Putin warns opposition against ‘sacrificial victims’

With presidential elections just days away, candidate Vladimir Putin has warned that the political opposition may be prepared to resort to extreme tactics.

­During a Q&A session with political analysts and campaign supporters, the prime minister revealed that members of the opposition may be planning provocations that include "sacrificing someone" in order to tarnish the reputation of the authorities.

"They are looking for the so-called sacrificial victim from among prominent persons,” Putin warned on Wednesday. “They may – I beg your pardon – waste someone and then blame the authorities. For these people, anything goes. This is no exaggeration.”

Without providing details, Putin said that such underhand tactics first appeared abroad.

“I know this method and these tactics very well,” he said. “Attempts to implement them have been proceeding for 10 years now, and first of all abroad.”

The Russian prime minister expressed his hope that the presidential election would “remain within the constitutional field,” while provocations aimed at law enforcement agencies will “fail to reach their goal."

Putin also warned the opposition against ballot stuffing as a means of  disrupting the presidential elections, scheduled for March 4th.

"We have reason to presume that our opponents are currently preparing for such actions. I will say it in public now, although there is going to be criticism and demands for proof. Well, in principle, we can produce them," he acknowledged.

"They are preparing to use some mechanisms that would confirm that the elections were falsified. They will stuff ballots themselves, monitor this themselves, and then present this themselves.”

The Russian premier also warned the opposition against holding unsanctioned protests following Sunday's presidential election.

“We will respect any viewpoint, but are calling on everyone to act within the framework of law and use only legitimate means,” he said.

Putin, admitting that it is normal and healthy to have a diversity of opinions in a democracy, said the political opposition should practice what it preaches when it comes to observing democratic principles.

"This is an absolutely normal process,” he said, in reference to protests. But it is important that “the people who are talking about the need to develop and strengthen democracy should stick to these rules themselves.”

The main rule is that the opinion of a minority should be respected, but the majority's choice must be obeyed, he stressed.

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate stressed that the influence of democratic institutions will continue to expand, together with citizens' involvement in the public administration.

"The willingness of civil society to evaluate the work of the administration and set new goals for it – and do so on a regular basis, not just from election to election – is growing stronger in Russia," Putin said.

Putin expressed confidence that the executive administration will become more transparent and "direct democracy and public institutions will begin working at full capacity."

Robert Bridge, RT