Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday accused the organizers of massive protests against vote fraud of working to weaken Russia at the West’s behest in blustery remarks likely to further fuel anger against his 12-year rule.
Speaking in a call-in TV show, Putin insisted that the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, which drew allegations of fraud and triggered the largest protests in Russia in 20 years, were a genuine reflection of the people’s will. He sought to put a good spin on the protests that dented his power and threatened his bid to reclaim presidency in next March’s vote by saying they reflected a rise in public activity that he welcomes.
However, in a characteristic move, he accused protest organizers of working to destabilize the country on orders from the West.
“That’s a well-organized pattern of destabilizing society,” Putin said.
Last week, Putin dismissed criticism of the vote by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as part of US efforts to weaken Russia.
Putin yesterday also alleged that the organizers of Saturday’s demonstration by tens of thousands in Moscow had paid some of its participants and had called them sheep.
He also unleashed his occasional penchant for barbed and crude remarks by dismissing the white ribbons that many of the demonstrators wore.
“When I saw them on TV I thought it was part of campaigning for HIV prophylactics, and they put some contraceptives on,” he said.
The ribbons have been widely adopted symbol of the protests.
The harsh comments and his insistence that the Dec. 4 elections were valid will likely fuel anger and may draw even-bigger crowds in follow-up protests planned for this month.
Putin also lashed out at US Senator John McCain, who had goaded him with a Twitter post saying “the Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you,” referring to McCain’s role as a combat pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“He has the blood of peaceful civilians on his hands, and he can’t live without the kind of disgusting, repulsive scenes like the killing of [former Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi,” Putin said.
“Mr McCain was captured and they kept him not just in prison, but in a pit for several years,” Putin said. “Anyone [in his place] would go nuts.”
Putin said the results of Russia’s parliamentary election reflected the people’s will, and that the opposition had alleged vote fraud purely to strengthen its position.
“The results of this election undoubtedly reflect the real balance of power in the country,” he said, speaking on an annual national call-in TV show. “It’s very good that United Russia has preserved its leading position.”
He added that a drop in support for his party was a natural result of the global financial crisis of 2008 that has taken its toll on the country.
United Russia lost about 20 percent of its seats in the election and no longer has the two-thirds majority that allowed it to change Constitution at will in the previous parliament.
United Russia barely retained a majority in the State Duma, and opposition parties and some vote monitors said that even that result was inflated by ballot-stuffing and other violations.
Putin brushed off the vote fraud claims as part of the opposition’s struggle for power, and said that any complaints should go to the courts. He alleged that some of the protest leaders have been acting at Western behest to weaken Russia.
“The opposition goal’s is to fight for power, and it’s looking for every chance to advance,” he said, insisting that the vote results genuinely reflected the people’s will.
Putin also sought a positive spin on last weekend’s protest against vote fraud, that drew tens of -thousands in the greatest challenge to his dozen years in power, saying he was glad to see a rise in public activity as a result of his rule.
The unprecedented wave of protest poses a significant challenge to Putin less than three months before presidential elections in which he seeks to return to the Kremlin.
He sought to counter public discontent with the alleged fraud by proposing to place Web cameras at each of Russia’s more than 90,000 polling stations by the March 4 presidential vote.
“Let them be there next to every ballot box to avoid any falsifications,” he said.
The opposition is calling for an annulment of the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections and the holding of a new vote. Putin’s insistence that the elections were valid indicates no immediate resolution to the political tensions is in sight.
The opposition has been energized by the huge turnout at the Moscow protest and simultaneous rallies in some 60 other cities. It has also sensed new weakness in United Russia that has also dented Putin’s power.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference