Putin says condom comment wasn't meant as insult

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Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media as he arrives for questioning at the headquarters of the Russian Investigation committee in Moscow, Russia, Monday, July 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says his reference to the white ribbons worn by opposition protesters as "condoms" wasn't meant to insult the demonstrators.

In December, as protests began roiling Russia after a fraud-tainted parliamentary election, Putin derided the demonstrators, saying he initially thought the ribbons were condoms. Subsequent demonstrations saw protesters inflating condoms like balloons in a sarcastic retort.

But speaking to a gathering Tuesday that included both opposition activists and adherents of a pro-Kremlin youth group, Putin appeared to try to slightly mollify the opposition while not giving any ground.

"I wasn't speaking against the people who came out with these symbols; I was annoyed about those people who use techniques developed somewhere over the hill," Putin said, using a colloquialism for something foreign.