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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev to Host Web Chat

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a frontrunner for the presidency next year, will hold a live nationwide web conference next month, a forum normally reserved for President Vladimir Putin.

Putin's own yearly addresses, shown live on television and on the Internet, are closely scrutinized by Kremlin watchers for clues on major policy shifts and strategic announcements.

The Yandex.ru web portal announced Medvedev would field questions from the public in a March 5 conference that would also be televised.

Medvedev and another first deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov, are seen as likely contenders for the top job ahead of a presidential election in March 2008, when Putin steps down.

In contrast to Ivanov, Medvedev is generally viewed as representing liberal factions within the Kremlin. He oversees high-profile national projects in the healthcare, housing and other sectors.

Both men are being given opportunities on state television and at officially sponsored public events to raise their profiles, maintaining suspense over which of them, if either, Putin would finally endorse to succeed him.

Analysts do not rule out the possibility that another dark horse is being groomed behind the scenes.

With one week before the web cast, hundreds of questions were being posted on the web site, mainly on regional issues, agriculture and living standards.

One question, from 15-year-old Margarita, read: "I am ... keen to know in what kind of country we will end up living after the 2008 election."