Saint Petersburg: Tens of thousands of Vladimir Putin's supporters backed his bid for the presidency in rallies across Russia on Saturday, trying to outdo mass nationwide protests staged by his opponents.

At least 50,000 people attended rallies in European Russia, Siberia and the Far East supporting Putin's candidacy for a historic third Kremlin term in March 4 polls, correspondents and police reports said.

Russians are taking to the streets with increasing regularity ahead of the election as the opposition and pro-Putin camp seek to outdo each other with competing rallies.

Brandishing slogans like "Yes To Changes! No To Revolution!" and "Putin -- We Are With You For A Strong Russia!", at least 10,000 people attended a rally in his support in the former imperial capital of Saint Petersburg

"For me, Putin is stability. In these years I have personally lived better. I am given my pay on time. I have started to be proud of the country," Putin supporter Anatoly Stepanov, 42, said an agency correspondent.

Participants were warmed in temperatures of minus eight degrees Celsius by hot tea and Russian pies sold for nominal prices. "Look at those who are against Putin, they are not the people," grumbled pensioner Anna Patrusheva, 58.

The opposition has accused the authorities of using the state's resources or even employing financial incentives to encourage people to show up for the Putin rallies.

Several buses were visible on the fringes of the rally that had brought people in from outlying Saint Petersburg regions.

Pro-Putin rallies took place in almost all of Russia's biggest cities, the main exceptions being Moscow and the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk where the Russian premier was busy attending an economic forum.

According to a police count quoted by Russian news agencies, 12,000 people turned out for the biggest rally in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk seven time zones away under the slogan "We Have Something to Protect!".

Rallies mustering at least 10,000 people also took place in cities including Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, and Novosibirsk in Siberia, while several thousand came for events in the Pacific port of Vladivostok and the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

(Agencies)