Crack down on opposition? I'll do nothing of the sort, vows Putin

As Russia votes, with one clear leader, Shaun Walker reports from Moscow on the would-be President's plans

Vladimir Putin has denied that he plans a crackdown on opposition groups if he returns to office, as expected, in a presidential vote tomorrow.

In a meeting with foreign newspaper editors, which was broadcast on Russian state television yesterday, he said he was "not planning anything of the kind". "I don't know where these fears come from," said Mr Putin. "On the contrary all of our proposals are geared toward establishing a dialogue with everyone, with those who support us and those who criticise us."

It is a change of tack for the Russian Prime Minister, who last week referred to the need for "victory" in an "ongoing battle for Russia". He has also accused the leaders of large street protests of working in the interests of foreign powers keen to destabilise Russia. Now, in what appears to be an attempt to reach out to opponents, he says he is "glad" about the protest movement, as it forces the government to do a better job.

The country today enters an official "day of silence" when campaigning is forbidden before Sunday's presidential vote, but this is unlikely to stop the unofficial opposition shouting about electoral fraud. Mr Putin will need 50 per cent to avoid a second-round run-off. The idea of a run-off was unthinkable a few months ago, but it began to be talked of as a possibility after protests drew tens of thousands to the streets in Moscow and other cities.

There have been widespread reports of the "administrative resource" being used to influence the vote, with stories of workers in factories and government offices being pressured to vote for Mr Putin. Yesterday, reports surfaced of Moscow workers being offered £200 to vote for Mr Putin five times at different polling stations. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's spokesman, claimed the reports were a propaganda trick.

At Russia's Central Election Committee yesterday, preparations were under way for the vote. The Committee and its chairman, Vladimir Churov, were criticised after December's parliamentary polls, in which Mr Putin's United Russia party won a majority despite accusations of fraud. Nevertheless, Mr Churov insists the elections are fair. "The elections will be fair and in accordance with the law," Nikolai Konkin, secretary of the Committee, said yesterday.

After complaints about December's polls, Mr Putin ordered that cameras should be installed at every polling station to safeguard against fraud. Yesterday, Mr Konkin said 13 billion roubles (£280m) had been spent on installing the cameras at 91,000 of Russia's 95,000 polling stations, which will be streamed live on the internet throughout voting. The vote-monitoring group Golos said the move was rendered pointless given the lack of link-ups at regional centres, where much of the counting takes place.

Despite accusations, there is no doubt Mr Putin is still the most popular candidate on the ballot. The most recent pre-election survey suggested he has the support of more than 40 per cent of Russians.

Standing against Mr Putin are the Communist, Gennady Zyuganov, who is still popular among older voters nostalgic for the Soviet Union; the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky; and oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, possibly with tacit Kremlin backing. Leaders of the opposition coalition that has been behind the recent protests, such as Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger, are not represented at the elections.

A protest is planned in central Moscow for Monday evening, with the unofficial opposition declaring the election illegitimate before it has happened.

Hunger strike ends after 11 days as PM intervenes

Councillors in the southern town of Lermontov have ended an 11-day hunger strike after Vladimir Putin intervened and their demands were met. Eight councillors went on strike, as reported in The Independent last Saturday, after the council was disbanded, they claimed under pressure from a corrupt governor. New elections were planned for Sunday, at the same time as Russian presidential elections, and the old councillors were barred from standing on technicalities. They went on a hunger strike, and by midweek, nearly 40 people had joined in; three were hospitalised. On Thursday, the chief of Mr Putin's election campaign promised the Prime Minister would take control of the case, which prompted them to end their fast.

Yesterday, a court postponed the local elections until May, so the situation could be investigated.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker