The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Putin backs a party for first time

Moscow, Sept. 20 (Reuters): President Vladimir Putin threw his weight for the first time today behind Russia’s main pro-Kremlin political party ahead of parliamentary elections.

Putin, all but certain to seek re-election himself next year, was addressing senior officials and celebrities of the United Russia party in a Moscow building used in communist times for Stalinist show trials and funerals of Soviet leaders.

Putin said he had voted for the party in the last elections, held in 1999 when he was prime minister, and deftly handled a call from a delegate that he had been right to do so.

“I also believe I did the right thing,” he told the packed hall. “United Russia is truly becoming an instrument for bringing our society together.

“Thanks to our joint efforts, we have managed to create both political and economic stability. For the first time in many years, we no longer have hanging over our head the constant threat of new economic crises and cataclysms.”

The popular president has generally stood back from party politics and avoided backing any group. But today he said United Russia “is undoubtedly the leader” of Russian politics.

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