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Putin Shows His Support for Medvedev, Parades Unity

Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir PutinDec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised his successor at the Kremlin, President Dmitry Medvedev, as the two men made a relatively rare public appearance together at the last Cabinet meeting this year.

"We want to thank you and the presidential administration for our close work together," Putin said in Moscow today. "We really have proven able to form a united team."

Medvedev, 45, a lawyer who was elected president in 2008 after Putin stepped down because of a constitutional ban on three consecutive terms in the Kremlin, wants to run in 2012, according to his aide, Arkady Dvorkovich. Putin, 58, a former KGB spy who has remained at the center of power as prime minister, hasn't ruled out a return to the Kremlin.

The Russian president, who has made it his administration's goal to combat corruption and attract foreign investors to reduce Russia's reliance on raw materials, said a top priority for 2011 is to improve the investment climate in Russia. He signed a decree today forming a consultative group to advise on the development of Moscow as an international financial center.

The U.S. and several European countries this week criticized the conviction of jailed former Yukos Oil Co. chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky on new oil embezzlement charges, saying it was an example of selective justice that would harm Russia's image among investors.

'Sit in Jail'

While Medvedev told Russian officials last week to avoid commenting before the trial was over, Putin on Dec. 16 said "a thief should sit in jail," referring to Khodorkovsky's earlier 2005 conviction.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was due for release in October 2011, after serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion and now faces another six years in prison, according to his lawyers.

He has called the charges retribution for his opposition to Putin, who was president at the time of his 2003 arrest. During Putin's presidency, Yukos, once Russia's largest oil exporter, was declared bankrupt with about $30 billion of tax claims and sold off in pieces. Putin has denied any involvement.

Putin yesterday said the rules for foreign companies investing in strategic industries of the Russian economy would be eased next year. "Russia is open to foreign investment," he told a meeting of a government commission on foreign investment.

The government yesterday approved PepsiCo Inc.'s purchase of a controlling stake in Wimm-Bill-Dann Dairy & Juice Co., one of Russia's leading producers of juice and dairy products, for $3.8 billion.

The prime minister said he and Medvedev had managed to overcome differences within their joint administration over the approach to governing Russia.

"Through debate, we managed to reach the right decisions," Putin said. "I know better than anyone here, without the direct support of the president, such work would have been impossible."


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