MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday warned the West against interfering in Russia's upcoming elections after he formally agreed to run for a historic third term as president.
Speaking ahead of key December 4 parliamentary polls, which will be followed by a presidential ballot in March, the Russian strongman said any Western attempts to stir discontent and influence the election resuts would be futile.
Putin told a glitzy congress of his ruling United Russia party that foreign capitals were paying NGOs in Russia "in order to eventually influence the course of the election campaign in our country."
"Useless work, wasted money," he said in a giant hall filled to bursting. "Firstly, Judas is not the most respected biblical figure among our people," he said, comparing any such behaviour to a betrayal.
In a clear message to debt-ridden Western powers he added: "And second, it would be better if they used this money to pay off their national debt and stop conducting an ineffective and costly foreign policy."
Putin delivered his stinging warning after formally agreeing to stand as the ruling party candidate in next year's presidential election which he is certain to win and that will fix Russia's future for years to come.
His party approved his nomination by a unanimous 614-0 vote in a pomp-filled ceremony that was beamed live across the nation on state television.
Accompanied by chants of "Russia! Russia!" and cries of "Bravo," his nomination was a formality after President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans in September to step aside and instead take the job of prime minister.
The congress comes just a week ahead of parliamentary polls which United Russia is certain to win but that could -- for the first time since it stormed parliament in 2003 -- see it lose seats on declining public support.
Saying he was grateful to accept the nomination, Putin stressed that only his team had the experience to take Russia into a better, more prosperous future.
"We do not promise today the pastures of heaven for tomorrow. It's impossible. It's idle talk," he said. "But we know for sure: if we work dynamically, success awaits our country."
Putin slammed Rusia's fractured opposition, saying its members discredited themselves when they were in power in previous years.
"In essence, they finished off industry, agriculture and the social sphere," he said. "They thrust the knife of civil war into Russia's very heart," he said, referring to the two wars the Kremlin fought against Chechen separatists.
Putin has dominated Russia for over a decade since taking over from its first post-Soviet president Boris Yeltsin in 2000. In 2008 he handed over the presidency to Medvedev after serving the maximum two consecutive terms.
"There is no more successful, experienced or popular politician in Russia than Vladimir Putin," Medvedev said in his speech.
"We have officially determined our political future not just for the short term but for the long term," he said. "There is no deception here."
The nomination came at a congress attended by more than 10,000 people at the Luzhniki sports arena, the same place where in September Medvedev announced he would be stepping aside.
In a carefully-choreographed performance delegates -- from a famous film director to a mother of 19 children -- took turns on Sunday to say why they wanted to see Putin as their next president.
"Russia needs a leader -- brave, strong, and smart," said film director Stanislav Govorukhin.
The 59-year-old Putin's expected return could keep him in power through 2024 and turn him into Russia's longest-serving leader -- as either premier or head of state -- since the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Two polls published ahead of the elections showed United Russia is expected to keep its current majority but win no more than 262 seats in the 450-member Duma.
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