Merkel Congratulates Medvedev, Praises Putin | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.05.2008
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Merkel Congratulates Medvedev, Praises Putin

Germany aims for a cooperative relationship with newly inaugurated Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a newspaper interview published Thursday.

Merkel and Medvedev

Merkel with Medvedev earlier this year

"I wish the new president, Dimitry Medvedev, everything of the best and good luck. I am looking forward to cooperating with him," Merkel told the Passauer Neue Presse.

Merkel also said that she had "a very constructive and direct relationship" with Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin.

Putin was confirmed prime minister on Thursday, May 8, in a near unanimous parliamentary vote that underscored his continued power, one day after passing the Kremlin to his protege Medvedev.

"We will continue to cooperate in the future in his new role as prime minister," Merkel said, while also acknowledging that there were differences of opinion.

Easy election victories

Medvedev and Putin assumed their new offices on Wednesday, May 7, and Thursday, May 8, respectively. The new Russian president is to pay his first visit to Berlin in June.

Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, right, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting outside Moscow, Saturday, March 8, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Pool)

Putin swearing in Medevedev as president on Wed, May 8

Medvedev easily won the race to succeed Putin in March, in elections seen by critics as Kremlin-orchestrated to divide power between the duo.

Some 66 percent of the country's 109 million eligible voters cast ballots in the election, with turnout topping figures for Russia's recent parliamentary vote. But according to critics, the high figure reflected the authorities' use of fraud and coercion to avoid an embarrassingly low turnout.

Medvedev's win was all but guaranteed after Putin's backing propelled him into the public eye well before the start of a campaign which only secured his prime time image on Russian national television stations.

New power relationship?

Medvedev owes his entire career to Putin. He has vowed "to continue the course set by President Putin," raising doubts whether he will have any independent say under the new power arrangement.

The relationship between Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, and Putin was a close one. But since coming to office at the end of 2005, Merkel has struck a different course, taking a more distanced approach to Russia, while seeking to mend relations with the United States, which were cool under Schroeder.

German energy experts are acutely aware of the country's dependence on Russian energy supplies. Germany currently draws around a third of its gas from Russia, with the figure set to rise to 40 per cent once the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea comes on-stream in 2010.

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