( dpa ) - Dmitry Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's anointed successor, in his first day of official campaigning declared the fight against corruption to be a national priority, news agency Interfax reported.
First Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev told a crowd of about 1,500 non-governmental and civil society representatives at Russia' second annual Civil Society Forum that strengthening the sector was of "paramount importance."
Medvedev, who is in charge of Putin's so-called National Projects to reinvest Russia's oil funds into social programmes, said the "war on corruption" should be elevated to the ranks of a national programme.
"Russia is a country of legal nihilism. No other European country has such a high level of defiance of law," he said during a nine- minute televised speech shown on Russia's NTV news segment.
The soft-spoken lawyer, who has been dubbed a liberal by the press, flattered attendees at the civil forum, a 2002 Putin initiative to better relations between the government and civil society.
"We walked along the brink in the 1990s, yet we didn't let the country fall apart ... civil society was born painfully but successfully," Medvedev told the crowd a day after being officially registered by Russia's election commission.
Analysts said the speech marked the progressive handing over in public of executive roles to the Kremlin candidate, who promised again Tuesday to follow Putin's policy course.
With the popular president's backing Medvedev's victory is widely viewed as a forgone conclusion. According to Russia's state pollster on Monday, Medvedev has the support of 60 per cent of voters.