The Herald

Medvedev win given cautious welcome

- MICHAEL STOTT MOSCOW

KREMLIN candidate Dmitry Medvedev swept to victory as Russia’s next president, but Western criticism of the vote and scattered protests took some of the shine off his win.

Medvedev, 42, pledged to continue the policies of his mentor President Vladimir Putin after taking just over 70% of the votes in Sunday’s poll, criticised by opponents as devoid of real competitio­n.

Small groups of protesters took to the streets in Moscow and St Petersburg. However, most Russians did not express concern, hoping to prolong an economic boom under Putin.

In Moscow, pro-Kremlin activists marched peacefully on the US embassy.

Most Western government­s avoided criticism of the elections, preferring to stress their willingnes­s to work with Medvedev and their hope that he would respect democracy and freedom.

“The United States looks forward to working with him,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

Britain said it hoped for greater co-operation. Relations have been strained since the poisoning death in London of Alexander Litvinenko, an exiled Russian agent. Russia has refused to hand over the main suspect in his death.

“We have always said that we will look for opportunit­ies to improve our relationsh­ip with Russia, and hope to see greater co-operation on an number of issues, but we should judge the new Russian government on its actions and the results of those actions,” said Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman.

Andreas Gross, head of the only Western monitoring mission in Russia, said the result had broadly reflected voters’ wishes but added: “There was not freedom”.

Medvedev is also chairman of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom. Within hours of his win, the giant utility yesterday cut supplies to former Soviet republic Ukraine by at least one-quarter over alleged unpaid debts. Gazprom pledged its exports to Europe would not be affected.–Reuters

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