Andrew Osborn








Vladimir Putin tells Russians to reject a 'dash for change', 16th January 2012 15:48

By Andrew Osborn in Moscow

Vladimir Putin has urged Russians to hand him a third term as president in March, boasting that he saved the country from civil war and disintegration earlier this century.

In a giant article in daily newspaper Izvestia, the strongman Russian prime minister cast himself as the man who prevented Chechnya and the North Caucasus from breaking away from Russia, arguing he is now ready to lead the country into a new more sophisticated era of development.

"In 1999 when I became prime minister and then president our state was in a deep systemic crisis," he wrote.

"(But) it was precisely the group of like-minded people who the author of this article was destined to gather together and lead that pulled Russia away from the dead end of civil war, broke the spine of terrorism, restored the country's territorial integrity and constitutional order, and revived the economy."

Denigrating what he described as a recurring desire by part of the country's elite over the centuries to make a sudden dash for change or even revolution, he presented himself as the tried and tested guarantor of stability.

"Russian and international experience has shown the destructive nature of historic dashes (for change): Getting head of oneself and overthrowing things without creating new things," he wrote.

"In the modern world, stability is an achievement that has to be earned."

The 59-year-old politician has already served two terms as president and has been the country's prime minister for the last four years.

But in recent weeks he has faced unprecedented complaints about the authoritarian style of leadership employed by himself and his ruling United Russia party.

Tens of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets to signal their desire for change, but Mr Putin has made it clear he is sticking to his original plan of standing in a presidential election on March 4.

Opinion polls show he easily remains the country's most popular politician (enjoying solid support outside Moscow and St. Petersburg) and will comfortably win the presidency for a third time, albeit perhaps in a second round of voting.

On Monday, he accused his political opponents of lacking substantive ideas on which direction the country needs to be taken in and of resorting to easy populism.

"I am worried that there is practically no discussion of what we need to do beyond the elections, after the elections," he wrote. "Unfortunately we heard populist rhetoric in the recent parliamentary election campaign. We will probably hear the same in the course of the presidential campaign from people who do not genuinely hope to win and therefore bravely dole out promises that will not have to be fulfilled."

Sketching out a future based on a promised "education revolution" he pledged to create 25 million well paid jobs in the high technology sphere and to eradicate poverty in Russia by the end of this decade.

Arguing that the world had entered a dangerous period of turbulence that would last for a long time, he also lashed out at the West complaining about what he called the "export of democracy through force."