Putin Closes the Door on Efforts to Placate the Protesters
Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin put paid to hopes sparked by a former ally and ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin that he [Putin] was ready for dialogue with the opposition.
Putin derided the opposition: "They have no united program, clear ways of reaching their aims - which are themselves not clear - or people who could achieve something concrete,"
Putin uttered these remarks before a meeting of the All Russian Popular Front, a group that he cobbled together to broaden the appeal of the United Russia Party. To judge by the recent elections to the Duma, the tactic did not quite work, but Putin has not given up.
Putin specifically ruled out any review of the recent elections: "The elections are over. The parliament has started its work and a Speaker elected. The State Duma is working ... There can be no talk of any review," he said.
As for the presidential election, Putin expresses confidence that he would emerge the victor in a fair elections and he had no need to resort to trickery.
Putin even likened the demonstrators to Trotskyites, one of the most vitriolic charges that one could make in the old Soviet Union.
"Of course, our country ... always has, always had and always will have forces for whom what is important is not the development prospects, but constant Brownian motion," he said, referring to the theory on the random movement of particles.
"Do you remember the famous Trotsky slogan? 'Movement is everything, the ultimate goal nothing'."
Putin's decision to cut off efforts at placating the protesters may be the result of an announcement by the 35 year anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, the man who coined the "party of crooks and thieves" description of United Russia, that he was entering the presidential race after forming his own party.
The catch is that he cannot do so while the current rules remain in effect.
Therefore, Navalny has promised to lead demonstrations until the rules are changed and he is on the ballot for this election. He has also threatened a march on the Kremlin and on the Russian White House, the home of the Duma, sparking fears of a recurrence of the 1993 standoff that ended in violence.