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Putin blasts ‘dirty tricks’ of his opponents

President Vladimir Putin, using Cold War rhetoric, accused foreign governments on Wednesday of sponsoring his opponents in next month's election to weaken Russia and carry out "dirty tricks" against it.
/ Source: Reuters

President Vladimir Putin, using Cold War rhetoric, accused foreign governments on Wednesday of sponsoring his opponents in next month's election to weaken Russia and carry out "dirty tricks" against it.

"Unfortunately there are still those people in our country who still slink through foreign embassies ... who count on the support of foreign funds and governments but not the support of their own people," Putin told thousands of cheering young supporters at a U.S.-style rally in a Moscow sports stadium.

These political enemies, he said, had a different view of Russia. "They need a weak and feeble state. They need a disorganized and disoriented society, a split society, so that they can carry out their dirty tricks behind its back," Putin said.

In one of his harshest attacks on opponents ahead of a Dec. 2 election to the State Duma (lower house of parliament), Putin said they had "learned a bit from Western specialists, did a bit of training in neighboring republics and will now come to try to carry out provocations."

He did not say who he had in mind.

The Kremlin has constantly evoked the specter of Western- backed mass protests, such as those which led to new governments in neighboring Georgia and Ukraine, as a threat to be avoided at all costs in Russia.

With Soviet-era songs blaring, the mostly young crowd of around 5,000 waved flags and banners and chanted support for the 55-year-old leader, who is by far Russia's most popular politician after eight years of strong economic growth.

Some young women had the president's name etched across their faces. "Victory for Putin is victory for Russia!" read a huge poster at the cavernous sports arena.

'Complete renewal'
"I really love Vladimir Putin," Irina Bleshchova, a 20-year-old journalism student and activist of the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement, told Reuters.

Calling him "the ideal man," she said: "I would like my future husband to be like Vladimir Putin."

The rally was organized by the "For Putin" movement, which aims to persuade the Kremlin chief to stay on as a "national leader" after his second term in office ends next year. The constitution prohibits a third consecutive term.

Putin, who wore a dark suit and black polo-neck sweater, kept silent about his future plans, despite rumors in the Russian media that he might make an announcement.

He said only that the government would undergo "complete renewal" in coming months as the country holds December's parliamentary election, then a presidential vote next March.

"Friends, in the elections on December 2, the fate of the country will in a significant way be decided," Putin added. "Make sure you come and vote for United Russia."

Putin is leading the list of candidates of the main pro-Kremlin party in the December election to the Duma. Opinion polls show more than 60 percent of voters will back United Russia.

Putin has said the party's expected landslide win will give him a "moral right" to influence government even after he steps down, though he has not said how.

United Russia leaders were also present at the gala, along with rank-and-file Putin fans.

Pavel Astakhov, a lawyer leading the "For Putin" movement, told Reuters "this would be possible via parliament as that would allow him to influence all levels of power."

One of Putin's old school teachers from his home city of St. Petersburg, Vera Gyurevich, beamed from a giant screen in the stadium telling the crowd how much she trusted the president.

"I have known Volodya (Putin) since his childhood... If he said he will not breach the constitution and go for a third term then he will not. But he has an obligation to remain in politics," she said.