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Spokesman Says Putin Will Win March Vote In First Round

A pro-Putin rally in Moscow on February 4
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's spokesman says the large turnout at a pro-Putin rally in Moscow on February 4 shows Putin will win an outright victory in the first round of the upcoming presidential election.

Putin, who held the presidency between 2000 and 2008, is seeking a third term in the March 4 vote.

Authorities say some 190,000 people rallied in Moscow to voice support for Putin -- compared to the 120,000 the opposition says defied freezing temperatures to demand Putin quit power.

RFE/RL correspondents on the scene said the pro-Putin crowd was, in fact, no larger than 15,000.

There have been reports that state employees were offered cash incentives or were ordered to join the pro-Putin rally.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in comments posted on Putin's campaign website, dismissed those reports and said that the outpouring of support at the February 4 rally and recent opinion polls "convincingly" point to a Putin win in the first round.

Compiled from agency reports