Russian President Vladimir Putin held a regular televised Q&A conference with Russian citizens on April 25th. For Putin, it was the eleventh conference like that, but such a form of communication between the president and the people is still highly actual. Putin set a new record for himself: he was answering questions for 4 hours 47 minutes. More than three million questions were received in total; Putin answered 85.
"This format is a well known one. Of course, it can be formal, but still it's very useful. This is absolutely correct and obvious. Such direct contacts with citizens give a very true slice of what is most important in the present-day society. Therefore, such a direct exchange of views, direct information, getting feedback from regions is extremely important and extremely useful," Putin said.
As in the previous times, there were plenty of issues to discuss. Traditionally, Putin paid a lot of attention to issues of economic and social development. In addition, the participants of the conference (including the expert part of it) were highly interested in the political component of the conversation.
It has been less than a year since Vladimir Putin's inauguration. However, these months were extremely important in he political sense of the word. It was about disturbances and changes in the area of political rights and freedoms, the electoral law, and, of course, about questions to the government formed by Putin, at least about several members of the government.
"It is necessary all leaders of any rank - both in presidential structures, and in the government - should feel and understand that ordinary citizens are closely monitoring our work and give their assessment to it," - he said.
As for requirements to sack one, two, or all ministers at once, Putin explained that the government had been working for less than a year, "so one must give people an opportunity to realize themselves or come to understanding that someone is not in a position to do it. " "I repeat, claims may be plentiful, but whether a reshuffling is required, I do not know. Most likely, it will do more harm than good," said the president.
Speaking of ministers, Putin mentioned ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. According to the President, the ex-Minister of Finance received requests to return of the bodies of state power, but Kudrin declined.
As for the Russian opposition, Putin said that the opposition refuses to conduct a dialogue with the authorities. "As for the so-called non-systemic opposition, we offer this dialogue to them, but some opposition leaders shy away from this dialogue," said Putin.
"Maybe something that they offer and say will become more understandable to our society, maybe we need some of their offers. Maybe they would be able to push the government to not very popular, but necessary things in the economy," said Putin.
"The concept of non-systemic opposition, as it seems to me, should gradually lose its relevance," the president said, recalling that the law provides the right to form political parties with minimal bureaucratic costs. "Screaming help is one thing, but offering a positive agenda is another one. And this can only be done in a legal form, using the power given by the law. You're welcome to take action, fight, get into the parliament and prove your rightness," Putin said.
Actually, this can be considered a response to the Kremlin's opponents when they say that the Russian parliament is entirely controlled by the state. "This is a mistake, I think, to believe that in some other country, in the U.S., for example, the Congress and the upper house are not controlled by the state at all. Nothing of the sort is consistent with the practice of our political life," he explained.
According to Putin, Russia has the ruling party, which represents the majority in power. But as practice shows, even in the ruling party, people share different views. In general, over the last few years, the State Duma has showed that, it serves as a real battlefield of opinions, ideas and characters.
The name of late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky emerged during the conference too. To be more precise, it was his "letters of repentance" Putin, the news of which appeared only after his death. The President confirmed that he indeed received two letters from the fugitive oligarch. The first one arrived in February of this year, and the second letter came after his death. "One letter was handwritten in full, the second one - in part: first handwritten, then typed text, then handwritten again," said the president. However, Putin did not unveil any details about the content of the letters. He only said that Berezovsky wrote that he had made a lot of mistakes and caused damage. He asked for forgiveness and for an opportunity to return to his homeland."
Putin emphasized that he had never been in close relationship with Berezovsky. "We were acquaintances. He was writing with a request. Some of my colleagues immediately asked to publicize the contents of the letters. I am very grateful to the Lord that He has saved me from that," Putin said, adding that that he did not respond to letters.
As for other problems related to politics, one can mention the scandal with Oboronservis company that, without a doubt, gained political colors. "The case (of Oboronservis) will be brought to an end. But that does not mean that we should, for political reasons, in order to look good in front of outraged citizens, put them (the suspects) in jail, at any cost. We do not need to go back to that dark period - to 1937," said Putin.
The question about the fate of Russian blogger Alexei Navalny, who acts as a defendant in the criminal case on grand embezzlement in the Kirov region, may also refer to this category. "I am confident that the proceedings on this and other cases will be extremely objective. By the way, I drew the attention of Prosecutor General's Office and other law enforcement agencies to this issue," said the president.
But at the same time, Putin emphasized that "the people who fight against corruption, must themselves be crystal clear, otherwise all this takes the form of self-PR and political advertising. All must be equal before the law. And no one should have any illusions. If someone screams "stop the thief," it does not mean that he himself is allowed to steal," said the head of Russia.
Vladimir Putin explained his position about another issue that caused a strong reaction in the society. It goes about the prohibition to officials to have foreign bank accounts and property abroad.
According to the President, there is no obstacle - either moral or legal - for people to be free to choose where to deposit their money or buy apartments. "But there is a special category of people who consciously choose public service for themselves, and let them decide for themselves what is more important: to keep their money abroad or serve for the citizens of the Russian Federation on these high positions to which they have grown in their service," Putin said, adding that such an official "is always in a state of dependence on the system of the state in which he or she keeps their money."
This problem may seem far-fetched to some. However, one can not deny the fact that some foreign governments use every opportunity to put pressure on the Russian authorities.
This, in particular, goes about the so-called Magnitsky list, the adoption of which in the USA was a manifestation of imperial aggression, as Putin said. According to Putin, the U.S. authorities were forced to cancel the Jackson-Vanik amendment, as in the current situation it was detrimental to American businessmen. "They (the United States) had to cancel it (the Jackson-Vanik amendment). And it would have been a good reason to do it, forget it all that we had in the days of the Cold War and move on. No, they had to come up with another anti-Russian necessarily act (the Magnitsky list). Why was it done? Simply to show that they are the coolest guys. Why? This is the imperial behavior in the foreign policy field," said the president of Russia.
In general, evaluating the style of his policy, Putin said that it was impossible to compare the current model of governance with that of Stalin's era. "I do not think there are any elements of Stalinism here. Stalinism is associated with the cult of personality and mass violations of the law, repressions and camps. There is nothing like that in Russia, and hopefully never will be," said Putin stressing that Russia should have "order and discipline."
"All citizens of the Russian Federation, regardless of their official position, shall be equal before the law," the president said, adding that the girls from Pussy Riot and young people who commit acts of vandalism on the graves of soldiers should be held accountable before the law.
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