Russian President Dmitri Medvedev

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Ria Novosti / Dmitry Astakhov / Presidential Press Service / AP

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev

Although his rise to the Russian presidency was marred by allegations that he was simply a puppet of former President Vladimir Putin, Dmitri Medvedev has shown a few signs of branching out on his own. In a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Europe this week, he agreed to arms-control talks in order to cut weapons stockpiles and prevent the spread of nukes to Iran and North Korea. The talks are to be followed by another meeting between the two leaders in July. "We have considerably more positions that bring us together than those that force us apart," he noted, marking a new sense of possibility between the two countries. Still, Prime Minister Putin's influence over Medvedev remains solid, as exhibited by the military force Medvedev used against separatists in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia last August.

Fast Facts:

• The 43-year-old was born on Sept. 14, 1965, in Leningrad (now known as St. Petersburg), the only child of two university professors.

• In 1987 he graduated with a law degree from Leningrad State University. He remained at the institution to complete a doctorate in private, corporate and securities law and taught civil law concurrently.

• Founded two major companies, one dealing with paper-processing. The nature of the other business is unknown. Medvedev is also the author of several legal textbooks.

• Worked alongside Putin in the St. Petersburg mayor's office in the early '90s. A former adviser to Medvedev noted that Putin often "regarded Medvedev's recommendations with respect." This seems to foreshadow his later position as Deputy Prime Minister during Putin's presidency. (Read "Signs of Tension Between Putin and Medvedev?")

• First Russian leader in decades with no known links to either the former Soviet Communist Party or its secret services. He is also the country's youngest head of state since Nicholas II became czar in 1894.

• From 2000 to 2008, he served on the board of the state-controlled firm Gazprom, Russia's largest company and the world's largest extractor of natural gas. The company has frequently become embroiled in payment disputes with Ukraine, which relies on Gazprom for its gas supply.

• Won the presidential election on March 2, 2008, with about 70% of the vote, even though he refused to debate rival candidates or formally campaign.

• In August 2008, he ordered Russian forces to invade Georgia in what he says was a "peacekeeping" effort. (See pictures of the aftermath of the Georgia conflict.)

• Last September, Medvedev became the first Russian leader to visit the Mask of Sorrow, a memorial to the millions of people who died in the Soviet gulags.

• He and his wife Svetlana have a son, Ilya, born in 1996.

Quotes By:

• "Hard rock. From back in my school days ... Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple."
— on his musical tastes (Itogi Magazine, April 16, 2007)

• "We are well aware that no nondemocratic state has ever become truly prosperous for one simple reason: freedom is better than nonfreedom."
— during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (BBC profile, May 7, 2008)

• "We are not asking anyone to love Russia, but we will not allow anyone to cause harm to Russia and we will get respect — for the citizens of Russia and for our whole country, but not with force but by our own behavior and successes."
— a contrasting comment from his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 27, 2007)

• "I have a legal mindset which has pluses and minuses. The advantage is that it enables one to properly formulate aims and helps with decision taking. The disadvantage is that often I speak and explain myself more precisely than is needed. And from this there arises the feeling that before you stands a dry man buttoned up to the neck."
— when told he gives the impression of being closed off (Russian state television, translated by the Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2008)

• "We are ready to take any decision [from NATO], up to halting relations altogether."
— responding to NATO's threats in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Georgia (Guardian, Aug. 25, 2008)

Quotes About:

• "We have the chance to form a stable government after the elections in March 2008. And not just a stable government, but one that will carry out the course that has brought results for all of the past eight years."
— Vladimir Putin endorsing Medvedev's candidacy for the top job (BBC, Dec. 10, 2007)

• "Medvedev's personality was shaped under Putin's strong influence, and he worships Putin like a father figure, or at least like an older brother."
— Valery Musin, Medvedev's former academic adviser and law professor at Leningrad State University (the Moscow Times, Nov. 2, 2007)

A popular joke deriding Medvedev:
"Putin and Medvedev are customers in a restaurant.
After Putin orders a steak, the waiter asks him, "And the vegetable?"
Putin responds: "He'll have steak too."

— With reporting by Lauren E. Bohn

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