Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has warned against foreign meddling in Russian politics and criticised opposition politicians of being in the pay of foreign interests.
“Direct or indirect meddling in our internal political process is unacceptable,” Putin said in his annual state of the nation address on Wednesday.
Putin, who last year accused the United States of encouraging opposition protests and claimed foreign governments spend money to seek to influence elections, said Russians receiving money from abroad should be barred from politics.
“A politician who receives money from beyond the borders of the Russian Federation cannot be a politician on its territory,” added Putin.
The state of the nation speech is the first by Putin since winning a third term in March’s election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow.
In July, Putin signed a bill forcing foreign funded non-governmental groups involved in political activity to register as “foreign agents” in Russia.
Sergai Strokan, a staff writer for the Russian newspaper Kommersant told Al Jazeera that “Putin’s speech was telling the opposition to think twice before they hit the streets in protest as they are now labelled as foreign agents.”
In the speech that also focused heavily on social issues, Putin promised to encourage families to have more children, create 25 million new jobs and develop new incentives for teachers, doctors, engineers and others.
Turning to the economy, he said: “Our entrepreneurs have often been accused of lacking patriotism.
“According to available data, nine out of 10 transactions by them go unchecked by our laws.”
He also pledged to support “institutions that represent traditional spiritual values,” a hint at even more state support for the Russian Orthodox Church.
In August, three members of the punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral against the church’s backing for Putin.
One of them was released on appeal, but two others are serving their sentences despite an international outrage over what was widely seen as the intolerance to dissent in Russia.
Putin said Russia would follow its own view on democracy and shrug off any “standards enforced on us from outside.”
Putin said that on the global stage Russia’s task will be to preserve its “national and spiritual identity,” adding that the strengthening of the nation’s military might should “guarantee its independence and security.”