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Angry Facebook backlash after Medvedev announces Russia election inquiry

Story update 11.30am ET/8.30am PT: The rallies staged in Russia over the weekend were a good sign for democracy, the White House said on Monday. "The demonstrations that occurred in Moscow and in many other Russian cities last Saturday represent a very positive sign to all those who support the democratic process," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "Russian government authorities allowed the demonstrations to take place, and refrained from interfering in them," he said.

MOSCOW - President Dmitry Medvedev was publicly denounced and insulted on his own Facebook page on Monday by thousands angry over alleged fraud in Russia's parliamentary election.

The Russian President ordered an investigation into claims the December 4 election, won by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, was slanted in its favor. 

Dmitry Medvedev's offical Facebook page.

He announced the inquiry on Facebook (link in Russian) – the same site used by organizers of mass rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Saturday – that called for the elections to be annulled and rerun. The protests were Russia's biggest opposition rallies since Putin rose to power in 1999.


Within hours, Medvedev received one insult after another on the social media website from people who made clear his response to the demonstrations was insufficient.

NBC correspondent Stephanie Gosk said the majority of the 12,000 comments were negative – a remarkable act of open defiance in a country where political activists are jailed and hostility to the government would have been unusual only a few weeks ago.

One posted called Medvedev "a liar", while another told him: "Time to go".

Medvedev said: "I do not agree with any slogans or statements made at the rallies. Nevertheless, instructions have been given by me to check all information from polling stations regarding compliance with the legislation on elections," Medvedev said in his Facebook post.

"We don't believe you," replied Natalia Akhi.

Irina Arapova asked: "And who's going to do the checking? The executive authorities (United Russia)?"

The next big day of protests is planned on December 24 when Alexei Navalny, one of the protest leaders, will have served a 15-day jail term received for his role in a protest last week.

In yet another sign that the Russian leadership is under pressure, the governor of the Vologda region, Vyacheslav Pozgalev, resigned on Monday saying it was impossible to govern with the new level of public distrust.

Russian news agency RIA said Pozgalev – a Kremlin appointee and United Russia party member – wrote on his Twitter account: "I have filed a resignation petition to the president. I consider it impossible to run the region with such a level of distrust."

A pro-Putin demonstration is due to be held in Moscow later on Monday, while the next major opposition rally is already planned for December 24.

Anger over the election – which international monitors and the United States found fault with – unleashed years of pent-up frustration with Putin and his tight political controls. Frustration had mounted since September, when he announced plans to reclaim the presidency next year, opening up the possibility of him ruling until 2024.

State television and other channels broadcast footage of Saturday's big protest in Moscow, attended by tens of thousands, breaking a policy of showing almost no negative coverage of the authorities. However, the reports included no criticism of Putin.

Medvedev is a keen user of social media, according to the BBC. In addition to Facebook, he has Twitter accounts with 759,000 followers in Russian and 144,000 in English.

NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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