President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday endorsed as his successor Dmitri A. Medvedev, a protege with no background in the state security services and virtually no power base in the Kremlin.
Putin’s selection of Medvedev, 42, makes him the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency in March and suggests that Putin is seeking to retain influence by turning his office over to someone he can readily steer from behind the scenes.
“I’ve been very close to him for more than 17 years,” Putin said in a televised appearance with leaders of four political parties allied with the Kremlin, “and fully and completely support this candidacy.”
Little is known about how Medvedev, a former law professor, might govern — other than what can be inferred from a relationship with Putin, 55, that is sometimes compared here to father and son.
Medvedev, who is a first deputy prime minister and the chairman of Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, has never run for any office, and almost his entire career is linked to Putin. Unlike Putin and many top officials in the Kremlin, Medvedev appears to have no background in the former Russian secret police and intelligence agency the KGB; its successor, the FSB; or other state security agencies.
Since taking office in 2000, Putin has seeded the government with many former intelligence officers. Medvedev’s lack of ties to the security services indicate to some here that he is a relatively weak figure beholden to Putin.
“All Medvedev has is that he is a creature of Putin,” said Nikolai V. Zlobin, a former professor at Moscow State University who is a fellow at the World Security Institute in Washington. “Everything that Medvedev has is owed to Putin. There is no Medvedev without Putin.”
Putin, who is barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term, did not issue any remarks on Monday about his own future, though he has repeatedly said that he intends to play a major role after he steps down. He has said that he may become leader of his party, United Russia, or perhaps even prime minister.