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President Vladimir Putin on Monday fully supported First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as his successor - a move likely to ensure Medvedev's election in March 2008 when Putin leaves the office.
Putin's popularity and steely control is so strong that most observers expect that whomever he supports would be a shoo-in.
Medvedev, a 42-year-old business-oriented lawyer and board chairman of state natural gas giant Gazprom, and Sergei Ivanov, another first deputy premier who built up a stern and hawkish reputation while defense minister.