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December 16, 2011

Obama, Medvedev Discuss Russian Elections

President Barack Obama has raised questions about Russia's disputed parliamentary elections in a phone call with President Dmitry Medvedev.

The White House said in a statement Friday that President Obama noted reports of flaws in the way the elections were conducted, but welcomed Medvedev's commitment to investigate the allegations.

Obama also praised the response of Russian authorities to allow demonstrations against the elections to take place.

Russian police reported 20,000 people took to the streets of Moscow last Saturday, and thousands more rallied in other cities across Russia, protesting alleged fraud in parliamentary elections won by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party. Putin is running in the presidential election in March.

President Obama said the protests are an expression of civil society that is consistent with Medvedev's goal of modernizing Russia.

Another election protest took place Saturday in central Moscow, where hundreds of demonstrators gathered. The turnout was much smaller than the nationwide protests last Saturday, the largest protest demonstration in post-Soviet Russia.

The latest rally was organized by the liberal Yabloko party that failed to make it into the parliament.  Grigory Yavlinsky, the party's founder, told the crowd the goal is to change the political system in Russia.

Organizers are planning a demonstration on December 24, which is expected to attract a larger crowd.

Also Saturday, the United Russia party nominated Sergei Naryshkin to become speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.  Naryshkin worked in the 1980s in the economic attache's department of the Soviet embassy in Belgium.

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