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10 Dec, 2007 13:28

Who is Dmitry Medvedev?

A popular politician, a liberal, First Deputy Prime Minister and head of Russia's energy giant Gazprom: meet Dmitry Medvedev.

Speculation about his role as a successor to the president was fueled by his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Speaking about democracy in Russia, Dmitry Medvedev seemed to have managed to make quite an impression on the world's political and economic elite back in January 2007.

The main problem we have right now is the level and quality of our people's lives. We have done quite enough recently in terms of strengthening the economy, developing the macro-economic situation and solving long-standing problems. And now the main task is to try to solve the most serious problems that remain.

Dmitry Medvedev, October 2007, Moscow

Dmitry Medvedev has been in the top echelon of politics for eight years. He took his first steps in politics in St. Petersburg in 1990 when he started work in Leningrad City council after graduating from the city's university with a PhD in law.

For the next five years Medvedev served as an expert consultant to the St. Petersburg Mayor's Committee for External Relations. It was headed by Vladimir Putin. In March 1994 Medvedev became an adviser to the Mayor's Office. During the 90s Medvedev also worked as a legal adviser for a timber firm in St. Petersburg, as well as pursuing other business interests.

“Any young person especially after graduating from university has to have a thought out system of his or her development for their upcoming future, and I think today's students are far more pragmatic than we were twenty years ago. So knowing your career prospects is very important, you have to learn to plan your career.

In any country fresh graduates don't normally earn big money, there are, of course, exceptions when breakthroughs are made during university years but in general it's takes a long time.

I remember my own youth when I graduated I wasn't very happy with the money I was earning, especially that I was doing post graduate work and at the time young teachers earned the equivalent of seven dollars a month, but I wanted to do science and I finished my paper very quickly. But along with that I was a practicing specialist and I think it was the right thing to do, especially in the area of law. If you don't feel the nerve, the pulse of life, you won't achieve much,” Medvedev said during his visit to the Republic of Tatarstan in November 2007.

In 1999, when Vladimir Putin became the country's Prime Minister, he brought a number of trusted colleagues with him from St. Petersburg.  In a reshuffle he made Medvedev the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Government.

After his involvement with Putin's successful election campaign of 2000, he was elected chairman of Russia's energy giant, Gazprom. Many said it was his reward for a job well done. It was a post he retained in 2002 after a re-election.

The value of Gazprom has grown significantly over these years. Also under Medvedev's direction, the company secured deals with former Soviet republics to raise prices for Ukraine and Belarus.

After the arrest of the Chairman of rival energy company, Yukos's Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the controversy that followed, Medvedev rejected claims in an article published in London's Financial Times that Russia was moving towards authoritarian rule and nationalism. He said that the Yukos affair was not about hunting businessmen down through the courts.  He said rather it was about equality before the law.

In 2005 Medvedev became Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister.  He was entrusted with overseeing the Council for National Projects. The programme was aimed at developing social welfare in the country by pumping money into four selected areas namely education, public health, housing and agriculture.

Many experts believe a future Medvedev presidency would mean a continuation of the state-business status quo.  It would also mean a commitment to economic and democratic reform in the country.