Perhaps you can forgive Hillary Clinton for stumbling over the name of Russia’s likely next president in Tuesday’s debate with Barack Obama. Dmitry Medvedev, the man billed to replace President Vladimir Putin after elections this Sunday, only began officially campaigning yesterday.
In the 24-hour break from his official-and heavily-covered-duties as first deputy prime minister on Wednesday, Mr. Medvedev spent the day with voters, discussing pension reform and other issues frequently covered in his ministerial pronouncements, the Russian media reported.
All federal news stations devoted significant coverage to Mr. Medvedev’s sole campaign appearance held in Nizhny Novgorod on Wednesday, prompting further complaints from other candidates in the race about media bias, Vedomosti wrote.
Even the debate between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama likely garnered more media attention than any given to the remaining three candidates in Russia’s presidential race in the last few days. The Russian press, which has been paying particularly close attention to the presidential primaries in the United States, becomes especially excited when the topic of debate turns to Russia, even if neither candidate can recall the name of the main presidential candidate here.
Though most outlets that covered the debate remarked on Mrs. Clinton’s hiccup, none seemed to dwell on it. Nezavisimaya Gazeta even wrote that senator from New York was “sufficiently informed” on the current situation in Russia, while the state-run newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta did not even mention the slipup in its coverage.
Team Putin-Medvedev, however, has not passed on the chance for a few digs at the candidates in the United States. In a likely shot at John McCain-far from the Kremlin’s favorite in this year’s presidential contest-Mr. Medvedev this week said he would work with any future U.S. leader that did not have “semi-senile views.”
Mr. Putin’s response to Mrs. Clinton’s assertion last January that he has no soul was characteristically terse, as the Moscow Times reminds us: “A state official must at least have brains,” he said.
In Nizhny Novgorod, Russians arrived from all over the country to get a glimpse of Mr. Medvedev, who appeared without a tie and talked with voters about their most pressing issues, the First Channel reported. The main question: “What will you do, so that we can live better?”
His responses ranged from fighting corruption, promoting a multiparty system, raising pensions (this will take time, he said, because of rising inflation “that came to us from abroad”) and improving Russia’s higher education system, Gazeta reported. Most important, he said, he will maintain stability and continuity.
“If I am entrusted with heading the state, then I will be required to continue the course that has shown its effectiveness, the course of President Vladimir Putin.”