Russian President Medvedev Welcomes Debate On Crisis Measures

MOSCOW -Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday he was happy to have the government’s economic policies criticized, while telling regional deputies to be “extremely” attentive to social problems.

In comments that contrasted with the tough image of his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Medvedev stressed the need for open debate in policy- making.

“It’s not surprising there should be criticism of the course being undertaken. But of course you have to put forward arguments if you consider this correct,” Medvedev said.

“It’s obvious that discussion of matters that lie in your area of responsibility…is quite acceptable and even necessary,” he told an audience of heads of regional parliaments gathered in the Kremlin.

Medvedev went on to urge deputies to be attentive to social problems while warning them against “demagoguery.”

“I want to underline the urgent importance of communication with various social groups. I want you to understand that today we live in a new reality.

“It requires of us extremely attentive, very careful actions and attentiveness to the needs and difficulties of the people,” he said.

The comments come as Russia has faced mounting economic problems in recent months including a devaluation of the ruble, rising unemployment and a drying up of credit.

Some commentators have criticized the government’s crisis measures, saying state support has been focused on bailing out oligarchs while neglecting small and medium-sized businesses.

Meanwhile, some analysts have detected growing tension between Medvedev and Putin, who stepped down as president last year but remains powerful in the prime minister’s post.

However, others suggest Medvedev is unlikely to strike out on an independent course, even as he emphasizes his desire to improve state institutions such as the legal system.

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