Russian Parliament Overwhelmingly Approves Putin As Prime Minister
Russia’s Parliament overwhelmingly confirmed Vladimir V. Putin as prime minister on Thursday, completing his managed departure from the presidency in a manner that left him the country’s dominant politician, with a firm grip on power.
Putin, out of office only a day, received 392 votes in the 450-seat Duma, Parliament’s lower house, before the resolution confirming his new post was handed to his protege and presidential successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev, who promptly accepted it.
Only 56 members of Parliament, all Communists, voted against the appointment. Their party leader issued a scathing assessment of Putin’s eight years of rule, saying they were marked by lost opportunities. Two members of Parliament were not present.
The dissenting speech was broadcast live on national television — unusual in a country where criticism of Putin has been blocked from television for years.
But Putin, secure with the guarantee of 315 votes from United Russia, the party he leads, once again commanded the stage. Before the vote, he delivered a 45-minute speech proposing a series of domestic policy initiatives. While the speech included many of Medvedev’s campaign themes, it was largely indistinguishable from Putin’s presidential addresses over his two terms.
“Great and grandiose tasks lie before us,” he said, addressing a legislature under his control. Medvedev sat silently.
The proposals included efforts to reduce double-digit inflation; legislation to create tax breaks for education, housing and medical costs; and more government spending for housing, infrastructure and military equipment.
He also proposed tax reductions for the oil sector and a law to stop corporate raiding, and said his government would work to revive agriculture and spur domestic food production.
As much as 70 percent of the food in Russia’s major cities is imported, he said, suggesting that costs for staples were especially vulnerable to inflation in a time of rising global transportation costs. “To lower prices, we must increase our production,” he said.
Putin, 55, suggested that he would move quickly and that legislators would receive draft legislation in August with the details of his proposals.
The underlying message centered on continuing the economic rebound, both to raise living standards and economic security for Russia’s citizens and to secure Russia’s path as a resurgent world power, themes that Putin developed as president.
Medvedev, 42, was sworn in as Russia’s third post-Soviet president on Wednesday. His path to office had been assured since December, when Putin, who under the Constitution could not seek a third consecutive term, endorsed him.
In Washington on Thursday, the State Department said that Russia had ordered the expulsion of two U.S. military attaches working at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. “We believe that the expulsions were not justified,” Sean McCormack, a department spokesman, said at a midday briefing. “But as we all know, in the world of diplomacy, sometimes these things happen from time to time.”