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Putin's successor dismisses fears of state "grab"

CHELYABINSK, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev, dismissed fears on Thursday that the Kremlin would nationalize Russia’s economy and said the state would not “grab everything for itself”.

Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister and presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev speaks in the South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk January 17, 2008. Medvedev dismissed fears on Thursday that the Kremlin would nationalize Russia's economy and said the state would not "grab everything for itself". REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Under Putin’s eight-year rule, Russia has championed the build up of big state enterprises in the fields of energy, defense and aviation, squeezing the private sector and sparking fears that the Kremlin plans a bigger economic role.

Medvedev, named by Putin last month as his preferred successor and virtually certain to win a March presidential election, used a campaign stop in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk to try to curb those concerns.

“We have come to create state corporations in some priority fields, but that doesn’t mean a change of course or the renunciation of a market economy, not in the least,” Medvedev told reporters, Interfax reported.

“Desire by the state to grab everything for itself as a rule leads to a crash,” Medvedev said.

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Despite that fact that Putin’s support makes Medvedev’s victory in the election virtually certain, the Russian leader is using every available chance to raise Medvedev’s profile ahead of the poll.

On January 7, Medvedev stood in for Putin during an Orthodox Christmas ceremony in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral with Patriarch Alexiy II.

Medvedev will also join Putin on his state visit to Bulgaria -- possibly the last foreign trip made by the incumbent Kremlin leader.

In Chelyabinsk Medvedev also made environmental protection a campaign issue.

“The environmental protection system in our country drags behind those in developed countries in all parameters, in its effectiveness and its transparency,” Medvedev told officials in the city.

Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; editing by Elizabeth Piper