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Putin Supporters Rally In Urals; Gorbachev Calls For Referendum

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Police say some 15,000 people attended a rally on January 28 in a city in the Russian Urals to show support for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bid for a new Kremlin term.

The rally in Yekaterinburg was reportedly organized by pro-government trade unions, after a wave of anti-Putin protests attended mostly by the Moscow middle class.

The Russian Trade Union Federation -- a body that groups around 25 million workers -- is planning pro-Putin meetings across Russia in the run-up to the March 4 presidential elections.

Meanwhile, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has called for the holding of a referendum to end what he described as an "autocracy" under Putin.

In proposals posted on the website of the opposition "Novaya Gazeta" newspaper that he partly owns, Gorbachev said that the protest wave against Putin showed people wanted change to the entire political system.

Compiled from agency reports