Thousands back Putin in Russia rally battle

Tens of thousands of Vladimir Putin`s supporters backed his bid for the presidency in rallies across Russia.

Saint Petersburg: Tens of thousands of
Vladimir Putin`s supporters backed his bid for the presidency
in rallies across Russia on Saturday, trying to outdo mass
nationwide protests staged by his opponents.

At least 50,000 people attended rallies in European
Russia, Siberia and the Far East supporting Putin`s candidacy
for a historic third Kremlin term in March 4 polls, correspondents and police reports said.

Russians are taking to the streets with increasing
regularity ahead of the election as the opposition and
pro-Putin camp seek to outdo each other with competing

Brandishing slogans like "Yes to Changes! No To
Revolution!" and "Putin -- We Are with You for A Strong
Russia!", at least 10,000 people attended a rally in his
support in the former imperial capital of Saint Petersburg
"For me, Putin is stability. In these years I have
personally lived better. I am given my pay on time.

I have
started to be proud of the country," Putin supporter Anatoly
Stepanov, 42, told correspondent.

Participants were warmed in temperatures of minus eight
degrees Celsius by hot tea and Russian pies sold for nominal
prices. "Look at those who are against Putin, they are not the
people," grumbled pensioner Anna Patrusheva, 58.

The opposition has accused the authorities of using the
state`s resources or even employing financial incentives to
encourage people to show up for the Putin rallies.

Several buses were visible on the fringes of the rally
that had brought people in from outlying Saint Petersburg

Pro-Putin rallies took place in almost all of Russia`s
biggest cities, the main exceptions being Moscow and the
Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk where the Russian premier was
busy attending an economic forum.

According to a police count quoted by Russian news
agencies, 12,000 people turned out for the biggest rally in
the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk seven time zones away under
the slogan "We Have Something to Protect!".

Rallies mustering at least 10,000 people also took place
in cities including Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, and
Novosibirsk in Siberia, while several thousand came for events
in the Pacific port of Vladivostok and the Siberian city of