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Medvedev Meets With Opposition Protest Leaders

February 20, 2012

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has met with opposition leaders to discuss easing the rules on registering political parties and other political reforms.

On February 20, Medvedev met with representatives of the parties that have been denied registration, including those who helped stage massive demonstrations against alleged vote fraud in the December parliamentary election.

The protests which brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets also challenged Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bid to reclaim the presidency in the March 4 election.

In an apparent attempt to calm protests, Putin and Medvedev have proposed some reforms to allow more political competition.

The meeting on February 20 was the first known direct high-level contact between the opposition and the Kremlin since the protests began in December.

Opposition leaders who took part in the meeting at the president's Gorky residence outside Moscow included veteran liberal and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, liberal politician Vladimir Ryzhkov, left-wing leader Sergei Udaltsov, and other Kremlin critics.

Political System 'Far From Ideal'

Medvedev said at the start of the meeting that he wanted to discuss the political system which admitted had some shortcomings.

"Our political system is far from ideal and most of the people present here criticize it, sometimes harshly," he said. "At the same time, it is desirable to base any [political] changes on ideas that are accepted broadly. I believe the time has come to do that."

Russian media reports say opposition leaders handed Medvedev a resolution calling for political change based on protesters' demands.

According to the Interfax news agency, the text says the president-proposed reform bills submitted to the State Duma lower house of parliament "do not guarantee a true democratization of political life, and are largely a propaganda-tinged imitation."

Ahead of the meeting, Nemtsov also said they intended to press Medvedev for the release of what the opposition calls "political prisoners" and demand constitutional changes barring presidents from serving three terms.

Putin who is expected to win the presidential election in March has not announced any plans to meet the protest leaders.

Putin Set For First-Round Win

A survey conducted by Russia's state-run pollster shows Putin will win the March 4 election in the first round with 58.6 percent of the vote.

Valery Fyodorov, director-general of Russia's Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), who announced the results of the survey at a press conference in Moscow on February 20, said the poll indicated that Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov would come second with 14.8 percent, followed by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with of 9.4 percent of the vote."

The VTsIOM forecast was based on a poll of 1,600 respondents.

Putin, who has served two terms as president, won 53 percent in the 2000 election, and 71 percent in 2004.

Earlier this month, Putin acknowledged that he may face a second round, but he warned such a step would undermine Russia's political stability.

Compiled from agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/medvedev_to_meet_with_opposition_protest_leaders/24489878.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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