Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has said that he is the only one who can guide Russia away from the twin dangers of stagnation and instability.
In an essay that was posted on his web site Monday and published simultaneously in the newspaper Izvestia, Putin warned against the periodic Russian penchant embracing rapid change and noted that the revolutionaries of the past, once in power, have tended to be just as bad or worse than those they replaced.
According to the Washington Post, the message is a variation on an old and cynical Russian idea: that it's better to stick with the crooked leaders who have already gotten their take than to open the door to a new crop of bribe-takers.
Putin said nothing about electoral fraud, the issue that has spurred the street protests on the heels of the December 4 parliamentary elections.
Russians will elect a president on March 4, and the conduct of that vote is sure to be under intense scrutiny, in part because of popular anger at Putin's decision to seek a third term as president, after stepping aside for four years as required under the constitution.
Critics were quick to suggest that voters might no longer have much faith in Putin's sincerity, because of the nature of the government he leads, as prime minister under outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.
"There is no use trying to 'correct' anything in a state that exists in order to promote its own interests and not those of its population and society," Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute of Globalization Problems, told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.
He added: "Total corruption, lies and violence are diagnoses incompatible with decent life."
A leader of the Communist Party faction in the State Duma, Ivan Melnikov told the Interfax news agency that Putin's essay would be fine, except that it ignores "the absence of people's trust in any new promises made by the government against a background of lost hopes."
Putin traced Russian stability and growth to his victory over Chechen separatists a decade ago. He implied that all good things have flowed from that reassertion of Russian national power.
He addressed neither the corruption that has mushroomed in recent years nor the capital flight that has accelerated (it reached 84 billion dollars in 2011).
Toward the end of his essay, Putin takes a few shots at the United States, without naming it.
He criticized countries that try to "export democracy" and says that the results are often unintended, and negative, consequences.
He argued that Russia must play an active role in shaping the world, rather than passively watch as other countries take the lead. (ANI)