MOSCOW, December 19 (RIA Novosti) – In what will likely be seen as another snub to his prime minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin listed the head of the Communist party and a firebrand nationalist as the country’s most influential politicians.
When asked Thursday at his annual press conference marathon who he deemed Russia’s No. 2 politician, Putin first named Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov, raising giggles among the 1,300 reporters assembled.
He then named populist rightwing Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who first came to prominence in the 1990s, but has long been deemed a clownish presence on the political scene.
The leftist leader of A Just Russia party, Sergei Mironov, was named next.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, head of the ruling United Russia, then received a relatively cursory reference.
Medvedev served as president from 2008, after receiving Putin’s endorsement, until 2012, during which time he is deemed to have had a liberalizing if ultimately minor impact on public life. Some of the reforms he implemented have since been subject of planned rollbacks.
All the first three figures Thursday named are mainstays of the Russian political scene, but their parties have for years battled accusations of working with the Kremlin.
Putin avoided mentioning any leaders among the mass protests that erupted in 2011-2012, which including Alexei Navalny, a popular Kremlin-basher and runner-up in last September’s mayoral elections in Moscow.
Putin declined to be drawn on whether he has handpicked a successor.
“I say nothing because there’s nothing to say,” he said.
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If attempts to drag Russia into a direct military conflict in Ukraine are successful, it would be a catastrophe for Russia comparable to the 1979-1989 Afghan war. There is no direct evidence that the US is trying to bring about a second Afghan war, but indirect evidence abounds.