Following his United Russia's narrow parliamentary victory, Putin responds to allegations of voter fraud, which have led to demonstrations and hundreds of arrests. Amongst party loyalists, the Russian leader stands his ground with a mix of imperi
MOSCOW - Following the widely contested parliamentary elections, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has offered his most extensive comments on this week's events during a meeting at Moscow city hall with top members of his political party, United Russia.
Putin began his remarks in front of the regional party leaders by congratulating everyone on the parliamentary elections. "Although there were some losses," he conceded at the Tuesday evening gathering.
The Prime Minister mentioned that the results were particularly good in light of the irregularities in the elections that most parties have admitted existed. Putin specifically addressed the protests against alleged election violations. As usual, he found something to compare it too. "In Europe and in the rest of the world, there are millions of people protesting in the streets!" he said.
Putin obviously did not mean that millions of people worldwide were protesting the Russian election results. He was referring to millions of people demonstrating against the difficult economic situation; and here in Russia, he seemed to be saying: Well, there are just a couple thousand protesters, and it's not even clear why they are protesting.
Putin then went on to make further favorable comparisons between Russia and Europe: our inflation rates are decreasing, he said, while theirs are rising; we have a budget surplus, and let's not even talk about their budget problems.
Slated to run in March elections for a return to the Russian presidency in March, Putin also made reference to the latest protests against his political party, United Russia. "People are saying that the party in power is connected with election-stealing and corruption. But that is not the mark of any particular political party, that is the mark of power in general! It is something that those in power should fight, within society and among themselves."
The Prime Minister nevertheless admitted that it was not the first time that United Russia was called "the party of cheats and thieves." In fact, he said, it would be strange not to hear such criticisms. In the end, every ruling political party is accused of corruption, Putin said. Who else would have the chance to be corrupted?
Putin also called on the mass media to contribute to the fight against corruption, allowing himself one jab, saying that media, like any part of society, was also vulnerable to the same flaws as everyone else.
Adoration and advice
One of the party representatives, from the southern Urals, asked Putin how the party leadership could become as popular as Putin himself has become. "Although of course," added the politician, "it would be impossible to reach your level."
Putin responded, "Never promise something that you can not deliver. Never promise something that would cause the whole system to collapse. And always tell the truth."
The United Russia representatives spoke of the importance of keeping order in the Duma, saying that "The more we laugh about what happens in parliament, the sadder we will be in the end."
Which begs the question: does that mean that the people who are sad about the state of the Russian Parliament now will laugh last?
After several more flattering conversations with his foot soldiers from around the country, Putin ended the evening with a visit to the Carravagio exposition at the capital's Pushkin Art Museum. The Russian leader seemed particularly taken with Caravaggio's biblical masterpiece, Adoration of the Shepherds. The museum's director described the painting, noting "such tenderness in their gaze, such feeling! Completely united in their love of Him."
Putin looked over the painting. He liked it. Perhaps it reminded him of his meeting with the United Russia representatives.
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Photo - PBS