MOSCOW - Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev offered rare criticism of President Vladimir Putin's methods of dealing with business leaders on Friday, heightening speculation of a growing rift between Russia's top two rulers.

Medvedev spoke a few days after Putin issued a stinging rebuke of his former protege's government by accusing cabinet ministers of failing to act on his orders and criticizing its fiscal plans.

In a speech at a showcase business forum in the Black Sea city of Sochi, Medvedev referred to an incident in 2008 when Putin, then serving as prime minister, promised to "send a doctor and a prosecutor" to the billionaire owner of steel and coal producer Mechel who had been unable to attend an industry meeting because of illness.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger