office.

However, pro-democracy groups accuse him of trampling on democratic freedoms and stifling free speech.

Opposition leaders said the job offer to Putin was "predictable."

Sergei Ivanenko, deputy leader of the liberal opposition, Yabloko, said the purpose of the recent political maneuverings was "to keep the government in the form it currently exists in", according to the Russian news agency, Interfax.

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Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told CNN that Putin's attempts to maintain the status quo would eventually come unstuck, however, once Medvedev was "confronted with the necessity to make changes."

"He has been chosen for one reason, apparently: to preside over Putin's status quo and stability. But this stability is very difficult to sustain," Shevtsova said.

Even so, Medvedev's appeal to his current boss was greeted with enthusiasm by church leaders.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, told Interfax it would help "bring stability and a broad base of trust to the authorities."

Putin and his party enjoy huge popular support in Russia.

United Russia swept parliamentary elections earlier this month, winning nearly two-thirds of the national vote. The party now holds 315 seats in the 450-seat parliament while the pro-Kremlin Fair Russia party has 38 seats.

The Russian leader has not yet responded to Medvedev's offer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko in Moscow contributed to this report.

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