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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Lavrov warns against pitting Russian president against premier

RIA Novosti

15:22 05/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Monday against pitting Russia's president against the prime minister.

Asked at a news conference in Moscow where the center of power is in Russia and who "plays first fiddle," Lavrov said: "You should not pit the Kremlin against the White House [the Russian government]."

President Dmitry Medvedev is a hand-picked successor to Vladimir Putin. Putin became premier the day after Medvedev's inauguration and the two have pledged to run the country in tandem. Who is really at the helm remains a subject of debate in the press.

Though Putin still holds the number one position in popularity ratings, Medvedev has also gained in popularity since his election in May 2008.

A recent survey conducted by the independent pollster Levada Center in early September showed that the number of respondents who have trust in President Dmitry Medvedev nearly doubled, from 10.9% in May to 20.6% in late August. Figures for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are 27.5% and 28% respectively.

Lavrov also said South Stream and Nabucco, the natural gas pipelines pursued by Russia and the EU respectively, were not rival projects.

The statement echoes Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among other foreign partners, who have repeatedly denied that South Stream will rival Nabucco, designed to bring gas from Central Asia and the Caspian Sea to Europe, bypassing Russia.

Lavrov's Austrian counterpart, Michael Spindelegger, said following talks earlier on Monday that Austria, a member of the Nabucco project, is also looking to join South Stream.

"We have a contract in the Nabucco project, and we are also launching talks on our specific role in South Stream. This will be one of the issues to dominate the upcoming visit [to Russia by Austria's chancellor]," Spinderlegger said.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann will make an official visit to Russia in late October-early November.

The 25 billion-euro ($36.5 billion) South Stream project is designed to annually pump 31 billion cubic meters of Central Asian and Russian gas to the Balkans and on to other European countries, bypassing Ukraine, which has frequent disputes with Russia over gas supplies and transits.



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