Protesters hold a portrait of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as they gather to protest against alleged vote rigging in Russia's parliamentary elections on Sakharov avenue in Moscow, Russia.(Photo: AP)
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Saturday said there was nothing unusual in Russia's political turbulence that saw mass protests against his rule ahead of his planned return to the presidency.
Tens of thousands took to the streets on December 10 and December 24 to denounce the alleged rigging of parliamentary elections and Putin's domination of Russia ahead of his candidacy in March presidential polls.
"Of course, we are in the middle of a political cycle -- the parliamentary elections have finished and the presidential elections are going to start," Putin said in a televised message to Russians ahead of the New Year.
"In such times, politicians always exploit the feelings of citizens, everything gets shaken around a bit, boils up. But this is the unavoidable price of democracy," Putin said.
"There is nothing unusual here," he added.
Putin has in the last days mocked the nascent protest movement against his rule, saying they appeared to have no programme and no leader.
But in a bid to show a more moderate face for the New Year, he sent his greetings to all Russians, whatever their political sympathies.
"I want to wish wellbeing and prosperity to all Russians and their families -- regardless of their political leanings and including those on the left, the right, above, or below, wherever in fact," said Putin.
The protest movement has not said when it will call the next mass demonstration ahead of the March 4 presidential election, where Putin hopes to win a third term as president after his four-year stint as prime minister.
Supporters of the ultra-left wing opposition are expected to attend a rally in central Moscow called by radical author Eduard Limonov later Saturday although such protests have only drawn a few dozen in the past.