MOSCOW, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A televised presidential debate marked the beginning of the campaign season in Russia, but the presumptive next president did not attend, a report said.
The Kremlin-backed Dmitry Medvedev, who boasts a 70 percent approval rating in some surveys, chaired a presidential council meeting on social projects Monday while the other presidential candidates held a nationally televised debate, The Moscow Times said Tuesday.
Democratic Party candidate Andrei Bogdanov said Russia can "teach Europe how to behave with the Muslim world," while nationalist candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky called EU member states "rivals" of Russia.
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Russian Communist Party, called for closer ties with former Soviet satellites Belarus and Ukraine.
None of the rival candidates is expected to mount a significant challenge to Medvedev, the Times said.