Russian president pledges vote probe

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Russia’s president has promised an investigation into alleged vote fraud during the country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday as Vladimir Putin accused the US of encouraging protests and warned of a wider crackdown on unrest.

President Dmitry Medvedev, said the law may have been violated during Sunday’s controversial vote but he tried to play down protesters’ complaints and said it was time to allow investigators to carry out their inquiry.

“What’s happening in Russia is quite natural. Some people are disappointed, some disoriented,” he said.

He called for Russians to remain calm during any inquiry, adding that “experts, not ordinary people” would investigate.

“Our electoral law is not ideal,” he admitted.

“It’s time to give the new parliament a chance to work and, of course, to investigate everything that happened.”

Mr Medvedev said he could understand some people are disappointed with the result, but “the outcome fully corresponds with estimates from analysts and public polls ... (and) fully reflects the mood in our society”.

He said people have a right to express their view and ask questions, but “it’s a key condition” that they do it in line with the law.

But as demonstrations continued in Moscow, where some 2,000 protesters were heavily outnumbered by police and troops backed by water cannon yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of encouraging election protesters by describing Russia’s parliamentary election as rigged.

“They heard this signal and with the support of the US State Department began their active work,” Mr Putin said on TV.

Russian protesters have taken to the streets for three straight nights despite heavy police presence, outraged over reports of widespread ballot box stuffing and manipulations of the vote count .

Mr Putin warned that Russian authorities might take an even harder line, ominously claiming the rioters were acting as agents of foreign governments.