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Putin: 'US seeks vassals, not allies'

Mikhail Mordasov / AFP - Getty Images

Builders at a Sochi 2014 Olympics venue eat next to a TV screen showing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's phone-in session on Thursday. The carefully stage-managed annual phone-in is designed to boost Putin's image and show he remains in control of Russia.

Updated at 9:35 a.m. ET: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has confirmed he intends to appoint Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister if, as expected, he is elected president in March. Medvedev is currently the president.

Updated at 7:45 a.m. ET:  Vladimir Putin stepped up his criticism of the United States, saying it wants to dominate other countries and that the world is tired of taking orders from Washington.

"Sometimes it seems to me that America does not need allies, it needs vassals," the Russian prime minister said during a televised call-in show.

He said that Russia would like to be an ally of the United States but that "people are tired of the dictates of one country."

He also commented on the announcement earlier this week that billionaire New Jersey Nets basketball team owner Mikhail Prokhorov would be standing against him in next year's presidential elections.

"I think it's right for our country," Putin said of Prokhorov's decision. "I wish him success."

Putin's televised encounter with his citizens was described in a Moscow Times live blog.

Story published 6:20 a.m. ET:

MOSCOW - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for cameras to be installed in all polling stations across the country, while at the same time deflecting allegations that fraud helped his ruling party win recent parliamentary elections.

In his annual televised call-in question-and-answer session, he said the recent elections reflected the views of the population and  shrugged off the biggest opposition protests of his 12-year rule, saying they were permissible if they remained peaceful and within the law.

Putin's first public remarks since Saturday's mass protests signaled he would not bow to the protesters' demands for the December 4 election to be rerun. But he made a gesture to them by calling for cameras to be installed at polling stations for the presidential election which he hopes to win on March 4.

"I am proposing and asking for the installation of web cameras at all the polling stations in the country," he said.

"From my point of view, the result of the (December 4) election undoubtedly reflects public opinion in the country," said Putin, taking questions from a studio audience in a call-in broadcast live to the nation.

Putin, 59, has used the annual call-in to burnish his image as a strong, effective and caring leader with a detailed knowledge of the country and an interest in each of its citizens.  He has already served two terms as president and was forced under the Russian law to step down after his second term but is now entitled to run again.

But he is under much more pressure this year following protests by tens of thousands of people over the election, which international monitors said was slanted to favor his United Russia.

United Russia won just under half the votes, enough to have a slim majority in the State Duma, the lower house, but fell far short of the strong majority in the previous chamber.

The opposition says its result would have been much worse if there had not been widespread ballot-stuffing and other irregularities.

Putin's authority has been dented by the protests and his popularity sank after he announced plans in September to swap jobs with his ally President Dmitry Medvedev after the presidential poll.

Many Russians saw this announcement as a signal that everything had been cooked up between the two leaders with no respect for democracy, and Putin's ratings have fallen since then.

Putin is still expected to win the presidential election next year but he now faces much more resistance than expected and the call-in was an opportunity to reestablish his legitimacy.

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Msnbc.com staff and Reuters contributed to this report.