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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 13:59 GMT
Putin attacks 'jackal' opponents
Putin addresses supporters
Many in the crowd were young supporters of the president

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused opposition politicians of scavenging like jackals for funds from foreign embassies.

He also accused the West of meddling in Russian politics, saying: "Those who confront us need a weak and ill state."

Mr Putin was addressing a crowd that carried banners praising him and urging him to continue leading Russia.

Though he quits the presidency next year, Mr Putin has indicated he will stay in politics - possibly as PM.

He has said he will head the list for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in December's parliamentary polls, though he is not a party member and will not be obliged to take a seat in parliament.

His party has widespread support and is expected to win a huge majority.

Opposition and human rights groups have, however, accused Mr Putin of resurrecting Soviet-era practices to build an authoritarian, one-party state.

'Dirty tricks'

Thousands of Mr Putin's supporters packed a sports stadium on Wednesday to hear him speak.

Audience at Putin rally
The crowd heard songs celebrating the Soviet past

Their banners praised the president and demanded Russia continue following his policies, while the venue's loudspeakers played patriotic songs from the Soviet era.

Mr Putin attacked Russia's opposition politicians, saying they were effectively the agents of foreign governments.

"Unfortunately there are still those people in our country who act like jackals at foreign embassies... who count on the support of foreign funds and governments but not the support of their own people," he said.

In an apparent reference to popular pro-Western movements in Ukraine and Georgia, he added: "They want to go out into the streets, they've learnt from Western specialists. They've trained in neighbouring republics."

Mr Putin said the opposition wanted to create a "disoriented, divided" Russia that would be vulnerable to "dirty tricks".

'Total renewal'

Mr Putin told the crowd they could look forward to the changes forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections would bring.

It's painful to imagine life without Putin - we fear that without him it will be chaos
Kristina Rastvorova
Putin supporter

"In the months to come we will have a total renewal of the top leadership of the state," he said.

He also criticised those who had governed Russia during the 1990s, and who he said were now seeking to return to power to "restore an oligarchic regime, based on corruption and lies".

Their names could be found among candidates and sponsors of some parties and "they will again cheat everyone" if they come to power, he said.

An audience member interviewed by the AFP news agency said: "It's painful to imagine life without Putin."

"We fear that without him it will be chaos," Kristina Rastvorova, a member of a pro-Putin youth movement said.

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