Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suffered a rude jolt Wednesday when a student asked him if he was ready to stand trial for decisions taken during his rule and even face execution like ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The youth challenged Medvedev during a meeting with students, asking if he would shoulder the blame for protests that erupted over a planned job-swap which will see his mentor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin run for the presidency.
“An acute, revolutionary situation is now brewing in the country. Are you ready to face responsibility?” journalism student Vladimir Polyakov demanded.
“Do you realize that you could even be condemned to death? Are you ready to take it bravely just like Saddam Hussein did or will you emigrate to friendly North Korea?”
Saddam was captured by U.S. troops in December 2003 and hanged in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity.
The job-swap announcement, which will see Medvedev become prime minister upon Putin’s planned return to the Kremlin after a March 4 presidential vote, triggered a wave of protests unseen in Russia since the turbulent 1990s.
Medvedev appeared to make light of the student’s question, saying he did not see any reasons for a revolution in Russia and that he was not afraid of anything.
“You probably asked the most courageous question of your life,” he quipped.
The student, who held a sign reading “Responsibility”, kept pressing Medvedev, asking him whether he was ready to die for his ideals.
“If you need a precise answer: of course, I am ready to die for my ideals,” the Kremlin chief replied tersely.
Many observers, including his one-time supporters, have accused Medvedev, who had in the past openly spoken about his ambitions to run for a second term, of giving up power too easily and letting down his backers.