The Russian president supported Ukraine, praised Snowden, defended the U.S. intelligence services and offered to work with Greenpeace during his annual marathon Q&A session.
During the meeting, Russian President took about 50 questions. More than 1,300 journalists were in attendance. Source: Konstantín Zavrazhin / RG
On Dec. 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his ninth annual press conference. During the 4 hour and 5 minute meeting, Putin took questions from journalists on a wide range of issues.
Addressing Russia’s recent offer of a $15 billion bailout to Ukraine, Putin said that Russia has made economic concessions to Ukraine due to the difficult economic situation in the country and a desire to help a longtime partner.
Concerning the anti-Russian sentiments of protesters in the center of Kiev, Putin said that he is sure that people just have not read the draft of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.
"Take a look at what it says: open markets, there is no money; adopt European trade rules and technical regulations. What does this mean? Industry shall be closed, but agriculture will not develop,” said Putin. “This is a definite shift to becoming the agricultural appendage of the Eurozone. But if that’s someone’s choice, fine, let it be their choice."
According to Putin, Russia is not attempting to take away the Ukrainian people’s European dream: "We have nothing to do with this as it is the choice of the Ukrainian people and the legitimate authorities: to join the union or not to join, to sign any documents or not to sign.”
On the Russian government
Putin said that he considers the work of the Russian government satisfactory and does not plan any significant reshuffling. “True professionals should be working in the government and we need to attract them in the market. The worst is constantly changing personnel. The current government has not yet reached its full potential," Putin said.
On Edward Snowden
Putin said that he has not met with the former U.S. intelligence officer Edward Snowden. "I do not know him personally and have never met him. I have many current affairs, and he has his own ideas about life, what to do and how to live” Putin said.
However, the Russian president added: “I am not disinterested in him; I think that thanks to Mr. Snowden many ideas in the minds of millions of people have somehow turned, including major contemporary political figures.”
Putin said he considered Snowden’s decision to release secret information “noble, but difficult.”
In regards to any cooperation of Snowden with Russian intelligence, Putin said that Russia’s security services do not work now, nor have ever, worked with Snowden.
“I have already said and will repeat almost in professional jargon: in operational terms, we do not work with him and have never worked and do not pester him with all sorts of questions about what was happening and how it was done in the Russian department of the service where he worked,” said Putin.
Putin also reminded his audience that the Russian authorities gave Snowden the opportunity to live in Russia provided that he does not engage in anti-American activities.
In answer to a question posed by the satellite channel RTVI about Russia's relations with the United States and Germany after the Snowden scandal, Putin said he believes that U.S. intelligence is engaged in wiretapping worldwide with combating terrorism as the primarily focus.
Putin said he did not want to justify or excuse these activities, but said: "To be fair, it is being done in an effort to fight terrorism; these are anti-terrorist activities.”
However, Putin added, “there should be a set of more or less clear rules and specific agreements, including those regarding moral character.”
Putin said that he supports the protection of the enviroment, but that he has a negative attitude toward those who use the environment for PR stunts. "I have a positive attitude to all who are engaged in the protection of nature, to all without exceptions.
What I consider unacceptable is when people make this a tool for their own PR and a source of enrichment.” About the Arctic Sunrise case in particular, Putin said: “I think that what happened should be a lesson. I hope that along with the Greenpeace organization, we can engage in joint positive work.”
On Iran and Syria
Putin declared recent decisions on Iran’s nuclear power and the chemical disarmament of Syria an achievement that should be attributed not only to Russia, but also of the country’s partners.
"This would be impossible to achieve without the collaboration of Europe, the U.S. and China. We do not jerk around; we have a concrete approach to dealing with these issues, based on the principles of international law. And we can certainly be proud of it,” Putin said.
During the meeting, Putin took about 50 questions. More than 1,300 journalists were in attendance.
This article first appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines.