25 April 2013, 12:01

Putin sets new record for Q&A session: 4 hours 47 minutes, 85 questions answered

Путин прямая линия

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has set another record in length of his 11th nationally-broadcast telephone question-and-answer session that lasted 4 hours 47 minutes. This beat the 2011 session given by the –then Prime Minister Putin in December by 15 min.

Putin advises non-systems opposition to fight for seats in parliament

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the non-systems opposition legalize and participate in parliamentary elections using legislative capabilities.

"It seems to me that the concept of non-systems opposition should now be gradually losing its vital role: they have been given the right to form political parties with minimal bureaucratic costs. They can become fully legal, form parties, and fight for their voters," Putin said during a live question and answer broadcast on Thursday.

"Crying for help is one thing and offering a positive agenda is a different thing. That can be done only legally, using the possibilities given by law. Go ahead, fight for seats in the parliament, prove that you are right," Putin told the leaders of the non-systems opposition.

Russia, US should streamline bilateral relations - Putin

Russia and the United States should streamline their relations and Moscow is ready to take specific steps to this end.

A statement to this effect was made by President Putin during his call-in show on Thursday.

Vladimir Putin said it wasn’t Moscow that had published the Magnitsky List, which he described as “imperial conduct”.

The abolition of the Jackson-Vanik amendment following Russia’s accession to the WTO provided a good opportunity for doing away with the Cold War stereotypes and move on.

However, Washington chose to spoil bilateral relations by adopting yet another anti-Russian bill, - bewildered Putin said.

Adopted in December 2012, the Magnitsky Act envisages sanctions against 18 Russians whom the US authorities accuse of breaching human rights.

Moscow responded by publishing a list of 18 US citizens who are banned from entering Russia.

Putin hails work of non-governmental organizations in Russia

Speaking at his question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin hailed the work of his opposition colleagues and non-governmental organizations in Russia.

He admitted the political feasibility of the opposition which criticizes the authorities and prods them to work more actively.

At the same time, Putin said that the Russian non-governmental organizations should show more transparency in terms of getting financial assistance from abroad.

Putin confident in objectiveness of Navalny trial 

President Vladimir Putin has voiced confidence that the court hearings of the Kirovles case in which opposition activist Alexei Navalny is a suspect will be objective.

"People fighting against corruption should be absolutely pure themselves; otherwise all this looks like is political self-advertising. Everyone should be equal in the face of law. And nobody should have illusions that if someone shouts loudly "catch the thief", it does not mean that this someone is allowed to steal," Putin said during a hotline with the nation on Thursday.

"This does not mean that if a person holds views differing from those shared by the incumbent authorities, any pretext should be sought to drag him to court or then to jail," Putin said.

"I am sure that the handling of this [Navalny's] and other cases will be objective. By the way, I drew the attention of the Prosecutor General's Office and other law enforcement bodies to this - it should be objective to the utmost," Putin said.

Putin doesn't see elements of Stalinism in his style of government 

President Vladimir Putin thinks that there are no elements of Stalinism in his style of government.

"I don't think there are any elements of Stalinism here. Stalinism stands for a personality cult and massive breaches of law, purges and [prison] camps. There is nothing of the kind in Russia and I hope there will never be again," he said during a Thursday hotline with the nation.

However, he stressed that there should be "order and discipline" in Russia.

"All citizens of the Russian Federation must be equal in the face of law irrespective of their office," he said adding that the young women from Pussy Riot punk group and young man vandalizing the graves of soldiers should be held accountable under the law.

Russian gas industry is bringing unconventional gas reserves more and more into play - Putin 

The Russian gas industry does not lag behind the rest of the world, which is bringing unconventional gas reserves more and more into play, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised Q&A session.

Russia itself has large unconventional gas reserves, and a lot of conventional gas deposits still to develop, he said.

"I don't think we've slept through it. But we need to follow its development very closely," Putin said. Mikhail Leontyev, a Channel One journalist whose scathing documentary about the Russian gas monopoly's position on the gas monopoly's position regarding unconventional gas has reverberated throughout the sector, asked Putin whether the gas monopoly had "slept through" the shale revolution.

"It's a hard question, whether we've slept through it or not. There's no answer yet because gas extracted from shale costs several times more than gas recovered by traditional means," Putin said. "We've still got enough gas bubbles to produce it by traditional means," he said.

"Shale gas and shale oil are produced at huge, and I want to stress huge environment-related cost. A lot of people who live where shale gas is produced get black slurry coming out of their taps and this technology needs major refinement at the very least," he said.

Putin said "his does not mean we are turning our back on shale gas. International experts say Russia has big prospects."

Access to personal data of adopted children's biological parents needs to be discussed - Putin

The access to personal data of biological parents of adopted children needs to be discussed comprehensively, President Vladimir Putin said.

"This is a legal and moral problem," he said in the Direct Line on Thursday. "A reason why the Americans wish to adopt Russian children is, as far as I understand, the permission to disclose information about biological parents in the United States.

There have been legal cases in which biological parents took away children from adoptive families," Putin said.

"Whenever a child is adopted from abroad, including from Russia, it is impossible to receive biological parents' data and that guarantees adoptive families safety from future conflicts," the head of state said.

"So, if we solve this question, if we take this path, we should seek advice of the society, people, and start an open discussion," Putin said.

Putin calls for innovation-based development 

The Russian economy should pursue innovation-based development. During his Q&A session on Thursday President Vladimir Putin said the possibilities for economic growth that stem from high oil and gas prices had been exhausted.

"The global demand for metals is dwindling as well and this leads to more problems. The less coal is needed, the fewer transport facilities are required, and so on. While external economic factors remain satisfactory, they cannot be described as completely favorable yet."

Putin made it clear that while the need for changes in the economic policy is ripe, its basic principles will remain unchanged – it will be oriented at social issues and an increase in living standards.

Putin says there are no political prisoners in Russia 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that people are sentenced to prison terms in Russia for violations of laws, not for their political views.

"No one has been put behind bars because of some political reasons alone. Courts sentence people for violations of laws, not for their political views or even acts," Putin said during a live question and answer broadcast on Thursday.

All people must obey the law and be equal before it, he said.

"Both these girls from Pussy Riot and these guys who vandalize the graves of our soldiers should be equal before the law and should be held accountable for what they do," the president said.

Asked about mass rallies, Putin said that "they can and should be held, but it should be done in compliance with the law and without causing any disruption to other people's life."

Russian air forces to get fifth generation fighters in 2016 – Putin

President Putin has said that cutting-edge fifth-generation fighters will enter the Russian air fleet in 2016, Voice of Russia’s Margarita Bogatova reports from the President’s Q&A marathon.

Russia’s Defense Ministry told journalists earlier that its newest T-50 warplane would be deployed with the country’s air forces as early as in 2015.

“Mass production of T-50 fifth-generation fighters will be launched in 2016,” Putin said. He stressed the new aircraft will by far exceed the American F-35 analogue.

No evidence that foreign intelligence services were involved in Berezovsky's death – Putin

Moscow has no information about possible involvement of foreign intelligence services in the death of oligarch Boris Berezovsky in London, President Putin said during his 11th Q&A session that is currently underway in Moscow.

“I don`t know exactly but everything is possible. We, however, do not have any evidence of this”, Putin said.

Boris Berezovsky was found dead at his home outside London in late March, 2013. Autopsy results showed that he died from hanging. The exact cause of the death will be announced only after toxicology tests.

Putin admits mistakes of 1990s reforms 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has admitted that the current chief of Russia’s nanotech-oriented investment corporation Rosnano, Anatoly Chubais, dropped the ball in his times while being a member of the country’s Cabinet in the 1990s, Voice of Russia’s Margarita Bogatova reports from Putin’s Q&A show.

“I am aware that he and some of his colleagues made many mistakes at that time and had their public image tarnished as a result,” he said. “But someone had to do what they did. They changed the very structure of Russian economy and essentially its pace.”

Putin added that some mistakes could have been avoided. “It could have been done in another way, with lower social losses and expense,” he confessed adding it was no use crying over spilt milk.

Putin against headscarf at schools 

Russian President Putin has dismissed as a bad idea the practice of wearing the traditional Islamic headscarf at school. He stresses it wasn’t even customary for Russian Muslims to wear the veil.

“There’s no point in it,” he said. “Some [Russian] republics have their own traditions… but this is not one of them. It’s a demonstration of a certain religious stance. In our country, there’s never been part such a tradition in Muslim communities,” Mr. Putin said during the nationwide phone-in session commenting on whether it was acceptable to wear hijab at school.

The president reminded the public that some countries had banned the veil. “I think we must revive the tradition of wearing school uniforms. We are working on that. I hope all regions with follow the suit,” he added.

Putin refuses to reveal Berezovsky letter 

Russian President Putin has confessed there have been a lot of calls asking him to reveal the contents of the late tycoon Boris Berezovsky’s letters but said he would never share details of personal correspondence.

“These letters were quite personal,” Mr. Putin said, adding he had never been close to the self-exiled Russian billionaire. “We were acquainted, of course, but we’d never been on friendly terms.”

“He turned to me with a request. Some of my colleagues urged me to publish it [the letter]. I thank God I didn’t heed their advice,” the president said during the Q&A session.

Putin said that in his letter Boris Berezovsky confessed he had made many mistakes, did a lot of damage, asked for forgiveness.

Putin confirms receiving Berezovsky’s ‘homesick’ letters

President Putin confirmed having twice received the same letter from Boris Berezovsky, once in February and after his death.

In his letters, the self-exiled Russian tycoon owned up to his mistakes and asked the president for forgiveness.

Mr. Putin said he had hesitated to answer the message, bearing in mind the legal aspect of this tricky situation.

He also said Russia had no evidence that foreign intelligence might have been involved into the billionaire’s death.

Putin on Boston attacks: “it has nothing to do with nationality or religion” 

The Boston Marathon attacks should result in a closer cooperation against terror between Russia and US, President Vladimir Putin said during his 11th Q&A session that is currently underway in Moscow. If Moscow and Washington really join efforts they will manage to repel such attacks and avoid losses.

“Terrorism has no nationality or religion. We have told this thousand times. The problem is with these people`s extremist views. They came to the US and were given citizenship there. The junior Tsarnayev is a US citizen. Do you know what some US officials say about him? They suggested declaring him a war prisoner. Have they gone mad? Who is a war prisoner? Is there a civil war between the north and the south? They are talking nonsense.”

Mr. Putin stressed that Russia was among the first countries to suffer from international terrorism. “However, many western politicians and journalists have been guided by double standards referring to extremists who carried out attacks in the country as ‘insurgents’. They supported them in many ways. The Boston tragedy has revealed who is who. It is high time to act”, Mr. Putin said.

Putin hopes Boston prompts closer US, Russia anti-terror work 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed hope that the Boston bombing tragedy would result in closer cooperation between Moscow and Washington in the fight against terror.

"I urge that this tragedy pushes us closer to one another in stopping shared threats," Putin said during his live televised call-in session in Moscow, saying Russia was also a victim of "international terrorism".

© Photo: "Voice of Russia"

Putin spurs preparations for 70th Victory Day anniversary 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has urged to speed up preparations ahead of the 70th Victory Day anniversary.

“Today I signed a decree on the 70th Victory Day anniversary, which will be celebrated in two years. To gear up for this jubilee, we must start preparing right now,” Mr. Putin said during the call-in show.

Putin says death penalty won’t abolish crime

President Putin has confessed during the ongoing Q&A marathon he sometimes muses over lifting moratorium on the capital punishment, but stressed experts tend to look down on death penalty as an ineffective way of curbing crime rates, Voice of Russia correspondent Margarita Bogatova reports.

“When you hear about such [atrocious] cases your very hand itches to grab a pen and sign a bill that would repeal death penalty moratorium,” Putin said.

He added however criminology experts said a tougher punishment doesn’t abolish crime.

Putin cautions against ill-considered tough measures in economy 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that the social welfare monetization program did not go as planned, creating social and political difficulties in the country.

"It was Alexei Leonidovich [former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin] and some other colleagues who today handle huge amounts of money at the banks who initiated the transfer of social benefits into cash payments. We argued a lot then. I told him: "Alexei, you will not do it in a concrete way. It will not work", Putin said during a live question and answer broadcast on Thursday.

Putin said that the authors of this idea had tried to persuade him that everything would be fine. "We know what happened then. We had to cover these problems with money and suffer major social and political losses," the president said.

Putin said he had known back then that it would happen this way.

However, if certain efforts had not been made, public transport services could have been paralyzed in several regions, where the number of people who used social benefits was smaller than the number of those who paid full public transport fares, he said.

"If you fail to look back at consequences for the social sphere, tough measures in the economy will not be always justified, especially in our country where our citizens' incomes remain very modest," Putin said.

Putin promises to crush corruption that reaches threatening scale in Russia 

President Vladimir Putin has promised to crush corruption but without going to extremes.

"The question is about the level of corruption. I will not conceal that corruption, especially grassroots corruption, is excessive and, actually, endangers society as a whole. So, we will be fighting it no less insistently than we [are fighting] inflation. We will crush it as much as we can," Putin said in the Direct Line on Thursday.

Asked whether the latest decisions, including the ban on foreign bank accounts of civil servants, went to the extremes, the president said, "I believe there are no extremes here."

He recalled that over 800 persons with a special legal status, among them law enforcement officials, deputies and high-ranking officials, were prosecuted last year.

"This work will continue: Hopefully, there will be no extremes," he added.

Putin: investigation of Oboronservice case is objective and will be brought to end 

President Vladimir Putin has promised that the investigation of embezzlement at Oboronservice will be brought to the end and noted that the probe was launched after he became Supreme Commander-in-Chief.

"I am drawing your attention to the fact that not so much time passed after my return to the post of Supreme Commander-in-Chief when these cases were launched," he said during a hotline with the nation on Thursday.

"I think that it is self-evident that nobody obstructed their launch. More than that - law enforcement bodies were pointed out to the fact that there are problems there," the president said. "The investigation is progressing objectively and will be brought to the end," Putin said.

Putin satisfied with the results of his first year in third term

Vladimir Putin is satisfied with what has been achieved during the first year of his third presidential term. The Russian leader said this during his 11th Q&A session that started half an hour ago.

“We were facing very challenging tasks, and perhaps in some spheres we overestimated our abilities. However, we see that the living standards are on the rise, as well as salaries and pensions. Families with three and more children received monthly allowances worth 7,000 roubles. The birth rate is rising, too, although the death rate remains quite high and something should be done to it”, Putin said.

The President stressed a better business climate in Russia and the removal of administrative barriers usually faced by small business owners.

Kudrin not looking to return to government 

Former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is not looking to return to power, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

"He does not want to. The proposal has been made. He declined," Putin said Thursday. "The lazybones does not want to work," Putin said.

The Russian president said he meets with Kudrin on a regular basis, and mentioned his professional qualities. Kudrin has twice been acknowledged as the best finance minister in the world, he said.

Putin: no watershed between govt., president; there is dispute on essential issues

The dispute on the ways for further economic development of the country is not between the presidential administration and the government; it is in progress inside the entire administrative apparatus, including experts, President Vladimir Putin said.

"This is not a dispute between the government and the presidential administration; this is a dispute inside the community on the country's governance. Opinions of experts are divided, too. There is no watershed between the government and the president, the administration and the government. There is a watershed on essential issues, actually the attitude to the current events [economic slowdown]," he said in the Direct Line on Thursday.

Putin: ministerial merry-go-round would do more harm than good 

President Vladimir Putin believes Cabinet members should be given some more time to work despite the growing number of grievances about them.

"I am drawing your attention to the fact that the government has not worked for even a year. Not even a year has passed," he said during a hotline with the nation on Thursday.

"Plenty of grievances must have accumulated over this time, of course, but people should be given a chance for self-fulfillment," he said. "Is a ministerial merry-go-round necessary? I don't know. It will sooner cause more harm than good," he added.

Russia’s business climate getting ‘milder’ – Putin 

Russia’s business climate has improved on the whole, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has said during the call-in session, but stressed the energy sphere still faced a great deal of challenges.

“One of the key issues is to improve the [country’s] business climate,” Mr. Putin said. “Business in Russia has seen certain positive trends – even international watchdogs have confirmed as much in their ratings,” he added, stressing he didn’t consider their data too reliable.

Still, the president noted that the country’s business environment had become friendlier to newly-minted entrepreneurs who now find it easier to register their businesses and find their way into the country’s infrastructure, although he said energy infrastructure remains far less easy to penetrate than it should be.

© Photo: "Voice of Russia"

Putin cites record birth rate, salary and pension hikes

Opening the much anticipated Q&A marathon, Russia’s President Putin stressed “this kind of contacts with citizens give a breakdown of the society.”

One of the first questions asked to Mr. Putin concerned the percentage of goals that had so far been met.

The President pointed out that delivering on pre-election promises was a very hard task but added he was satisfied with results.

Putin said salaries were on the rise in the country, while the average pensions have exceeded the 10,000-ruble threshold for the first time in many years.

Children allowances are edging up as well, he said, citing record birth rates and a general improvement in the demographic situation.

Putin joins Q&A hotline

Russian President Vladimir Putin has joined the questions-and-answers hotline to have a live dialogue with Russian public, Voice of Russia’s Margarita Bogatova reports.

Putin’s car has pulled up outside the studio in the Old Merchant Court in Moscow.

© Photo: "Voice of Russia"

The duration of hotline dialogues has been ever increasing year in year out, with the phone-in lasting for 2 hours 20 minutes in 2001, 3 hours 6 minutes in 2007 and a record 4 hours 32 minutes on December 15, 2011. The total duration of Putin’s frank dialogues with Russians totals some 32 hours.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the upcoming session would have a “particularly diverse” agenda. He said the 2011 show saw the President field a record 90 questions, but added more and more people were taking interest in an increasing number of issues. He pointed out the Thursday show would probably focus on “children, abandoned and street children and issues related to custody over them,” as well as on economics and global politics that have moved to the fore after the presidential elections.

Call centers confirmed many questions that have been pre-recorded so far concern housing, real estate and social security. Among other hot potato issues are the country’s industry, construction projects and transport.

In an interview with Rossia 24 channel, Mr. Peskov confessed there had always been many “awkward questions” posed to the President during these phone-ins. He stressed that Russians would be welcome not only to ask questions but to discuss them with Vladimir Putin and even argue with him in a live dialogue. Organizers of the 2013 call-in said the show would have several guests from political parties, the All-Russian People’s Front and other prominent figures that have been at the front burner of the country's life this year.

At least 1,750 million queries have already been fielded for Russian President Vladimir Putin as of 8:00 a.m. GMT ahead of his noon call-in, the Vesti 24 TV channel reports.

As many as 1,354 million questions have been posed over the phone, with 266,406 coming via SMS services and 163,000 via Internet.

Putin's Direct Line call center processes over a million messages

More than a million Russians have already posed questions for the Russian president’s "Direct Line” program. A special call center continues to receive questions and will operate until the end of the program.

"Direct Line" will be aired on the following TV channels: "Channel 1", "Russia 1", "Russia 24" at noon on Thursday, April 25.

Also broadcasting will be radio stations "Vesti.FM", "Mayak" and "Radio Russia".

All Q&A sessions with Mr. Putin are traditionally dominated by social and healthcare issues.

For Putin, this will be the 11th "nation-wide interview," and his 7th in the rank of president.

Voice of Russia

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