Six questions to Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual press conference today in Moscow. This event usually is not the place for tough questions, except for a very few. Free Russia is sharing Putin’s replies to only on the questions that deserve attention.
At last year’s press conference, you said that Russia would exit its current recession within two years, in the worst scenario. Has anything changed?
The peak of the crisis has passed. Disposable income has fallen, of course, but Russia’s agricultural people are top-notch, cargo transshipments at Russian ports are rising, and airports are hosting more and more passengers. [Putin said nothing about his economic forecast from last year.]
Would you consider exchanging Russian military personnel Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov for Nadezhda Savchenko, Oleg Sentsova, or other Ukrainians under criminal indictment in Russia?
Any exchange has got to be an honest one: everyone for everyone. Russia has always said there were no regular Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, but this doesn’t mean there weren’t Russian citizens in Ukraine engaged in “solving certain issues in the military sphere.”
Do you think it would be wise to suspend temporarily Attorney General Yuri Chaika, Pskov Governor Andrei Turchak, and other officials publicly suspected of criminal activity? Are you planning to restaff your cabinet?
It’s unnecessary. I’m very careful with these individuals, and if investigations are necessary they will be conducted by the Presidential Control Directorate. Generally speaking, we also need to be checking where this information about officials and their children originates on the Internet.
Should Russia permanently keep its military base in Syria?
I don’t know. Now we’ve got long-range rockets, so we can reach the enemy, no matter what, if it comes to it. Maybe we’ll leave behind some kind of military presence, but you never can tell.
What’s happening with our gas exports? We’re not building South Stream anymore. The same probably goes for Turkish Stream. Some countries are speaking out against Nord Stream 2, and Ukraine might interrupt Russian gas deliveries. What will we do?
We’re not against any of these projects—they’re just not letting us get them built. We’ve had a split with the Turkish government, and for the time being it’s unclear what needs to happen to bring us back together. So we’ll work with Ukraine for now, if it’s capable of working with us.
Is Katerina Tikhonova your daughter?
My daughters study and work in Russia. They aren’t involved in business or politics. I won’t say anything about them because I don’t discuss my daughters.
During his press conference Vladimir Putin also gave an endorsement of Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday, saying he hoped Trump’s election could improve Moscow’s relations with the United States.
“He’s a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt. It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race,” Putin said after his annual press conference in Moscow, according to the Interfax news wire.
“He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia; how can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome that,” Putin added.