Medvedev Sticks to Civil Society Theme

Russia needs a strong state, but it should also have a vigorous civil society to hold authorities accountable, first deputy prime minister and presidential front-runner Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.

For the second time in a week, Medvedev chose to talk about the need for an active civil society, an emphasis suggesting a possible different style from President Vladimir Putin, whom critics accuse of squeezing democratic freedoms.

Hinting at a new approach during a visit to Voronezh, Medvedev said there could be changes in the government system but that it was too early to give any details.

Civil society in Russia has matured and is now offering constructive criticism of officials rather than "simply opposing the state in any way possible," Medvedev said.

"A strong civil society can only exist in a situation where there is a developed and strong state. One does not contradict the other," Medvedev said in televised comments.