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With New Platform, Putin Presents Himself As A Reformer

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks during a Government Presidium meeting in Moscow on Jan. 12.
Yana Lapikova
AFP/Getty Images
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks during a Government Presidium meeting in Moscow on Jan. 12.

Russia's Vladimir Putin took to the Internet to present the platform he would persue should he be elected president on March 4.

It was a bold platform, considering that it would walk back policies he helped institute. As The Telegraph puts it, it was Putin remaking himself into a "liberal reformer."

"We need to rethink the whole system of public security and need to stop the extremely repressive tendency (of the security forces)," he wrote, according to The Telegraph. "This situation is deforming our society and making it morally unhealthy."

As you know, Putin was referencing the mass protests that have erupted across Russia. And it became apparent very quickly that his words held no sway among his detractors.

The AP reports that shortly after the launch of the website, several visitors to the site were demanding the prime minister's ouster:

"'I strongly urge you to remove your candidacy from the presidential election,' wrote a user who identified himself as Arkady Vishnev. 'This step will be the most useful thing you can do for the country.'

The respected online daily said that other users quickly voted the comments the most popular on the website, and several bloggers posted screenshots of the website with the comments and their ratings.

But within hours, the comments were removed from the website, said. The removal prompted an instant squall of comments online, and bloggers called on their readers to flood the website with more captious criticism and monitor their removal and ratings.

The AP adds that Putin's spokesperson said the government did not remove any ofthe comments and said the site had frozen because of its popularity.

The New York Times says the episode became an "object lesson in the hazards that await him over the next seven weeks." The Times says it underscores the issues facing Putin: He could reform and make peace with his detractors and in doing so look weak, or he could ignore his detractors and "risk further undermining the government's legitimacy."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.