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Putin Aide Says Vote Results Will Stand

Saying that "even if you add up all this so-called evidence, it accounts for just over 0.5 percent of the total number of votes," a spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has told Agence France Presse that the results of last week's parliamentary elections will stand despite public protests over evidence of fraud.

Though Putin's United Russia party lost dozens of seats in Russia's parliament, it's widely suspected that it held on to control thanks to "ballot-stuffing and other significant violations at the polls."

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov's statement about the results followed an order from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to investigate the allegations. And it follows demonstrations, as The Associated Press says, by "tens of thousands of Russians ... in Moscow and other cities on Saturday in the largest anti-government protest in the nation's post-Soviet history."

So it appears that Putin, who is viewed as being the real power broker in the Kremlin and who is looking to return to the presidency in next year's elections, is standing firm against any dissent.

On Morning Edition today, NPR's David Greene reported from Khabarovsk — seven time zones to the east of Moscow. He said there was a small "flash mob" in the city's square on Saturday. But even that gathering of just 100 or so students was a remarkable turn of events for a region and nation where such protests have been unheard of in recent years.

And what really struck him while he was there, David said, was a conversation he had with a woman who said she might join the protesters the next time they gather. She's never done such a thing before, but has grown weary of Putin and the corruption in government. "You hear complaints about Putin in Moscow," David said, but this was one of the first times he had heard such talk from someone so far away.'

Also: "Russian Billionaire Prokhorov To Challenge Putin In Presidential Election." (Bloomberg News)

"Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said he'll run for president against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in March elections after the biggest anti-government demonstrations in a decade emboldened Russia's opposition.

" 'This is the most important decision of my life,' the New Jersey Nets basketball team owner told reporters in Moscow."

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