, MOSCOW, Jan 12 – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday vowed to end police repression in Russia and make government more accountable, as he kicked off his campaign for presidential elections after mass protests.
In his manifesto for the March 2012 elections where he plans to take an unprecedented third Kremlin term, Putin also promised to build a strong Russia and retaliate against Western states that failed to listen to Moscow.
The manifesto, posted on his new campaign site putin2012.ru, has been published one month after the start of anti-Putin protests which rallied tens of thousands and posed the biggest challenge to his 12-year rule of Russia.
“We need to re-think the whole system of public security and need to stop the extremely repressive tendency” of the security forces in Russia, Putin wrote in the election programme.
The behaviour of the security forces in Russia is seen as one of Russia’s biggest scourges due to widespread corruption and iron-fisted tactics. The promise by Putin may be seen as a concession to the protest movement.
“This situation is deforming our society and is making it morally unhealthy. The actions of the security forces should be aimed at protecting and supporting legal business — not fighting it,” he added.
Putin has been repeatedly lambasted by critics during his previous two terms in the Kremlin to 2008 and current stint as prime minister for allowing the security forces Soviet-style powers to control society.
But Putin promised: “We will ensure the accountability of the authorities towards the society that they are working for.” He proposed “effective government under the control of the people.”
He said the widespread practice in Russia of keeping suspects in pre-trial detention should be reduced and as well as the use of jail sentences for less significant crimes.
The liberal Yabloko party leader Sergei Mitrokhin expressed suspicion about the pledges. “I do not think they will be implemented given he has got used to ruling through the security forces,” he told the Interfax news agency.
In a stern warning to the West, Putin also vowed that world powers would not be able to make decisions “behind the back of Russia or avoiding Russia and her interests.”
“Unilateral actions by our partners that fail to take into account Russia’s opinion and her interests will receive a corresponding response,” Putin wrote.
He promised to create “strong Russia in a complex world” and said that under his rule Moscow had “restored its position as one of the leading world powers”.
On the economy, Putin promoted a programme of urgent modernisation identical to the drive championed by current President Dmitry Medvedev who is stepping aside to allow his mentor back into the Kremlin.
“The model of economic growth for the last decade — based on high oil prices and wasted capacities that was built back in the USSR — has exhausted itself,” said Putin.
Ominously for opponents hoping to see him make a speedy exit from politics, Putin set a target of creating no less than 25 million jobs over the next two decades.
The presidential elections are now seen by analysts as a far tougher challenge for Putin after the rallies that brought together tens of thousands of people in Moscow and broke the taboo against mass protest in Russia.
He is still widely expected to win the presidential elections but opinion polls have predicted he may need a second round for the first time in his career.
The snazzy campaign website is adorned with pictures of a gritty-looking Putin and appears to show a new interest from the premier in the Internet, a medium he once famously dismissed as consisting of “half porn”.
In apparent response to the growing enthusiasm for blogging in Russia, there is a section called “suggestions of the voters” where people can post entries which are then rated for popularity.
Unfortunately for Putin, just hours after the site’s launch the most popular suggestion was from a man named Andrei Antonenko calling on Putin to quit: “Leave politics, please. We understand that power is a drug but that would be a dignified act,” the man wrote.