Vladimir Putin has delivered yet another marathon Q & A session known as Direct Line with The President. For nearly four and a half hours, President Putin took questions from people across Russia and throughout the wider world about any and all topics. It happens every year and by now, President Putin is a seasoned pro.
Here are some of the highlights.
1. Asylum for Comey
Vladimir Putin was asked what he thought of the continuing saga between former FBI Director James Comey and the Trump administration.
Putin responded saying that it was “strange” also translated as “weird” that Comey should leak the contents of a private memo detailing a meeting with President Trump to the media via a surrogate.
Putin then stated that in some ways there are parallels between the Comey incident and that of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden who has received asylum in Russia on human rights grounds.
Putin said that if necessary, Russia is happy to grant Comey asylum on the same basis.
This rather sarcastic remarks demonstrates Putin’s keen sense of humour, something rarely discussed in western mainstream media.
CNN are probably still trying to make out what it really means.
IT WAS A JOKE! That being said, a joke which referenced a lot of truth behind the recent political saga in the US.
2. Putin’s Time Machine
Vladimir Putin was asked by a 12 year old girl where he would go if he had a time machine. In spite of the fantastical nature of the question, Putin rhetorically asked the girl if this time machine would allow a traveller in time to change the course of past events or simply observe them?
Putin then stated that he would use a time machine to observe great moments in Russian history, including the Great Patriotic War.
He then told the girl that learning objective history is our real life time machine and encouraged all children to learn as much history as they can.
3. The Next President of Russia
Next year, Russia holds Presidential elections in which Vladimir Putin is eligible to run. Thus far, the only officially confirmed candidate is political veteran Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia).
“Certainly, one day I will make up my mind. I don’t see anything bad in sharing my preferences [about the future president of Russia]. But ultimately let’s not forget that only the voters, Russian citizens, can determine who will lead”.
“I look at what happens in other countries. And there you go, we know how political processes go there, we know political veterans. It’s basically normal, as long as it confirms democratic procedures and the nation’s law.
Nobody broke the law here in that regard”.
It seems Putin wants to keep the public in suspense even though recent polls have found that a majority of Russians want Putin to run for and win another term.
Putin received a question from a man in Kiev who worried that Russia has abandoned a fraternal people. The man stated that he loves Russia, celebrates victory in the Great Patriotic War on the 9th of May and wants the Russian President to know that the current fascist regime in Ukraine does not speak for people like him.
President Putin thanked the man for his kind words but stated that Russia will not interfere in the business of the Kiev regime. He also said that Kiev regime leader Petro Poroshenko is beholden to the people he surrounds himself with who are “scoundrels wearing swastikas”.
Putin expressed concern for the fact that living standards in Ukraine have gone down while wages in Russia have risen from the depths of the dark 1990s.
Putin warned that the economic decline in Ukraine may make it so that Ukrainians won’t even be able to wash themselves. Nevertheless he said that Russia will not interfere in the workings of the current regime.
5. Putin’s Family
Putin confirmed that he has grandchildren but that he wants to shelter them from the wider world. He explained that he does not want them growing up in the throes of fame and “blue blood” but would rather they live a life where they can talk with other children their age and grow up in a normal way.
It is this reason why Putin does not parade his children publican in the way that many western leaders do.
6. Church and State
When asked a question about St. Issac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Putin said that Russia is a secular state but that religious traditions must always be respected and the feelings of believers must not be insulted.
He insisted that great Russian Orthodox Churches can function as places of worship as well as public museums. He cited the Vatican as such an example of this mix.
7. Call From American Supporter
President Putin received a call from a supporter in Arizona, USA. The man said that he is saddened that the US and Russia are politically at odds as he believes that Russia is an admirable country which should have good relations with America.
Vladimir Putin stated that there is much to admire in America and that the US is not seen as an enemy by Russia. He said that he looked forward to meeting President Trump and working with him on many issues, including climate change.
He said that while it is in the best interests of the world for nuclear powers like Russia and the US to have good relations, that ultimately, the political situation in the US has prohibited this. Nevertheless, Putin said that the door remains open.
8. Anger Management
President Putin was asked how he deals with being cheated. Putin said that he “never forgets” but that at the same time one shouldn’t ever act in haste and that one should try to see what the lying person might be getting at. He elaborated in the following way,
“I believe everyone sitting here had the experience when somebody was trying to deceive him.
I am a human being and this happens to me, too. But even when I see I am being lied to, I try not to act rashly. Before reacting, even if I am convinced that was a lie, I always try to understand what that person wanted and why. And I never forget”.
9. World Cup
As Russia readies to host the World Cup, Putin spoke with builders at a football stadium in Kaliningrad. He assured the builders as well as a local football coach that based on the success of the Sochi Olympics, it will be imperative for facilities built for the World Cup to be converted into local facilities for young people to play sport in a modern and fun environment.
10. Big Fish
Like Russian Foreign Minsiter Sergey Lavrov, Vladimir Putin is a keen fisherman. He was ask about his biggest catch.
“Yes, I know that fishermen and enthusiasts (of fishing) are interested in it. I read about it, seen in the Internet. Honestly, (the fish) was weighed in front of me, it was 20 kilograms, though many believe it was too small for 20 kilograms, but anyway, that is what I saw”.
For those who missed the marathon sessions, you can watch it all here.