Medvedev Makes Sole Appeal Ahead of Vote

Dmitry Medvedev pledged Wednesday to maintain President Vladimir Putin's course and focus on stability as the country counted down the final days to Sunday's presidential election.

Medvedev, who is all but guaranteed to be elected as Putin's successor, also promised to intensify the fight against corruption, cut red tape and encourage small business.

"I will feel obliged to continue the course which has proven its efficiency over the past eight years: the course of President Putin," Medvedev told voters in Nizhny Novgorod.

Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister openly endorsed by Putin, made similar pledges later in a recorded televised address to the nation set against the backdrop of the Volga River city's snow-covered ancient towers.

"We need political stability, we need to keep improving people's lives, develop the economy, ensure reliable protection of Russia's sovereignty and protect citizens' freedoms," Medvedev said, imitating Putin's forceful manner of speaking.

The address, shown repeatedly on state-run television, looked and sounded strongly like a campaign speech, though it was broadcast as part of newscasts. It was preceded by a nearly eight-minute news report on Medvedev's campaign appearance, and most of that report was taken up by his speech to voters.

Medvedev is expected to win Sunday's vote easily, thanks to Putin's broad popularity and the Kremlin's overwhelming control over the national media and political landscape.

Putin, who accepted Medvedev's offer to become prime minister if Medvedev is elected, has said he would retain a leading role.

"I always have felt comfortable working together with the president," Medvedev said, adding that he and Putin have had "comradelike, productive interaction," since the early 1990s.

Medvedev, who has cultivated an image of a liberal and business-friendly leader, also promised to implement new measures to combat endemic official graft.

"A plan for combating corruption will be approved in a few months, and we will start implementing it," he said.

He pledged to rein in corporate raiders who often use force to seize companies from rightful owners and to streamline state regulations to make life easier for small businesses.

"We have had enough of revolutions, instability and declining living standards; we want to have a break," he said. "We need decades of stable development."