Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 17:10 UK

Profile: Dmitry Medvedev

Dmitry Medvedev (right) with Vladimir Putin
Winning team: Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Vladimir Putin

Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev is the country's first leader in decades with no known links either to the former Soviet Communist party or secret services.

However, Mr Medvedev - a 42-year-old lawyer by education - is extremely close to his predecessor Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent.

He campaigned as Mr Putin's protege and tied himself to his policies as soon as his victory became known in the March elections.

"We will be able to preserve the course of President Putin," he said, celebrating his landslide victory in Moscow after the polls.

We are well aware that no non-democratic state has ever become truly prosperous
Dmitry Medvedev

In his inauguration speech, however, he pledged to develop "civil and economic freedom" in Russia, in what could be seen as a hint that the country may be changing under his rule.

Mr Putin is now set to become prime minister, and in that role will continue to wield substantial power.

This raises questions as to who will be holding the real power in Russia.

According to Mr Medvedev, "it is the president who decides the main positions in domestic and foreign policy... he is the supreme commander-in-chief", while the government is responsible "for all economic activities".

Yet there appears to be still plenty of scope for redefining roles.

Medvedev's rise

Considered an economic liberal, Mr Medvedev served Mr Putin as first deputy prime minister, and he was also chairman of Russia's enormous state-run gas monopoly, Gazprom.

Campaign poster Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev
"Together we will win!" emphasises Mr Putin's continuing role

But his connection to his predecessor began much earlier.

Mr Medvedev trained as a lawyer in Leningrad - now St Petersburg. The son of a professor, he became an assistant professor in his own right at St Petersburg State University in the 1990s.

While there, he became involved in the city council and joined Vladimir Putin's external affairs team as an expert consultant working for the mayor.

It was a key period in Russia's transition from communism.

Putin insider

Endorsing his nomination as presidential candidate, Mr Putin said: "I have known him for more than 17 years, I have worked with him very closely all these years".

Dmitry Medvedev
1990-95: Consultant to St Petersburg mayor
1999: Kremlin deputy chief of staff
2000: Head of Vladimir Putin's election campaign
2002: Chairman of Gazprom
2003: Putin's chief of staff
2005: First Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of social programmes
2008: Elected Russian president by a landslide vote

Mr Medvedev had been seen as one of several potential candidates to succeed Mr Putin.

Mr Putin was chosen as a successor by the late President Boris Yeltsin, and it was not long before Mr Medvedev followed him to the Kremlin, to serve as deputy chief of staff.

In 2000, Mr Medvedev took charge of Vladimir Putin's presidential election campaign and in October 2003 he was appointed Kremlin chief of staff.

Mr Putin, in turn, played an important role in Mr Medvedev's presidential campaign, with both men featuring in an election poster alongside the slogan: "Together we will win."

During the campaign, Mr Medvedev decided not to take part in televised debates with other candidates, stating that it would give his rivals additional promotion.

Political experience

Almost from his arrival at the Kremlin, Mr Medvedev took an active role at Gazprom.

A visit to Serbia in February enabled him not only to renew Moscow's support over Kosovo but also to sign a deal paving the way for the construction of a key gas pipeline.

Perhaps most important to his credentials for the presidency was his promotion to the post of first deputy prime minister in charge of national projects.

Mr Medvedev oversaw major social initiatives in the areas of agriculture, health, education and efforts to boost Russia's low birth rate. He spearheaded measures to support foster families and develop pre-school education.

He also helped restructure the Kremlin's relations with powerful billionaire oligarchs who made fortunes in the Yeltsin years.

In January 2007, he told the World Economic Forum in Davos: "We aim to create big Russian corporations and will back their foreign economic activities.

"But the role of the state certainly should not involve telling any particular company or sector how to carry out diversification.

"Even if the state retains a controlling interest... we aim to create public companies with a substantial share of foreign investment in their capital."

He is known to dislike labels, considering ideology harmful, and is not a member of any political party.

But he does consider himself a democrat: "We are well aware that no non-democratic state has ever become truly prosperous for one simple reason: freedom is better than non-freedom."

Private life

Just before the presidential election, Dmitry Medvedev told the Russian news magazine Itogi that his ancestors included farm workers, a blacksmith and a hat maker.

Dmitry Medvedev (centre) with Alexei Miller of Gazprom and the rock band, Deep Purple
Deep Purple perk: as a boy he developed a taste for British rock

He described growing up in a 40sq m (430sq ft) flat in Kupchino on the outskirts of St Petersburg, dreaming of buying jeans and Deep Purple and Pink Floyd records.

So it was something of a dream come true when Deep Purple played at the Kremlin in February 2008 at a concert to mark the 15th anniversary of the founding of Gazprom.

While still a teenager, he fell in love with his future wife, Svetlana.

"I lost interest in lessons. It was much more interesting to hang out with my future wife," he said. They have a son, Ilya.

Mr Medvedev also describes how he worked on a building site and as a street cleaner to help fund his studies at university. At the age of 23 he was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church, a decision he said he took himself.

"From that moment, I believe, a new life started for me," he said.

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