Dmitry Medvedev secures new mandate as Russian prime minister

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and acting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a session of the State Duma in Moscow on May 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Dmitry Medvedev secures new mandate as Russian prime minister

MOSCOW: Dmitry Medvedev secured a fresh term as Russian prime minister on Tuesday, as the lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly for President Vladimir Putin’s long-term ally to retain his post.
“I am ready to do everything for the development of our country,” Medvedev said ahead of the vote in the State Duma, which Putin also attended.
A total of 374 MPs backed his candidacy while 56 voted against.
The ruling United Russia party and the ultra-nationalist LDPR party backed Medvedev, while the Communist and Just Russia parties opposed him.
The 52-year-old served a term as president from 2008 to 2012 before standing aside to become prime minister while Putin returned to the Kremlin.
Putin praised Medvedev in a speech ahead of the vote, saying that the prime minister “hardly needs any special introduction” after leading the government for the past six years.
“All that has been accomplished in recent years creates a solid basis for moving forward,” Putin said, adding that he worked “thoroughly, professionally and honestly” during a “difficult” period for Russia.
“Despite all these difficulties, the government managed not just to solve extraordinary, emergency tasks” but also develop plans aimed at the “mid-term and long-term,” Putin said.
“I think it’s extremely important to preserve continuity.”
Medvedev in turn thanked Putin for his support and said his government would work toward fulfilling new national targets announced by Putin following his inauguration for a fourth Kremlin term this week.
“We are able to be victorious both in war and peaceful times,” he told the Duma, a day before Russia celebrates World War II victory over the Nazis with a military parade on Red Square.
Despite having played a relatively marginal role in the post in recent years, Medvedev won popular notoriety with an ill-judged throwaway phrase to an elderly woman complaining about her low pension in 2016 that “there’s no money, but you hang in there.”
Last year, he was accused of massive corruption by opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 27 million times.
Navalny’s supporters, many of them teenagers, responded to the claims that Medvedev controls a luxury property empire by holding large-scale opposition protests across Russia.
Medvedev served as president from 2008 to 2012 when Putin had served the maximum two consecutive terms permitted by the Russian constitution.
Putin then returned as president in 2012 while Medvedev became prime minister in a deal that the men said they had long agreed, disappointing those who had seen Medvedev as a more liberal figure and prompting mass street protests.
The pair first met in their native city of Saint Petersburg where they were colleagues in the mayor’s office in the 1990s.
Putin, 65, is now set to serve until 2024 and is on course to become the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin. He won March polls with more than 76 percent of the vote.
Medvedev had been expected to retain his post despite rumors regularly surfacing that he is on the way out.
“Dmitry Medvedev has held on,” Vedomosti business daily headlined its front page on Tuesday, while saying that “Putin’s new promises will mainly be carried out by an old government.”
RBK daily called him a “premier for stability,” quoting sources in the Kremlin and the government as saying that he is the only person whom Putin trusts.
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Trump fan to plead guilty to 2018 package bombs

Updated 2 min 7 sec ago
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Trump fan to plead guilty to 2018 package bombs

  • The package bombs’ intended recipients included billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama
  • Cesar Sayoc’s criminal record dates back to 1991

NEW YORK: A fan of US President Donald Trump who mailed parcel bombs to prominent Democratic figures last October was set to appear in court Thursday, where he was expected to plead guilty to some of the 30 charges against him.
Cesar Sayoc, 57, who was arrested in Florida on October 26 following a massive manhunt, was due in federal court in New York at 4:00 p.m.
Although it was not known which charges he would plead guilty to, all relate to the 16 package bombs he is accused of mailing from a Florida post office to several well-known people who oppose Trump, as well as the Manhattan offices of CNN. He previously pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The packages’ intended recipients included billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden, actor Robert De Niro and several Democratic lawmakers, including 2020 presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
None of the packages exploded or even reached their targets and authorities questioned the actual danger they posed.
But by targeting Democrats, Sayoc — who also goes by the alias Cesar Altieri and was identified by DNA recovered from the packages — helped contribute to heightened tensions during the US midterm election campaign season.
Sayoc’s partial guilty plea Thursday could help mitigate the severity of a sentence if he is convicted on all counts.
As his trial loomed, information from Sayoc’s past began to filter into the public sphere, fueling the debate about extremism in the age of Trump and social media — a debate that grew more urgent as 11 people were shot dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue later in October.
Estranged from his family and in financial distress, Sayoc lived in a white van plastered in stickers proclaiming his admiration for the US president.
His criminal record dates back to 1991, peppered with convictions for theft, fraud, violence and a threat to bomb his electric utility company.
A former strip club manager and an adept bodybuilder and martial arts practitioner, Sayoc discovered a passion for Trump just as his political star was rising.
His social media posts took a politically radical turn: he’s seen wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, sharing pro-Trump images and posting articles from ultra-conservative and conspiracy-driven websites such as Infowars and Breitbart.
“He was very angry and angry at the world, at blacks, Jews, gays,” recalled Debra Gureghian, the general manager of a Florida pizzeria where Sayoc worked as a delivery driver for several months.
Lawyer Ron Lowy, who defended Sayoc in 2002 and remained close to his family, described him on NPR in October as someone whose “intellect is limited, and who is “like a little boy in a man’s body.”