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Putin urges maximum transparency in polls


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on Wednesday for transparency in the March poll where he is bidding for a third presidential term, as the opposition warns of the risk of vote-rigging.

"I am ready for the greatest possible transparency," Putin said at a meeting with the editors of leading Russian newspapers and the heads of national television channels, quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.

"It's only possible to work at this level when you have the real trust and support of the citizens. Then you can carry out what you planned," he said.

"It's important for me myself to know my real support. I want our elections to be as transparent and fair as possible."

Russians took to the streets in mass protests after Putin's ruling United Russia party won parliamentary elections in December, with the opposition claiming massive vote-rigging.

Putin, who served as president in 2000-2008 before being named premier by his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev, registered to stand in the March 4 poll that will be watched intently for the types of abuses claimed in December.

Putin also said he was ready to meet opposition members from outside the main political parties, hours after a group of Russian celebrities announced a new movement to monitor elections and publicise fraud.

"We are ready to debate with everyone, including with the opposition outside the system," Putin said, although he has refused to take part in televised debates with the other candidates.