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Putin officially becomes Russian PM
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Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree Thursday to appoint Vladimir Putin as prime minister, hours after Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved Putin's nomination.

The house's extraordinary plenary session began at noon Thursday with Putin's speech. In the speech he said his new government will focus on economic and social issues.

Putin promised to cut Russia's growing inflation rate to single digit in the years to come, and lower tax burden, calling it "a significant incentive in creating a favorable business climate in this country."

He also unveiled plans to increase the tariff and price of energy such as gas, oil and electricity and promote innovation for the economic development of the oil-and-gas-rich country.

The new government head vowed to allocate more funds and encourage private investment in such social projects as education, healthcare and housing in a bid to uplift the people's living standards.

Another top priority for Putin's government is providing support for the Army and the Navy. "More than 300 new models of military hardware have been put into service since 2001. This is not little, but not sufficient," Putin said.

Lawmakers voted 392-56 for Putin's appointment. He was backed by three of the four Duma factions, namely the United Russia, the Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party. Only the Communists opposed.

In his concluding remarks after the vote, Putin expressed gratitude to lawmakers for their decision, describing it "not only another manifestation of trust but also support for our strategic programs."

"It is precisely the well-being of an individual, creating conditions for worthy life of people that will be the government's main, decisive task," Putin said.

He reiterated his hope that the legislative power will interact with the federal government in the regime of cooperation and mutual support.

Putin will have a week to submit to the president the composition of the new government, as well as candidates for the posts of deputy prime ministers and federal ministers.

The president and prime minister will work in tandem under constitution, starting a new period in the history of modern Russia and an economic renaissance, analysts say.

Medvedev nominated Putin to be prime minister just hours after his inauguration ceremony on Wednesday. Putin first took the post of prime minister on August 16, 1999, a post he held for nine months before being elected president.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2008)

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