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Gryzlov Says Putin-Medvedev Tandem to Rule After 2012

Gryzlov speaking with Putin last week at a Security Council session. He skipped an online interview for the session. Vladimir Rodionov

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will continue ruling Russia in a tandem after 2012, when Medvedev's first presidential term expires, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said Friday.

"There can't be any contradictions in the Medvedev-Putin tandem by default. That is why they will work in this tandem after 2012," Gryzlov said in an online interview with the Gazeta.ru news portal.

Gryzlov was responding to some of the more than 3,000 angry questions and caustic remarks about himself and United Russia that had been submitted by readers over the course of a week.

The interview was initially scheduled for Wednesday, and Gryzlov — often described by critics as "the Android" for his low-key personality and perceived servility to Putin — faced sharp criticism when he decided to skip it at the last minute, citing a Security Council meeting on global warming.

Gryzlov also said Friday that a program called Clean Water to install water filters that he co-invented in buildings nationwide would go ahead despite criticism that his dual involvement as a patent holder and a lawmaker who decides the state budget marked a conflict of interest.

He said his critics in the media "serve the powers that do not want our citizens to live long, quality lives."

Gryzlov blamed unspecified foreign powers for growing anti-government street rallies, saying foreign money was being funneled through nongovernmental organizations to pay people to participate in the rallies.

"Here we get the taste of a color revolution," he said, referring to the nonviolent public protests that led to regime changes in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine in 2004.

Asked about his infamous statement that the Duma was not a place for discussion, Gryzlov complained that journalists had distorted his original appeal to stop parliamentary "battles" that sometimes resulted in fistfights.

Gryzlov dismissed suggestions that bureaucrats had forced citizens to vote for United Russia or had bought their votes during regional elections on March 14. He conceded that some bureaucrats had pressed their subordinates to vote, but he said they could not check whether the votes had been cast for United Russia, which he and Putin lead.

As for offering money for votes, as some media have reported, Gryzlov said this would be "too expensive."

Gryzlov praised United Russia — which is routinely accused of stifling any dissent — for "creating real powers" out of the Communist, Liberal Democratic and Just Russia parties —? the only parties other than United Russia that have seats in the Duma. The Communist and Liberal Democrat parties are a decade older than United Russia, and their representation in the Duma and regional legislatures has dwindled as United Russia developed into the ruling party.

"We live in a beautiful state," Gryzlov said as he concluded the interview.

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