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Putin Calls for Unity in Last Speech to Parliament as PM


Russia's Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin answers a question of a deputy after addressing the parliament at the Russian State Duma in Moscow, April 11, 2012.

Russia's Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin answers a question of a deputy after addressing the parliament at the Russian State Duma in Moscow, April 11, 2012.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is calling on Russians to move beyond the political rancor that sent thousands into the streets to protest after elections that divided the nation.

He made the remark during his annual speech to the Duma, or lower house of parliament, Wednesday -- his last as prime minister. Putin is set to be sworn in for a third term as president on May 7.

In essence, he defended his recent election, saying the time has come to move beyond the heightened emotions and political battles that erupted after the vote. Putin said it was now the responsibility of all political parties to join forces to improve the lives of the Russian people.

"The country has gone through a tense period of parliamentary and presidential elections. And today the echoes of the heightened emotions and political battles can still be heard," Putin said. "But the logic of mature democracy is that elections end and a new, much more important period of joint work always begins. We should all together look into the future, realizing that we have a joint responsibility for our country."

Deputies from the Just Russia faction walked out during the speech in protest of his remarks on a disputed mayoral election in the country's south.

"We left the plenary hall because we asked a specific question, but in response we heard an evasive answer," said Just Russia Deputy, Ilya Ponomarev. "We heard another lie. We think this is dishonorable behavior from a man who calls himself the national leader, from the President-elect, from the current Prime Minister."

Before the speech, police in Moscow arrested several protesters as they approached the Duma, including Russian opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov. Udaltsov was one of the leaders of the massive protests that followed the country's presidential elections in March.

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