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Russia's Medvedev Slams Slow Response To Economic Crisis

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sits in the cockpit of a fighter jet during a visit to a jet manufacturing plant in Irkutsk.
IRKUTSK, Russia -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said officials are working too slowly to ease the economic crisis in what appeared to be his second recent complaint about Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's role.

Kremlin watchers have been looking for any signs that the dual system, whereby Medvedev shares power with Putin, could be coming under strain as Russia's leaders try to stem the worst economic crisis in a decade.

Medvedev, at a meeting in the eastern Siberian city of Irkutsk, launched into a point-by-point critique of government anticrisis policies, though he did not mention Putin by name.

"Rules for allocating state guarantees were sanctioned only a few days ago. We are working very slowly, unacceptably slowly for a crisis," Medvedev said, referring to the idea of allocating state guarantees for private loans to enterprises.

Medvedev appeared to rap Putin last month over the response to the crisis, an unprecedented move in a country where criticism of the former Kremlin chief had become taboo.

Medvedev, who some analysts say is trying to accumulate more power in relation to his mentor, also criticized the implementation of capital raising measures for state banks such as Sberbank and VTB.

"The efficiency of implementing these measures, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired," he told officials, adding credit was far too expensive for the majority of companies. "For the majority of enterprises credit is out of reach, interest rates for some reason are 20 percent and can only dream about long money."

Soaring Unemployment

Russia's economy is set to contract this year for the first time in a decade and unemployment is soaring.

The swift turnaround of Russia's economic fortunes, after a decade of spectacular growth boosted living standards for many sections of society, has raised concerns about stability in the world's biggest producer of natural resources.

"The crisis is continuing and the climax has still not been reached," Medvedev said. "We have not hit rock bottom yet."

Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Moscow and the port of Vladivostok on January 31 in protest over hardships caused by the financial crisis. The next day hundreds of Moscow demonstrators called for Russia's leaders to resign.

Russia's Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina said at the meeting with Medvedev that the "difficult" conditions in the Russian economy would continue for several quarters.