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Ahead Of Elections, Putin Praises His Party For 'Uniting' Russia

President Vladimir Putin has praised the "vital" role of United Russia in consolidating society over the last 15 years, trying to whip up support for his party ahead of September 18 elections with the country in its longest recession in decades.

The Russian president on June 27 used his first attendance at a United Russia congress since 2012 to warn against opposition politicians who would "destabilize" the country and "divide society."

Putin said his party had served as an "assembly point," consolidating a once bitterly divided country.

Putin hailed United Russia's first-ever primaries this year -- a process marred by allegations of vote rigging -- as showing the "principles of direct democracy."

He said it was "important not to lose" the party's clout at State Duma elections in September. Polls in May said United Russia's popularity had dipped to 37 percent.