Campaigning for next Sunday's presidential election is in its final stages, with arch-favourite Dmitry Medvedev and other candidates throwing their last remaining forces into the battle. (Story: N. Rushworth)
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, whose victory in Sunday's presidential election is all but assured, on Wednesday took a day out from his non-stop, yet unofficial campaign... in order to campaign.
His meeting with several hundred voters in Nizhny Novgorod, some 440 kilometres (273 miles) east of Moscow, differed little in substance from dozens of other events held across the country in the last weeks.
National television showed Medvedev responding to the audience's queries about pensions and salaries. A large poster behind him read "Together We Will Win," while most of the people in the hall sat in stony silence.
Russia's heavily controlled media reported the trip as Medvedev's first real campaign appearance, made possible by him taking a break from his busy official duties.
According to a government statement, Medvedev "is on a one-day unpaid holiday."
In reality, Medvedev has had an exhaustive travel schedule across Russia over the past month, his every move lavishly covered on state television as he greets voters and meets local officials.
The campaigning has been technically unofficial since he has been travelling in his roles as deputy prime minister and chairman of the state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom.
According to recent opinion polls, Medvedev will get between 61 percent and 80 percent of the vote but he has done little direct campaigning and has not yet asked anyone to actually vote for him.
Political analysts said that his campaign is deliberately depicting him as a business-like official too busy solving the nation's problems to actually engage in political debate with his rivals.
Medvedev has boycotted television debates with the other three candidates: Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, populist rabble-rouser Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the little-known Andrei Bogdanov.
Date created : 2008-02-27