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By Denis Dyomkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Thursday President Dmitry Medvedev backed the ruling party's landslide victory in disputed regional elections, rebuffing opposition parties who walked out of parliament alleging vote-rigging.
Kremlin critics say the row over Sunday's regional elections illustrates the gulf between Medvedev's promises of greater pluralism and the reality of the tightly-controlled political system crafted by his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Official results gave Putin's United Russia party a landslide victory in the elections, prompting the Communist Party and two other opposition parties usually obedient to the Kremlin to storm out of parliament and demand an immediate meeting with the president.
Asked about the row on Thursday, Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told reporters Medvedev's views had not changed since Monday, when he hailed United Russia's victory as showing the party had a "legal and moral right" to run the regions.
"The president's position has not changed," she told reporters, adding the president may find time to meet parliamentary party leaders next week.
She said Medvedev had spoken by telephone to Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and the leader of the nationalist LDPR party Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Russia's tiny pro-Western opposition has no parliamentary seats and is marginalised in state media.
Zhirinovsky said his party would return to parliament because Medvedev had listened to his arguments. The third opposition party to walk out, pro-Putin Fair Russia party, said it would return as well.
The Communists said they would continue their boycott, labelled "sabotage" by United Russia Chairman Boris Gryzlov, until Medvedev found time to meet them personally.
Veteran Communist leader Zyuganov called for countrywide rallies on October 22 to protest against the elections.
CLINTON VISIT
The opposition staged the walkout after United Russia crushed them in Sunday's regional, district and mayoral polls, in which around a third of Russia's voters could take part.
Opposition parties said election officials had ignored blatant vote-rigging and demanded the resignation of longtime Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov.
Churov, a former work colleague of Putin's, who has dismissed the opposition complaints as "improper hysteria," said the walkout had been timed to coincide with the visit of a foreign guest, a reference to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who ended a two-day trip to Russia on Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of State's spokesman said his country had expressed "concern" about reports of voting irregularities.
After Sunday's elections, just three opposition members, all from the Communist Party, were set to enter Moscow's 52-seat city council, with all other seats going to United Russia.
United Russia, which is led by Putin, has 315 deputies in the 450-seat lower house, giving it enough seats to push through changes to the constitution. The Communist Party has 57 seats, followed by the LDPR with 40 and Fair Russia with 38.
Putin, speaking to reporters in Beijing late on Wednesday, said he was "pleased" with the election results.
"Those who don't win are never happy," he said, adding that any issues should be fought over in court.
Complete support for Putin and close ties with the Kremlin have given United Russia -- which calls itself "the party of power" -- control over most regions.
"I regard the opposition's action as a violation of political stability in the country," Gryzlov told reporters.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Andrew Roche)

Reuters