Yesterday 16 April the Russian president Vladimir Putin had his annual “Direct Line” teleconference whereby he replied to questions asked by the Russian citizens. The show lasted almost 4 hours and in total 3 million questions were asked (this year’s record), 70 of which were addressed. The idea of the event is to answer selected questions and reassure the population that they are in good hands.
Generally there was nothing groundbreaking or unexpected. The conference repeated and reaffirmed the official line of the Kremlin for the past year. Visibly Putin was having difficulty to provide something new to the audience. Some more technical questions remained without clear replies and Putin was always trying to draw the discussion back to the usual headline strong points – USA, Crimea, Ukraine, Nemtsov, terrorism.
Here is a brief summary of what this year’s “Direct Line” indicated between the lines:
– The general spirit of the address was marked by indirect anti-US rhetoric. Russia’s economic hardship and growing international isolation (linked to the 9th May celebrations) were blamed on US tacit actions. Putin explained how the USSR forcefully imposed their political order over Eastern Europe after 1945 and warned that the USA is trying to do the same but are bound to fail.
– There were not ill words spoken against any of the EU countries. He claimed that the failed Mistral deal with France is a “bad sign” but did not speak further of it.
– Putin confessed that the Russian economy is in recession due to the Western sanctions and it will take up to two years to recover. However, he offered no ideas or suggestions of what actions will be taken to improve the situation. The president only suggested that sanctions will help stimulate the local economy.
– Seemingly the Ukrainian crisis was shown to be off the top of the agenda. Putin firmly stated that there will be no war in Ukraine and the faith of the region lies with the Minsk Accords. He denied that the Ukrainian president Poroshenko had offered him to annex the Donbas region. He also further explained that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people and he makes no difference between them.
– Putin also commented on the recent murders of two journalists and an ex-deputy in Ukraine. He stated that at least in Russia killings are investigated while in “Ukraine which pretends to be a pro-EU democracy” this is not the case.
– Questions from Crimea and even Odessa were addressed showing that Putin is actively involved in defending all “Russians” both inside and outside the motherland.
– The greatest successes of 2014 were the inclusion of the Crimea and the Sochi winter Olympics.
– In terms of national security, Putin informed that the greatest threat for Russia remains terrorism. ISIS is not seen as a direct threat but increasing islamization in Central Asia may be worrisome.
The full video in Russian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX3kXmahuVE
sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX3kXmahuVE , http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/live-blog-russian-president-vladimir-putins-annual-call-in/519195.html