In his biggest speech since taking office yesterday, President Dmitry Medvedev laid out a harsh critique of the state of Russia and unveiled a blueprint for its reform.
The way forward for Russia was for its economy to become modern, hi-tech and innovative, the president said in his annual State of the Nation address. He promised to jail corrupt officials and promote innovative businesses that would be the catalyst of modernisation. Russia had fallen behind, he said, due to its over-reliance on the export of natural resources.
He admitted that Russia had been harder hit than most by the global financial downturn, and insisted that this was partly Russia's own fault. “We need to admit that in the previous years we didn't do enough to overcome the problems we inherited,” Mr Medvedev said, in what many will interpret as veiled criticisms of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin. Now Prime Minister but arguably Russia's most powerful politician, Mr Putin received a standing ovation when he entered the Kremlin hall for the address.
There was no direct criticism of his mentor during the 100-minute speech, but Mr Medvedev did attack some areas of the former president's legacy, including the huge state corporations he created, deriding them as outdated and ineffective. He said they would have to reform into commercial companies in the coming years. “We need to launch modernisation and renovation of the entire industrial base,” Mr Medvedev said.