US provoked post-election protests - Putin
‘Clinton criticised Russia polls before even reading
Russia: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the United
States of provoking post-election protests in Russia that have posed a
surprise challenge to his decade-long era of domination.
Harking back to the rhetoric of the Cold War, Putin accused US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of deliberately sending a signal to
the opposition to protest by questioning the fairness of the weekend's
The United States dismissed the charges, saying that funding by
Washington goes only to strengthening democracy.
Around 1,600 people have been arrested in three days of protests in
Moscow and Saint Petersburg alleging widespread fraud in the
parliamentary polls, but organisers have vowed to stage a mass
demonstration in Moscow at the weekend, prompting President Dmitry
Medvedev to appeal for calm.
In his first public comments on the protests, Putin accused Clinton
of criticising the polls before even reading the reports of
He accused Washington of paying Russian groups to find fault with the
elections and said its criticism “had set the tone for some people
inside the country and given a signal”.
“They heard the signal and with the support of the US State
Department started active work,” he said in a meeting with supporters
broadcast on state television.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” State Department spokesman
Mark Toner told reporters, expanding on Clinton's response earlier
Thursday in Brussels where she said she supported the rights of the
US programmes “are designed to support a more transparent, free and
fair electoral process. They're not about favouring any political group
or any political agenda more than any other agenda,” Toner said.
“We've stood up, as we have elsewhere in the world, and continue to
stand for the right for people to peacefully express their views and
their democratic aspirations,” Toner said. “There's no 'signalling'
involved.” Clinton earlier this week complained the polls were neither
free nor fair, a concern echoed by the last leader of the Soviet Union,
Mikhail Gorbachev, who on Wednesday called for them to be re-run due to
After talks between NATO allies and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov in Brussels, Clinton made clear she had no intention of softening
her line, saying the US had expressed concerns “that we thought were
“We are supportive of the rights and aspirations of the Russian
people to be able to make progress and to realise a better future for
themselves, and we hope to see that unfold in the years ahead,” she
Twenty years to the day after the leaders of Russia, Belarus and
Ukraine signed the accords that buried the Soviet Union, Putin's
comments stoked new tensions with Washington, on top of a dispute over
He accused the West of funding Russian NGOs to the tune of “hundreds
of millions of dollars” with the aim of questioning the validity of the
elections. “This is unacceptable,” he said.
Independent poll monitoring group Golos has said it was subjected to
severe harassment by the authorities since the build-up to the
elections, with its communications paralysed and its chief detained for
hours. Putin said Russia would hold to account those who “dance to the
tune of a foreign state”.
He said Russia did not want to see the instability endured by Ukraine
and Kyrgyzstan, two ex-Soviet states that saw regimes toppled in
so-called “colour revolutions” after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The elections were seen as a litmus test of Putin's popularity ahead
of his planned return to the presidency in March 2012 polls. His United
Russia party won the parliamentary election, albeit with a reduced
majority, but the opposition says the results would have been far worse
in free polls.
Putin, who became premier in 2008 after serving two terms as
president, on Wednesday filed his application to stand in the March
election. But analysts say his path back to the Kremlin is much thornier
than just one week ago. AFP