'Quit now!' Putin under fire on campaign website
Vladimir Putin's attempt to show a new fondness for the Internet appeared to backfire Thursday when the most popular comments on his website for Russian elections called on him to quit politics.
Complete with flattering pictures of 59-year-old Putin wearing an ice hockey helmet and a judo uniform and whizzing down a slope in a ski suit, the website features Putin's presidential election manifesto and biography.
But it also includes a section for visitors to make comments that are then rated for popularity, in a new development for the Russian strongman who until now had shown a suspicion for the Internet.
"Leave politics, please. We understand that power is a drug but that would be a dignified act," said a man identified as Andrei Antonenko in a post titled "a kind request."
Another post by Arkady Vishnev called on Putin to quit the presidential race: "At the present moment this step on your part would be the most useful thing you could still do for the country.
A blogger named Svetlana Sorokina said: "I suggest you don't allow the situation to become a revolutionary one and quit the post of prime minister and also withdraw your candidacy from the presidential race."
These comments were among the five most popular postings on the website hours after it was formally unveiled on Thursday.
Not every comment was negative. Among the top five was also a posting by Ekaterina Zvereva who said: "I wish you success in the elections! You are the very best person in the world!"
Putin once famously dismissed the Internet as "50 percent porn" but recently appeared to tone down his criticism, saying that he was simply too busy to spend much time online.
The March 4 presidential elections come after fraud-tainted December parliamentary polls that brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last month in the most serious popular challenge to Putin's 12-year rule.
Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev's attempts to respond to the protests on his own Facebook page backfired last month when it became flooded with irate comments, further evidence of growing public impatience with the ruling duo.
© 2012 AFP