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Medvedev misses chance to disprove WikiLeaks label: 'Robin to Putin's Batman'

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These included better social services, reversing Russia's demographic slide by improving living conditions for families, making Moscow a world-class financial center and revamping Russian industry through hi-tech projects like Skolkovo, Medvedev's pet notion of transplanting the American "Silicon Valley" economic model to Russia.

"It certainly sounded to me like an election speech by a presidential candidate," says Leonid Gozman, co-chair of the small pro-business Right Cause party. "Speaking for myself, his speech convinced me that, of the two members of the governing tandem [Putin and Medvedev], it would be preferable for the country to see Medvedev come out on top."

However, he says, it was disappointing to see that none of Medvedev's earlier criticisms of Russia's top-heavy, corrupt, and authoritarian political system made it into the speech. Last week Medvedev spoke scathingly of the system built by Putin and issued what sounded like a call for political reform last week on his presidential videoblog.

"At a certain point, our political life started showing symptoms of stagnation," Medvedev blogged. "And this stagnation is equally damaging to both the ruling party and the opposition forces.... If the ruling party has no chance of every losing anywhere, it eventually 'bronzes over' and also degrades, just like any other living organism that does not move," he added.

But supporters of Medvedev say he did the right thing on Tuesday by sticking to bread-and-butter issues that resonate across Russia.

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