Putin accepts presidential nomination

 

Vladimir Putin accepted his ruling party's nomination to return to Russia's presidency this evening while accusing foreigners of funding his political opponents in a reminder of the anti-Western rhetoric that characterised his years in power.

Mr Putin, president from 2000-2008 and now prime minister, is expected to easily recapture the presidency in an election in March. But opinion polls indicate a parliamentary vote in a week could loosen his United Russia party's domination of politics.

The timing of his Putin's nomination for the presidency - two months after he first said he would run - appeared aimed at giving United Russia a boost in the December. 4th parliamentary vote at a time when the ruling party's support has flagged.

"Of course, I accept the proposal with gratitude," Mr Putin said, confidently accepting the nomination before a crowd of 10,000 supporters chanting his name in a Moscow sports arena.

The congress was broadcast live on television.

Mr Putin said that ahead of both votes "representatives of some foreign countries are gathering those they are paying money to, so-called grant recipients, to instruct them and assign work in order to influence the election campaign themselves".

He said any such activity was a "wasted effort" because Russians would reject foreign-funded politicians, comparing them to Judas, the traitor of Jesus in the bible.

Foreign governments "would do better to pay off their debts with this money and stop pursuing inefficient and costly economic policies," he said in a dig at economic troubles in Europe and the United States.

Mr Putin, 59, was constitutionally obliged to leave the presidency after serving two consecutive four-year terms, but has remained Russia's most powerful man as prime minister. The constitution now permits him to serve two more consecutive terms of six years, which could see him stay president until 2024.

During his presidency, Putin often suggested Western countries were funding his

opponents. Competing political forces have been effectively sidelined in the 11 years since he first came to power.

In a carefully choreographed performance, Putin traded praise with his hand-picked

presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who is expected to take over the prime minister's post after stepping aside for Mr Putin to return to the presidency.