Russian PM Putin Defends Parliamentary Vote, Blames Protests on West

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has defended the results of the parliamentary elections earlier this month and rejected allegations of voter fraud.

Speaking live on a four-hour long televised call-in session Thursday, Mr. Putin rejected opposition calls for new elections. He accused the organizers of mass protests against the results of working for the West. He said the December 4 vote reflected the views of the people.

Police reported 20,000 people took to the streets of Moscow last Saturday, and thousands more rallied in other cities across Russia, protesting alleged fraud in parliamentary elections won by Mr. Putin's ruling United Russia party. The Russian prime minister also said the demonstrations like those following last week's parliamentary vote are acceptable as long as no laws are broken.

Mr. Putin is facing the biggest-ever challenge to his popularity, with many people asking unusually confrontational questions during the call-in session. The elections saw United Russia lose support with a reduced majority in the State Duma. Leaders of United Russia — which has dominated Russian politics for more than a decade — have denied cheating.

Mr. Putin said he is proposing that cameras be installed at polling stations for the upcoming presidential election in March, which he is expected to win.