Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has faced the nation live on TV for the first time since a general election that his opponents claim was rigged. In his annual question and answer appearance on Russia’s main channels he dismissed allegations of fraud and reiterated there would be no re-run of the vote
He said the recent street protests – which he described as reflecting the economic, social and political situation – were acceptable as long they remained within the law.
Putin was responding to questions by phone and from a studio audience. Commentators said he looked less at ease than in previous years.
He stressed that the outcome of the poll reflected the real standing of political parties in the country.
Addressing concerns about elections in Russia, the prime minister called for cameras to be installed in polling stations for the presidential ballot in March, in which he is a candidate.
Moscow and other cities saw their biggest street protests for many years in the aftermath of the election, which his United Russia party won with a slim majority.
It was a major setback for Putin and the ruling party, but he is still widely expected to win the presidency. However, initial reaction on social media to his latest TV appearance suggests many Russians see him as out-of-touch with his people.