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Putin Calls For Unity In Final Address To Parliament

  • RFE/RL

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin makes his last address to parliament as prime minister.

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin makes his last address to parliament as prime minister.

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin has called on all political forces to work together for the country's good after what he called the "political battles" following parliamentary and presidential elections.

In his last annual address to parliament as prime minister on April 11, Putin urged deputies from the four parties represented in the State Duma to work together.

"We have one Russia, and its modern, advanced development must be the goal that unites all the country's political forces that want to work constructively," he said.

Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008, will be inaugurated for a new, six-year term on May 7 after winning an election with 64 percent of the vote.

He is expected to appoint outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev as the prime minster.

In his address, Putin hailed the achievements of his four years in government, saying Russia had survived a period of tense political campaigning, resumed precrisis economic growth, and beaten its demographic crisis.

"The country has gone through a tense period of parliamentary and presidential elections and, of course, today we can still hear the echoes of heightened emotions and political battles," he said. "But the logic of mature democracy is that elections finish and then a new, much more important period of joint work begins."

'Growing Economic Clout'

Allegations of election fraud in the December parliamentary elections and frustration at Putin's political domination sparked an unprecedented wave of mass street protests.

Putin told State Duma deputies that Russia should put this period behind it and boasted of Russia's economic recovery.

He said the 2008-09 economic crisis was so serious it could have endangered Russia's sovereignty and geopolitical integrity, but that last year’s gross domestic product of over 41 trillion rubles ($1.4 trillion) showed Russia has fully recovered from the global recession.

"Every key indicator, without exception, of Russia's development shows a positive dynamic," he said. "[This comes] at a time when in some European countries and other regions of the world the crisis has taken on a chronic form and turned into a prolonged recession with stagnant unemployment."

WATCH: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin makes his last address to parliament

He said that Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization was also a sign of the country's growing economic clout and that it would become a “powerful impulse for innovatively developing the economy” as Russia continues its quest to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

Putin said the government’s "greatest achievement" of 2011 was nudging Russia’s population over the 143 million mark and stabilizing the population after a protracted demographic crisis.

Putin also said that the number of mothers having second and third children has increased by 45 percent and that 7 million children were born between 2008 and 2011.

Parliamentary Walkout

The prime minister warned that Russia must improve its business climate and narrow the gaping gulf between the country's rich and poor.

Parliamentary deputies from the A Just Russia party reportedly refused to stand up when Putin entered the State Duma hall.

In a highly unusual move, they later walked out of the chamber in protest at Putin's response to a question about a disputed mayoral election in Astrakhan

"We walked out of the chamber because we asked a specific question but received an evasive answer. We heard yet another lie," State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov of A Just Russia told Reuters.

"We think this is unbecoming of a man who calls himself national leader, who has been elected president, and who is currently prime minister."

A few hours before Putin's speech, police detained several opposition activists outside the State Duma where they attempted to stage an unsanctioned rally.

Protester Inna Bachina told Reuters she had come "to express my protest against Putin's unlawful actions."

Effectively he is turning Russia into a prison, because you can't say anything or voice your opinion," she said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax

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