"[We] shouldn't be ashamed or afraid of transferring the key powers of the country, the destiny of Russia to the hands of such a man," Putin said during a speech to a congress of United Russia party.

Delegates applauded as Putin entered the congress hall in Moscow with Medvedev, who is currently the chairman of state gas company Gazprom.

Distribution of power

In his brief speech, the current president said that if he became premier, he would not seek to change the distribution of power between the two positions.

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The prime minister is a significantly less powerful figure than the president but by taking the position the enormously popular leader could continue to exert a great deal of influence.

Fred Weir, a journalist for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, told Al Jazeera from Moscow that the announcement would leave Russia with a weak, inexperienced president and a strong, hyper-popular prime minister.

"It doesn't seem to me that it is a stable arrangement in the long term, but in the short term they obviously have it worked out and are absolutely confident in presenting it to the public," he said.

"The immense power that Putin wields and the moral force that he has as the leader of United Russia, now is bound to play a huge role in the future."

'Moral authority'

Putin headed the list of candidates for United Russia in parliamentary elections on December 2.

The party won an overwhelming majority of seats in the Duma, a victory that he had previously said would give him the "moral authority" to ensure that his policies are continued.

Russian media reported on Monday that Putin appears to be ready to do all he can to ensure Medevedev's election.

The Vedomosti newspaper reported that Sergei Sobyanin, the Kremlin chief of staff, and, Vladislav Surkov, one of the Kremlin's main political strategists, would head Medvedev's campaign.
   
"For the first time a presidential candidate's campaign staff will be headed by the Kremlin chief of staff," it wrote.

Opposition attack

Meanwhile, the Union of Right Forces (SPS) party has nominated a presidential candidate who denounced Putin's "corrupt state capitalism" and called for a European Russia built on the rule of law.
   
"They [Putin and Medvedev] aim to build this kind of corrupt state capitalism, with an
all mighty bureaucracy"

Boris Nemtsov,
SPS presidential candidate
However, Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister during the 1990s, has little chance of beating Medvedev next March.

He said that by running for president, he would defy the Kremlin's grip on the media and try to tell Russians what was really happening in their country.
   
"We have a completely different view of the country's development from that of Putin and Medvedev - they want to lead Russia along the course set by Hugo Chavez," Nemtsov said.

"They [Putin and Medvedev] aim to build this kind of corrupt state capitalism, with an all mighty bureaucracy, with complete lawlessness in courts."