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Russia's Medvedev tries to appease protesters

MOSCOW - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on Thursday for sweeping reform of Russia's political system to try to appease protesters staging the biggest demonstrations since Vladimir Putin rose to power 12 years ago.
In his last state of the nation address to parliament as president, Medvedev outlined plans that would ease the Kremlin's tight grip on power, including restoring the election of regional governors and allowing half the seats in the State Duma lower house of parliament to be directly elected in the regions.His opponents, preparing for new protests across Russia on Saturday, dismissed his offer as the empty promises of a lame-duck president who is stepping aside for Putin to return to the main seat of power next year after four years as premier.
"Today, at a new stage in the development of our state, supporting the initiative proposed by our prime minister, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I propose a comprehensive reform of our political system," Medvedev, 46, told rows of deputies in an hour-long speech which was greeted by occasional applause.
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