President Vladimir Putin entertained journalists for four-and-a-half hours yesterday at a press conference reminiscent of his previous annual televised call-in. Putin touched on a number of issues including Russia’s dispute with the U.S. over the Magnitsky List, new measures to ban U.S. adoptions of Russian children, Syria, the end of the world, and his health.
Here are some soundbites on key issues.
On a question about the ‘cannibalistic’ bill to ban on U.S. adoptions: “You think it is normal if [the U.S.] humiliates us? What’s normal about being humiliated? You like that? What are you, a sadomasochist? The country will not be humiliated.”
On U.S. hypocrisy about human rights: “Not only are prisoners [at Guantanamo] detained without charge, they walk around shackled, like in the Middle Ages. They legalised torture in their own country. Can you imagine if we had anything like this here? They would have eaten us alive a long time ago.”
On changing the constitution to allow himself a second term as president: “I consciously moved to a second post to guarantee the continuity of power.”
On the end of the world: “The audience was upbeat when a reporter for the Lifenews.ru online tabloid asked Putin when the end of the world would happen. The president paused before saying, in about 4.5 billion years, when the sun will turn into a white dwarf.”
On the Alfa-Access-Renova consortium who sold their TNK-BP stake for $28 billion: “I would very much like them to invest this money, or a significant portion of it, in the Russian economy.”
On rumours that he has been struggling with ill health: “On the question of my health I can answer in the traditional way: don’t hold your breath.”
On Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “We are not that preoccupied with the fate of Assad’s regime. We understand what’s going on there and that his family has been in power for 40 years. Without a doubt, change is demanded. We’re worried about something else – what happens next.”
A number of opposition leaders responded to the marathon. They called it ‘four and a half hours of banality and repetition’, and accused Putin of having ‘no clear message’, and of delivering rehearsed answers.