Russia PM Vladimir Putin 'booed' at martial arts fight

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Media caption,

Amateur video appeared to show the audience booing as Vladimir Putin started to speak

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been booed at a martial arts contest in Moscow in an apparent show of public protest.

Mr Putin stepped into the ring at the end of a fight on Sunday between Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko and his American opponent, Jeff Monson.

As he started to speak, the audience began booing and hissing, in scenes broadcast live on Russian TV.

Mr Putin's supporters later claimed the audience was jeering Mr Monson.

The director of the Olimpisky stadium which hosted the fight, Mikhail Moskalyov, told local media that the audience was reacting as the American fighter left the ring.

End of an era?

However, the Kremlin's critics say the outburst was in fact a sign of Mr Putin's declining popularity, reports the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow.

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Image caption,
Mr Putin was congratulating Mr Emelianenko on his win when the audience began booing

Prominent activist and blogger Alexei Navalny said on Twitter that the incident heralded "the end of an era".

The main news show on Russia's Channel One later tightly edited the speech, showing only the one phrase that provoked a cheer from the crowd, the AFP news agency reports.

However, the uncensored broadcast has been uploaded to YouTube, where on Monday it had been viewed more than 500,000 times.

Mr Putin is planning to return to the presidency in elections to be held next March.

Although his approval ratings are still high, at 61%, that figure has fallen by 16% from last year.