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Russian frontrunner to follow Putin's path

 Russian frontrunner to follow Putin's path
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The overwhelming favourite to succeed Vladimir Putin has told Russia he will stick to the course laid out by the outgoing President. It was Dmitry Medvedev’s first big policy speech since Putin backed him to win the coming presidential election in March.

He said the Russian leader had played a key role in pulling the country out of chaos: “The main thing is to have continuing calm and stable development. Decades of stable development are needed, something our country has been deprived of,” he said in the address in Moscow.

Some observers say Medvedev has a more liberal and pro-Western outlook than Putin, and his tone on foreign policy was conciliatory:

“No one should have any doubt. Russia will continue developing as a country open for dialogue and cooperation with the international community.”

But he said Russia would keep its close ties with states like Iran, despite Western reservations.

One of his rivals in the race for the presidency now faces an even greater struggle after prosecutors accused him of forging signatures to allow to him stand.

It could lead to Mikhail Kasynov’s disqualification from the election.

An aide to Kasyanov, whom opinion polls credit with only about one per cent support, said prosecutors were applying “political pressure”.