Putin condemns protesters' 'mercenary agenda'

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Putin condemns protesters' 'mercenary agenda'

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Tens of thousands of Russians have pledged to join fresh protests against Vladimir Putin and his parliamentary election victory.

Thursday saw a demonstration in St Petersburg for the fifth day running. Several people were arrested as police blocked access to the area.

Russia’s top social networking site, VKontakte, has refused a request by the Federal Security Service (FSB) to block opposition groups from using it to organise street protests alleging vote-rigging.

More than 45,000 people in Moscow alone have vowed via the internet to demonstrate on Saturday.

The prime minister said freedom of expression was fine unless people broke the law.

“We are all adult people, and we all understand that some of the organizers follow a well-known scenario and that they have their own mercenary political agenda,” said Vladimir Putin.

The White House has stood by US criticism of the way last weekend’s election was conducted, saying ‘when rights are violated, we speak out’.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments that there was well-founded concern over the vote prompted Putin to accuse Washington of interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs and inciting protests.