Medvedev Takes Early Lead on City's Streets

While a senior Russian Orthodox Church official noted on Monday that First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was "as far as one can judge" an Orthodox Christian, graphic designer Igor Volkov was more than skeptical.

"I have not and will not support the candidacy of a Jew," Volkov, 24, said near the Smolenskaya metro station Monday evening.

Volkov, however, was in the minority of the some 50 Muscovites interviewed after President Vladimir Putin announced his support for Medvedev in the March 2 presidential election. Most welcomed the prospect of a President Medvedev, citing a desire for continued stability in the country.

"Medvedev knows what he's doing, it's obvious," said Zinaida Ivanova, a 70-year-old public-toilet attendant, outside Savyolovsky Station. "Putin has not been ideal for the country -- just look at the food prices. But he has stabilized life, which is very difficult to do. Medvedev will continue that course."

Out of 29 people questioned near the train station, only three failed to mention the word "stability" when sizing up Medvedev.

Stanislav, a 21-year-old law student wolfing down a hot dog, called Putin's announcement "the right decision."

"If some kind of outsider took over from Putin, it will be another mess, just like in the 1990s," said Stanislav, who declined to give his last name. "All the assets would be carved up between businessmen and society would fall apart."

Tatyana Meshcheryakova, a 22-year-old student, said she would not blindly support a candidate just because he had Putin's backing.

"But I would vote for either Medvedev or [First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei] Ivanov," Meshcheryakova said. "The main thing is to ensure stability."

Nikolai and Konstantin, engineers hanging out at a kiosk and swilling beer after work, said they trusted Putin's opinion.

"We are getting older, and it is more important for us that there is some kind of course; some kind of plan in place," said Nikolai, 52.

Konstantin, 47, said Medvedev was the best candidate "because there has been no talk of a better successor."

A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, Georgy Ryabykh, said Medvedev's chances of winning the elections looked good, and "as far as one can judge, [Medvedev] is a believer and an Orthodox Christian," Interfax reported.

Around half of those interviewed Monday said Medvedev's election would be good news for Russia, while 14 said they had no idea who Medvedev was.

Indeed, while the once obscure Medvedev quickly became a household name earlier this year, with the state television channels providing extensive coverage of his activities, television coverage of his work as head of the multibillion-dollar national projects had tailed off in recent months.

"I haven't seen him on television," said one elderly woman who refused to give her name. "And I watch a lot of television."