Vladimir Putin on Thursday stole the limelight from Dmitry Medvedev, his newly-inaugurated successor as Russian president, with a 45-minute speech at his parliamentary confirmation as prime minister that signalled he would keep a strong grip on power, according to Financial Times
With Mr Medvedev watching from the sidelines, Mr Putin pledged to tackle inflation, cut oil taxes and modernise the economy. Analysts compared his performance to the state of the nation addresses he previously delivered as president.
The new president, sworn in on Wednesday, was left only to introduce Mr Putin with brief remarks noting he needed “no particular recommendations” and congratulate him after the parliament voted 392-56 to approve his candidacy. Only Communist deputies voted against.
Mr Medvedev hinted Mr Putin could continue to influence Russia for years ahead, noting that the former president was largely responsible for setting the country’s development goals for 2020 and “as government chairman will play a key role in their realisation”.
In something akin to Soviet-era Kremlinology, attention will now shift to the choreography between the two leaders at Friday’s Victory Day parade on Red Square – the first to include a full-scale display of military hardware since 1990. Mr Putin as head of state has dominated the event in recent years. The extent to which he would cede the spotlight to Mr Medvedev this year was not clear.
Mr Putin told lawmakers reducing annual inflation – which topped 14 per cent last month – to single digits was his biggest priority. But he also said it was important to cut taxes on the oil industry, whose output is stagnating.
The new prime minister set a goal of putting Russia among the world’s top nations in terms of living standards within 15 years. He also said Russia’s economy could overtake that of the UK this year in purchasing power parity terms.
Mr Putin had barbs for the west, claiming that “political” barriers had prevented Russian companies from investing $50bn (?32.5m, ?25.5m) abroad over the past year.
Gennady Zyuganov, Communist party leader, said Mr Putin had failed to utilise the considerable luck he had enjoyed to transform Russia.
“In eight years of his presidency there was not a single cold winter, not a single major drought, while gold and currency reserves were pouring like rain,” he said. “And nevertheless, we assess that time as a time of missed opportunities.”
Russia’s financial markets, however, continued a post-inauguration rally – and drew further strength from Mr Putin’s support for cutting oil taxes. The RTS index closed up 3.75 per cent at 2,283.99, having finished the previous day above 2,200 for the first time since January.