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Medvedev speech: nod or challenge to Putin's upper hand?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed a Putin-Medvedev face-off in 2012. He may be trying to establish his place as a liberal voice in a Putin-led system.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during an awarding ceremony at the Gorki Presidential residence, outside Moscow on Monday, June 20.

Alexander Nemenov/AP

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Political competition is always a good thing, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, but the much-discussed idea of an open presidential face off between himself and his powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, would be bad for the country.

Mr. Medvedev's comments, made in an extensive interview with Britain's Financial Times newspaper just days after challenging the state-led system built by Mr. Putin at an international economics forum, has many observers scratching their heads about his intentions.

"I think that any leader who occupies such a post as president, simply must want to run," Medvedev said. But, he added, "the people must provide an answer to this one. They define whether they want to see this person or not and, as an acting politician, I will be guided by that in taking my decision. I think that we will have not very long to wait and I think that the decision will be correct, both for the rest of the federation and myself."

Analysts say it's difficult to see how "the people" could give such a signal in Russia's top-down and heavily controlled political system.

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