The Guardian has been patient enough to blog its way through the whole of Vladimir Putin’s four-and-half hour televised Q+A session which featured much in the way of predictable, anodyne questions on the matter of pensions, Sochi, adoptions etc. The live blog is nonetheless worth reading perhaps more for some of the hilarious tweets made during the marathon session than any startling revelations from the iron-tongued leader, who used the opportunity to praise Alexei Kudrin and his man in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. The one moment where things got meaty, apart from some glaring insults directed at John McCain (who has evidently replaced Hillary Clinton as Putin’s Washington-based nemesis, to join his merry band of his London-based nemeses) came with the matter of the protests. The PM was quick to dismiss the opposition street movement, though veered in tone between benign, twinkly-eyed praise of the protestors’ youth and vigor and intransigent stoney-faced mockery of their ideas. From the Guardian:
Vladimir Putin dismissed the thousands of protesters who have massed against his rule as agents of the west in his first response to the growing discontent during a marathon phone-in show.
Putin repeatedly mocked the protesters on Thursday, by comparing the symbol of their discontent – a white ribbon – to condoms. “Regarding ‘colour revolutions’, everything is clear – this is a developed scheme to destabilise society that did not rise up on its own,” he said at the start of a televised Q&A that ran for more than four and a half hours.
He said students had been paid to turn out on Bolotnaya Square last weekend, when an unprecedented 50,000 people gathered to protest against disputed elections and Putin’s rule. “Frankly, when I looked at the television screen and saw something hanging from someone’s chest, honestly, it’s indecent, but I decided that it was propaganda to fight Aids – that they were wearing, pardon me, a condom,” Putin said. Protesters have adopted the symbol to express their opposition to the parliamentary election, which saw Putin’s United Russia party gather nearly 50% of the vote despite widespread allegations of fraud.
Putin dismissed the allegations, calling them a tool for the opposition to gain power. “The opposition will always claim that [the elections] were dishonest – this happens in all countries,” he said.