Feb. 29 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin remains the country's most popular politician, but recent opposition may dent his popularity ahead of the March 4 presidential elections. Simon Hanna reports.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin receives a rapturous welcome as he enters a sports arena to address tens of thousands of his supporters. Putin, who has ruled for 12 years, remains the country's most popular politician and opinion polls suggest he will win the upcoming March 4 presidential election. Throughout the years of his rule he maintained the image of a macho-leader with footage like this widely broadcast on national TV channels. His campaign plays off this image, with the 'Putin's Army Movement' using the sex factor to gain popularity. One former colleague puts Putin's popularity down to his charm. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) FORMER ANATOLY SOBCHAK'S PRESS SECRETARY LYUDMILA FOMICHEVA: "He's not tall, and back then nobody had seen his body's build, his naked torso, but nevertheless he had some incredible charm which affected both men and women, especially women. He could talk a woman into anything." But there are signs his popularity may be waning. Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets to protest against the results of the December 4 parliamentary elections, which the opposition say were skewed towards Putin's ruling party. Despite his approval ratings remaining high, analysts say the protests are indicative of a growing resentment against his rule, and some predict Putin would not last through his next term. Simon Hanna, Reuters.