Medvedev meets international youth delegation, dodges election question again

Dmitry Medvedev with delegates of the Seliger youth forum (RIA Novosti / Dmitry Astakhov)
President Dmitry Medvedev has met with a delegation from the Seliger 2011 youth forum and talked about the future, innovation, the Internet and his political prospects.

­The Russian President met a delegation from the Forum in his suburban residence of Gorky. This arrangement was different from last year’s, when Medvedev personally visited the Seliger camp in the Tver Region.  However, Medvedev stressed that the meeting was not a PR stunt organized by the Kremlin but “something else”. “This is the place where people discuss the future, and the future is in the globalized world and innovation,” the Russian President said.

The Seliger youth camp is an annual project organized by the Nashi movement – a thousands-strong organization with a clearly pro-Putin and pro-Kremlin agenda specializing in street actions and mass rallies. The movement was founded in 2005 by Vasily Yakemenko, the head of the Russian Federal Youth Agency, who is still heading the project and who arrived at Medvedev’s residence together with the youth delegation.
This year there were a lot of foreign participants at the Seliger forum and about 20 of them came to visit the Russian President.

The visitors asked Medvedev if he would take part in the 2012 presidential race – a question which has taken on an almost ritualistic quality at presidential press conferences and public meetings, though this time the president’s answer was as vague as ever. The decision depends on many factors Medvedev said, while adding that he would not like to compete with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in this race and thus they would make a joint decision regarding this question in the nearest future.

Medvedev also answered a question concerning his understanding of openness and freedom of speech, to which he replied that he supported all forms of criticism – regardless of how constructive it was. Refusing the right to voice non-constructive criticism leads to limitations on the freedom of speech, the president said. Medvedev also advised the young politicians to meet criticism calmly and confidently as it was an inseparable part of the political process. “Seliger is a project that is run with the support of the government youth agency, and the fact that it’s become the subject of our opponents’ criticism is a normal working process,” Medvedev told his guests.

Medvedev also spoke about the economic and political ramifications of innovation and the Internet.  He said that he used his Twitter account for work, giving orders to various officials via this medium, and when the visitors asked Medvedev what was the secret of the popularity of his Twitter account, he said that it was simple. “It is fairly simple to get a lot of followers on Twitter – you simply have to be a president,” Medvedev said, adding that the US President Barak Obama has many more followers than him.

The visit of the Seliger delegation to the presidential residence probably means that Medvedev will not make a personal visit to the camp this year. However, the organizers of the Seliger-2011 still expect visits from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov. The Forum will continue till early August.