Newsmaker - Cautious lawyer bound for the Kremlin
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Dmitry Medvedev is President Vladimir Putin's most trusted ally but does the former corporate lawyer have the right stuff to rule the Kremlin?
Putin has used his huge popularity to ensure Medvedev victory in Sunday's presidential election and his elevation in May to the Kremlin's top job.
Former colleagues describe the 42-year-old as a brilliant lawyer who dislikes risk and is devoted to Putin, qualities which will count for much if, as expected, he appoints his former boss prime minister.
But some have questioned whether Medvedev has the ruthless political instincts needed to rule the Kremlin's clans and the world's biggest country.
His presidency -- at least at first -- is likely to be defined by his relationship with his mentor, who says he will serve as prime minister under a President Medvedev.
"I think he is a well-prepared, educated and modern. He has good experience as a lawyer, he's bright, but there is one drawback, he didn't work at the federal level long enough," the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, said as he cast his ballot.
Medvedev, who admits he seems "buttoned-up" in public, will become Russia's youngest leader since the last emperor, Tsar Nikolai II, who the former corporate lawyer says he admires.
"Dima is clever, clever enough to be president and he is tough, tough enough to be president," one former colleague from the 1990s told Reuters on condition his name was not published.
"But you have to have a sense, an emotional intelligence, a feeling for decisions in the Kremlin - Putin has it, (Former President Boris) Yeltsin definitely had it - does Dima? I don't know. We shall see," the former colleague said.
Medvedev, whose height is several centimetres shorter than Putin's 170 cm (about 5 feet 7 inches), may have to learn from his patron how to project himself at public events, some say.
But as board chairman of the gas giant Gazprom, Medvedev showed a tougher side than is usually presented by the Kremlin's image makers, who have tried to show Medvedev as a softer, more friendly leader than the former KGB spy, Putin.
Under his tenure at Gazprom, the state export monopoly cut gas supplies to Ukraine and expanded its clout inside Russia with a spending spree on acquisitions.
There is no evidence Medvedev has worked for the state security services, who have formed the core of Putin's inner circle of advisers in the Kremlin.
Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, born into a family of teachers, is remembered as a bookish child.
He says his favourite book was the Soviet Encyclopaedia -- similar to the Encyclopaedia Britannica -- though he also developed a taste for British rock bands Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.
"He is very cultured. You can speak to him about the theatre, music, he has a sense of humour," said Natalya Rasskazova, who studied with Medvedev at St Petersburg University's law faculty, where Putin also studied.
"He has not changed. I saw him a year ago and there was no arrogance, he was not high and mighty," she said.
Medvedev taught law after graduating but also went to work for Putin, who was then chairman of the St Petersburg mayor's committee for external relations.
Medvedev also moved into business, a period of his life which is left out of official biographies.
He worked as a key lawyer for the Ilim Pulp paper firm, helping to found the firm, though colleagues say he was never treated as an equal by the firm's owners. It has emerged as one of Russia's leading companies in a sector worth billions of dollars.
"He got a salary and he was in real business in the 1990s. He saw the reality," said his former colleague.
His ex-colleague said Medvedev took a stance unusual for the time: he avoided paying bribes, even losing the company a court case because he refused to give money to a judge.
His friendship with Putin has been decisive to his elevation. After Putin became prime minister and then president in 2000, replacing Yeltsin, he invited Medvedev to Moscow.
He served as deputy chief of the Kremlin staff, later chief of staff, and took on the top post at state-controlled Gazprom, the world's biggest gas firm.
Investment bankers said Medvedev displayed his power in the Kremlin by pushing through a major reform of Gazprom that allowed the state to consolidate its control but at the same time opened up the firm's shares to ownership by foreigners.
Medvedev was catapulted into the presidential race late last year when Putin said he was the right man for the job. But with Putin still powerful and planning to stay on as prime minister, Medvedev's position could be precarious.
"We are seeing just a part of the plan, the first few scenes, and no one knows the ending - not even Medvedev - and he can't know because (Putin's) plans could change depending on Medvedev," his former colleague said.
"Putin trusts Medvedev. He trusts his moderate character and dislike of risk taking. That is what he needs, but how long does it last for Medvedev? How will it work?"
He and his wife, Svetlana, have a son who was born in 1996.
(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe and Denis Pinchuk, editing by Richard Balmforth)
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