Russian officials "helped stage" pro-Putin rallies
Russian officials have helped organise a wave of rallies calling for Vladimir Putin to stay on as president after his second term ends next year, according to two documents obtained by Reuters on Monday.
Putin, 55, has vowed to step down in accordance with the constitution but signalled he will keep a grip on power, maybe by winning a seat in parliament and becoming prime minister.
But a movement calling for him to stay on as president has been gaining strength with politicians, officials and even one Oscar-winning film director calling on Putin not to go.
Tens of thousands of Russians, many holding photographs of Putin and waving banners saying "Putin is our president", held rallies in regional cities calling for him to stay in power.
Putin, by far Russia's most popular politician, has been careful to spin ambiguity around his plans for 2008, in what some see as an astute move to prevent himself becoming a lame duck before the end of his presidential term.
Attendance at the recent meetings, presented on state television as bursts of support for the Kremlin chief, was partly organised by officials in at least two cities, according to copies of documents obtained by Reuters.
"On October 27 at 1200 local time there will be a meeting in support of President V.V. Putin," said a telegram from local railway bosses to workers in the Siberian city Novosibirsk.
"Organise participation in the meeting by workers and pensioners and members of their families in the following numbers," the telegram reads. ( Reuters )