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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Talks Healthcare, Housing

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev went online Monday in a nationwide Internet "chat" meant to boost his presidential prospects, fielding questions on affordable housing, health care and a slew of other issues.

The live web conference was a first for Medvedev, who oversees President Vladimir Putin's four national projects on health care, education, housing and agriculture.

It drew 8,076 questions from around the world, and it ran for just over two hours -- resembling web conferences earlier hosted by Putin.

Medvedev answered 32 questions.

Among his many promises to help ordinary Russians, Medvedev pledged support for epilepsy research, artificial insemination and school Internet connections; reducing mortgage rates to between 6 and 8 percent; and giving St. Petersburg residents final say over the proposed Gazprom building.

Medvedev chairs Gazprom's board of directors.

Medvedev also said he was an avid Internet user.

When it came to his political plans, Medvedev was vague.

"I can absolutely frankly tell you that I think about the future like any other sensible person does -- how I will live, what I will do," he said. "But for now these plans are in no way connected to any concrete job," he said.

"It's not because I'm a fatalist or I don't have any [plans]," said Medvedev. "It's just that I think one needs to follow through with what's been planned." He added that the national projects were his main concern.

Along those lines, one of the most popular questions viewers raised was how the government would gauge the effectiveness of the national projects. Medvedev never gave a specific answer to that question.

The conference was organized by Yandex.ru; Rost.ru, a site devoted to the "national priority projects"; and the newspaper Izvestia, which is controlled by Gazprom. The television channel Vesti-24 broadcast the conference. Vladimir Mamontov, Izvestia's editor, was the host.

One of the unanswered questions came from Sergei, 34, of Moscow, who asked how the government planned to achieve its goals without a robust media.

"With such levels of corruption, the country simply doesn't have a future," Sergei's posting on Yandex.ru said. "All the national projects and the talk of sovereign democracy are meaningless."

Yury Korgunyuk, an Indem think tank political analyst, largely shared Sergei's sentiment, adding: "Everything Medvedev does is merely public relations."

The politics of presidential succession recently heated up when Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was promoted to the status of first deputy prime minister, putting him on a level playing field with Medvedev.

Among the many issues that Medvedev addressed, the focus was the national projects, although farming got much less attention.

Medvedev pledged help for Russians who had fallen prey to housing scams -- a particularly sensitive issue for the thousands of people who have been cheated out of apartments they paid for in pyramid schemes. And he proposed development of financial markets so investors could diversify their portfolios.

Turning to health care, Medvedev said the government would address a shortage in free prescription drugs within two to three weeks.

When Tatyana from Perm asked why the government does not support "extracorporeal insemination," Medvedev countered that, in fact, it does, noting that money has been set aside for 7,000 patients this year, up from 3,000 in 2006. Each procedure costs $5,730.

The first deputy prime minister was particularly facile when it came to health care, comfortably navigating the ins and outs of often-abstruse medical subjects such as mucolipidoses, which are metabolic diseases, and other ailments.

In a sign that the country's farmers are perhaps not computer savvy, Medvedev answered just one agriculture-related inquiry. Asked how the government planned to help farmers sell their produce, Medvedev said the government was weighing its options.

Monday's web conference followed similar online "chats" with Putin in 2001 and 2006. Putin is scheduled to preside over a meeting of the National Projects Council on Wednesday.

Medvedev also said he had no plans for any live television events similar to those the president has taken part in.