Putin anoints successor

Ending months of speculation, Vladimir Putin endorsed a successor considered strong on Jewish issues.

The announcement that Putin will back Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, made today on state television, ends months of speculation about who would succeed Putin after he steps down in March as Russia’s president due to constitutionally mandated term limits. Putin’s endorsement virtually insures Medvedev will be elected president in March.

“I have known Dmitry Medvedev well for over 17 years, and I completely and fully support his candidature,” Putin said of the 42-year-old lawyer.

Medvedev, a Putin confidante from St. Petersburg and board chairman of state energy giant Gazprom, is seen as relatively liberal and pro-business.

Last week, Medvedev visited a Jewish center in Moscow. At the event, Rabbi Berel Lazar of the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia expressed his gratitude to Medvedev, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

“New times have come for the Jewish community in Russia,” Lazar said. “We are grateful for the attention given to the community by the state and especially for a theological education of young people in Russia.”

Despite urging the government to “go on struggling with various manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” Lazar focused primarily on the positive impact that he sees after nearly eight years under Putin.

On Monday, following the president’s lead, United Russia, the pro-Putin party that swept recent legislative elections, announced its support for Medvedev.

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