Moscow Dmitry Medvedev, the odds-on favorite to succeed President Vladimir Putin, has reaped the rewards of loyalty.
Barely 25 and fresh out of law school, Medvedev first caught the attention of Russia's future president in 1990 when both worked in St. Petersburg's city hall. For the next 17 years he was one of Putin's most trusted aides.
On Monday, that dedication paid off, spectacularly, with Putin's endorsement of Medvedev to become his successor in the March 2 presidential election.
With Putin's prestige and the Kremlin's political machinery behind him, Medvedev, 42, seems all but certain of winning. "We have been close for more than 17 years, and I completely and fully support this choice," Putin said.
A Medvedev presidency would ensure that Putin retains significant influence in the Kremlin after he leaves office in May.