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Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 11:04 UK

Putin confirmed as new Russian PM

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 8 May 08
President Medvedev (right) plans to work "in tandem" with PM Putin

Russia's parliament has overwhelmingly approved former President Vladimir Putin as the new prime minister.

He handed over to Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday - his chosen successor, who was elected president in March.

The State Duma (lower house) voted 392-56 in favour of Mr Putin. His United Russia bloc dominates the house.

In a speech just before the vote, Mr Putin told parliament that he would strive for "single-digit inflation within a few years".

He said Russia could overtake the UK in terms of GDP this year, becoming the world's sixth-largest economy. Reducing the tax burden and widening the shareholder class were further priorities, he said.

Within hours of being sworn in on Wednesday, Mr Medvedev had nominated Mr Putin, his mentor, as prime minister.

Analysts say the powers of the prime minister will expand under Mr Putin, and he may in effect govern Russia jointly with the president.

Mr Medvedev told the deputies: "I don't think anyone doubts that our tandem, our co-operation will only strengthen."

Economic ambitions

Mr Putin, a 55-year-old former KGB agent, was barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive presidential term in the March elections.

The question of who wields the real power in the Kremlin will continue to fascinate, puzzle and perplex, the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says.

Mr Putin will remain Russia's most popular politician for the foreseeable future, which will give him huge influence over the man he mentored as his successor, our correspondent says.

In his speech to the Duma on Thursday, Mr Putin said that "to stimulate an increase in production and refining of oil, it is time to cut the tax burden in that sector".

He said Russia must rank with the world's leading nations on key indicators such as levels of income and social welfare, quality of education, health and life expectancy.

He also spoke of the need to create "a real mass class of investors", saying even people on modest incomes should be able to hold shares.

Reform battles

But the BBC's Russia analyst Steven Eke says Mr Putin's tasks will be difficult and politically fraught.

On the eve of Victory Day - which marks the Soviet triumph in World War II - he promised decent housing for the dwindling numbers of war veterans.

But previous attempts to reform social benefits have led to anti-government demonstrations, which prompted Mr Putin to postpone some unpopular economic decisions, our analyst writes.

According to international lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who defended jailed Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky, President Medvedev may still have some tough battles to fight in the Kremlin.

"There is a clan contest going on at the highest levels in Russia, there are different groups that control various aspects of Russian policy... there are hardline groups challenging Mr Medvedev even at this point," he told the BBC News website.

Mr Medvedev will seek to improve Russia's image abroad, he predicted, as "there is a tremendous need that many in the elite see to move closer to the West". One motivating factor is a desire to accumulate Western assets, he added.


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