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Putin Addresses Massive Moscow Election Rally

Massive Pro-Putin Rally Held In Moscow
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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has addressed a massive rally at a stadium in central Moscow called to support his campaign for the presidency in the March 4 election.

In his speech on February 23, Putin pledged to prevent foreign interference in Russia's internal affairs. He also predicted his victory in the election, in what he described as a battle for Russia's future.

"We are a victorious nation," Putin said. "It is in our genes, in our genetic code, it passes from generation to generation. And we will be victorious now too."

Police have been quoted as saying upward of 100,000 people attended the rally, which gathered under the slogan "We Protect Russia," at Luzhniki Stadium.

Rally attendees waved the Russian tricolor flag and carried signs with messages such as "Putin's election -- fair election!", "Who else if not Putin?" and "We are with Putin!"

It was organized by Putin's All-Russian Popular Front, an umbrella group of individuals and organizations that backs Putin's return to the Kremlin.

A rally attendant, 18-year-old Svetlana, who only gave her first name, said she was planning to cast her first-ever vote for Putin, because he "handled himself well as president for his first two terms, and of course I want a bright future for Russia."

Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the rally at Luzhniki Stadium on February 23.
Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the rally at Luzhniki Stadium on February 23.
Putin -- who served two terms as president from 2000 to 2008 before moving on to the prime ministership in a controversial job switch with outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev -- is widely expected by analysts to easily win next month's election.

RFE/RL's Russian Service reported that a train brought some 700 people from the central city of Yekaterinburg to attend the Moscow rally. The group mainly consisted of factory workers, labor union leaders, and activists from Putin's United Russia party.

Buses were waiting in Moscow's Yaroslavl train station to take them to central Moscow to march along the Moscow River bank toward Luzhniki.

"Some of them tried to leave the rally and hide in a nearby subway station, but police didn't let them, and they had to continue marching," RFE/RL correspondent Yuri Timofeyev said.

Free pancakes and tea were reportedly being offered to participants along the way.

See the full, multimedia coverage by RFE/RL's Russian Service here

Meanwhile, police in Moscow are reported to have detained some 70 Uzbek migrant laborers over allegations that they were allegedly seeking to sabotage the rally in Moscow.

Police say that the migrants were offering 600 rubles (about $20) to fellow Uzbek laborers to attend the pro-Putin rally at Luzhniki Stadium.

One of the detained migrants was allegedly carrying a placard reading: "We were brought here by shipping invoice" -- suggesting that their presence at the rally was not a voluntary expression of support for Putin.

A recent opinion poll by a state-run organization predicted that Putin could get more than 58 percent of the upcoming vote -- well ahead of his nearest rival, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov.

Putin has recently faced a series of large public protests against his continued leadership of Russia in the wake of the December 4 parliamentary polls, which were marred by fraud allegations.

With AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax reporting