Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said his opponents may be planning ballot stuffing or even murder to provoke unrest after Sunday's presidential election. Putin is a shoo-in to become president, again.
Russia's current prime minister, former president and soon-to-be president, Vladimir Putin, told his supporters on Wednesday that opposition forces would seek to provoke unrest amid Sunday's presidential election.
"Certain mechanisms will be used to show that the election was falsified," Putin told his campaign staff in an address broadcast on national television.
Apparently referring to tycoons who fled the country during his 2000-08 presidency, he also said his opponents living abroad might even seek to kill somebody to garner sympathy for their cause.
"They are looking among well-known people for a sacrificial victim. Sorry for the phrase, but they will whack someone and then blame the authorities for it. These sorts of people are ready to do anything," Putin said, without offering evidence for the allegation.
Back at the helm
Putin is running for his third term as president, and is almost certain to win against four Kremlin-approved challengers on Sunday. Despite this, opinion polls suggest that his dominant United Russia party is losing popularity among the public, partly because of evidence of widespread vote rigging during December's parliamentary elections.
This has prompted Russia's largest anti-government protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the past few weeks. Opposition groups have requested that the authorities approve a post-election rally at a site close to the Kremlin.
Putin was president of Russia from 2000 until 2008, when a two-term limit forced him to step down. Then Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stepped up to the role of president, while Putin took over as prime minister.
The Russian government has since changed the law so that a former president can return to the job for another two terms after a hiatus. The term length for the presidency has also been extended from four years to six.
msh/bk (AP, Reuters)