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

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.

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.