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.

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Lily Allen performs on stage at Splendour In the Grass 2014 on 27 July, 2014, in Byron Bay, Australia
people
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Sport
Manny Pacquiao lands a blow on Chris Algieri
Pacquiao retains WBO welterweight title – and says he wants Mayweather next
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin