On June 15, 2017, Russia's President Vladimir Putin participated in the annual Direct Line phone-in program. This year, the majority of question dealt with domestic issues: low wages, poor healthcare, ecology, illegal demolitions of homes, inferior housing conditions, lack of roads and the quality of pavement and alleged pilferage of allocated federal budgets.
The independent Russian press believed that the Direct Line used questions that had already been prepared in advance. The Riga based Russian independent media outlet Meduza.io panned Direct Line as a "carefully orchestrated call-in telethon." However, Meduza.io reported that "in an apparent failure to screen the questions," inconvenient text messages appeared on screen during the televised broadcast.
These text messages included:
- "Putin, do you really think the people believe in this circus with phony questions?"
- "When will you step down?"
- "Is it true that [Alexey] Navalny is making his next film about you?"
- "When you say "we don’t betray our own," does that apply to kleptocrats and corrupt officials?"
- "When will you fire [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev, [Rusnano Chairman Anatoly] Chubais, [economic adviser Alexey] Kudrin, [Sberbank CEO Herman] Gref, and the others? Haven’t you tired of them yet?"
- "How did you let Medvedev get sick?? You need to have him vaccinated!"
- "The whole country thinks you've sat too long on the 'throne'"
- "Why are most issues solved only after your direct intervention?"
- "Who's our most dangerous internal enemy?"
- "Why don't you show a running ticker with all the questions? Are they hiding it intentionally, so viewers don't see what kinds of questions people are asking?"
- "At some point, we're going to hear, 'There's no money, but you hang in there.'"
At the very end of the Direct Lne, the hosts and the president read out some of the inconvenient questions, but Putin did not directly reply to any of them.
Following are excerpts of the annual Direct Line with Putin, which lasted 4 hours:
Text message: "When will you stop violating the constitutional clause regarding two presidential terms at maximum?"
Text message: "When will you fire [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev, [Rusnano Chairman Anatoly] Chubais, [economic adviser Alexey] Kudrin, [Sberbank CEO Herman] Gref, and the others? Haven’t you tired of them yet?" (Source: Echo.msk.ru)
Table of Contents
- Russia's Economy
- Sanctions Against Russia
- Putin's Grandchildren
- Ukrainian Crisis
- Stavropol Territory' Floods
- Russia's Presence In The Arctic
- St. Isaac's Cathedral In St. Petersburg
- Russia-U.S. Relations
- Russia In Syria
- Social Protests
- Information Attacks And Political Betrayal
- Random Questions
- APPENDIX I – Putin's Interviews With BBC And Interfax
Putin: We Have Brought Inflation Down To A Record Low In Modern Russian History
Tatyana Remezova: "Good afternoon, we are live. This is Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, a joint project by Channel One and Rossiya 1 TV channels. You can also watch the broadcast live on Rossiya 24, and listen to a live radio broadcast on Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations.
The anchors of Direct Line are Tatyana Remezova and Dmitry Borisov…
"That said, I would like to highlight a major difference from previous Direct Lines.
"Most of the messages we have received are not about the present, but about the future: how will our country live in the years to come, what will its relations with other countries be like? This could be due to the fact that we are in a pre-election year, when people have more questions to their leaders, to you primarily, of course."
Dmitry Borisov: "However, before we start talking about the future, let me begin with the present.
"We have been hearing many optimistic assessments of the state of the Russian economy lately. Can we say, would it be right to assume that the economic crisis is over?"
Vladimir Putin: "You have started with a core question, whether the economic crisis is over. I would very much like to give an affirmative answer, thereby sending a positive signal to the people. However, in the back of your mind you cannot stop thinking that something could still go wrong, something could happen.
"Nevertheless, when it comes to drawing conclusions of this kind we should be guided by objective data. What are the hard facts telling us? They are telling us that the Russian economy has overcome the recession, and moved into a growth trend. I will get back to this later to explain how this conclusion can be reached and on what data it is based.
"But I would like to start by making a different point and highlighting the most pressing issues that have yet to be resolved. You mentioned them in your question, by the way. What are these issues all about? Real incomes have been declining over the last several years, and what is even more alarming is the growing number of people below the poverty line with incomes below the minimum living wage.
"In this regard, Russia hit a low in the early and mid-1990s, when almost one third of the country’s population lived below the poverty line, almost 40 percent or 35 to 37 percent, according to various estimates, almost 40 million people. This was the all-time low, while the highest indicators in this respect were reported in 2012.
"In 2012, 10.7 percent of the population was below the poverty line. Unfortunately, since then this number has reached 13.5 percent. It may not seem like a lot, just a few percentage points, but we are talking about tens, and hundreds of thousands of people, their lives, so this is a matter of serious concern.
"There are economic issues that have still to be addressed, above all regarding real incomes. What are these issues? They have to do with the structure of the economy that we find unsatisfactory. In this connection I have to mention low labor productivity. There will be no new jobs, and incomes will not increase, unless we improve labor productivity. This is a major issue.
"We will most definitely come back to these matters and I am 100 percent certain that people will have further questions and we will go into greater detail and look further at all that makes it possible for me to say now that the recession is over and we have seen economic growth for three quarters in a row now. GDP growth is modest, but it has nonetheless held steady from one quarter to the next.
"GDP growth was plus 3 percent at the end of the fourth quarter of 2016, plus 5 percent in the first quarter of this year, and up 1.4 percent in April this year. This makes for GDP growth of 0.7 percent overall for the first four months of 2017.
"Industrial production is also on the rise. We had growth of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of this year. I have brought along some of the latest figures, so as not to forget anything, and I can share them with you too. These are the latest statistics.
"Investment into capital assets is up 2.3 percent. We see an increase in car sales and mortgage loans, which all economies consider a clear sign of growth, and non-resource and non-energy exports are up by 19 percent.
"Finally, another important macroeconomic indicator is inflation, and we have brought it down to a record low in modern Russian history. The figure today is 4.2 percent. This is an unprecedented result and it gives us reason to expect that we will reach our target figure of 4 percent by the end of the year.
"The Central Bank’s gold and foreign currency reserves, our international reserves, are growing. We started 2016 with $368 billion and ended the year with $378 billion. Today, the figure is $407 billion. One of the most significant indicators that I must mention is investment into capital assets, which is growing at a faster pace than the economy as a whole.
"The economy grew by 0.7 percent over the first four months of this year, while investment into capital assets was up by 2.3 percent. What does this mean in simple terms? It means that investment in developing production facilities is up by 2.3 percent, and this is laying the foundations for growth in the short term. This, of course, is a positive development that will have an impact on various aspects of the social sector too.
"Which aspects? The main social sector achievement that I want to mention once again is the substantial drop in infant and maternal mortality. Infant mortality has undergone a three-fold decrease since 2000, and maternal mortality has seen a close to four-fold drop. Probably no other country’s social sector has achieved such results. This has contributed to increased life expectancy as well. The figures here are now up from just over 70 years to 72 years. Overall, these results give us reason to say that we have overcome the crisis."
Direct Line with Vladimir Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'Whenever Our Partners In The World Saw Russia As A Serious Rival, They Imposed Various Restrictions Under Various Excuses'
Tatyana Remezova: "We received the following question online: 'Two weeks ago, Europe extended the anti-Russia sanctions for another year. Do you think we are ready to live under these sanctions for decades?'"
Vladimir Putin: "In fact, the history of Russia shows that we have usually lived under sanctions whenever Russia started to become independent and feel strong. Whenever our partners in the world saw Russia as a serious rival, they imposed various restrictions under various excuses; this has been the case throughout our history, not just in Soviet times; this was the case even before the 1917 revolution. So no surprises here.
"We now know that the U.S. Senate has drawn up another draft law on toughening these sanctions. What are the reasons for this? Nothing extraordinary is taking place. Why have they started talking about sanctions again, for no particular reason? This, of course, testifies to the ongoing domestic political struggle in the United States. In any case, this is happening and I can see no real reason for it. If it had not been Crimea or some other issue, they would still have come up with some other way to restrain Russia. The policy of containing Russia has always been presented like this.
"So, what is the situation with these sanctions and what impact, if any, have they had on us? They have had an impact. Has this been fundamental in nature? I do not think so. We have been affected more by the global situation and the drop in prices for our main traditional goods – oil, gas, metals, chemicals, and so on. What view do our partners take?
"The U.S. State Department believes that these sanctions have lowered our GDP by 1 percent, the Europeans give a slightly higher figure, and the UN has calculated that we lost around $50–52 billion, and that the countries that imposed the sanctions have lost $100 billion. In other words, sanctions have proven to be a double-edged sword and harm everyone, including those who impose them.
"Strange though it might sound, however, there have been advantages too. What are they? For a start, we were forced to concentrate our intelligence, talent and resources on key areas and not simply rely on oil and gas revenue. What result has this brought? We have seen real production growth in important and complex economic sectors.
"We have rebuilt substantially our skills in the radio-electronics sector, and we made good progress in aircraft engineering, rocket building, pharmaceuticals, and in heavy engineering. That is not to mention agriculture. We all know that agriculture has posted growth of around 3 percent and Russia is now a leader in exports of grain and wheat. That is the result we have to show.
"We have reduced substantially imports and developed our own production of pork and poultry and cover practically our entire consumption needs. What’s more, we are now looking for sales markets abroad.
"We are in talks with our Chinese friends on opening the Chinese market to our pork and poultry producers. So, there are positive aspects in this situation.
"But this is not a normal situation, of course. All of these restrictions do not produce anything good, and we should work towards a global economy that functions without these restrictions."
Sergei Korolev: "…But all of us are concerned with the following issue. The U.S. Senate adopted a decision yesterday, and Europe declared that their sanctions would be extended and even expanded. Will we extend our counter-sanctions in response to the West’s decisions?
"And a second question: When, God forbid, their sanctions are called off, can we hope for your support in protecting the domestic market, as was the case with Turkish tomatoes, for which Russian vegetable growers owe you a special thanks?"
Vladimir Putin: "…As for the question of keeping the restrictions in place indefinitely, if our partners lift the sanctions they imposed on us, we will have to do the same. Otherwise, Russia will face issues in the WTO. What I want to say is, first, we need to promote competition on the domestic market so that it benefits consumers, including those who live in major cities. Secondly, we very much hope that you will succeed in expanding your operations and enhancing your competitiveness, and we are doing everything we can to help you succeed. If you reach the same level of quality and labor productivity as your competitors, you will always have an advantage on the domestic market due to lower logistics costs. For this reason, we are providing indirect support, which is not prohibited under WTO rules. As a matter of fact, there are many loopholes that can be used, and we will continue to do so. However, you should not expect any massive, direct, or, should I say, aggressive support measures from us. Now is the time when you have to do everything it takes in order to become competitive in the near term.
Direct Line with Vladimir Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'I Do Not Want Them To Grow Up Like Some Royal Princes. I Want Them To Live Like Ordinary People'
Tatyana Remezova: "…While we were answering your question, we received a question from Tatyana Prokopenko in Kabardino-Balkaria. She is asking about your grandchildren. How old are they, and what are their names?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, my children, my daughters, despite all the rumors, live here in Russia, in Moscow. I have grandchildren and they live a normal life too. My daughters are involved in science and education and they stay out of the public eye, out of politics and live normal, everyday lives. As for my grandchildren, one of them is already in kindergarten.
"The thing is, you see, I do not want them to grow up like some royal princes. I want them to live like ordinary people, and for this, they need to have a normal environment and ordinary interaction with other children. The minute I give their names and ages, they would be identified immediately and would never be left in peace, and this would be quite simply detrimental to their development. Therefore, everything is fine, and I ask you to understand me correctly and show understanding for this position of mine."
Putin: 'Poroshenko Wanted To Show His Voters That He Is Delivering On His Promise By Making A Civilizational Choice, As The Ukrainian Leadership Puts It, By Leading The Country Towards Europe'
Question: "Good afternoon. My name is Dmitry, and I live in Ukraine.
"Why did you abandon us? Not everybody in Ukraine supports Bandera and Shukhevych [Ukrainian nationalists during WWII]. We honor the memory of our ancestors. We march with the Immortal Regiment. Why does Russian television smear us all with one color?"
Vladimir Putin: "Thank you very much for your views and for valuing our shared history. You just mentioned the Immortal Regiment. We do see and appreciate that, believe me. And I cannot agree with you that Russian television smears everybody with the same color, black.
Overall, we make sure not to paint anyone black. But we are cautious about giving you excessive public support, which could actually harm you. We try not to interfere in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.
Once again, trust me, we can and do highly appreciate your stance. Thank you for your call."
Tatyana Remezova: "Mr. President, what do your friends say on this topic? For example, Viktor Medvedchuk, who was actively involved in the exchange of POWs in Donbass?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know that we have many allies in Ukraine. You just mentioned Viktor Medvedchuk. I met him when he was Chief of Staff of President Kuchma’s Administration. He mainly cooperated with Dmitry Medvedev, who was Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office. They are still on very good terms.
"Medvedvchuk has his own beliefs. My opinion is that he is a Ukrainian nationalist but he does not like this description. He considers himself to be an enlightened Ukrainian patriot. It is not a secret that his father was an active member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and was convicted by the Soviet court, went to prison and then was exiled to the Krasnoyarsk Territory, where Medvedvchuk himself was later born.
"He has his own views on Ukraine’s independence. He is, of course, an ardent supporter of Ukraine’s independence but his belief system is based on fundamental treatises of those whom we can hypothetically describe as Ukrainian nationalists and who wrote their treatises in the 19th century and later on. These are Grushevsky, Franko, Dragomanov and the like. Then comes the man of our time, Chernovol.
"All of them – I would like to emphasize that all of them proceeded from the premise that Ukraine should be independent but as a federal state. Moreover, one of them wrote that excessive, “mechanical” centralisation, as he put it, would lead to internal conflicts in Ukraine and this is, actually, what we are witnessing today.
"But Viktor Medvedchuk is upholding their view; he is doing this on-the-record in his public speeches and papers. He is involved in scholarly studies. He writes articles and he does all this publicly. Probably, some people in Ukraine do not like this but such is his position.
"Incidentally, these fundamentalists of Ukraine’s independence and Ukrainian nationalism – some of them did not see Crimea as part of Ukraine at all, but this is apropos. At any rate, all of them favored federalization, greater freedom of the individual and democratic development of the Ukrainian state [What the Russians mean by federalization is extensive autonomy for the breakaway regions that would effectively void their control by Kyiv]
"Mr. Medvedchuk shares this viewpoint but that said, he stands for very good relations with Russia, for economic integration, if not for some form of union. He says it is absurd to destroy the advantages we inherited from the past, referring to the common infrastructure, common energy grid and common financial and technological potentials and cooperation. It is absurd to destroy all this.
"He believes economic cooperation is not only possible but also rational. He is acting or rather formulating his ideas proceeding from the interests of his people, the way he sees them. So he is not alone.
"We have just heard from Kiev or from Ukraine anyway, from a man who told us that he is taking part in campaigns linked with our common memory. Such people as Medvedchuk are also doing this. He also thinks we should cherish our common past and all the positive events of the past.
"Yes, he is involved in the exchange of detainees, prisoners of war, if we could call them that, and he is doing this on instructions from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko."
Dmitry Borisov: "Here is a question that came through VKontakte social network. “Ukraine widely celebrated the beginning of visa-free travel with Europe. President Poroshenko referred to this as bidding the final farewell to the Russian Empire. After that, he quoted Mikhail Lermontov’s poem, 'Forever you, the unwashed Russia! The land of slaves, the land of lords …'
"Would you like to answer him?"
Vladimir Putin: "No, I did not see his remarks on this account. However, I was told about them yesterday, I will not hide this fact. Indeed, Mr. Poroshenko thought it fit to read this excerpt from Lermontov’s poem, 'Forever you, the unwashed Russia! The land of slaves the land of lords, and you, the blue-uniformed ushers, and people who worship them as gods.' First, this tells us that he is familiar with the Russian classical literature, and takes an interest in it. I commend him for that. However, this is not the end of this poem. There is the second part, which runs as follows: 'I hope, from your tyrannic hounds to save me with Caucasian wall, from their eye that sees through ground, from their ears that hear all.'
"Mikhail Lermontov was a forward-looking man, and he wanted the political situation in Russia to improve. He was smothered by the atmosphere that prevailed in Russia at that time. And he talked about it openly.
"First, if it was Mikhail Lermontov who wrote this poem, he wrote it approximately in 1841–1842, if memory serves, when he was headed for the Caucasus to join the active army. He was an officer and defended the interests of his homeland. He was a brave officer.
"Further, at that point, the regions that are considered Ukraine today were Russia’s regions, and if the President of today's Ukraine quotes Lermontov as saying that he is leaving for some other place, Lermontov referred to entire Russia, including the areas that today are known as Ukraine. So, there is nothing special to brag about here.
"Also, Lermontov was going to the Caucasus, which was part of the Russian Empire at that time. He moved from one part of the empire, St Petersburg, his native land, to another part of the Russian Empire. He was not going anywhere outside of Russia as a matter of fact.
"Perhaps, Mr. Poroshenko is thus sending us a message that he is not going anywhere, either. However, he does it so finely, looking over his shoulder at the jingoists and the real nationalists, numbskulls running around waving swastikas. However, he is telling us: guys, I have my interests in Russia, and I am really not going anywhere. This may be the case as well.
"Of course, this is nothing but conjecture. In fact, most likely, Mr. Poroshenko wanted to show his voters that he is delivering on his promise by making a civilizational choice, as the Ukrainian leadership puts it, by leading the country towards Europe.
"By the way, remember the line, 'the blue-uniformed ushers, and people who worship them as gods?' The place he is taking Ukraine to has more blue uniforms than our country. So, he should stay alert to keep out of harm’s way and look around carefully.
"To be sure, we have nothing against these guys. I want to say: we have nothing against you, live in peace and harmony, and good luck to you, especially with new recruits.
"As for the core of the matter, you know that incomes fell here a few years back, and this is something we speak about frankly. Our average wage, if we put it in dollars rather than convert between rubles and hryvnia, was around $540 a month. Wages in Ukraine were similar, with an average of somewhere in the range of $450, $457, or $460. Wages here have not grown much, but they have grown, and the average was $624 a month in April this year, while in Ukraine, they have dropped to $251 a month.
"At the same time, gas prices have at least tripled, and households are paying even higher prices. Cold and hot water costs have also risen, by 200 percent each, and pensions have decreased by 45 percent. If this situation continues, many people in Ukraine will face sanitation and hygiene issues.
"Who gets to wash, where, and how often will become a big issue. Of course, Russian and Ukrainian literature both offer memorable and blunt examples that I could use to respond to Mr. Poroshenko, but I will not do this out of respect for the Ukrainian people and for our common history and common faith.
"If someone wants to become a European, they should first close their offshore accounts and then talk about the good of their people. In this respect, one quote comes to mind. I cannot quote it exactly, word for word, but I can convey the message.
"Close to 170 years ago, Taras Shevchenko said, 'Ukraine has fought to the point where it suffers more at the hands of its own children than it ever did at the hands of the Poles.' I hope that this period in the life of Ukraine and its people will end."
Direct Line with Vladimir Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'I would like to ask the Governor of Stavropol Territory, where did the money go?'
Tatyana Remezova: "We have a question from the Stavropol Territory…
Mikhail Akinchenko: "… The weather has created many problems for people in the Stavropol Territory… The overflowing Kuma River flooded some 400 buildings and household plots… Three weeks later, many people still cannot return to their houses. They are damp and the walls are cracked, so it is unsafe to live in them or even go inside, like this house. The owner, Valentina Sokovskaya, called Direct Line to ask a question…
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"Valentina, I know that you have been promised financial assistance for repairing this house or for buying a new one. I see that you are not doing anything yet. Why? You can share your problem with the President, who can see and hear you. Tell him."
Valentina Sokovskaya: "Hello, Mr President. There is not much to tell. I have not received any money from the government. The walls are cracking, the ceiling is shifting, and the plaster is crumbling. The house has cracked on all sides.
"We are waiting for the inspection commission; we cannot do anything until it comes. But the commission will not come until we pay an architectural fee of 6,000 rubles. Also, we must pay 1,800 rubles for certificates to prove that we have nowhere to live. But there are four owners in this house, which we bought with maternity capital, and the total we have to pay is high, about 15,000 rubles. We don’t know what to do. We are living with friends, and we have sent our children elsewhere. I have three children, but I only have the youngest with me. My daughter is in a health camp and my son is with my relatives. But I don’t know how long this can last. It’s good that it’s summer and we have friends, but what will we do in the autumn and winter? Frankly, we are at a loss."
Vladimir Putin: "I see."
Valentina Sokovskaya: "We hope that maybe you will be able to help us in one way or another."
Vladimir Putin: "Excuse me, what was your first name?"
Valentina Sokovskaya: "Valentina."
Vladimir Putin: "Valentina, what you have just said is very strange. I simply cannot get my head around it. Can I ask you whether you received the 10,000-ruble allocation and 50,000 rubles for partial loss of property?"
Valentina Sokovskaya: "No, we have not received anything so far."
Vladimir Putin: "Nothing at all?"
Valentina Sokovskaya: "I am not the only one in this situation. There was no aid."
Vladimir Putin: "This is very strange, since the funds for helping the affected families were transferred from the federal budget to Stavropol Territory. I would like to ask the Governor of Stavropol Territory, where did the money go? This is the first thing.
"Secondly, I would like to ask the Prosecutor General’s Office to check how the work is proceeding.
"Thirdly, the fact that you are asked to pay fees to architectural agencies or for receiving certificates of some kind is total nonsense.
"You are entitled to 10,000 rubles for your immediate needs, another 50,000 rubles for partially lost property, and 100,000 rubles for unrecoverable property. The municipal, city and regional authorities must deliver all the relevant certificates free of charge, without shifting the burden on to you. We have decided on these allocations of 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 rubles in order to help people, and did not intend to get the money back by charging people for certificates. This is complete nonsense. Be assured that we will look into this."
Valentina Sokovskaya: "Thank you very much."
Vladimir Putin: "I hope that the Governor visits you as soon as today."
Valentina Sokovskaya: "We hope so too."
Vladimir Putin: "He should look into this situation."
Putin: 'It Is An Extremely Important Region From The Point Of View Of Ensuring Our Country's Defense Capability'
Yury Ryzhov: "I have a question from the Baltic Shipyard staff and myself. What will happen to the plant? What could we do in light of the Government’s Arctic development plans and Arctic projects? Will you use the shipyard’s rich, unique experience of building nuclear-powered vessels? Do you have modernization, construction or further development plans for the plant? Thank you."
Vladimir Putin: "The Baltic Shipyard is a flagship of our shipbuilding industry. You just spoke about the history of the shipyard. I know about the difficulties the plant faced in the 1990s and the early 2000s. When I worked in St Petersburg, we tried to support it and make sure it got orders. By the way, we managed to keep the plant going, and it was also helpful for the Navy. Those rough attempts to privatize the Baltic Shipyard are, thank God, in the past. I am talking about rough and fraudulent schemes.
"Nowadays, the United Shipbuilding Corporation is growing, and the shipyard is developing. And it will keep developing. We saw you near the new Arktika nuclear icebreaker. Our plan is to build four icebreakers of this class. I think you know about this. The first one is the Arktika; then there will be the Sibir and the Ural. They all have a high power of 60 MW. By 2025, another icebreaker class will be developed, even more powerful, twice as powerful as those that I just mentioned, one of which you are finishing. The new class will have a power of 120 MW. If the first class breaks ice up to three metres thick, the Lider will be able to deal with unlimited amounts, any thickness. All this is due to the latest technology which the Baltic Shipyard is mastering very fast thanks to its prior experience and the opportunities of modern developments.
"Therefore, what can I say? We have included the necessary funds in the budgets. The prospects for the Lider are more distant and the funding options are not yet clear, but I am certain we can accomplish this.
"I want to point out that nuclear icebreakers of this class are not built anywhere else in the world. Russia has them because we need to operate in the Arctic. As you said, we need to establish ourselves there, and we will do it. There will be plenty of work for the shipyard. I am certain the plant will not only retain its team but also expand it. I wish you all the best."
Tatyana Remezova: "Mr. President, I have a question coming from the website of our program: why are we so focused on the Arctic? For the past 20 years, no one spoke about it, and today we see Arctic troops even at the Victory Day parade. A lot of money is spent on the Arctic. Why is this being done?"
Vladimir Putin: "While we are on this subject, what else can I say? I have already started talking about this. The Arctic is an extremely important region, which will ensure the future of our country. Mikhail Lomonosov once famously said that Russia would expand through Siberia. I can say with confidence that Russia’s power and capabilities will expand as we develop the Arctic region.
"As I mentioned at a meeting held in the Arctic, by 2050 about 30 percent of all hydrocarbons will be produced in the Arctic area. Some of our major projects are already being implemented there with NOVATEK building a plant, a company town, an airfield, and a port in the Arctic zone. Production has already begun in the Arctic.
"Therefore, from an economic point of view, this is critically important. Especially so if the climate is going to change. Despite a cold spell in Moscow, the global warming trend will continue, meaning that the navigation period in the Arctic zone will get longer. In turn, this means that the Northern Sea Route will be used much more actively than now. The navigation period will go from the current one or two months to four and even five months.
"The so-called non-regional powers are showing an active interest in this region. That is a good thing, and we are willing to cooperate with them, but we must ensure our priority interests.
"I went to Franz Josef Land recently. The people who work there told me that many tourists go there, including those from other countries, and some tour guides have already told tourists that these islands used to be part of the Soviet Union.
"This should put us on alert, as it is our territory. So, we need to ensure the use of these routes, develop our economic activity in these areas, and ensure our sovereignty over these territories. Let us not forget about the purely military aspect of the matter: it is an extremely important region from the point of view of ensuring our country's defense capability.
"I do not want to stoke any fears here, but experts are aware that U.S. nuclear submarines remain on duty in northern Norway, the time it takes a missile to reach Moscow is 15 minutes, and we need to have a clear idea of what is happening there. We must protect this shore accordingly, and ensure proper border guarding.
"On top of everything, from the point of view of strategic weapons, the flight route of the ground-based missiles located in the United States passes precisely above the North Pole. I hope it will never come to that, but since we are aware of it, we just need to make sure that the missile warning system and the missile launch control system are in place.
"This is what the Arctic means to us. We had not engaged in this work before not because it is unimportant, but because we were unable to afford it. We just let it go, as, unfortunately, we did many other things that are critically important for our country. Now we are back to it, I hope, for good."
Putin: 'After The October Revolution, The State Went To Great Lengths To Destroy Our Spiritual And Religious Roots, And was unwavering and cruel in pursuing this objective'
Ivan Brattsev: "Good afternoon, Mr. President.
"We work in the Baltic Shipyard, where we build the most powerful and the largest icebreakers in the world. However, my question is not related to industrial matters. Many residents of this wonderful city, myself included, are eager to hear your personal perspective on the future of St Isaac's Cathedral.
"As someone who was born and grew up in St Petersburg, do you think that it would be right for the city to keep the cathedral and preserve it as a museum and an architectural landmark or transfer it to the Russian Orthodox Church?"
Vladimir Putin: "I did not expect this question, especially from the Baltic Shipyard.
"What I can say is that Russia is a secular state. This is the way it was created, and it will stay this way. This is my first point.
"Second, after the October Revolution, the state went to great lengths to destroy our spiritual and religious roots, and was unwavering and cruel in pursuing this objective. Many churches were razed to the ground.
"Back then the state attempted to come up with a quasi-religion and replace the Bible with the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism. It did not work. Many cathedrals were demolished; many priests perished, were killed, sent to camps or executed by firing squads.
"And the traces of what happened back then are all around us. Here in Moscow, not far from where we now are, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was razed to the ground. It was not uncommon for churches to be used as stables or workshops. Thank God St Isaac’s Cathedral was spared.
"You know, of course I looked into this issue. It is true that this cathedral never belonged to the Church. Throughout its history it was operated by the state. However, the Tsar used to be the head of the Church, so if we see it this way, the Church did own the building. It was built as a cathedral, as a church, not a museum. It was intended for worship, for people to pray there.
"And what did they do there in the Soviet days? They set up Foucault’s pendulum to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. In fact, it was a museum of atheism, a quasi-museum of atheism. In a sense, it was a subtle mockery of people’s religious feelings. However, hundreds of thousands, millions of people, including foreigners, visit it. There is no getting away from this fact.
"So yes, we have a law passed, I believe, in 2010 on the transfer of religious buildings to religious organizations, and we are supposed to enforce it. At the same time, we have international obligations and other laws that ban the transfer of architectural landmarks under UNESCO protection. There are some disagreements, but I believe we can easily overcome them if we ensure both museum activity and the exercise of religious beliefs. I do not want to jump ahead of myself, but such solutions have been found in other countries. Say, St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican – people go there and there are guided tours.
"Therefore, it is important to depoliticize this problem, to stop thinking about it as such, to respect people’s religious feelings and never forget that this building and structure was built as a church, not as a museum. Nevertheless, it should retain its function as a museum, of course.
"How can these interrelations be fostered? As a matter of fact, it is not so difficult. Simply, there should be no agitation, no exploitation of this issue. People should not be provoked and used as a tool in some petty internal political squabbling."
Putin: 'Russophobia Is Running High In America And Think This Is Primarily A Result Of The Escalating Political Infighting'
Jeremy Bowling: "Greetings, Mr. Putin. My name is Jeremy Bowling. I live in Mesa, Arizona in America. I am a big supporter of you. I am very pro-Russian and I wish you much health and success in your life. My question to you is this. As an American who sits here in America and sees the racist Russian phobia running crazy in my country, what advice would you give me to help set the record straight, to help my fellow Americans understand that Russia is not the enemy?"
Vladimir Putin: "To begin with, I am very grateful to you for this call. And I can tell you as the current head of the Russian state that I know the attitudes of our people. We do not consider America our enemy. Moreover, twice in history when we were going through very hard times, we pooled our efforts; we were allies in two world wars. In the past, the Russian Empire played a substantial role in helping America gain independence and supported the United States. We see that Russophobia is running high in America and think this is primarily a result of the escalating political infighting.
"I do not think I have the right to give you any advice. I simply want to thank you for this stance. We know that we have very many friends in the United States. My American colleagues told me so, and public opinion polls show the same results. At any rate, those polls taken a month ago show that we have many friends there. True, regrettably such hysteria is bound to affect the frame of mind, but let me assure you that there are also very many people in Russia who have deep respect for the achievements of the American people and are hoping that eventually our relations will get back on track, in which both we and the United States are extremely interested."
Putin: 'We Are The Biggest Nuclear Powers And So Our Cooperation In This Area Is Absolutely Natural'
Tatyana Remezova: "People in this studio also have questions about our relations with the United States."
Olga Pautova: "I suggest talking on this subject some more, considering that when we were preparing for this programme and speaking to our guests, it became clear that this is an issue of concern to practically everyone. Even today, shortly before we were to begin, international issues were being discussed up until the last moment.
I am giving the floor to a person whose question is of concern not only to Russians, but to everyone in the world, without a doubt. Konstantin Remchukov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta Editor-in-Chief."
Konstantin Remchukov: "Good afternoon, Mr. President. I would like to talk about Russian-American relations. One of the current trends, as you and an American guest have said, is that bilateral relations are deteriorating and there is Russo phobia along with daily reports about new anti-Russia initiatives, including sanctions. At the same time, there is a growing demand not only for stabilizing but also for improving Russian-American relations.
"At a Senate hearing the day before yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said something to the effect that every time he met with his foreign colleagues since his appointment, they asked him to stabilize relations with the Russians. He indicated that his colleagues from the Middle East and Southeast Asia had the same request. This is how he explained the need to act during a hearing on the 2018 State Department budget.
"In three weeks’ time, the G20 will convene in Hamburg, where you are to meet with US President Trump. Is it possible that these talks will help prod this negative trend towards a more positive one and possibly even towards a radical improvement in our relationships with the United States? In what areas and on what issues can Russian-U.S. cooperation be productive and mutually beneficial? I believe that these questions are of concern not only to people in Russia and the United States but many other countries as well.
Vladimir Putin: "As someone with experience and well-acquainted with the subject, you know as well as I do the areas in which we can work together with the United States. This includes, above all, control over non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are the biggest nuclear powers and so our cooperation in this area is absolutely natural. This is an area of crucial importance and concerns not just the North Korean issue but other regions too.
"Then there is the fight against poverty, fighting environmental damage and so on. We know the position the current U.S. administration has taken on the Paris Agreement, but President Trump is not rejecting discussion on the issue. Cursing and trading barbs and insults with the U.S. administration would be the worst road to take because we would reach no agreement at all in this case, but it makes no sense to seek agreements without the US, which is one of the biggest emitter countries. We must work together to fight poverty in the world. The number of people earning a minimum income has increased in Russia, but there is a disastrous situation in many parts of the world, and this is one of the sources of radicalism and terrorism, this poverty around the world, and we must decide together how to address this problem. Here, we must work with our other partners too, work with China, India and Europe.
"By the way, we worked together with the United States to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, and we did reach an agreement, we did find a solution. There are positive examples of cooperation then. The previous U.S. administration directly recognized the substantial role that we played in resolving this issue. We can reach agreements and work together then. Of course we can.
"On the Syrian problem and the Middle East in general, it is clear to all that no progress will be made without joint constructive work. We hope greatly too for the United States’ constructive role in settling the crisis in southeast Ukraine. A constructive role, as I said. We see then that there are many areas in which we must work together, but this depends not only on us. We see what is happening in the United States today. I have said before and say again now that this is clearly a sign of an increasingly intense domestic political struggle, and there is nothing that we can do here. We cannot influence this process. But we are ready for constructive dialogue."
Vera Krasova: "Russia-US relations are of interest to representatives of the machine-building industry. We have Alexei Bakulin from Volgograd Region in our studio."
Alexei Bakulin: "Good afternoon, Mr. President. You mentioned the aggravation of the internal political conflict in the United States. Indeed, the world is following the conflict between President Donald Trump and former FBI Head James Comey like a television drama. As is customary, 'Russian influence' has been detected. What is your take on this situation, and what are its possible implications?"
Vladimir Putin: "I am not familiar with the details of Mr Comey’s testimony, but I am aware of certain things, of course. What are my thoughts on it?
"The first thing that caught my attention was that former FBI director said that he believes that Russia interfered in the U.S. election process. He did not provide any evidence, as usual, but he said there were attempts 'to shape the way we think, vote, and act.' Is that not the way it is all over the world? What about the unending U.S. propaganda and funding of U.S.-oriented NGOs? The funds are allocated directly to this end. Is this not an attempt to influence our minds and our actions during election campaigns? It goes on year after year.
"Take a globe, give it a spin, and point your finger randomly. You will point to a place where the United States has interests and has most likely intervened. I know this from my conversations with almost all leaders and heads of state. They just do not want to fall out with the Americans. No one talks about it openly, but everyone is saying the same thing.
"Therefore, there is nothing unusual here. What do they want? Do they want everyone to bow down? We have our own opinion, and we openly express it. This is not some kind of subversive activity. We simply express our point of view. This is my first point.
"Secondly, he said that he has no evidence of us interfering in the vote count. Thank God for that.
"Next, he said quite unexpectedly that he had written down a conversation with the President, and then passed along this conversation to the media through a friend. It sounds and looks very strange when the head of an intelligence agency writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief, and then passes it to the media through a friend. How then is the FBI director different from Mr. Snowden? In that case, he is not the head of an intelligence agency, but a human rights activist who takes a certain position.
"By the way, if he is persecuted in any way for this, we will be willing to grant him political asylum in Russia as well. He should know that."
Putin: 'This Experience In Using Our Armed Forces In Combat Conditions And With The Newest Weapons Is Precious'
Question: "… Mr President, as a reserve officer, I am interested to know how our Armed Forces are doing in Syria and would like to ask what lessons our Armed Forces have learned and what the prospects are for our troops there."
Vladimir Putin: "… What lessons have been learned, and what have our Armed Forces gained from the operation in Syria? There are several aspects here.
"Firstly, this is of great value for our defense industrial sector. The use of the newest weapon systems has made it possible for us to understand how they work on the battlefield and improve the quality of these advanced weapon systems.
"We knew that our weapons are good anyway, but when we saw how they perform on the battlefield – this is an entirely different story.
"Furthermore, representatives of the enterprises go to places where these weapons are used, see how they work, make adjustments, and this is not just some fine-tuning but serious, thorough work. This is as far as the defense industry is concerned.
"Regarding the Armed Forces as such, I can say that this experience in using our Armed Forces in combat conditions and with the newest weapons is precious. I am saying this without any exaggeration.
"You know, even our Armed Forces have acquired a new quality. Some subunits were created only recently and were employed for the first time, and they are very effective.
"As for what we plan to do there, we are going to foster a peaceful political settlement between all the parties to the conflict. Our task in the near future is to upgrade the level and combat capability of the Syrian Armed Forces and proceed to the facilities that we have created in Syria, including in Hmeimim (Hmeimim airport) and the Tartus naval base, leaving the Syrian forces to operate effectively and achieve required results on their own. However, if necessary, we would be able to provide them with operational support in fighting terrorist groups, including by employing our combat aviation. These are our plans."
Putin: 'Using Difficulties As A Tool For Self-Promotion And In Order To Cash In Politically, Only Aggravates Them [i.e. The Political Opposition]'
Dmitry Borisov: "Mr. President, I would be remiss not to ask you a question today. There is a crisis underway, difficult times for everyone, clearly. The number of disgruntled people is on the rise. Some are protesting in social media, others are taking to the streets. Is that an opposition? Are you prepared to talk to anyone among them?"
Vladimir Putin: "I am prepared to talk to everyone who really aims to improve people's lives, to resolve the issues facing the country, but not the ones who use existing difficulties – and there are always enough difficulties anywhere you go – to promote their own political agenda. Using difficulties as a tool for self-promotion and in order to cash in politically, only aggravates them.
"We spoke about managing companies. What is one of their key problems today? They are intermediaries in the movement of funds from the state to those who provide additional services. They should be denied the right to mediate cash flows. The same applies to the opposition. Some of them in this sense are no better; they are using difficulties to their own advantage. Instead, they should offer solutions. Those who offer solutions deserve our closest attention. They are entitled to maintain a dialogue with the authorities. This is what we are going to do."
Putin: 'This Issue Is Not Among The Top'
Vera Krasova: "We have representatives of the younger generation in our studio – finalists of the National Engineering Olympiad from Nefteyugansk. I had a chance to talk to them yesterday; it was very interesting. Danila Prilepa has a very serious question. Danila, you have the floor."
Danila Prilepa: "Hello, Mr. President. The fact that corrupt officials and ministers are in the Government is not news, has not been for a long time; putting them under house arrest for show does not produce results, and you undermine people’s trust by doing so. How are you dealing with this problem now?
"The consequences of negligence affect the majority of our country’s population, including my family. Federal Law No. 247 states that every police officer is entitled to a subsidy for the purchase of their own housing.
In Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, only 90 families have received the money over the past five years. The waiting list includes thousands, and there is practically no progress."
Vladimir Putin: "Danila, did you read your question? Did you prepare it in advance or did someone recommend it to you?"
Danila Prelepa: "Life has prepared me for this question."
Vladimir Putin: "Well said!
"Let us begin with the provision of housing for the Interior Ministry employees, as I understand, this is what you are asking. I would need to look up how much money is specifically allocated for that purpose, including in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area. I cannot tell you now, but I promise that I will look it up.
"The housing issues of Interior Ministry personnel are probably not being solved as quickly as one would like. I am not ready to tell you right now how much housing was actually acquired, but this is one of the most urgent issues. We will see what happens in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, what else can be done, and increase the funding accordingly.
"Now, about corrupt officials. We are aware of this issue, and I believe it is a pressing one. However, the list of questions – I mean the analysis of the list of questions raised during today's cooperative work, including with you – shows that compared to past Direct Lines – and we are on the 15th event – this issue is not among the top.
"Nevertheless, I believe that this issue is important, acute, and it is not a matter of house arrest, not even jailing people, the point is– I sense your family is involved in law enforcement – the point is that no offence should remain without the authorities’ attention and without punishment. That is the most important thing. We need to arrange this mode of operation.
"As for house arrest or actual prison terms, this is a question that must be determined by court depending on each specific situation and the guilt of the person who committed the offence. The most recent example is a conviction brought against a former head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, that is, a person who headed the entire correctional system, that is, the system that manages people serving sentences for crimes committed.
"However, he broke the law himself, and as far as I know, the court yesterday rendered its verdict. A real term of 8 years in prison is a serious punishment. So, let us rely on the work of the judicial system, which, of course, needs to be improved, but nonetheless, there is no other institution under the Constitution that determines the punishment for those who have committed an offence."
Direct Line with Vladimir Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'If I Am Certain That There Was An Attempt To Cheat Me, Before I Respond, I Will Always Look To See What That Person’s Motives Are… But I Will Not Forget It"
Dmitry Borisov: "… Ildar Neverov, chairman of the environmental committee of Delovaya Rossiya has a question to ask."
Ildar Neverov: "Good afternoon, Mr. President.
"Last year I was able to ask you a question about waste, and it is meaningful that we are speaking about it in-depth and constructively during the Year of the Environment. However, today my question is not about solid waste but about a different sort of rubbish – information rubbish.
"Information war in the business world is a tool of unfair competition. It is hard to treat it with impartiality. At the same time, recently we have seen and heard increasing information attacks on people in power. What do you think about this? Do you look at such materials?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, as a rule, I do look at those materials, especially if they concern my colleagues; of course, I have no choice. As well as other information coming not only from the internet but also from TV, newspapers, radio, I always look at it carefully and – I would like to say and assure you – respectfully.
"However, a person in my position necessarily has to double-check everything and draw final conclusions relying on objective data only. You and I know only too well that, unfortunately, the media as a whole and the internet are used for fakes, information attacks or just for political combat.
"But what can we do about it? This is life; there is nothing unusual about it. However, I always have to crosscheck it with the resources at my disposal, and I have many of them. There is the Prosecutor’s Office, the Interior Ministry, the FSB, monitoring agencies, the Presidential Control Directorate, which are all agencies, engaged in overseeing the use of budget funds.
"So I have plenty of such resources, and before making any conclusion, I always, let me emphasize this, always try to treat people with care, and I first always double check any information."
Tatyana Remezova: "Here is an SMS question: 'Have you as president ever been cheated? What action did you take against the cheaters?' The question comes from Vladimir Novikov (Krasnoyarsk Territory, the city of Uzhur)."
Vladimir Putin: "I am looking around at what is coming via SMS and MMS. One question was, should we not reinstate the death penalty and hold a referendum on the issue? I can imagine what the result of that referendum would be. However, the question was, should the death penalty not be applied to murderers?
"As for those who cheat or try to cheat. You know, I think everyone among those sitting here has some experience in being a target of cheating. This applies to you, Tanya, and you, Dima, and generally to all – practically all of our country’s citizens. No cheating – it simply does not work that way.
"I am also human and sometimes also become a target of such attempts. However, even when I see it I try not to make a fuss. Even if I am certain that there was an attempt to cheat me, before I respond, I will always look to see what that person’s motives are, what they are after, why they wanted to do so and what they were trying to achieve. But I will not forget it."
Dmitry Borisov: "We have received texts like this: 'Do you really think that people believe these fabricated questions?'"
Vladimir Putin: "Believe what?"
Dmitry Borisov: "'Believe fabricated questions'."
Vladimir Putin: "'Let us free the world from this evil!' It is not clear what evil. Is this a fabricated question?
"'What do you do in your spare time?' I work.
"'Why do wages for the same work often differ across the regions, even in public institutions?' Because the subsistence level varies across the regions and local production facilities have been developing at a different pace for decades. In one place, the cost of living is higher than in another, I am talking about the subsistence level. These are interrelated things that have evolved over decades. However, we have to even out the incomes and certainly federal employees have to make roughly the same money across the country. All these questions are always at the focus of our attention. And we will continue working on them.
"Therefore, these questions are clearly not prepared in advance. Nor are all the others that were asked here today."
Tatyana Remezova: "Which world leader has the strongest handshake?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, the strength of a leader is not measured by their handshake; it is measured by their attitude towards the work they do, towards the fate of their country and their people, and by their personal commitment and dedication while exercising their powers."
Dmitry Borisov: "Another urgent question: 'Do your words about never ratting on friends apply to bribe takers and corrupt officials?'"
Vladimir Putin: "I do not consider them my friends."
Dmitry Borisov: "How many languages do you speak?"
Vladimir Putin: "Russian, thank God, I am also fluent in German, and I can speak a little English."
Tatyana Remezova: "How do you feel about jokes about you?"
Vladimir Putin: "It depends on the joke."
Tatyana Remezova: "Is there a favourite?"
Vladimir Putin: "No, I never remember them. Do you think I keep them in mind or something? I have not read a single book about myself, and I certainly never remember jokes."
Dmitry Borisov: "Another question: What is the biggest fish you have ever caught?"
Vladimir Putin: "Yes, I know this is a matter of interest for professional and amateur fishermen, I read about it and see it on the internet. Honestly, the fish was weighed in my presence, it was 20 kilograms, although many believe it did not look big enough to weigh 20 kilograms. But this is what I saw. Maybe somebody was standing near with a finger on the scale, but I did not notice anything."
Tatyana Remezova: "At Direct Line, we have a tradition we will not break. Usually you yourself pick out some questions you liked or you want to answer, so we are giving you this opportunity."
Vladimir Putin: "You know, I do have such questions, I selected them, but I did not take them with me. They are not even questions per se but requests, and sensitive ones. I will not say what they were, but I will do my best to respond to them, all the more so as such requests come from people with special needs.
"These requests are not huge, but they are very specific. I will try to do this. However, while I was talking here with you, I looked around, and some questions appeared universal to me. I mean, not universal but important, and some were regional but serious as well.
"Here is one of the questions, not a serious one, but nevertheless: When will the Russian President drive a Russian-made car? I hope this will happen soon. This not an idle question.
"I once asked the head of a western car manufacturer what car he drove. He said: 'Why, …, of course' and named the company he worked for. This is natural.
"And of course, a country like Russia must produce a line of cars that the country's top officials will use. We are working on this. I hope that by the end of 2018 this will materialize, and this will be a line of cars not only for top officials, like limos, but it will also include SUVs, minibuses, hatchbacks, and others – that is, it will be a brand new line of domestically produced cars…
"Another question: 'Who do you plan to choose as your successor?' Firstly, I am still in office. Secondly, I want to say that this is a choice for the voters – the Russian people. Of course, I made my choice a while ago, and I see nothing dishonorable in saying that my preferences are such and such; but ultimately, we should not forget that Russian citizens are the ones to vote, and it is only up to them to determine who will lead a region, a district, a city, an area or the country.
"You know, this is a strange question: Governor Merkushkin deprives federal veterans of some allowances. I do not even understand what this is all about. How can any governor, not only Nikolai Merkushkin but also others, stop making payments to federal beneficiaries? I do not get this. I will check on this, by all means. I want you to know that I paid attention to this question.
"Finally, this is not a question but a statement. I read it. It says, 'Everything will be fine.' This is true. I can confirm it."
Dmitry Borisov: "You said that the voters would decide who would be the head of state. Could you predict what challenges the head of state whom they will elect for the next six years will be facing? What priority tasks will the president have to focus on?"
Vladimir Putin: "We have many tasks. The first and the most important one is to ensure that people’s incomes go up. It is necessary to eliminate poverty, shacks and hazardous housing, but we can achieve this only if we grow our economy at the necessary rates.
"In this context, it is necessary to pay attention to labor productivity and increase it, but this is impossible without transitioning to the next technological level, and at this point, we need the digital economy and properly organized work.
"We must make substantial adjustments of administrative forms at the level of municipal entities, regions and the entire country.
"It is perfectly obvious that we need a serious transformation of management at this point. This is not a big but a very important list of tasks that will be raised in the near future."
Tatyana Remezova: "And the final question: Will there be one more Direct Line with Vladimir Putin or is this the last one?"
Vladimir Putin: "If there is any line, it will be only direct, just as today."
On the day of the direct line, Putin gave an interview to Russian news agency Interfax and with the BBC. The following are excerpts of Putin's interviews:
Putin: 'It’s One Thing To Organize A protest, But It’s Something Else Entirely To Use These Demonstrations As An Instrument For… Self-Promotion'
"Vladimir Putin said the recent anti-corruption protests that swept roughly 200 cities in Russia last weekend were organized to address 'personal issues related to self-promotion,' and not to 'improve the situation in Russia.'
"'It’s one thing to organize a protest, but it’s something else entirely to use these demonstrations as an instrument for provocations and exacerbating the situation, all for self-promotion. That’s not something I welcome,' Putin said, according to the news agency Interfax.
"The president also stressed that he supports demonstrations as a means of public expression, saying protests can be a 'good way to convey to the authorities — to the authorities in any country, including in Russia — the perspectives of people who disagree on various issues with the acting authorities.' Putin then added, 'At the same time, all protests, including demonstrations, must observe the law. [...] Just as state officials and law enforcement must act within the confines of the law.'
"On June 12, anti-corruption activists protested in cities across Russia in a movement organized by opposition politician Alexey Navalny, who was jailed that day for 30 days for calling demonstrators in Moscow to Tverskaya Street, rather than Sakharov Prospekt, where his team had a city permit. In a tense standoff that lasted several hours, Moscow police detained more than 800 protesters who came to Tverskaya to support Navalny.
"Vladimir Putin has never uttered Alexey Navalny's name aloud publicly. It is commonplace in Russian politics to criticize opposition leaders as 'self-promoters' who allegedly manipulate young people."
(Meduza.io, June 15, 2017)
Putin Accuses The BBC Of Propaganda
Russian BBC service question: "What do you think about recent protests in Russia? Do you consider Alexey Navalny as your opponent at the upcoming 2018 elections?"
Putin: "I had no doubts that you would be asking exactly this question, since in certain sense this is propaganda on behalf of the people, whom you support."
(Meduza.io, June 15, 2017)
 Meduza.io, June 15, 2017.
 Meduza.io, June 15, 2017.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6826, New Navalny Investigation Accuses Medvedev Of Corruption, March 10, 2017.
 Meduza.io, June 15, 2017.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6872, Putin And Medvedev's Trip To The Arctic – Political Analyst Goltz: The PM Was Invited To Hear... 'A Strictly Confidential Message That It's Time To Be Going', April 12, 2017.