|The statement by President Dmitry Medvedev followed massive protests against alleged election fraud [AFP]
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appeared to acknowledge the grievances anti-government protesters in his end-of-year address by pledging a "comprehensive reform" of the country's political system.
But Medvedev said on Thursday the Kremlin would not allow "provocateurs and extremists'' to undermine stability following a series of mass protests over alleged fraud in parliamentary elections earlier this month.
Among measures mentioned in his final state of the nation speech before the end of his presidency, Medvedev said he wanted to restore the election of regional governors, who until now have been directly appointed from Moscow.
"Today, at a new stage of development of our state, supporting the initiative proposed by our prime minister, Vladimir Putin, I propose a comprehensive reform of our political system," Medvedev said.
Medvedev added that his country "needs democracy, not chaos" and said the government would strongly resist any foreign pressure.
Vladimir Putin, who stepped down from the Russian presidency after two terms in 2008, is widely expected to be re-elected to the post in 2012 presidential elections.
Putin's United Russia party lost a quarter of its seats in December 4 elections but opposition leaders said the result of the vote was manipulated by fraud. Independent monitors have also voiced concerns over the process.
In his hour-long speech, Medvedev said there should be a simpler process for registering parties, allowing more parties to take part in elections.
Independent 'public' television
He also proposed scrapping the requirement to gather signatures to participate in elections to the national parliament and regional legislative bodies, and suggested reducing the number of signatures required to run for president.
Medvedev also called for the creation of a "public" television channel which would be independent of the state.
Reporting from Moscow, Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker said: "This is perhaps the most aspirational speech that the Russian leader has given in the history of modern Russia. We do not know how much of this is aspirational. He has few months left in office.
"He said within this short time, there will be major changes in the country, that the leadership should be accountable to the people, and that justice needs to be upheld in all shapes and forms."
Putin has closely controlled state television and Russian media has been criticised for all but ignoring anti-Kremlin mass protests.
Addressing another of the protesters' main concerns, Medvedev promised to get tough against widespread corruption, saying officials should publish their main expenses.
"I think it would be correct to impose control over the spending of state officials when their expenditure does not correspond to their income," Medvedev said.
Many previous efforts to crack down on corruption have failed and many voters cited this as a factor for voting against United Russia in the election.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies