Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Russia is an “open country” that will never become a dictatorship.
Putin made the comment on January 25 to students at Tomsk Polytechnic University in Siberia, as he pushed his campaign to win a third term as president in a national election due to be held in March.
Putin, who served two consecutive presidential terms between 2000 and 2008, has recently faced a surge of public protests against his continued rule following parliamentary elections in December, which opposition activists and independent observers say were marred by widespread fraud.
Putin has also been criticized over the announcement that current Russian president Dmitry Medvedev will not seek a second term but will step aside to allow a possible Putin return to the Kremlin.
compiled from agency reports