Putin dismisses Opposition protests

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 22:58

Moscow: Vladimir Putin rejected opposition
protests against his presidential election victory on Tuesday and
his Foreign Ministry ruled out any softening of Moscow`s
stance on Syria, a strong indication that the Russian leader
has no intention of easing tough policies either at home or

The harsh statements came after helmeted riot police
forcefully broke up yesterday`s opposition attempt to occupy a
downtown square in a challenge to Putin`s victory. They
arrested about 250 people who were later released.

Putin`s spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended the police
action, saying that it showed a "high level of
professionalism, legitimacy and effectiveness," comments
signaling that the government would show no hesitation to use
force again on protesters.

Putin, president from 2000 to 2008 before becoming prime
minister due to term limits, won more than 63 percent of
Sunday`s vote.

The opposition and independent observers said the
election was marred by massive fraud, including so-called
"carousel voting" in which busloads of voters are driven
around to cast ballots multiple times.

Putin today shrugged off opposition claims of rampant
vote fraud as irrelevant.

"It`s an element of political struggle, it has no
relation to the election," he said.

His campaign has been laced with anti-Americanism,
including claims that the US had instigated the opposition
protests in order to weaken Russia -- strident rhetoric that
resonated well with his core support base of blue-collar
workers, farmers and state employees.

He can be expected to continue the same tough policies he
has pursued as prime minister, including opposing US plans to
build a missile shield in Europe and resisting international
military intervention in Syria.

Russia`s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday dealt a blow to
Western hopes that Moscow might drop its support for Syrian
President Bashar Assad, saying firmly that it sees no reason
to change its stance.

"We are deeply convinced that we are right," Deputy
Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters. "That is why
we call on our partners not to adopt a hard-line stance, but
to seek compromise, stimulate negotiations and a political

The Russian Foreign Ministry also lashed out Tuesday at
European election monitors, who reported serious problems in
the election, including questionable vote counting and a
campaign environment strongly skewed toward Putin. A ministry
statement called the mission`s conclusions "prejudiced and

The ministry fumed at US Ambassador Michael McFaul, who
voiced concern about Monday`s crackdown, tweeting: "Troubling
to watch arrests of peaceful demonstrators at Pushkin square.

Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are universal

The ministry shot back: "The police action was far more
gentle than what we have seen during the dispersal of Occupy
Wall Street protests and tent camps in Europe."


First Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 22:58

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