Dec. 15 - Russia's Prime Minister Putin deflects calls for election re-run, saying he was even happy to see protesters take to the streets. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin deflected opposition allegations that fraud helped his ruling party win a parliamentary election, saying on a Russian State TV call in show that the results reflected the views of the population. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DRIVER FROM MOSCOW ALEXANDER, SAYING: "The result of the (Dec. 4) election undoubtedly reflects the real division of (political) forces in the country. There is nothing special in the fact that the ruling United Russia party has lost some particular positions. Look, we got through a very difficult period of crisis, look at what is happening in other countries." He also shrugged off the biggest opposition protests of his 12-year rule saying he was even happy to see who took to the streets in protest on Saturday (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DRIVER FROM MOSCOW ALEXANDER, SAYING: "There were different people there and (PUTIN CLOSE) I felt happy because I saw fresh, healthy, energetic faces of people who were actively expressing their views. I'm telling you again, if this is a result of the Putin regime, it makes me happy." Putin's made his first public remarks since Saturday's mass protests signaled he would not bow to the protesters' demands for the Dec. 4 election to be rerun. The 59-year old Putin has used the annual call-in to burnish his image as a strong, effective and caring leader. The reviews on the streets of Moscow are mixed. SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DRIVER FROM MOSCOW ALEXANDER, SAYING: "We need a change. We need to change our leaders but at the moment we don't know for whom." (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) THEATRE WORKER FROM MOSCOW SULEIMAN, SAYING: "I don't know how it will be in the future, but all the time they have been in power they have done nothing." Putin is still expected to win the presidential election next year but he now faces much more resistance than expected. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.