Feb. 4 - Russia's Putin says he is surprised with tens of thousands rallying in Moscow to support him. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
One month ahead of presidential elections in Russia, scores of people show up in Moscow to show support for Vladimir Putin, on a day when thousands have turned out against the Russian government. Putin himself says he is surprised by the turnout and will help pay for any fine for exceeding a rally permit. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "So many people came, I don't think anyone expected it. Honestly, I didn't expect it either. According to official information, there were about 134,000 and according to Moscow authorities' data 190,000. Certainly when the authorities organize something there's always talk about the administrative resources. I don't rule out that there were some elements of these resources here as well, but it's not possible to gather 134,000 or 190,000 just on administrative resources alone. It's not possible. It's quite obvious that the people came to express their position and this is connected to their support of what we are doing." A very different scene in St. Petersburg. Despite temperatures below freezing thousands take to the streets calling for fair elections and a new president. The Russian Interior Ministry estimated the marchers at around 3,000 people, while organizers put the numbers at 30,000. The St. Petersburg protest coincided with other rallies around the country with tens of thousands of Russians demanding fair elections in a march against Putin's 12-year rule. Putin was President from 2000 until 2008, when he ushered Dmitry Medvedev into the Kremlin because of a constitutional ban on three successive terms as head of state. He is running for President in the March election. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters