Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is ready for dialogue with the Russian protest movement to ensure that presidential polls are fair, his old ally and ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin said Tuesday.
Kudrin told the Vedomosti daily that he met Putin -- who has announced plans to swap jobs with President Dmitry Medvedev after the March 4 polls -- on the eve of Saturday's mass rally in Moscow.
"From my conversation with Putin, I understood that he was not afraid of the March 4 elections. He is ready to take all the measures necessary to make sure these elections are fair," Kudrin told the business daily.
Kudrin addressed the protestors at the rally to urge political reform, in a dramatic move for the man whose savvy economic policies for the last decade served as one of the pillars of Putin's domination of Russia.
He said he told Putin that "urgent dialogue was needed" with protesters made up of both apolitical middle class Russians and members of the more radical liberal and nationalist forces.
"This is what I told Vladimir Putin before coming to the rally. On the whole, I understood that this dialogue was possible," added Kudrin.
Some protestors whistled and jeered the respected economist as a member of the ruling class and he looked uncomfortable addressing the huge crowd.
But analysts said Kudrin's appearance was of great importance and he could become a mediator between the authorities and protestors.
"The proposals I made at the rally were made on my own personal initiative and addressed to both sides," Kudrin said. But he cautioned: "I do not have Putin's authority to conduct negotiations."