Putin says 'pleased' young Russians protesting
MOSCOW - Agence France- Presse
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the Central Elections Commission office in Moscow, on December 7, 2011, to appeal for his registration as presidential candidate in Russia. AFP PhotoPrime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the results of Russia's parliamentary elections reflected popular opinion but said he was pleased by the sight of mass protests of mainly young people.
"I saw on television mostly young, active people clearly expressing their positions. I am pleased to see this," Putin said in his first reaction to the mass post-election protests.
In the first questions in his annual phone-in session with Russians, Putin tackled head-on the issue of the protests that followed December 4 parliamentary elections and shook his 12-year domination of Russia.
"The fact that people are expressing their point of view about the processes occurring in the country, in the economy, in the social sphere, in politics, is an absolutely normal thing, as long as people continue acting within the law.
"I expect them to continue doing so," he added.
Tens of thousands of people protested on Saturday in Moscow in a sanctioned protest that was Russia's biggest show of popular discontent since the turbulent 1990s.
The ruling party United Russia won the parliamentary elections but with less than half the vote, a result the opposition said would have been even worse in free polls.
"In my opinion, the result of these elections unquestionably reflects the real political make-up of the country," said Putin.
"The fact that United Russia retained its leading position is a very good outcome," he added.
"As for the fairness or unfairness: the opposition will always say the elections were not fair. Always. This happens everywhere, in all countries." But in an apparent bid to calm the claims of fraud, Putin ordered the installation of web cameras in every Russian polling station.
"I ask the central election commission to install web cameras in all 90,000 polling stations in the country and put the footage on the Internet so the whole country can see," he said.