Medvedev disagrees with Putin on modernization

May 18, 2011 - 8:00 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia could modernize faster than his predecessor Vladimir Putin thinks, but he remains coy about whether he plans to seek a second term.

The president expressed a clear difference of opinion with his powerful prime minister on Wednesday as he sought to project an image of a strong and modern leader with tough statements on foreign policy and domestic issues.

Medvedev was speaking at a business school — one of his pet projects — in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo. It was his largest ever news conference.

Asked by a reporter if the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky would pose any threat to the public, Medvedev only said it would pose "absolutely no danger," but stopped short of saying if he plans to pardon him.

Russian liberals and rights activists have long called on Medvedev to pardon Khodorkovsky, whose trial and imprisonment has been broadly seen as a vendetta by Putin for his challenging of the Kremlin political and economic power. The case has stained Russia's image abroad.

Putin has called Khodorkovsky a thief, and said he should stay in prison just before the tycoon's latest conviction last December.

Medvedev also said Wednesday that his view of Russia's modernization differs from Putin's.

"He believes that modernization is a calm, gradual movement," Medvedev said. "But I think that we have a chance and enough forces to conduct that modernization faster."

Medvedev also emphasized that he and Putin share the same strategic goals and similar policy approaches.

Despite leaving the presidency after two terms in 2008 to become prime minister, Putin has remained Russia's most powerful politician.

Putin and Medvedev have both been evasive about their plans for next March's presidential elections — both saying they would decide later which of the two of them would run, but most analysts expect Putin to reclaim the nation's top job.

Medvedev told a news conference Wednesday it is too early to announce his plans.