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iHand-Picked Successor

7:34 AM, Mar 3, 2008 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
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Kiev
Question: Which newly-elected chief executive is a recently-converted fanatical fan of the Apple iPhone?

Answer: Dmitri Medvedev, Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor who was elected last night in a race that was virtually uncontested. An article in the Washington Post today about the new Russian President-elect describes the popular Apple gadget as his "latest passion."

What makes the use of the iPhone by Medvedev slighty curious is that the iPhone is not legally available on the Russian market. But that has not stopped thousands of them from being sold in Russia and Ukraine. The price for these "unlocked" iPhones that have been bootlegged from one the iPhones service provider partners (US: AT&T, UK: O2, Germany: T-Mobile D, France: Orange) can be from $750 to $1,000--more than twice the price to acquire it legally through one of Apple's official service provider partners.

Anyone who knows anything about the mentality of the "new Russians"--the recently ultra-wealthy with usually far more money than sense--knows of their obsession with acquiring the latest and most expensive of any luxury item. Surprisingly, many have passed up the €20,000 or more lluxury model Vertu mobile phones for the comparably cheap iPhone, despite the fact that many Russians believe the more expensive something is the better it has to be. Russia and Ukraine are awash in these contraband phones.

The iPhone is only supposed to be legally available this year in Russia, but it has already achieved what has been called "cult status" in Russia and is used by several high-profile Kremlin officials who have acquired them through contraband channels. Dmitri Peskov, who is the press-secretary of Russian president Vladimir Putin, is reportedly a huge Apple fan. The iPhone is described as "his favorite toy."

We do not know how these Kremlin heavyweights got their hands on a phone that is not supposed to exist in Russia, but we do know one thing. Peskov and others do not use their iPhones to ring up Putin. "The President never calls itself" he said. Now that Medvedev will be president and Putin will only be the prime minister it remains to be seen if this too may change.