Medvedev Digs in Heels Over Winter Time Move Putin Panned

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev refused to cede ground over his unpopular decision two years ago to stop changing the time for winter, amid pressure to cancel a move that President Vladimir Putin has criticized.

“There is no clear conclusion about this issue, and this is proved by surveys,” Medvedev told a televised Cabinet meeting today. “That’s why the government believes that changing the system at the current time is not a good idea.”

Izvestia, a newspaper owned by Putin ally Yury Kovalchuk, reported earlier that an announcement would be made soon to switch permanently to winter time by turning the clocks back an hour. Putin said in December that Medvedev’s time switch bothered him and had been criticized by international sporting bodies for increasing the time difference in winter with London to four hours and with major European cities to three hours. Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Medvedev, 46, is fighting to keep his job because of Putin’s dissatisfaction at the slowing economy, according to three former and current Kremlin advisers. Putin, 60, ceded the presidency in 2008 after completing the constitutional maximum of two straight terms. Medvedev, the prime minister at the time, became president and appointed Putin as premier. The two swapped jobs again last May after elections that sparked the biggest protests of Putin’s political career.

‘Psychologically Crucial’

“The time change issue is a psychologically crucial one for Medvedev,” Mikhail Vinogradov, head of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation research group, said by phone. “He is worried that giving way on this will weaken him further.”

Russians left clocks unchanged in October for a second year. The decision, which Medvedev said he took in part to benefit farming, left the country permanently on summer time and means darkness lasts until 10 a.m. in the depths of winter.

On Feb. 1, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who is responsible for the Olympics preparations, said Russia would decide shortly whether to reinstate daylight saving time.

Medvedev is the subject of a campaign by Putin’s entourage to diminish his political standing, said Yevgeny Minchenko, head of the International Institute of Political Expertise.

“The dismantling of the tandem is taking place,” Minchenko said by phone, referring to the power-sharing arrangement between Putin and Medvedev from 2008 to 2012. “Medvedev is trying to keep hold of his image, and the cancellation of one of his key measures would be a blow.”

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