During a question and answer session at a journalism forum in St. Petersburg, former West German Defense Secretary Willy Wimmer was asked a question about Russia’s national values. As the translator prepared to interpret, President Putin stepped in.
"I was misunderstood, said our guest. Please continue," Putin translated, stopping the show with his excellent German.
Wimmer went on to defend Russia’s value system.
"I was surprised that Russian representatives have said that there are no national ideas," he said. "And if I, as a foreigner, look at Russia, well, for me it is absolutely clear what they are talking about.
"This is respect for peace. You defend your national interests. You support family values and the value of faith."
Speaking to RT International, Wimmer expressed his own surprise at the Russian president’s foreign language skills.
"My wonderful translator was surprised, I was surprised, and I think the whole audience was surprised that the President made use of this opportunity and showed us his excellent knowledge of [the] German language," he said.
Wimmer dismissed the notion that the incident was a prearranged PR stunt.
"There was no chance to prepare somebody for this event because everything happened because a young man…raised a question which concerned the day before," he said.
"Nobody could have prepared himself for this event. It was a surprise attack. It was a wonderful surprise attack."
During the forum, Putin addressed other issues concerning Russia. On Syria, he explained why Moscow’s military role is complete.
"It is too early to say that some radical change happened there [Syria]. But it is obvious that we have completed our task there. It was, above all, to strengthen the statehood in Syria and the legitimate authorities," Putin said.
"The [Syrian] statehood has strengthened, as well as the government structures and the armed forces of the Syrian Republic."
He also addressed the baseless charges that he was implicated in the Panama Papers leak.
"Your humble servant is not there, so there’s nothing to talk about."