Here's the full transcript of AP's interview with President Vladimir Putin:
AP: Thank you for inviting us into your home and answering questions for the AP's worldwide audience. I know this is a very busy week for you, you have so many world leaders at the G-20 meeting this week, and it's much appreciated. If I may, I'd like to begin with the story of Syria. President Obama announced that he will wait until getting Congress's approval until moving on Syria. What do you believe happened there as far the chemical weapons attack, and what should be done about it?
PUTIN: We don't have any concrete information about what happened, and we believe that as a minimum we should wait for the completion of the probe conducted by a U.N. inspector mission. We have no information that these chemical means, chemical weapons or just toxic agents, were used by the Syrian government forces.
Moreover, from our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces, the regular armed forces that are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled these so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that in these conditions they would start using the forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force. This is simply ludicrous. That doesn’t conform with any logic.
Secondly, if there is evidence that chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council. And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn’t be based on rumors and information obtained by intelligence agencies through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations. Even in the U.S. there are experts who believe that the evidence presented by the administration doesn't look convincing, and they don’t exclude the possibility that the opposition conducted a premeditated provocation in an attempt to offer their sponsors a pretext for military intervention.
AP: If I may follow up, the video was so dramatic showing the suffering children and the people gasping for air. Did you look at that video, and what was your reaction to it?
PUTIN: As for that footage, video footage showing the dead children allegedly killed in the chemical attack, it is horrible. The question is who did it, who is to blame for that. The footage doesn’t give answers to those questions. There is an opinion that it's a compilation by these very rebels, who are connected with al-Qaida, and who were always distinguished by exceptional brutality. At the same time I direct your attention toward the fact that, if you look at those images, you can't see parents, women, or medical personnel. Who are these people, and what happened there? There isn't an answer to this question. And these photographs in and of themselves are undoubtedly terrible, but they don't prove anyone's guilt. Logically, there has to be an investigation, and it would be good to find out who carried this out.
AP: What would Russia's position be if you became convinced that it was by the government of Syria, would you agree to military action?
PUTIN: I do not exclude this, but I would like to draw your attention to one absolutely key aspect. In line with international law, only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state. Any other pretext or method which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state are inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression.
AP: I see your reasoning in this regard, but I do wonder when there's a question mark about who committed these crimes, whether Russia should distance itself from the Assad government and maybe hold up its shipments of arms or something like that.
PUTIN: When we have precise and objective data about who committed those crimes, then there will be a reaction. It would be absolutely wrong to make conjectures and say in advance that we will do one thing or another. Things don't work like that in politics. But I assure you that we will take up a principled stance. The essence of that principle will be that the use of weapons of mass destruction is a crime. But there's another question: if it is established that the rebels are using weapons of mass destruction, what will the U.S. do with the rebels? What will their sponsors do? Will they stop delivering arms, start fighting against them?
AP: Well, I think John Kerry said that anyone who stands by while these crimes are done will have to answer to history. And I'm sure that you and Russia would be included in that, and the United States. Are you afraid that you may be seen today as standing by a regime that's repressing and committing crimes, is there a danger that you will be seen as a protector of this government?
PUTIN: We aren't defending the government. We are defending something completely different. We are defending the norms and principles of international law. We are defending the contemporary order of the world. We are defending the modern international order. We are defending the discussion of the possible use of force exclusively within the confines of international order and international rules and international law. That's what we are defending. These values are absolute. When issues related to the use of force are solved outside the U.N. and the U.N. Security Council, the danger arises that such illegitimate decisions could be made against anyone under any pretext. You just said that Mr. Kerry believes that it was Assad's army that used chemical weapons, but another secretary of state in Mr. Bush's administration similarly persuaded the international community that there were chemical weapons in Iraq, and even showed us a tube full of white powder. That whole argument turned out to be unfounded. But nonetheless, using that argument they carried out a military option that many in the U.S. today call a mistake. Have we forgotten that, or something? Do we really then proceed to think that new mistakes will be easy to avoid? I assure you it's not like that. Everyone remembers it, has it in mind, and takes into account when making a decision.
AP: So I understand that you will not accept the evidence that has been offered so far as convincing. What would it take to convince you?
PUTIN: We will be convinced by a deep and specific probe containing evidence that would be obvious and prove clearly what means were used by whom. After that, we will be ready to take the most resolute and serious action.
CHANNEL 1: Vladimir Vladimirovich, is Russia currently carrying out its contracts to deliver arms to the Syrian government?
PUTIN: Yes, of course. We proceed from the fact that we are cooperating with a legitimate government, and thus aren't violating any norms in international law. There aren't any limitations set out by the U.N. that forbid delivering arms to Syria, and we are very sorry that delivering arms to the rebels was one of the first steps taken in this conflict, although in accordance to international law the delivery of weapons to a nation in conflict is not acceptable.
CHANNEL 1: Allow me to clarify the question of the S-300. Has this equipment been delivered to Syria or not?
Putin: The S-300 is not the most modern weapon, I believe it's better in certain ways than Patriot, but we already have S-400 and the S-500 is on the way. It's undoubtedly a very effective weapon. We have a contract for the delivery of the S-300s. We have supplied some of the components, but the delivery hasn't been completed and we have suspended it for now. But if we see that steps are being taken that violate existing international norms, we shall think how to act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world.
CHANNEL 1: Many governments have announced that they won't get into this conflict. Can you say something along these lines?
PUTIN: I'll direct your attention toward the fact that there are no units of the Russian army abroad, except for two bases in the former Soviet Union and the participation of our peacekeeping troops in U.N. operations. That's very good, we are happy with that. Naturally we don't plan and will not get into any conflicts. Regarding the fact that some countries chose not to take part in military action -- I'll say honestly that it surprised me, because I thought that in western society everything was carried out according to the principles of a certain uniformity that resembled the decisions taken at Soviet Communist Party congresses. But it seems that isn't so, it appears that there are people who value their sovereignty, who analyze the situation and who look at the possibilities for reaching a decision that is in the interests of their own countries, who will defend their point of view. That's very good and speaks to the fact that the world is becoming more multipolar.
CHANNEL 1: Vladimir Vladimirovich, what place will the Syrian question take up on the agenda of the G-20?
PUTIN: First of all I would like to say that the agenda for the G-20 was formed a long time ago, and we agreed to that agenda with all of our partners and don't consider that we have a right to violate those agreements. The G-20 itself is dedicated most of all to the resolution of economic problems in the world, dedicated to the problem of growth, the fight against unemployment, corruption, tax crime and tax administration. Keeping in mind that the situation in Syria remains critical and controversial, we won't be able to reconcile everyone's positions on this very important issue. Of course one can use the fact that the leaders of the 20 leading economies of the world are meeting in St. Petersburg and dedicate some time to this topic. We won't impose the subject on participants, but we can propose dedicating some time to discussing the Syrian problem. I want to emphasize again that we are the hosts of the summit and there are certain rules and an agenda, and we don't believe we have the right to make unilateral changes. But I of course will propose a discussion of this issue with my colleagues, and I hope they will not refuse.
CHANNEL 1: What will you consider success at the summit?
PUTIN: Success at the summit would be an open, positive discussion aimed at a conclusive adoption of the prepared resolutions. Which resolutions? Resolutions such as a set of measures designed to stimulate the global economy and the creation of new jobs. These are two basic general aims. Thus we're coming from the fact that in order to ensure a decision on these two major issues, we have to deal with several smaller issues, which include stimulating investment, transparency in the global economy, work in the field of tax administration, and things along that line, like banking systems. Speaking of which, the issue of tax administration and the perfection of the tax system includes tax evasion and the battle with corruption. What we succeeded in doing already, we succeeded in agreeing that this should be a part of the agenda. We didn't do that alone, we did it together with our partners and colleagues. But we were able to agree to the basic principles for developing a system of global tax administration. No one has been able to do that in the past 100 years. And it's a very important part of our work. We've prepared the so-called Petersburg Plan-- the development of the international economy and the creation of jobs. We've agreed to a number of things pertaining to the fight against corruption. We agreed about what needs to be done in the battle against off-shore accounts. There's a whole set of measures, and we will consider the summit a successful one if all of the pre-prepared measures and agreements are adopted.
CHANNEL 1: Do I understand correctly that, other than initiating the discussions on these key topics, Russia has things to propose to our guests for the resolution of the individual problems you discussed?
PUTIN: Russia has proposed (such topics) over the course of the year, at the G-8 Summit and a meeting between various ministers at the highest level. And throughout these discussions we proposed certain things and they proposed certain things. It was a joint effort, a kind of kitchen where we were baking a pie before the G-20, where we would have to put our signatures down on certain decisive documents.
AP: President Putin, I would like to get onto the subject of U.S.-Russian relations, but I'd like to ask one more question about Syria. Supposing President Obama gets the support of Congress for military action and some other countries go along, what will Russia do? Will you fight for Syria, will there be a rift in your relations? What is your reaction to that?
PUTIN: Do you work in the media or for the CIA? You're asking questions that should be posed by colleagues from different organizations. Russia has a plan for various possible situations. We have our own ideas about what we would do and how we would do it if the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise. We have our plans, but it’s too early to talk about them.
AP: Let me ask you about President Obama's visit. You know, we should be sitting here today discussing the summit with the president that was due to start today. Are you disappointed that that visit was canceled, and do you see that as a snub of some kind?
PUTIN: Yes of course I would have liked for President Obama to visit Moscow so that we would have a chance to talk, to discuss the issues that have piled up. But I don't see this as a particular catastrophe. Contacts between our government agencies and our ministries haven't stopped. Not long ago there was a meeting in Washington between our ministers of defense and our foreign ministers, and there's been contact between our legislatures. The work continues, it doesn't stop. We realize that the U.S. administration has felt a certain irritation in connection with Russia's stance on some issues. But nothing can be done about this. I think it would be good not to get irritated but be patient and work together in search of a solution. I very much hope that I will have a chance to talk with my U.S. counterpart at the sidelines of the G-20 summit. All of our previous meetings were very constructive and President Obama is a very interesting person to discuss with, and a solid, business-like person. I am sure that, if a meeting happens either within the bounds of the conference or on the sidelines of the summit, then that in and of itself will already be useful. In any case, there are many problems that we've worked on and we're interested in the solutions, such as the disarmament agenda, problems in global economic development, questions surrounding North Korea and Iran, and many issues and problems that both Russia and the United States are interested in solving. There's the fight against terrorism. Not very long ago in the U.S. there was an explosion at a sporting event, and our countries' intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies very actively cooperated and continue to cooperate. That cooperation didn't stop and I am sure that it will develop further.
AP: There's been some speculation about your personal chemistry with President Obama, your relationship. He was quoted making some remarks about your body language, saying that you were slouchy, looking bored. And I was wondering how you took those remarks, do you feel that that was too personal and inappropriate, or what was your reaction?
PUTIN: I believe that any person in a certain position _ I mean people who are in politics, economics, security _ tries to show off their best side. I am surprised when I read about the body language, about us looking bored or acting in some other way. Who can say what is in our heads, what's in our souls? There are some gestures, of course, that you can only interpret one way, but no one has ever seen those kinds of gestures being directed by Obama at me or by me at Obama, and I hope that never happens. Everything else is fantasy. Again I will say that our conversations have always been constructive, they are very specific and fairly frank. In that sense the U.S. president is a good partner for discussion, he is easy to talk to because it's clear what he wants. His positions are clear, he listens to the position of his opponents, reacts to it. I find it interesting to work with him.
AP: Do you think that there's still some hangover of a third-world mentality in the Russia-U.S. relationship? And if so, how do both parties overcome that?
PUTIN: In some ways it is like that. But most of all that pertains to the midlevel cooperation. Many people, particularly in the security forces, who worked for decades in the U.S. against the Soviet Union or in the Soviet Union against the U.S., somehow still remain in that system and in that life. But I would rather think that that isn't reflected at the highest political level. Many of today's disputes spring not from that, but from a differing understanding, perhaps, of problems we are facing, different preferences as to how to solve them and reach our mutual _ I repeat, mutual _ goals, and the ability or inability to find a compromise and respect the opinion of one's partner.
AP: But I think when you were running for your third term, you said something like the State Department was instigating unrest in Russia or trying to weaken a potential rival. Do you think that the U.S. really has a secret agenda to undermine your power or undermine Russia? This was in relation to civil society groups.
PUTIN: I don't entirely understand which arrests you are speaking about and how they could possibly influence the electoral campaign. What arrests could affect the electoral campaign? If you could explain I would be very grateful. I don't know about the arrest of anyone that could possibly affect the development of the campaign. There were no such arrests. Or if someone within our law enforcement agencies did, then as a rule in such situations it's very common for someone to defend themselves by crying bloody murder, it's political. But I don't know. What are you referring to?
AP: I'm sorry, that must have been a translation error. I didn't say arrest, I said you were quoted as saying that the U.S. State Department had an agenda to instigate unrest in Russia, to try to weaken its potential rival. Not arrest but unrest.
PUTIN: We have these thoughts and we discuss them openly, and we speak about it openly with our American colleagues. I don't know whether it's good to speak about it with our American colleagues, but in theory it's obvious anyway. I can hardly imagine the Russian ambassador in Washington actively working with members of Occupy Wall Street. I simply can't imagine it. Because the role of the ambassador should be to establish ties between the two states. It's a nuanced job. Given the totality of these complicated issues, there has to be a person or people from both sides who can work around the sharp edges and find compromises and agreements. But, as we can see, members of your embassy are behaving in exactly that way, the equivalent of which would be if we were to work with members of Occupy Wall Street. We don't do that, but certain members of the U.S. Embassy consider that normal, which I don't think corresponds to normal diplomatic practice. But if that's the fashion, well OK. There's no kind of crisis or negative consequence in our relationship. We just believe that the practice is wrong and harmful, but certain leaders have this style. But people come and people go, but the interests of major countries like the Russia and the United States don't and we have to keep working.
AP: And the intelligence cooperation that you mentioned, is that going on at the same level despite the various irritants in the relationship right now?
PUTIN: No, on the level of intelligence agencies there are disagreements, of course. There are disagreements when we provide certain types of information, and they tell us, 'Well OK, but we'll figure it out ourselves.' Then ours say 'OK, then no need.' But overall, cooperation is developing and it is helpful, this work allows us to protect the lives of our citizens. That's the most important thing, the most important result of our mutual cooperation. I want to again express hope that we will succeed and further develop this cooperation.
CHANNEL 1: Vladimir Vladimirovich, if we could continue this discussion of Russian-American relations, how would you define this relationship right now? You know, today the program of President Obama's visit to St. Petersburg was announced, and right after his arrival he will meet with human rights activists and members of sexual minorities, and people are already voicing comments about how this demonstrates what level our relations are at today.
PUTIN: Well it's American diplomatic practice to demonstrate support for civil society, and I don't see anything wrong about this. On the contrary, we welcome it, so that there will be full understanding of whatever's going on in our society. Of course it would be very good if the diplomatic service, the embassy, the intelligence agencies, gave a full and objective picture of the state of Russian society, and not just look at it from one angle. Although of course it's also very important to see how human rights activists are organized and what they think.
CHANNEL 1: Nonetheless, if you were to define the relationship: there was the reset, now do we have a cool-off or a frost, or?
PUTIN: No, it's simply routine work, defending one's interests, one's principles and solving bilateral and international issues. This is difficult and intensive joint work. Yes, it's not all roses and flowers, this is complex work and it's quite difficult. President Obama hasn’t been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia. And your humble servant hasn’t been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either. We work, we argue about some issues. We are human. Sometimes one of us gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems.
CHANNEL 1: September isn't just the time of the summit, it's also the start of the political season in Russia. And we have elections coming up very soon, on Sept. 8. Many will vote for the head of their regions, and as usual ahead of elections many public opinion polls were conducted. And some polls showed something rather unpleasant: quite a lot of people believe that the elections won't be fair. These kinds of results must depress you.
PUTIN: In general, people always find it difficult to believe in things and will have doubts. Nonetheless the job of the government is to aim toward an ideal result, although there probably never are ideal results, but nonetheless the duty of the government and the duty of every official in the electoral commission or within the law enforcement agencies is to resolve the issue so that people can truly and objectively express their opinion about one candidate or the other. It's the desire to express their opinion and take part in the formation of effective and capable institutions of power. We are interested in that at the highest level, we are interested in the utmost, because how well people work at the level of the municipalities and in the regions will be significantly important in determining the general success of Russia as a government. If there are people who are ineffective or those who attempt to get into the government by manipulating the polls, then that will undoubtedly be nothing but damaging to the country.
CHANNEL 1: To continue the theme of fairness and objectiveness, I would like to ask about the judicial system, or more concretely about certain decisions within this system that have been brought to light. Certain _ or, rather, several _ specific officials received a few years of a suspended sentence for the proven embezzlement of 400 million rubles. And at the same time as this, a village teacher who was the director of a local club, for taking a bribe of 400,000 rubles will get seven years in prison and a fine. If I'm not mistaken, he's the father of many children. I am not even asking about the logic behind these decisions _ I understand that you can't say that the court's decision was unfair. But there's the impression that we can no longer put up with this system, that we have to change it, that this is nonsense.
PUTIN: These crimes may seem similar, but from a legal perspective these crimes are different in terms of the danger they represent for society. For example, the damage to the victim might be more or less the same, let's say 1 million rubles. From one person they stole 1 million rubles, and from another one was robbed of 1 million rubles. The robbery is more dangerous to society because it's a crime carried out with total impudence. Disregarding the fact that the damage is equal in both cases, nonetheless the punishment for the robber as a rule is larger than for the person who took the money from someone in secret. When a thief steals, he is proceeding from the assumption that the victim doesn't see what he does. But the robber knows ahead of time that victim sees and understands everything and he nonetheless impudently carries out this crime. The damage is the same, and the punishment can be different, and that is well-founded. The example that you brought up doesn't fit entirely within the example that I brought up. But I'm speaking about the fact that crimes can look the same from the outside but in essence, in terms of legality, are different crimes. But in the given situation, of course, there are given sanctions, and the court makes a decision within these given sanctions. There may be different evaluations of the danger to society of the crime. A bribe is a more dangerous crime than simply stealing, that much is obvious. But there could be mistakes. The United States, for example, still has the death penalty across the country, just as we did before. There have been cases where, after the death penalty has been handed down, it becomes clear that the person isn't guilty. What do I want to say on this issue, that we have to close all the courts? Absolutely not, we have to perfect the courts and the judicial process, make it more transparent and adequate for the current day and for the current public opinion that regulates these laws. It's a question of perfecting the judicial system, but it's not like we can just break the system. The Russian judicial system has deep roots, the Russian judicial system is an integral part of the global system, and our rights have deep historical roots in the history of law in continental Europe. Our laws and practices aren't any worse, and are often better, than those in other countries. Yes, there are problems, many problems. We have to work on them.
CHANNEL 1: But in your opinion, can you call the courts in Russia independent?
PUTIN: Of course the courts in Russia are independent. There are places where the judges don't want to be independent, and there there's a lack of independence. They can try to get advice from the governor or someone else. But I assure you that it's like that everywhere. On the whole, if the judge has a principled stand then no one can do anything to change that, and I think that given the current conditions in Russia no one would want to do that. Because he has the power of law.
AP: Well, since we're talking about legal matters, the Edward Snowden case has aroused a lot of unhappiness and frustration. What do you, as a former security man think about the actions of a man like Snowden who leaked secret information he was entrusted with?
PUTIN: If it was indeed confidential information, if such a person inflicted damage on us I undoubtedly would like to see that he's held accountable before the Russian law.
AP: In that regard, do you think the U.S. administration was right to seek his return from Russia, to ask you to send him back?
PUTIN: Perhaps yes. But the problem lies elsewhere. We don't know whether the administration is right or not. The problem isn't that we are defending Snowden. We aren't defending him at all. The problem is that we don't have an agreement for mutual extradition of criminals with the U.S. We repeatedly offered the U.S. to sign such an agreement, but we were rebuffed. In the world there are certain rules and procedures, according to which a criminal should and must be handed over to another country if there is a relevant agreement spelling many things out and providing certain guarantees. But the United States has refused to sign such an agreement with us and refused to extradite our criminals who haven't divulged any secrets, but who have blood on their hands, who have killed and trafficked people, and our U.S. colleagues know that. We can't assess whether Snowden committed any crimes in the U.S. or not, we simply aren't able to do that. But as a sovereign country that doesn't have such an agreement with the U.S. we can't act otherwise but to offer him asylum. But I am telling you now what I've never said. I've hinted it, but never said it directly. Mr. Snowden first appeared in Hong Kong and met with our diplomatic representatives. And we reported that there is this employee of the intelligence agencies. So what does he need? He is fighting for human rights, for the free distribution of information, he fights against violations of human rights in this field, and against the violations within the legislation of the United States and with violations of norms of international law. And I say, OK so what? If he wants to stay in Russia, then of course he can stay, but in that case he has to stop all action that could damage Russian-American relations. We're not an NGO, we have state interests, and we don't want to damage Russian-American relations. He was told about that, and he said: “No. I'm a fighter for human rights, and I call on you to fight with me.” I told him that we wouldn't fight, let him fight. And he left. After that he began to travel to Latin America. By the way, I was told that Mr. Snowden was flying to Moscow about two hours before his plan landed.
What happened then? There was a leak, and representatives of the American intelligence agencies _ I hope they won't be angry _ they could have been more professional, and the diplomats as well. After they found out that he was flying to us, and that he was flying as a transit passenger, there was pressure from all sides _ from the Americans, from the Europeans _ instead of just letting him go to a country where they could operate easily or catching him on the road. They forced down the plane of a leader of one Latin American country, which in my opinion is absolutely unacceptable, coarse and indecent. It's simply humiliating, and yet because of Snowden the Americans and their European partners could allow themselves to do that. They terrified everyone, and he automatically stayed in the airport, stayed here. And what are we supposed to do after that? Give him up? Sign an agreement with us _ give us back our bandits? If you don't want to you don't have to, but why are you demanding that we extradite someone? What is this snobbishness? We need to take into consideration the interests of one another, and look for a professional solution. Therefore it's not Snowden we're defending. We're defending certain norms of bilateral relations between countries. I very much count on the fact that in the future we'll see these kinds of agreements with the United States in the future and that we'll be able to fortify them on paper, in binding legal documents.
AP: Has Edward Snowden offered Russia any information, any confidential information, and if he did would you reject it?
PUTIN: We haven't received anything and we have no desire for such a thing. We are proceeding on the assumption that we are also professionals, and that everything that he could have said is already known to our American colleagues and the intelligence agencies, and that they've already cut off all the possible risks to themselves in this regard. They replaced everything, destroyed everything, changed it. He's a completely different person, you can present him however you like. The American intelligence agencies like to present him as a traitor, but he's a person of a completely different type, a different mind. He sees himself as a fighter for human rights. One could see him as something else, but that's up to those who make such evaluations. But he positions himself precisely in that way. We have no desire to make him some kind of colleague or pump any information out of him. He never attempted to give us anything, and we've never attempted to extract it from him.
AP: So theoretically, he could live to a ripe old age here in Russia?
PUTIN: You know I've thought about him sometimes. He's a strange guy. A young guy around 30 years old. What does he think to himself? I can't imagine. How does he plan to build his future life? In theory he's setting up a complicated life for himself. What will he do next? I can't even imagine. Of course it's understood that we won't give him up, he can feel safe here, but what next? Maybe time will pass and America itself will understand that it's dealing not with a traitor or a spy but is dealing with (someone who) has certain convictions. You can evaluate those in various ways. Maybe there will be compromises found in this situation. I don't know, it's his fate, but he chose it and did that independently. He considers it noble and justified, and that these sacrifices are necessary. That's his choice
CHANNEL 1: Vladimir Vladimirovich, if you'll allow a few questions about the economy. During your recent trip to Vladivostok during a meeting with students you mentioned a decrease in expenditures, and suddenly there were fears of a sequester. Nonetheless, are we talking about this current year or the following year, and how big will these budget cuts be?
PUTIN: Let me remind you that a sequester is a coarse reduction of all expenditures without regard for priorities. This happens occasionally in global economics, and is connected to dramatic changes in the economic climate and negative economic trends. There is no such situation in Russia right now. We're not in the negatives. We have growth. It's small, but it's still growth compared to last year. But the problem is that we assumed that that growth would be greater, and if the growth was greater that budget revenues would be greater, and we planned for more expenditures on certain programs. Now it's clear that there is a different prognosis today, that the economy is growing more slowly and that revenues will be smaller, and that we'll have to spend more carefully. It's not a sequester, but we need to do yet another prognosis of the economic situation and, proceeding from the realities of that prognosis, which will demarcate our expenditures and define our priorities. I think that something will have to be reduced, but that decision must be taken by the government during work on the budget.
CHANNEL 1: If you're speaking about the economy as a whole ...
PUTIN: You understand, if we don't take these measures we'll go down the path of those countries who accumulate large deficits and have led to the creation of state debts. If we don't do anything, then in 2014 we'll have a certain amount of debt, a year after that it'll be even larger, and after that even larger, and we'll end up in a complicated situation. If we want to be responsible to the people, if we feel confident _ perhaps more modest, but more confident _ then we must act carefully and professionally. Regarding being more modest, we have to economize. We're talking about the fact that people's incomes are growing. They may still be modest, but regardless of the fact that the tempo of economic growth isn't what we expected, people's incomes are growing. Nonetheless, we have to propose solutions in the sphere of investment, in the social sphere, I don't know. I repeat, it's a complicated job that requires a lot of planning.
CHANNEL 1: I would like to ask you to return to another recent story of an attack on a Moscow policeman in one of the markets of Moscow, after which the story received a wide response, and there were measures taken and harsh decisions, we discovered many violations. And you know there's something surprising: why did it take your personal attention and participation in the issue for these (violations) to become public? There's the general feeling that in the system of public administration there's a significant amount of perhaps conformists, or those people who are incapable of taking an independent position and acting in an operational manner.
PUTIN: I think about that myself. You know not long ago I was watching footage of some young guys who were beating up drug dealers. And I had the same thought. Everyone knows about this, why is it that these guys have to take this up? It speaks to the fact that somewhere people's judgment becomes clouded, that somewhere people acquire that commonness of character, somewhere they become a result of the corruption of the law enforcement agencies. It's the aggregate of these problems. But what? You just have to fight against that.
CHANNEL 1: But the system itself is hand-controlled ...
PUTIN: In part it's manually controlled. In part it's not. In some places things function normally, but sometimes you have to switch to control it yourself.
CHANNEL 1: As is the case in the Far East right now, for example.
PUTIN: Not exactly. Here I won't agree with you because nonetheless the Far East faced an unprecedented tragedy. There's never been that kind of flood, where the water in Khabarovsk and the Jewish Autonomous Republic raised like that up. You know, as I was flying in the helicopter (over the land), there's the feeling that you're flying over an ocean. The only thing that reminds you it's earth is that you can see roofs jutting up from that ocean. You immediately understand how terrible it is that it happened. And so here I think that there are grounds here for the intervention of the President.
CHANNEL 1: The scale of the event was truly colossal, but precisely after your suggestion that local officials eat gruel (after flood victims claimed all they were given to eat in the wake of the event was gruel), it does seem like a situation ...
PUTIN: As you have noted I didn't go there to stomp my feet and bang my fists and fire everybody. The thing is that people are working. Thank God there weren't any deaths, and there was no pillaging and no rise in the crime rate, in theory people are working day and night to save the people and find them a place to live. You can't just say, oh thank God everyone is healthy and alive, you can't just throw people aside. And so we were forced to remind them of that fact, there's nothing terrible about that. And I apologize before those people who ended up in that situation, and if local officials haven't apologized yet then I will apologize on behalf of them. We have to put things in order, a lot has been done and I don't think there will be anything else of this kind.
AP: The Winter Olympics is just six months away and it looks like everything will be built on time and ready for the Games. During the recent World Athletics Championship the outside world was focused on a new Russian law banning gay propaganda.” Are you worried this issue may become a flashpoint that will overshadow the success of the Sochi winter Olympics?
PUTIN: There will be no negative consequences, particularly as we don't have laws targeting people of nontraditional sexual orientation. So you just said that, and you've created illusions among millions of viewers that we have these laws. In Russia there are no such laws. In Russia there is a law forbidding propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation among minors. That's a totally different thing. That's the first thing. Second of all, we see that there are attempts to, kind of, discredit the future Olympic Games, including on the basis of this issue. And unfortunately we are witnessing these attempts from the United States as well. With regards to this I want to say: first of all, people with nontraditional sexual orientation are in no way prejudiced against here, not in the workplace, not in terms of wages. If they achieve something in the creative sphere or in their work, they aren't infringed upon and the government will recognize their achievements with prizes, medals, decorations. They have full and equal rights of a Russian citizen. Yet those who are trying to teach us, particularly our colleagues and friends from the United States, they have to know that the U.S. itself has more than a few problems with people of nontraditional sexual orientation. You are aware, for example, that in several states nontraditional sexual orientation is still considered a crime. In particular, Oklahoma and Texas, I was told _ maybe the people who told me that were wrong, but you check. And if that's actually true, then it's very strange that those who are trying to teach us aren't an example worthy of imitation. And several NGOs have presented statistics that affirm that in certain American firms, people of nontraditional sexual orientation are discriminated against in terms of wages. I don't know if this is so, it has to be checked. But for nontraditional sexual orientation to be considered a crime, you know, that kind of atavism was done away with in our country a long time ago. We had, I believe, Article 120 in the criminal code of the Soviet Union, which had a punishment for nontraditional sexual orientation. That was abolished, we don't have anything like that anymore. And yet it exists in some countries. But it seems to me that it's better not to squabble with one another and not try to portray other civilized people as a savage, but rather to objectively, professionally, and as partners address the issue of human rights, and not elbow each other on this issue but find a solution together.
AP: The law on banning gay propaganda is very vague. What do you understand to be gay propaganda? Would an athlete painting her fingernails or waving a rainbow flag be propaganda?
PUTIN: They won’t be. The people who acted as the initiators of these laws and who passed these laws _ I was, by the way, not the initiator of this law _ acted in line with the fact that single-sex marriages do not produce children. Russia is going through complicated times in terms of demographics. We have an interest in families being complete, in people having more children. It's far from the most important thing in the whole system of measures aimed at supporting demographic changes but I think that the authors of this law above all proceeded from the necessity of solving demographic problems, and were far removed from the idea of infringing upon someone's rights. And it's certain that during the Olympic Games and other large-scale sports events, especially the Olympics, we can be absolutely sure that Russia will strictly adhere the principles of the Olympics, which doesn't allow discrimination against people on any distinction _ nation, gender, or sexual orientation.
AP: You said earlier that President Obama was welcome to meet with members of gay and lesbian groups in Russia. Would you also be willing to have such a meeting?
PUTIN: If any of them would like to meet me then, by all means. But so far there hasn't been any such initiative. We have many such groups, various organizations, societies, and as a rule I meet with anyone who voices a request for a meeting and offers to discuss an important problem. So far there haven't been any such requests, but why not? I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields. We have absolutely normal relations, and I don't see anything out of the ordinary here. They say that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a homosexual. Truth be told, we don't love him because of that, but he was a great musician, and we all love his music. So what? There's no need to make a mountain out of a molehill, there's nothing horrible or scary going on in our country.
AP: Terrorist groups have threatened the safety of the games and the Boston Marathon showed that sporting events can be hard to protect. Should visitors to the Games be worried and will you be taking any special security precautions?
PUTIN: Terrorists are always a threat to someone. If we'll be scared of them, it means they have won. But that doesn't mean we can have a devil-may-care attitude toward this threat. We must do everything to stop these threats and not give the terrorists a single chance to demonstrate their brutality and hatred of mankind. Naturally we are conducting a series of events aimed at securing everyone's safety at the Olympic Games. And I assume that intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly succeed in that. What could be done in addition to ensure safety (at the Games)? In this case it's extremely important that there is cooperation on the level of law enforcement. I must inform you that we also have a corresponding agreement with our American partners, both with the FBI and other special services. And with our European partners. All these people are aware of their responsibility before the athletes, the fans, the viewers, and I hope that their collaboration will be effective and will guarantee total safety at the Olympic Games.
AP: The Sochi development is costing something like $50-$60 billion, the most expensive Games ever. Why is this event worth so much for Russia to spend such money?
PUTIN: Our country has perhaps invested the most in total in the preparations for the Games, but we didn't invest any more than other countries into individual Olympic facilities. There will be 214 billion rubles that will be spent on the Olympic Games. You can easily count how much that is in dollars _ today a dollar is worth 33 rubles. Of that sum, 100 billion (rubles) is purely from state funds, and 114 billion rubles at the expense of private investors. Even more money is spent on infrastructure. That was deliberately done. We did that so that the south of Russia _ Russia is a fairly northern country _ became an attractive and comfortable place, not just during the Olympic Games but 10 years from now. So that our citizens don't go abroad on holiday, to Turkey or to Europe or to Italy, but rather put their money here, so that this region, which has a good climate, provided services for our citizens all year round. And we would be fully capable of doing that without the Olympic Games, but I think that you will understand that it is highly difficult with limited budget resources. But when there are the Olympic Games, then we have to do everything to the highest level. What concretely? In Sochi we've built hundreds of kilometers of new road, dozens of bridges and tunnels. We built two completely new roads: one was reconstructed but is practically new, and the other is completely new. Roads from the coast to the Mountain Cluster (of the Games). We built a railroad from the coast to the Mountain Cluster. We laid two gas pipelines to secure energy supply to the region. We built 17 electric stations, we founded a new medical center, we built 43 hotels with tens of thousands of modern rooms. All of this, I hope, will serve people 10 years from now, and we can spare money on that. Because that's money spent so that Russian citizens can use what was done over the course of 10 years. That was done for people, not just so that we can have these massive (sporting) competitions. It's interesting, it's prestigious, but that's not what's most important to us. And there is something essential that I left out: it's propaganda for sports and a healthy lifestyle. When you have these large-scale sporting events in the country, there's no doubt that there will be a lot more people who will start to play sports than there were before the event. That's the most important thing that constitutes why we are spending this money. Where would we spend it if it's not all done for the people? For example, there's revenue from the oil and gas sector, a significant portion of which has been spent on that (the Olympics). Among other things, you know that in 2008 and 2009, during the crisis, the building of Olympic sites was a powerful anti-crisis measure, because we created several thousand jobs from all regions of Russia. Whole cities were built there. It raised the quality and level of our construction companies. That facilitates us working on international operations, and there were several questions that were difficult to answer. And I hope very much that this working collective will be used in other regions to continue building infrastructure projects."
AP: Will you have enough snow?
Putin: I hope that there will be a lot of snow, and I hope that whoever comes to the Olympic Games-- the athletes, coaches, specialists, journalists, fans _ that they'll all fall into a festive atmosphere. And I hope we'll succeed in creating just such an atmosphere, that we'll be hospitable hosts, and that we'll be able to hold the Olympic Games at the highest level.
CHANNEL 1: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we all take roots in the historical context to some extent. Next year we will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, the war that caused the breakup of the Russian empire. It was triggered to a large extent by the elites’ lack of loyalty to their own state. We can find a similar situation in the 1991 during the demise of the Soviet Union. Do you think Russian elites are loyal to the state these days?
PUTIN: It’s not only about the elites. A disease that is destroying this public body always starts to grow when the immunity is failing, when problems arise, when millions of people are suffering. And these millions are beginning to think that it cannot get worse than that, so let’s change things whatever the cost. Let’s destroy it all and build a new world. But it’s not as easy as that. Back to your question about the loyalty of the elites or the lack of it. Maybe there is a problem like this. Poet Pushkin _ you cannot suspect him of being a government stooge, quite on the contrary, he was a freedom-loving person, he was friends with members of the Decembrist movement _ and he once said that there are many people in Russia who do not just oppose the government, but they oppose Russia. Our intelligentsia has this kind of a tradition. It stems from the fact that one always wants to emphasize their education, manners, they want to copy the best examples and practices. Maybe this thing is inevitable at a certain stage of development. There is no doubt that the loss of the state’s identity _ during the breakup of the Russian Empire and the breakup of the Soviet Union _ it was destructive and bred chaos. We should be aware of this and make sure that the state does not degrade to the level it was at in the final months of the First World War or the final years of the Soviet Union when even soap was rationed. Do you remember that joke? One family visits another and the hosts ask them:
“Do you take your tea with sugar?”
“Then I’m not offering you soap to wash your hands.”
These are just jokes. But people probably thought that that it cannot get worse than that.
But we all should be aware of the fact that when revolutionary _ not evolutionary _ changes come, things can get even worse. The intelligentsia should be aware of this. And it is the intelligentsia specifically that should keep this in mind and prevent society from resorting to radical steps and revolutions of all kinds. We've had enough of it. We've seen so many revolutions and wars. We need decades of calm and harmonious development.
CHANNEL 1: About the calm and harmonious development. If you permit, I’ve got a question about Ukraine. Why can’t we grow in harmony together? Why are we failing in our attempts to create common space for people who we have lived side by side for centuries? We have very similar mentality. You meet a lot with Ukrainian leaders. What is the problem there?
PUTIN: Whatever happens and whatever path Ukraine takes, we will meet somewhere someday. Why? Because we’re one nation. Nationalists from both sides may get angry _ there are nationalists in our country and in Ukraine _ but this is true. We come from the same Dnieper-Kievan cradle. We undoubtedly share the past and the future. We have common religion, common faith. Our cultures, languages, traditions and mentality as you rightly pointed out are very similar. There are differences in everything, for sure. By the way, Ukrainian culture, dance, music are wonderful. I’ve always admired them. You have just mentioned revolutionary events after the First World War, you’ve talked about the elites. It’s an interesting fact but both the white movement and the reds, they fought one another till death, millions died in the civil war but they never raised the question of an independent Ukraine. Both the reds and the whites held to the territorial integrity of the Russian state. We remember that we all come from the Dnieper-Kievan cradle. The Russian state, Rus, was born there and our roots are there. It just happened that a part of this territory found itself in the hands of various states which were to the west of those territories, and all these centuries the Ukrainian people endured suffering, often they have been degraded to a role of slaves. Only after both parts of Rus were united, this part of Ukraine began to develop and prosper. During this time of unity, Ukraine turned into a big European state by gaining additional territory and population. They got it at the expense of Russia, our western regions. The Soviet Union rewarded Ukraine with these territories. Ukraine essentially became a big state. Massive investments were made in infrastructure and development of the industry. But it so happened that we live in different states now and we have to face it. We must realize that a great part of the Ukrainians value their country’s independence. We have to accept and respect that. We can settle issues between us only when we respect each other’s interests. In relation to the integration between the counties, we should respect Ukraine here, too. If Ukraine thinks it’s more expedient for it to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union, then that’s OK. But we do see certain problems here for us and for them. What are the free trade zone and the associated membership? I’m familiar with the content of these documents. Ukraine would be taking on additional obligations to lower customs barriers for a significant part of goods. What I’m going to say will be clear even to laymen. Ukraine would significantly cut or in some cases abolish import duties for some goods. Second, they will introduce European standards for technical regulation. When some customs duties get abolished, imported goods will flood the Ukrainian market. But their own factories will keep on working. Where are their own goods going to go then? We are concerned that they may be pushed out to flood our market, the market of the Customs Union, that of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. We did not ask for that. It will create problems for our economy. Second, about the introduction of new technical standards. Ukrainian factories will have to produce everything _ say, elevators, cars, shirts, wristwatches _ in line with the technical regulations of the EU. They are very good. But they are very rigid, too. It will take billions in investment and a lot of time for factories to be able to conform to these regulations. I doubt that this can be done overnight. And while they’ll be doing it, a lot of factories will go bankrupt. Or they will be pushing out their goods to our markets. We will have to close it. That’s the problem. What problems will it breed? We have obvious competitive advantages. We share the transport infrastructure, the common energy sector. We have a deep cooperation and share the same language. These are big competitive advantages. They will disappear. I’m struggling to imagine how Ukraine’s space industry and aviation are going to grow without our market. There’s the engine manufacturing. All Russian helicopters are equipped with Ukrainian engines. What are we going to do? What’s going to happen to that? It’s not the question of what we want for Ukraine or if we were holding it back. We are in talks with the European Union, too. And we’re thinking about the free trade zone with the EU. We’re thinking about signing a new bilateral agreement with the EU. I have known our European counterparts for a long time. They’re really good people. You can down a pint of beer with them, a shot of schnapps, or a glass of nice French or Italian wine. But when you get down to talks with them they are very tough people, very pragmatic. It’s hard to get something from them. I thought that if we were to map out certain principles within the framework of the common economic space, then it would be far more difficult for the Europeans to talk to all us, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine than it would be if we were on our own, or if Ukraine was on its own. But we’ll see what the Ukrainian leaders will decide. We will treat with respect whatever choice they will make and will definitely continue to work together. But the question is what we are going to do, what we will have to do to defend our own interests.
AP: When you were talking about the intelligentsia and I was wondering two things. What do you think about Russians who are leaving Russia and going abroad? Is it disloyal of them to be leaving at this time? And I also wondered about the Moscow mayor’s race where a major opposition figure is a candidate. Is it all right for a major opposition figure to become mayor in the capital city?
PUTIN: The first part of your questions is about emigration. Thank God Russia is an open country. A person in our country is free to choose any place to live and work, that’s a big achievement for modern Russia. You cannot blame people for the fact that they are looking for a decent job and find it outside of Russia. Our goal is not to catch them and keep them here, but our goal is to create decent conditions for living and working in Russia for highly skilled professionals. We’ve been successful in some areas here, not so in others. I just got back from the Far East where I talked to the staff of a new medical center at the new university. Some of them came back to Russia from abroad. One of them left a good job in Singapore. He’s a good professional. I asked him why he came back. He said it’s a great opportunity to be able to work with such high-tech equipment. It’s good to be in to your own country, to be able to speak your own language. He said he was glad to return. We see the same thing in some areas of research. Workers and highly skilled specialists in particular are looking for the best place to apply their skills and knowledge. That’s natural. We must work in order to help those who have left to return and encourage those who work here to stay here. It’s about good laboratories for scientists, accommodation and good pay. It can’t be done overnight. We’ve been successful at something, not so in other areas. But we know the direction in which we should be going.
About the Moscow mayoral election. Whoever gets elected in Moscow, the federal government will work with any mayor of Moscow, that’s clear. But at this point all polls show the incumbent mayor, Sergei Semyonovich Sobyanin, leading the race, he’s getting about 60 percent of the vote. And very different, independent pollsters show these figures. I think these polls are accurate. He’s a very experienced man. He’s not a public man. He’s very calm. He’s not a talkative guy. I like people like that. He prefers to do things rather than talk. I thought that people got it. It’s very important. If any of the opposition figures beats him, then, fine, this person will be in charge. It takes a lot of knowledge, experience and skills to manage such a big city as Moscow. It won’t do to run around shouting: “He’s a thief!” Or, “Let’s put everyone in jail for corruption tomorrow,” or “We will come to power tomorrow and give out everyone $1,000 and then $5,000 each.” This is mostly campaign rhetoric. But it’s much harder to do the routine work and achieve a result in the end. I think Sobyanin is good at it. But we will see what will happen.
AP: Mr. Navalny _ I believe that thousands of people came out spontaneously after his sentence to prison and the next day he was released on bail. Is that normal in this country that courts respond to protests like that? Were you surprised with that decision?
PUTIN: It’s not about the opposition but it’s about the person who violated Russian laws, according to the law enforcement agencies. Wherever this gentlemen turns up, he always leaves his mark, there’s always a trouble trailing him. They say he embezzled a distillery, or that he’s got problems with timber. And then they found some firms he’s got abroad he did not disclose in his income statement. That’s a fact. I’m not familiar with the details of the court case you’re talking about, but I know that there were guilty verdicts in that case before. And people who were convicted in that case agreed with that verdict and even refused to contest it. It’s not the case when an opposition activist gets snatched because he’s been criticizing the government. There are things to ponder on there for authorities and the court. But if you have taken the trendy anti-corruption campaigning in your stride, it doesn’t mean you can manage a city of 12 million and be efficient in fighting corruption. To be honest, if a person talks about fighting corruption, his own reputation has to be immaculate.
AP: Do you think that the opposition parties that exist here in Russia are truly independent or does everyone to some extent need to work with the Kremlin to get along in the political system that exists now?
PUTIN: I think it’s the same in the United States and any other country. But there are political groups who prefer not to have any contacts at all. This is going nowhere. That’s the surest way for confrontation and unrest. Since we passed the laws to liberalize the activities of the political parties the number of parties running for seats in different elections, to municipal countries, regions has increased. That’s a fact. Whether they are independent or not _ of course, they are, they are fully independent. There are political parties which are trying to establish contact with the authorities, which are trying to establish a constructive dialogue, which are trying to bring change to what the government does. There are those who only criticize and suggest what they think are the most rational and effective solutions to the problems facing a region or the country on the whole. But it is clear that they are independent. You have just mentioned some Russian opposition figures. Are they controlled by anyone? Or are you suspecting them of being so?
AP: I guess what I am trying to get at is whether there is a sort of tame opposition as opposed to authentic. People like Mr. Navalny who I just mentioned, he seems to be very much attacking the system from the outside. Can he work in the political system?
PUTIN: You should listen to what people say. This gentleman has taken on the very fashionable theme of fighting corruption and I say again: in order to fight corruption you have to be crystal clear yourself. But there are problems here, and in this regard I unfortunately have a suspicion that this is just a way of getting votes and not a genuine desire to solve the problem. But it doesn’t matter. Listen to what representatives of other parties say, the Communists, how fiercely critical they are of the government. Listen to what the Fair Russia party says. There is Mr. Zhirinovsky who often comes down very hard on federal and regional authorities, it’s pretty scary. Those forces which are not represented in the parliament. It’s hard to describe how critical they are of the federal authorities. I sometimes wish _ not that there were less criticism but that they would be using better language. That’s our political culture at this point. I hope there will be positive changes here as well.
AP: On political philosophy I think your political philosophy is still something of a mystery. I just wanted to ask you _ are you a liberal, are you a conservative, are you a Marxist, are you a pragmatist? What are you political guideposts?
PUTIN: I think it can be well said that I am a pragmatist with a conservative tilt. It will probably be hard for me to decipher this, but I always proceed from the realities of today, from what went on in the distant and recent past, I try to project these events, this experience onto the near future, the midterm and the longterm perspective. What this is _ a pragmatic or a conservative approach _ you decide on your own, please.
AP: I think a lot of people become more conservative with age.
PUTIN: Perhaps you are right. But I still think that there is a certain sense in that, conservatism does not mean stagnation. Conservatism means leaning on traditional values, but definitely with an element aimed at development. This, it seems to me, is absolutely a matter of principle. And generally in the world, almost in all the countries, the situation is such that conservatives accumulate resources, opportunities, means for economic growth, then revolutionaries come in and divide it all up quickly this way or another. But the revolutionaries, for the purposes of discussion, they can be representatives of leftist movements, of leftist parties, or really radical people, (who) then quickly divide everything up, everybody likes it. Then a period of disappointment ensues: it turns out that everything has already been eaten and spoiled and one should start earning again. People realize this and again they call the conservatives. They again get on the ball, begin to work, accumulate something, then they are told again: all right, enough already, you’ve accumulated enough, time to divide up. Such a turnover in politics goes on all the time.
CHANNEL 1: I would like to pose you a question on a topic that was actively discussed in the blogosphere after your vacation.
PUTIN: Is it about the pike?
CHANNEL 1: First of all, everybody was discussing the pike, everybody was trying to weigh it on the photo, see how thick it is, how long, then started discussing that nothing like this took place at all, because the clothes are the same as on the photo several years ago and the watch.
PUTIN: I’ve had the same watch all this time and first of all, the clothes are brand new. They are very similar, it’s simply hunting camouflage, but it’s new, it was acquired for this trip _ that is number one. Number two: I did indeed catch the pike. It is the first pike of such size in my life. It turned out to have another fish inside it, inside the pike, weighing 250 or 300 grams (1/2 pound). That is why it turned out to be that big, I think. I dragged it for three minutes, it’s all recorded. After that I changed my attitude toward fishing. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t much of a fisherman. But this aroused a certain interest in fishing in me. By the way, I caught it onto a spoon bait this small, which is produced, I think, by a small family enterprise in Krasnoyarsk, it is called Tsar-Fish. It is a small enterprise. And the spoon bait is called just that, Tsar-Fish. I took a photo on purpose and wanted to send it to the manufacturers of the spoon bait, but I don’t manage to get everything done. But I hope I will do that.
CHANNEL 1: What kind of advertising it will be!
PUTIN: Serves them right, they deserved this advertising, because here is the result. But I don’t think there is anything surprising in the fact that such a bad fisherman as myself caught a pike like that, because there are practically no people there _ actually not practically, but there are no people there. The nearest house is 300 kilometers (190 miles) from that lake, the lake is high altitude, it’s 1700 meters (1 mile) up, there is no one there who would be catching that fish. That is why, what is there to talk about? Probably, it is not such a great merit really. But after this I will probably take up fishing in a serious way, I enjoyed it.
CHANNEL 1: Thank you.
PUTIN: Thank you very much.