Putin Gives FSB Election Orders

Itar-TassPatrushev and Putin talking during the meeting of FSB leaders Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's domestic intelligence service on Wednesday to increase its vigilance against attempts by foreigners to interfere in the March presidential election.

Putin has portrayed domestic liberal opponents, who accuse him of reviving autocratic rule, as Western puppets, and he wants a smooth transition of power to his chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

"You must step up efforts to receive timely information about any attempts to interfere in our domestic affairs," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as telling a meeting of Federal Security Service leaders.

"This country is a sovereign state, and we will not allow anyone to manipulate the election campaign from abroad."

Putin's eight years in power have seen strong economic growth and the return of relative stability after a decade of post-Soviet turmoil. Putin, a former KGB spy, has often said Russia's economic and diplomatic resurgence has fuelled envy and opposition in the West.

Opinion polls indicate Medvedev will win an overwhelming victory on March 2. Opponents say they are allowed little or no access to the media and suffer from government interference.

"The task of all state structures is to make sure that [the polls] are democratic, that there is social and political stability," Putin said.

Putin has described the FSB as a "key national institution" and has sharply increased its budget.

On Wednesday he praised the FSB for what he said was its progress in fighting terrorism in Russia.

"In past years, the state was not capable of effectively opposing terrorism," Putin said, referring to political turmoil and economic crises in the 1990s.

"The number of terrorist acts was incredible and the terrorists' impudence was immense. Now, the number of terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world is on the rise, while their number in Russia drops annually by 70 percent."

Putin said the FSB's new task was to make sure corruption and criminality did not disrupt Russia's economic boom.

"You should stop corruption and abuse of power, use all your potential to uncover cunning schemes to steal budget funds," he told the FSB leaders