MOSCOW: Tens of thousands of supporters of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin staged a massive rally Thursday in downtown Moscow to show solidarity with the presidential candidate.
Putin supporters packed into a Moscow sports stadium in the well-organised display of support, 10 days ahead of a contentious presidential election, RIA Novosti reported.
The poll is widely expected to usher the Russian prime minister, who has already served two terms as president, back to the Kremlin.
About 120,000 people were expected to join the pro-Putin demonstration that started around 11. 30 a.m., Xinhua reported citing local media ahead of the rally organised by Putin's election staff and his All-Russia People's Front Movement.
Members of Putin's United Russia party also participated in the rally.
The participants, meanwhile, marched along the Moscow River embankment to the Luzhniki Arena, as some of them carried flags and banners with slogans reading: "Who, if not Putin" and "Vote Stability, Vote Putin."
Putin arrived at the Luzhniki Arena and addressed the crowd with the impassioned words of love to Russia.
"We are the defenders of the fatherland!" Putin said Thursday, which is Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia.
Thursday's pro-Putin gathering was the latest in a series of public demonstrations, unprecedented since the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, by large crowds of both supporters and opponents of the Russian leader.