Putin 'welcomes' protests while dismissing them

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Putin 'welcomes' protests while dismissing them

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In Vladimir Putin’s latest four-and-a-half hour television marathon the Russian prime minister dismissed the recent protests against his United Russia party’s alleged fraudulent election win as inspired by paid western agents.

He insisted the country’s biggest protests in 20 years were irrelevant, and said United Russia’s win was a genuine reflection of the people’s will.

He also confirmed the current president Dmitry Medvedev would become prime minister once he was re-elected president in the March elections. He also took a swipe at an old enemy.

“People are tired of the dictates of one country. You talked about an allied relationship with the USA. We would like to be a US ally too. But what I see now and what I spoke about in Munich, is that this is not a relationship of allies. Sometimes it seems to me that America does not need allies, it needs vassals,” he claimed.

Despite this Putin said the protesters had a right to speak out, and he was “cheered” by their mobilisation.

Elsewhere in Moscow the latest candidate to enter the lists for the presidential elections, Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s third richest man, was announcing at a meeting that if elected he would pardon the imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky has been in prison since 2003 on tax evasion and fraud charges, although some say his real crime was to have challenged Putin’s grip on power.