President's TV Address to Be Aired Thursday

President Vladimir Putin is to address the country Thursday on national television in a campaign spot for United Russia, whose ticket he is heading in Sunday's State Duma elections, a senior party official said Wednesday.

In the short speech, to be aired on Channel One television and NTV at 12:00 p.m. Thursday, Putin will focus primarily on why he opted to support United Russia in the race, the official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

Putin is not formally a member of United Russia, but he has argued that a landslide victory for the party is crucial to ensure a continuation of his policies after his second term ends in May. He is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term in office.

The United Russia official said there was no truth to speculation that Putin would use the speech to announce that he is joining the party or resigning from his post.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that the speech was recorded Thursday at the Ostankino television complex -- not the Kremlin -- because Putin is speaking as a Duma candidate, and not as the president.

United Russia will pay for the first broadcast out of its campaign coffers, the party official said Wednesday. But after that, it will be replayed on all major national channels as a news item, he said.

United Russia had campaign funds totaling 200 million rubles ($8.2 million) as of Oct. 17, according to Central Elections Commission figures. Only the nationalist but Kremlin-loyal Liberal Democratic Party had comparably deep pockets.

It was unclear exactly how much the party would have to spend to have Putin's midday speech broadcast. Channel One officials authorized to speak on the matter could not be reached Wednesday.

But one minute of prime-time advertising on Channel One costs slightly more than 2.5 million rubles ($103,000), said Dmitry Gudkov, a spokesman for A Just Russia, another pro-Kremlin party appearing on Sunday's ballot.

Opposition parties have accused Putin of violating election laws by using the advantages of his office and unparalleled media access to campaign for United Russia.

Channel One television's evening news last week featured a 16-minute report on Putin's aggressive speech to 5,000 supporters in which he described his political opponents as greedy "jackals" taking orders from foreign patrons.

Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov told a subsequent news conference that the speech did not violate election laws, which require equal media coverage for all parties.