"I fully support this candidacy," Putin on Monday, Dec. 10, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency after four parties, headed by the ruling United Russia, named Medvedev as their candidate. "As far as the candidacy of Medvedev is concerned, I have known him for more than 17 years, I have worked with him closely all these years, and I completely and fully support this candidacy," Putin said in video footage shown on state television.
Putin will step down following the March 2 presidential elections after serving two consecutive terms. While there is no clear favorite in the race to replace him, it is expected that any candidate which has Putin's endorsement will go on to win the election.
Despite the rise through the ranks of fellow First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and the appointment of the little-known finance expert Viktor Zubkov as prime minister in September, Medvedev is now seen as the front runner for the presidency after gaining Putin's official endorsement.
Putin's announcement ends months of speculation fuelled by the president's erratic promotions and random praise of members of his retinue.
Medvedev set to be pro-Kremlin parties' candidate
Medvedev, who chairs energy giant Gazprom's supervisory board, has an extra advantage in addition to that. As he is not affiliated with any party he can be nominated by all four pro-Kremlin political parties -- United Russia, A Just Russia, A Civil Front and the Agrarian Party -- as their candidate. The four parties are set to officially announce Medvedev as their candidate for the presidential elections at their upcoming party congresses.
A lawyer by trade, Medvedev is a Kremlin insider seen as a staunch Putin loyalist, owing his rise to power to the incumbent president who hired him in the early 1990s to work on his staff at the Saint Petersburg local government.
He served as Putin's campaign manager for his successful 2000 election run and was rewarded for his services first with the position of presidential chief of staff and then the post at Gazprom. Medvedev also heads the Kremlin's "national projects," a program created to use Russia's massive profits from energy sales to rebuild crumbling infrastructure and social support system.
Putin's heir apparent
Medvedev's appointment as first deputy prime minister in charge of national projects in health, education and housing in November 2005 first started the rumors that Putin had chosen his heir apparent.
Unlike Putin, Medvedev has no known connections with the KGB, but is considered a top player within the Saint Petersburg clan that dominates the upper echelons of power. With his in-depth knowledge of the bureaucracy, Medvedev is credited with having helped build the pyramid of power that has contributed to securing Putin's position at the top.
But he has also said that he feels closer to liberal ideas of democracy and the free market and is seen as moderate in his Western-leaning views. He once said his foreign policy views were "European."