MOSCOW, March 1 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with members of the All-Russia Popular Front, experts and political scientists to lay bare the essence of his election program. He also said he had evidence of possible falsifications at the forthcoming presidential polls due on March 4.
According to the prime minister, the opposition is plotting falsification of the elections, the Izvestia newspaper writes. He said he was ready to be criticized for such pronouncements but had evidence to prove his words. Apart from falsifications, Putin claimed, the opposition is ready to provoke violence at rallies, even to murder of prominent public figures. “They have been seeking to act in this way for ten years, especially those from abroad. You can take it from me. I know. They have even been looking for a ‘sacral sacrifice’ from among some popular figures. First they will kill and then they will accuse the authorities,” the newspaper cite the prime minister.
Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the opposition party Yabloko, which is actively trains observers to monitor the coming elections, has described Putin’s accusation as groundless. “Where can the opposition obtain stamped and signed ballot papers to stuff,” the Izvestia cites the Yabloko leader. If the authorities have evidence, such as ballot papers seized from safehouses, they should initiate criminal proceedings, he said.
The opposition seems not to understand Putin’s words about ballot paper stuffing sought to be done on the voting day to have the March 4 election declared as falsified, the Kommersant newspaper writes. And the allusion to ‘sacral sacrifice’ was taken as an alarming signal. Experts only hope these words were just part of election technologies rather than signals pointing to a future political course.
“In such a tense political situation the authorities must not heighten tensions by ambiguous statements,” the newspaper cites billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who is also running for Russian president. “The authorities must bear in mind that under the constitution it is they who are responsible for the people’s security, and not the opposition.”
Co-chairman of the unregistered Party of People’s Freedom (PARNAS) Boris Nemtsov described Putin’s statement as “very serious” and said all those who are in opposition to the authorities should not ignore it.
“This statement is not a long-term policy of the authorities or a message to the opposition,” said Igor Yurgens, the chairman of the board of the Institute of Contemporary Development. “These words were voiced the rush of the election campaign.” The concept of a “sacral sacrifice,” according to Yurgens, was rather a “blunder of image-makers,” one of many in the current campaign.
Several questions at the meeting concerned the opposition, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper writes. The keynote idea of Putin’s answers was that he spurned no one, and that what he had said at a recent Luzhniki rally was still in force. He calls on all Russians to pool efforts for the good of the country. Russia’s ideology is patriotism, Putin said, winning a storm of applause. At the same time, he called on the opposition to refrain from provocations.
Apart from that, Putin said that many of those who are in opposition new used to be ministers, deputy prime ministers, “some have government posts even now.” As an example he took the governor of the Kirov region, Nikita Belykh. “What has he done there? He works like everybody else,” Putin said.
The prime minister also spoke about independent mass media. In his words, there is no point in exerting control over them because of the Internet. Moreover, digital television will soon be available virtually in every corner of the country.
A most important subject Putin raised in his statement was the court reform, the newspapers stresses. Putin said it was necessary to “break accusatorial links between courts and law enforcement agencies.” According to Putin, this is the only way to exclude arbitrariness of law enforcement bodies. “Everything that might turn an economic dispute into a criminal case against any of the parties to such dispute would be crossed out from economic articles [of the code]. Law enforcement agencies must be stripped off being tempted to take part of any the parties to such disputes.”
During the meeting, Putin briefly summed up his articles and said that these were not the words of a self-seeking man and “everything what has been promised will be implemented,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets writes. To substantiate his words, Putin said he would soon issue instructions on all provisions of his articles. “No one will be allowed to emasculate or bureaucratize anything,” he pledged.
According to the prime minister, Russia needs efficient and free mass media and there is no sense in any restrictions, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily writes. In his words, there is no prevalent ideology in the country and patriotism may come as a uniting factor. Putin voiced support to the idea of public television proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev in his state-of-the-nation message. He also said it would be right is state-run television channels broadcast no commercials.