Europe

Putin warns of foreign meddling in politics in Russia

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Media captionScenes from President Putin's state-of-the-nation speech - with analysis from the BBC's Steve Rosenberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested some opposition politicians are in the pay of foreign interests, saying it is unacceptable.

In an annual state-of-the-nation address in Moscow strong on patriotic themes, he talked of the need to preserve Russian national identity.

He urged more births, saying a family with three children should be the norm.

On the economy, Mr Putin said he wanted to "de-offshore" Russian business and curb fraud in public spending.

Appealing to patriotic feeling, Mr Putin pointed out that Russia had no worthy monument to its dead of World War I, an event largely eclipsed by the October Revolution of 1917.

It is his first such speech since being re-elected in March for a third term following a winter of political protests over ballot-rigging and state corruption.

His return to office has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent with the arrest of opposition activists and introduction of restrictive legislation.

Opposition leaders are locked in a dispute with the city authorities in Moscow over plans for a protest march on Saturday.

'Civilised dialogue'

Mr Putin gave no names when he made his accusation of foreign interference.

"Any external interference in our affairs is unacceptable," he said.

"A politician who receives money from beyond the borders of the Russian Federation cannot be a politician on its territory," he said to applause.

In July, Mr Putin signed a bill forcing foreign-funded non-governmental groups (NGOs) involved in political activity to register as "foreign agents" in Russia.

Critics condemned the move as a bid to gag NGOs which exposed vote-rigging and other abuses.

The Russian president said political diversity was a "definite boon for the country".

However, a "civilised dialogue" was only possible with "those political forces which table their proposals and defend them within the law".

"We need to draw up a set of rules, as it were, for well-intentioned political competition," he said.

'De-offshore'

Russians, Mr Putin said, should remember they had "1,000 years of history". This should give them "inner strength".

Russia must remain a sovereign and influential country and retain its national identity, he told parliament.

He quoted the late writer and former Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn: "To be a patriot is first and foremost to serve in one's own country."

On the economy, Mr Putin said: "Our entrepreneurs have often been accused of lacking patriotism."

He criticised companies carrying out their business in offshore jurisdictions.

"According to available data, nine out of 10 transactions by them are not regulated by our laws."

State procurement must become more transparent and auditing of budgetary spending must be tightened, he said.

He said that programmes to address Russia's long-term population decline were now working and in the past five months, the population had begun to grow naturally, with births exceeding deaths.

Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger who spearheaded protests a year ago, poured scorn on the claim.

"It makes me mad when he lies about 'succeeding in stabilising demography'," Mr Navalny wrote on his Twitter account.

"These are just the children of the Soviet baby boom giving birth. With no help from any Putin."

Mr Navalny and others have pledged to go ahead with their march on Saturday despite failure to agree a route with the authorities.

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