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Putin Ally Elected Speaker of Russia's Duma


Deputies of the United Russia party congratulate Sergei Naryshkin (R), newly elected speaker of Russia's State Duma, during the first session of the lower house of parliament in Moscow, December 21, 2011.

Deputies of the United Russia party congratulate Sergei Naryshkin (R), newly elected speaker of Russia's State Duma, during the first session of the lower house of parliament in Moscow, December 21, 2011.

Russia's lower house of parliament has elected an ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as its speaker, despite opposition claims the body was elected in a fraudulent poll.

The State Duma voted in former Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin during its first session on Wednesday.

Naryshkin pledged the Duma will be open to parliamentary debate.

He is a member of Putin's ruling United Russia party, which won 238 of the 450 seats in parliament.

Allegations of fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections sparked opposition-led mass protests. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow and elsewhere demanding a rerun of the elections, in the largest demonstrations in post-Soviet Russia.

Meanwhile, prominent anti-Kremlin blogger Alexei Navalney was freed from a Moscow jail after being arrested for leading the first wave of protests following the parliamentary polls.

The next major demonstration is planned for Saturday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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