In his annual, nationally televised, live question-and-answer session on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin, said: “Even after I no longer have presidential powers … I think that, without tailoring the constitution to suit my personal interests, I will be able to preserve the most important thing that is dear to any politician: your trust.”
“Using this, we can together influence life in our country and guarantee that it develops in a continuous manner.”
Putin also said Russia’s economy was growing at a satisfactory tempo, reeling off a string of positive statistics and hailing his government’s efforts to keep inflation in check and attract foreign investment.
The Russian leader also touched on the simmering crisis surrounding North Korea and its nuclear weapons programmes, calling on Pyongyang to return to six-party talks and to have a more constructive approach.
Putin, whose popularity has remained extremely high throughout his presidency, sees the phone-in as an opportunity to show he can respond directly to voters’ concerns.
He said Russia’s economic growth would reach 6.6% this year, noting the government had paid off its Soviet-era debts ahead of time. He also said real income had grown by about 11% this year, but there were continuing problems with slowing productivity and increased imports, which was affecting domestic manufacturing.
“Success in any country is determined first of all by what happens in the economy,” he said, speaking during the broadcast – his fifth such appearance since coming to office in 2000.
“In all, I can say we are satisfied with how the country is developing, including the economy.”
Wednesday’s programme featured correspondents from the state-run television network relaying questions from small crowds in certain cities around the vast country.
It was impossible to tell whether the questions had been arranged beforehand or questioners coached but during past question-and-answer sessions, critics alleged that authorities and state television reporters selected audiences allowed to go live with Putin and screened their questions.
“In all, I can say we are satisfied with how the country is developing, including the economy”
Putin again dismissed North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test as “inadmissible,” saying that “the way out of the current situation is to return to six-party talks.
He also said that pressuring North Korea was counterproductive, adding such an approach can lead the situation into an impasse.
“One of the reasons [for the current situation] is that not all the participants of the negotiating process were able to find the right tone to conduct the negotiations,” he said.
“One should never lead the situation into an impasse, one should never put one of the negotiating sides in a position from which it virtually has no way out but one: an escalation of the situation.”