Putin warns West about polls
Moscow - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sternly warned the West not to interfere in Russia's elections, as he launched his campaign to reclaim the presidency in a speech on Sunday before thousands of flag-waving supporters.
Putin stepped down in 2008 after two presidential terms, but kept his hold on power. He announced in September that he intended to return to the top job next year and was formally nominated Sunday by his United Russia party.
"All our foreign partners need to understand this: Russia is a democratic country, it's a reliable and predictable partner with which they can and must reach agreement, but on which they cannot impose anything from the outside," Putin told his audience.
The party congress, which was televised live, was aimed at boosting support for Putin and his party before parliamentary elections one week away.
Increasingly seen as representing the interests of a corrupt bureaucracy, United Russia has watched its public approval ratings plummet in recent months. The party is still certain to win the December 4 election, but is expected to lose the current two-thirds majority that has allowed it to change the constitution at will.
Putin's decision to swap jobs with President Dmitry Medvedev after the presidential vote in March, presented as a done deal at the party congress in September, also has soured the public mood.
Many Russians are wary of Putin's authoritarian tendencies and fear he will remain in power for 12 more years to become the longest-serving leader since Communist times.
He promised Russians stability, a word he repeated often throughout his speech.
In countering criticism that he has tightened his control at the expense of democracy, Putin insisted that Russia needs a "stable political system" to guarantee "stable development" for decades to come.
"This is an extremely important task for Russia with its history of upheavals and revolutions," he said.