Meet Russian President Medvedev, Internet geek

Head of Russian Federation, an avid Internet user, suggests he could chat with Obama via text message on an iPhone instead of at an expensive, formal summit.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev already has a LiveJournal.com page, a video blog on kremlin.ru, and a Twitter account is in the works.

But the full extent of Medvedev's unalloyed geekiness wasn't apparent until a question-and-answer session in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Putin was in town for the 47-nation nuclear summit.

During an appearance at the center-left Brookings Institution, the head of the Russian Federation suggested that he and President Obama should dispense with their legions of aides and chat on iPhones through text messaging instead.

"We don't e-mail each other (but) that would be the fastest possible way to talk to each other," said Medvedev, according to a translation. "In this case, we could just have a couple of iPhones and we could just exchange text messages or e-mails. I am quite familiar with that, as well as President Obama, as far as I understand." (Obama has a BlackBerry.)

Medvedev said he no longer starts his day by reading newspapers or watching television. Instead, he said, "I just go online and I find all of the things there," including "media that are favorable to the Russian president, media that hate the Russian president."

Web sites let politicians go directly to the source of news articles, reports, or other information, Medvedev said. "We don't need our aides that much today. We can immerse ourselves into information...The time has changed. Whatever I read or President Obama reads, we always have the possibility to go online and see what is happening in reality. This doesn't mean that Internet is the final source of truth. But this is an alternative source of information."

Medvedev had raised the hopes of Russian democracy activists and civil libertarians by saying, even before he took office, that the Internet can help to guarantee media freedom.

But skeptics say his actions have not lived up to that rhetoric. Last year, Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion-turned political activist, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that elections continue to be rigged and that Medvedev and former president Vladimir Putin are "both enemies of democracy, open competition, and free expression." Amnesty International has echoed those criticisms.

An entry from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's LiveJournal.com page. Screenshot by CNET