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MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin, who steps down next year, said on Wednesday he would not allow foreign powers to upset Russia's stability in the wake of two crucial polls, which will decide the country's future.
Anti-Western rhetoric has been a visible part of Putin's campaign ahead of December 2 parliamentary polls, in which he leads the United Russia party. Analysts expect a similar pattern in March 2 presidential polls to elect Putin's successor.
"We have done everything to safeguard Russia from internal disturbances and to put it firmly on the track of evolutionary development," Putin told diplomats and senior officials in a speech in the Kremlin.
"And I am forced to repeat myself -- we will not allow this process to be changed from outside," he said.
Allies credit Putin for presiding over an economic boom and for consolidating Russia. Critics say this has been done at the expense of democracy.
Putin is not allowed by Russia's constitution to run for a third term, but has said he wanted to maintain political influence after his departure to ensure his legacy survives.
His opponents blame the Kremlin for intimidating opposition figures ahead of the polls so United Russia can dominate the next parliament and a hand-picked ally takes over the Kremlin.
MOSCOW, November 26 (Itar-Tass) -- Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Vladimir Churov has ruled out a possibility that Vladimir Putin might run for presidency in March, 2008 in the event of early resignation from his post. "Under the law he cannot take part in the election," Churov said.
Nonetheless, Chairman of the Federation Council Sergei Mironov claims that the ban is in effect only in the event of early election, while the Federation Council on Monday has appointed extraordinary election.
“The Central Election Commission has not been looking into the dilemma yet because no applications have been made,” Churov said, adding he took into account repeated statements earlier made by the Russian president that he would not take part in the coming presidential campaign.
MOSCOW, November 26 (Itar-Tass) -- Moscow’s Meshchansky Court on Monday upheld the arrest warrant issued by the magistrate for opposition United Civil Front leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
His lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Itar-Tass that court had rejected the defence’s appeal for his release.
Having heard both sides, the court ruled that the arrest was lawful and that were no reasons for Kasparov’s release.
Kasparov was punished for violations he had committed during the so-called march of the dissenters in Moscow earlier in the day, his lawyer Yuri Kostanov told Itar-Tass.
Several dozen others followed the group to Myasnitskaya Street where they were stopped by police. Many offenders behaved quite aggressively, trying to break through the police cordon and used their fists to attack the policemen.
Besides, some of the march organisers, such as Maria Gaidar and Ilya Yashin, actively attempted to provoke their detention. They squabbled with policemen, trying to provoke a conflict, jumped on cars parked along Myasnitskaya Street and loudly chanted slogans. Kasparov, one of the "Other Russia" leaders, was among the hooligans was Garry Kasparov.
Current first deputy premiers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev have been named as the most likely successors to Putin, who is widely credited in Russia with bringing the country back from the brink of the abyss following the crisis-stricken Yeltsin era.
A number of politicians have already announced their intention to run in the 2008 presidential elections. These include Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leaders of Russia's two biggest political parties after United Russia - the Communist Party and the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, respectively.
Other figures have spoken of plans to run include liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, ex-deputy premier Boris Nemtsov and Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, as well as chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who was jailed for five days following an opposition march at the weekend.
"I ask you to come to the polls and vote for United Russia," he said.
President Putin, who cannot run for a third term in presidential elections next March, tops the list of United Russia's candidates.
Mr Putin said Sunday's result would "set the tone" for the March election. United Russia is expected to triumph.
He said a vote for United Russia would ensure "stability and continuity", rather than the turmoil of the 1990s.
We cannot allow the return to power of those who once tried but failed to rule the country," he said, referring to the liberal politicians who advised his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.
He said his opponents "want to reshape Russia's development plans and change the course supported by our nation, bringing back the times of humiliation, dependence and disintegration".
Liberal opposition parties accuse the Kremlin of harassment and domination of the mass media. Police have broken up several opposition rallies, detaining the organisers.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has abandoned its plans to send a big team of election observers to Russia after accusing the Russian government of imposing unacceptable restrictions and of deliberately delaying the issuing of visas. Russia has denied the claims.
Only a much smaller group of MPs from the OSCE's parliamentary assembly will be in attendance.
That means just 330 foreign monitors will cover 95,000 polling stations.
Voting began at 0800 on Sunday (2000 GMT, Saturday) in Russia's easterly region of Kamchatka, about 6,000km (3,700 miles) east of Moscow.
Voting is not set to end until 22 hours later, when polls are due to close in the enclave of Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea, 11 time zones to the west.
MOSCOW, December 10 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported the nomination of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a presidential candidate.
“This proposal has my wholesale support,” Putin said at a meeting with the leaders of the United Russia, Just Russia, Agrarian Party and Civil Force party, who offered their common candidate on Monday.
Leader of the United Russia party Boris Gryzlov hopes that consultations on the candidature for the post of the Russian president will be completed before December 17.