Vladimir Putin accepted his ruling party's nomination on Sunday to return to Russia's presidency, while accusing foreigners of funding his political opponents in a reminder of the anti-Western rhetoric that characterised his years in power.
Putin, president from 2000-2008 and now prime minister, is expected to easily recapture the presidency in an election in March. But opinion polls indicate a parliamentary election in a week could loosen his United Russia party's domination of Russian politics.
The timing of the announcement of his nomination for the presidency - which he said would seek in September - appeared aimed at giving United Russia a boost in the December 4 parliamentary vote amid flagging support.
Of course, I accept the proposal with gratitude, Putin said confidently, accepting the nomination before a crowd of 10,000 supporters, chanting his name.
Putin said that ahead of both votes representatives of some foreign countries are gathering those they are paying money to, so-called grant recipients, to instruct them and assign work in order to influence the election campaign themselves.
He said any such activity was a wasted effort because Russians would reject foreign-funded politicians, comparing them to Judas, the traitor of Jesus in the bible.
(Reporting Gleb Bryanski; Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Peter Graff)