Putin representative visits for joint talks here

A vice minister of foreign relations of the Russian Federation is expected to be visiting the country today.

The diplomat, Sergei Ryabkov, was scheduled to arrive Monday night. The announcement by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto was typically vague, but Costa Rican officials are expected to make a pitch for Russian investment in the country.

The visit comes when the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is generating protests. Putin, who is seeking a historic third term as president, has acknowledged that Russians want more say in government and the need to renew the country’s political system.

In an article published Monday in the Kommersant daily newspaper, Putin admitted that the government has fallen behind the people’s demands for a stronger voice in it.

He said Russia’s civil society has become “incomparably more mature, active and responsible” and that the government must catch up to growing public activity. But he cautioned against looking to any external model, and insisted the country needs a strong federal center.

Monday’s article follows a mass rally on Saturday where tens of thousands of people took to the streets behind banners reading “Russia Without Putin.” Others turned out in support of the government. Polls show that Putin is likely to win the March 4 presidential election.

Russians have staged mass protests since December’s parliamentary elections, claiming fraud in favor of Putin’s United Russia party. They also accuse President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin of hijacking the March presidential vote after Medvedev agreed not to run and allowed Putin to return to the presidency.

Since then, Putin and President Medvedev have promised to allow more political parties and to reinstate direct elections of regional governors.

Putin served two presidential terms from 2000 to 2008 before becoming prime minister. Moscow has since extended the presidential term to six years. If he regains the presidency, the 59-year-old leader could remain in power until 2024.

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