Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, has warned Western powers against meddling in Russia’s forthcoming elections after agreeing to stand for president in March 2012.
Addressing a glitzy congress of the ruling United Russia party on Sunday, Putin said any attempts by “foreign states” to influence Russia’s political process would be "futile."
Russia will hold a crucial parliamentary vote next week, followed by presidential elections in March next year.
“Representatives of some foreign states” were paying politically-active NGOs in Russia to “influence the course of the election campaign in our country,” Putin said to a roar of approval and applause.
Such defiant rhetoric has come to dominate Russian political discourse since liberal revolutions in neighboring Ukraine and Georgia in the early 2000s forced pro-Kremlin leaders from power there.
“It would be better if they used this money to pay off their national debt and stop conducting an ineffective and costly foreign policy,” he said in a clear reference to the debt-ridden United States.
"It's a wasted effort, like throwing money to the wind," he added.
Lilia Shibanova, the head of Russia’s main independent observer group Golos, said Putin’s stinging warning reveals his “total misunderstanding” of the current climate in Russia.
“They have cornered themselves by creating the only governing party, by impeding normal political competition and turning the political process into a monopoly,” Shibanova said. “This has nothing to do with monitoring.”
“What they’ll get is even fiercer protests of the liberal opposition,” she added.