PRESIDENT PUTIN REPLIES VIA A VIDEO LINK TO 33 QUESTIONS OF UKRAINIAN CITIZENS AND GIVES SOME PROMISES

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KIEV, October 27, (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin, during 58 minutes of talk to Ukrainian citizens via a live TV link, has answered 33 questions, including two specifying ones, disclosed one "secret" and given several promises.

The Russian head of state arrived in Kiev on Tuesday to attend festivities on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberating of Ukraine from the German occupation during the Second World War. In his television interview, Putin gave an assurance that Russia will never forget veterans of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), which was part of the Second World War, wherever they may live.

Putin's interview was aired on Tuesday evening by three national Ukrainian television channels without translation into Ukrainian,

Eight questions to the Russian president were put by anchormen, of whom there were three, five people managed to get through by telephone to the studio in the course of the programme, while the other questions came via the Internet, some of which Putin picked up himself.

The questions were most diverse - from prospects for economic cooperation between Ukraine and Russia to the possibility of introducing dual citizenship.

One of the questions which was put to him via the Internet in the Ukrainian language was read out by Putin himself, and rather confidently.

At the same time the Russian head of state acknowledged that he did not know the Ukrainian language perfectly. But, Putin said, "I like the Ukrainian language". He quoted from memory four lines of poetry out of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko's Kobzar book of verse, which, according to the president, he knows since childhood.

"I like Ukraine," the Russian president said, replying to a question if his genealogical tree had "a branch from Ukraine". "No," Putin said. "All my relatives are from Tver Gubernia (300 kilometres north-west of Moscow). But even if there had been, I would have only been proud of that."

Putin was also asked other personal questions. In particular, answering the question if he had been to Western Ukraine, the president said that he had gone there for a honeymoon. "This is a wonderful and beautiful land," Putin said.

Speaking live, Putin also revealed one secret. "I will now divulge to you the following secret," the president said and cited his conversation at a supper with Uzbekistan's president, who said he was ready to join the CES [of the four], if Russia transferred part of its powers to supranational bodies. Putin said he backed the idea.

Many questions put to the president were repeated, in particular five times it was asked about the regime of mutual travel by citizens of the two countries. Several times people asked about economic integration and the problem of registration of citizens.

The Russian head of state promised that citizens of Ukraine would be able to travel to Russia on their internal passports and that he would give a direct instruction to the government, ministries and presidential administration to add an internal regular passport to the list of documents on which Ukrainians may enter Russian territory.

The president also said that Russia and Ukraine do not plan to introduce a visa regime, and the period of stay of citizens of Ukraine and Russia without registration would be extended. The president believes that Russia, Ukraine and Belarus should mull introducing dual citizenship on a reciprocal basis.

The youngest participant of the contact between Ukrainian citizens and the Russian president was Kiev's first-former Andrei from School No. 125 in Kiev.

The boy acknowledged that he had a dream of being photographed with Putin. The president promised to fulfil his dream "within the next few days, at any time convenient for schoolboy Andrei, when he (president) is not engaged in protocol events".

One question - if he intends to run for Ukrainian president in the future - made Putin laugh.

In the course of his answers, Putin did not conceal his friendly attitude to the incumbent president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich, recalling that they had been his guests at his recent birthday party.

Putin gave a high assessment to the economic activities of the current government of Ukraine, noting that Russia could borrow from this experience.

At the same time, he distanced himself from expressing his sympathy for candidates to the post of Ukrainian president, the elections for which are to be held on Sunday, October 31.

Replying to a question from one of the participants in the televised interview, Putin said: "I urge you to vote for one who you sympathise with."

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