Putin chastises – and praises – Obama in annual Q and A

Speaking for more than three hours, Mr Putin addressed topics including relations with the United States, Russia’s economy and the Syrian conflict.


Vladimir Putin’s annual televised question-and-answer session allows the Russian public to pose questions directly to their president.

In the wide-ranging discussion, Mr Putin covered several pertinent issues including the Syrian conflict, for which Russia’s role has been significantly criticised by Western nations.

Mr Putin said terrorism remains a global threat and Russia knows it first-hand.

“Many countries in the world suffer from this danger, from this virus: the Middle East, Asia, the United States and European countries, I won’t mention Russia here – we know well what it is, we suffered serious losses during our fight against terrorism and this threat persists.”

Mr Putin added that despite a drawdown of Russian forces, his government is doing everything to ensure the situation in Syria does not continue to deteriorate.

“We left the Syrian army in a position where, with the support of part of the contingent that was left there, it can carry out serious offensive operations. Already after our withdrawal it has taken Palmyra. It has taken some other important strategic settlements.”

Russia began its campaign of air strikes in Syria last September in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad.

Despite the ongoing offensive, Mr Putin has called on the warring parties to end the conflict and launch a political process.

“We really hope that non-use of arms by both sides, which are supported by various parties, including our support, will lead to a peaceful resolution, but it is necessary to come to an agreement, sit down for political talks and adopt a new constitution and hold early elections based on this constitution and through this come out of the crisis.”

Meanwhile, Mr Putin referred to United States President Barack Obama’s recent remark that the “worst mistake” of his presidency was his failure to come up with an action plan for the aftermath of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s ousting.

Mr Putin said Mr Obama didn’t learn the lessons from Iraq when dealing with the conflict in Libya, but he praised his courage in admitting it.

“It is not easy to say such things. Barack, when he was still a senator, criticised the actions of the administration of the day for their actions in Iraq. But unfortunately, when he himself was president, he made the mistakes which he himself mentioned – in Libya. And this is right and very good that my colleague has the courage to make such statements. Not everyone can do this.”

Mr Putin also addressed the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, and called on Ukraine’s governent and its western allies to support Russia.

“I will try to be very accurate, but nonetheless, some things are obvious. Issues of a political nature are the first and most important among the problems in the southeast of Ukraine. It is necessary to ensure that people living in these territories feel safe and know they have rights like in a civilised and modern society.”

Speaking on the issue of the recently released “Panama Papers” which implicated a friend of Mr Putin’s, he said US officials were behind the leaks and media reports were designed to sow doubts about individuals.

He pointed out the newspaper which initially received the leaked papers is owned by an American corporation.

“Süddeutsche Zeitung is a part of a media holding which belongs to the US financial corporation Goldman Sachs. The ears of the instigator are sticking out everywhere but they don’t even redden.”

Meanwhile, Mr Putin said it’s too early to say whether he’ll seek a new term as president in elections due in 2018.

“I think it is too early to talk about it. In such situations I usually say the same thing and want to repeat it once again now. Now we need to think not about where and how we will work in the future, but how to justify people’s trust today, to achieve the goals we set, the promises we’ve made. And depending on the situation and how the work goes – certain decisions will be made.”