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Rights Activist Calls on Medvedev to Move From Words to Action

Dmitri MedvedevMOSCOW. March 4 (Interfax) - Remarks made by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg addressing the need to continue promoting civil freedoms in the country could be a claim to a new presidential term, the leader of the For Human Rights movement, Lev Ponomaryov, told Interfax on Friday.

"It could be another trial of strength meant to test society's reaction, a signal to people from the elite, a search for those who will support him. By the end of the first term in office, Medvedev needs to begin doing something, not just speaking. He has already made some preparations. I think they are quite successful," Ponomaryov said.

So far it is difficult to tell whether Medvedev's speech in St. Petersburg was a claim to the presidency or an attempt to see which high-ranking security officials are on his side, he said.

"It is being discussed today that Medvedev will run for president again, while Putin will find himself a new job, including at the international level. Or can it be the other way round? Putin will run for president, while Medvedev will establish his position and will wait for any definite job offer?" Ponomaryov said.

The president can "rely only on liberal forces, including within the political elite and the opposition, who, however, expect him to begin taking some steps," he said.

"This can happen either today, ahead of the elections, giving him a real chance to remain as Russia's president, or everything will remain just words," the rights activist said.

Such measures could include political reforms, Ponomaryov said.

"I am speaking about creating more comfortable conditions for parties' registration, reviving election blocs, returning to a mixed (electoral) system, as well as making election commissions truly independent," he said.

A possible decision to free a number of convicted people, whose sentences provoked a wide outcry in society, could play a key role as well, he said.

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