Putin introduced the 42-year-old Medvedev to leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as “one of the candidates” in the March 2 election, but left no doubt he was more than that.
“The CIS is one of the key aspects of our foreign policy and he (Medvedev) was in fact a co-author of the policy that Russia had conducted there,” Putin said.
“We should not have and we will not have any revolutionary changes specifically because Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev) is a co-author of the policy,” he said.
The 11 foreign heads of state invited to the summit lined up to shake hands with Medvedev, who stood next to Putin in the anteroom of the pre-revolutionary mansion in central Moscow where the meeting was held.
In an unusual break of protocol, Medvedev was given the floor at Friday’s informal summit straight after Putin and spoke for nearly 10 minutes, almost as long as his boss.
“In case of my election success I would want to count on the continuation of working relations marked by trust, and on establishing personal contacts with you,” he said. “No doubt, this is important for our peoples and our countries.”
Medvedev also joined the heads of state at a round table and took a place at Putin’s right-hand side.
Kremlin opponents say the election is a foregone conclusion because the contest is slanted in Medvedev’s favor. He benefits from blanket coverage on Russian television, the main source of news for most voters.
An opinion poll this week gave Medvedev, a former lawyer from Putin’s native city of St Petersburg, more than 70 percent support. His nearest rivals are trailing far behind.
A long-standing Putin ally who has promised continuity if he is elected, Medvedev emerged as front-runner after the popular outgoing president gave him his endorsement.
Putin is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term. He is expected to remain a major player and has said he is ready to serve as prime minister in a Medvedev administration.