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New Russian president: I will work with Putin

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  • NEW: Medvedev: I will follow the foreign policy priorities set by Putin
  • Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor did not face serious opposition
  • Some believe Putin will retain much of his power by serving as PM
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- With preliminary results showing he would likely win Sunday's presidential election by a landslide, Dmitry Medvedev vowed to work closely with the man who tapped him for the job, President Vladimir Putin.

"I will work on this together with Mr. Vladimir Putin, as the future chairman of the government," Medvedev told supporters in Moscow.

He said the "unprecedented high" turnout -- which he put at about two-thirds of eligible voters -- was an indication "that our people are not indifferent to the future of our country" and gives him the mandate he needs to govern.

Medvedev, 42, said he would follow the foreign policy priorities set during the eight years of Putin's rule, "the essence of which is the protection of Russian interests around the whole perimeter."

Medvedev said Putin, who is to move into the role of prime minister, would have his constitutionally defined powers separate from those of the president, "and nobody proposes to change them." Video Watch CNN's Mathew Chance report on the election »

He predicted their work together "may bring interesting results for the country and become a positive factor in the development of our country."

His comments came shortly after Putin congratulated his protege on his projected victory, calling the results an affirmation of his own policies.

"This victory is going to be a guarantee that the course that we have all chosen together, the successful course that we have been pursuing for the past eight years, will be continued," Putin told the crowd at a Red Square rock concert broadcast on Russian TV.

Putin praised Russians for demonstrating their society "is becoming efficient, responsible and active," and thanked the candidates who ran against his choice to replace him -- but added, "The election is over."

"I am very hopeful that the electoral passions will stay in the past, and all those who really do love our Russia will pool their efforts in work for the good of the citizens of our great homeland."

Independent observers called the campaign one-sided, with news outlets heavily biased toward the Kremlin's choice.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the continent's top election watchdog, refused to monitor the balloting because of what it called severe restrictions on its observers by the Russian government.

But Putin insisted last month that Russia has "fully implemented" all of its commitments to the OSCE.

And Medvedev had genuine appeal to many Russian voters. "He is a wonderful, young, handsome, energetic man who will continue Putin's work and be a shining example to our children," voter Tamara Razumova said.

With nearly 80 percent of the precincts reporting, Russia's Central Election Commission said Medvedev was leading with 69 percent of the vote.

The commission said Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov was in second place with almost 18 percent of the vote, followed by populist nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 10 percent and a largely unknown Andrei Bogdanov with 1.3 percent.

Medvedev has publicly committed to promote democracy, fight corruption, and bolster the rule of law. But as Kremlin critics point out, Putin made similar promises when he ran, only to be criticized at home and abroad for cracking down on opposition groups.

"His pronouncements were quite opposite to what he was doing," said Evgeny Volk, an analyst at the U.S.-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Many Russians credit Putin with leaving the country out of the poverty and uncertainty of the 1990s and is responsible for the current national economic boom -- so his endorsement carried a great deal of weight.

Russian analyst Vycheslav Nikonov said it remains to be seen how much power Putin will wield as prime minister, but he is likely to remain "a very influential political figure for years to come."


"I don't know what's going to happen in half a year. It may all change," said Nikonov, the president of the Politika Foundation, a Russian think-tank.

"Putin is still more popular, more trustworthy. As for Medvedev, he is the president of hope, and much will depend on whether he can deliver." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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