Putin’s annual Q&A: 10 most compelling quotes
Ukraine’s crisis was, predictably, at the center of Vladimir Putin’s annual televised interview. He said the situation can only be solved through a compromise between internal players. Below are the president’s ten most significant quotes.
“[Yanukovich] didn’t have the heart to sign an act that would see force used against his citizens.”
Answering a question from an ex-Berkut - Ukrainian special forces - commander as to whether the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has always been such a “weakling and traitor,” Putin said that Yanukovich did his duty as he thought was right, proper and necessary.
“I spoke with him, certainly, many times, during the crisis, and after he arrived in the Russian Federation; we talked about using force… The gist of his answer was that he thought about using force many times, but he didn’t have the heart to sign an act that would see force used against his citizens,” Putin said.
“Faina Ivanovna, dear, what would you need Alaska for?”
Asked by a pensioner if Alaska could follow Crimea’s example, Putin said “We’re a northern country. 70 percent of our territory is in the North or Far North. Is Alaska in the southern hemisphere? It’s cold there as well. Let’s keep cool about it,” Putin said.
According to Putin, he is also aware of the fact that some Russians call Alaska “Ice-Krym” (“Krym” is the Russian for Crimea).
The Russian President said he thought that asking activists in the southeast of Ukraine to hand in their weapons was the right approach, but this measure should also be applied to armed Ukrainian nationalist groups.
Putin also said that the crisis in Ukraine can only be solved through a compromise in the interests of the Ukrainian people.
“The coup-appointed government in Kiev needs to come to its senses before we can negotiate,” said Putin.
“They don’t want to see us in PACE? Better lost than found!”
Russia won’t insist on staying in several international organizations, but isn’t planning to walk out in protest, Putin said.
“The world is developing intensively, and if there a player who wants to turn it unipolar and align all organizations according to their will, it won’t succeed,” the president added.
Putin noted that there are some problems in the dialogue between Moscow and its European partners.
“Many Western countries have voluntarily relinquished a large part of their sovereignty. That is, among other things, the result of bloc policy. It’s sometimes really difficult to negotiate with them on geopolitical issues,” he said.
“It’s difficult to talk to people who whisper even at home, afraid of Americans eavesdropping on them. It’s not a figure of speech, not a joke, I’m serious.”
“He is brave and courageous, of course he would.”
To the question whether Obama would save the Russian President from drowning, Putin answered that the US president is “a decent, courageous man” and “would save” him.
However, Putin stressed that the relationship between them wasn’t a close one.
“In addition to intergovernmental relations, there are personal relations, but I don’t think I have a close personal relationship with Obama,” the president said.
“You’re an ex-intelligence agent, I have something to do with intelligence, let’s use professional terms” – Putin to Snowden
Russia’s president received a question from Edward Snowden who was granted political asylum last August. Snowden asked Putin if Russia is involved in “intercepting, storing and analyzing the data on communication carried out by millions of people” and whether Russia’s president thinks this kind of mass control is fair and justified.
Putin stressed Snowden was an ex-intelligence agent, while he himself used to be in intelligence, so Russia’s president said he would be speaking “using professional terms.”
“First of all, we have strict laws governing the usage of any special means – including ones to monitor telephone conversations or the internet - by intelligence. This regulation makes it necessary to get a court order to surveil an individual. That’s why we can’t carry out mass surveillance, and we don’t, in accordance with our law,” Putin said.
Putin, who served as president for two consecutive terms between 2000 and 2008 and was elected again in 2012, was asked if he wanted to remain Russia’s head of state for life.
“No,” was his answer.
“Russia didn’t annex Crimea by force, but created conditions for people’s self-determination.”
“Russia did not annex Crimea by force. Russia created conditions – indeed, with the help of special formations and the armed forces, I’ll be honest – for the free expression of will by people living in Crimea and Sevastopol,” Putin said.
“The decision on joining [Russia] was made by the people themselves. Russia responded to that appeal and accepted Crimea and Sevastopol into its family. That’s natural, it couldn’t be any other way.”
“Punishing others, the US will cut off their nose to spite their face.”
Putin was asked why the US can do whatever it wants and no one punishes them, while attempts are being made to punish Russia.
“The US is certainly one of the world’s leaders. At some point it seemed that it was the only leader and a uni-polar system was in place. Today it appears that is not the case. Everything in the world is interdependent and once you try to punish someone, in the end you will cut off your nose to spite your face,” he said.