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Putin promises 'transparent' vote

Vladimir Putin says mass protests against his 12-year rule are being stoked by a hollow collection of leaderless opposition groups who wanted to sow chaos in Russia.

In his first comments since Saturday's protest, the Russian Prime Minister yesterday said it was impossible to annul the parliamentary election of 4 December – the opposition's key demand – but promised that the March presidential vote, in which he is a candidate, would be transparent. Comparing protesters to Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary, Mr Putin said they were more interested in sowing chaos than implementing a concrete set of ideas on how the world's biggest energy producer should develop.

"The problem is that they have no single programme," he told top members of his All Russia People's Front, an umbrella movement of supporters, at his presidential election campaign headquarters in Moscow.

"They have many individual programmes, but no unified one and no clear way to reach their goals, which are also not clear," he said.

Mr Putin, who is facing the biggest protests since he rose to power in 1999, has looked out of touch in recent weeks, dismissing thousands of protesters as chattering monkeys while offering gradual political reforms.