Russian president warns of threat of extremist, ethnic ideology

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned of a threat of extremism and ethnic and religious intolerance in the months before parliamentary elections and ordered law enforcement agencies to do more to protect the nation's secrets.

Speaking before agents from the Federal Security service and other police officials, Putin also said that they needed to do more to combat the corruption that continues to plague Russia.

"It's important not only to guarantee law and order, but also to protect society from attempts to throw the ideology of extremist, ethnic and religious intolerance onto the social-political field," Putin said.

"This work must be done strictly in line with the law and all of your steps must be based on the Constitution and Russian laws," he said in televised comments.

Russia will hold elections for the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in December, and presidential elections will be in held March 2008.

The elections "are an important democratic mechanism of shaping state power with the power of responsibility, and elections with healthy political competition," he said.

Putin also said the FSB a successor agency to the KGB and other law enforcement agencies must do more to prevent commercial and state secrets from leaking publicly, reports AP.

He said modern Russia was confidently integrating itself into the world economy, and that "it is important not to allow leaks of protected information from political and economic spheres."

Last year, Putin signed into law an anti-extremism bill under which slander or libel against government officials can qualify as extremism.

The government argued that the law was needed to fight growing racism and xenophobia, but journalism watchdogs and rights groups said it would further restrict Russia's media climate and warned that it would diminish civil rights.

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