Putin warns opposition ahead of vote
Moscow - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly warned his opponents against unsanctioned protests after Sunday's presidential election, in which he is all but certain to regain the presidency.
In a statement reflecting heightening tensions four days before the vote, he also alleged on Wednesday that his foes may kill a prominent opposition figure in order to fuel public outrage against the government.
"They are looking among well-known people for a sacrificial victim," he said, according to Russian news reports. "They could, I'm sorry, knock someone off and then blame the authorities for that."
Putin criticised the opposition plans for rallies over what it fears will be a fraudulent election, saying on Wednesday it is "unacceptable" to prejudge the vote.
"We will respect any viewpoint, but are calling on everyone to act within the framework of law and use only legitimate means," he said at a meeting with his campaign activists.
Evidence of widespread vote-rigging in favour of Putin's party in December's parliamentary election fuelled a series of massive protests in Moscow demanding an end to Putin's 12-year rule.
Their organisers had received the authorities' clearance in advance to avoid any violence.
The opposition is now pushing authorities to allow a post-election protest at a venue even closer to the Kremlin.
The Moscow city government has refused the demand, offering other more distant locations instead.
The organisers have rejected that offer, raising the threat of violence.