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By Itar-Tass World Service writer Tamara Zamyatina
MOSCOW, December 19 (Itar-Tass World Service) - As he answered a question on Russia’s relations with Germany and the U.S. after the scandal around the materials provided by Snowden, Putin voiced the opinion that the U.S. secret services were bugging telephone conversations around the world primarily for the purpose of fighting with terrorism.
“God save the mark, I’m not going to justify anyone but I must say for the sake of truth that such things are done primarily for the purpose of fighting with terrorism and are part of counterterrorist measures,” Putin said.
He also answered numerous questions concerning Russia’s domestic policies.
When asked about a recent decision by the Central Bank to revoke licenses from several large banks, Putin said their objective of their elimination was to revitalize the financial market. He admitted however that the Central Bank “should exercise maximum caution to ensure the interests of customers.”
He recalled that the state agency responsible for insuring bank accounts had accumulated the funds amounting to 250 to 270 billion rubles /$ 7.5 billion and $ 8.1 billion/. The guaranteed amount of compensations to be paid out to individual customers stands at 700,000 rubles.
Putin called attention to the fact the agency had repaid from 108 to 110 billion rubles to individual depositors previously, adding that the repayments were going on at the moment and would continue subsequently, too. Along with it, the agency’s capabilities are far from limitless. “They have to be very cautious to rule out the situations where there’s simply no money to pay out,” he said.
Putin believes that the government is doing its job satisfactory on the whole. He stressed the complexity of conditions in the economy. “Still I think that, on the whole, the government’s activity was structured quite professionally.”
A reporter asked him why the salaries of ministers and members of parliament had gone up several times over and whether or not it was too much of a good thing. Putin answered to it that big salaries were necessary to attract highly qualified specialists to those positions since the national economy depended on their performance.
“Real professional should take up jobs at the high governmental level and in the key committees of the State Duma,” he said. “It’s really problematic to find professionals with the needed high qualifications in the open market if they get impressive salaries /elsewhere/.”
He declined to name his successor for the presidential office, adding there was no subject for a discussion for the time being. “I didn’t tell you anything about the successor, as there’s nothing to say on the issue at the moment.”
A Russian reporter working for a major news portal asked him whom he could name as politician number two in this country. Putin said to this Russia has plenty of politicians and very experienced people, mentioning the names of Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, A Just Party leader Sergei Mironov, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, whom he described as a politician boasting a huge experience.
Oppositionist politicians show themselves off, too. “They’re jumping out of their trousers and scolding but this should be done with much caution because otherwise, as the Russian rural folks say, you can lose your pants while jumping.”
He described as a provocation a subsequent question from the LifeNews Internet portal about whether or not Dmitry Medvedev might become his successor again. He preferred not to answer it. “You’re asking a question quite in the style of your publication,” he said.
A CNN correspondent asked him why, according to her conclusions, it was so important for him of late to criticize Western values. Putin said on his part he found it important “to protect our people from some quasi-values which the Russians find really hard to accept.”
“It’s important to fence off /the Russians/ from the aggressive behavior of some socially active groups that impose their viewpoints on other people,” he said.
“The USSR evidenced the domination of a single ideology and quasi-religious values,” Putin said. “They can be replaced by a return of traditional values, without which the society degrades and we must revert to them and move forward on the grounds of those values.”
He admitted that this was conservative policy but such policies could help prevent a replay of the past.
Putin refuted the rumors on a forthcoming abolition of mayoral elections. “City mayors can only be elected. This is the level /of elected officials/ that’s the closest to the people that’s why the mayors should be the people whom everyone knows personally and whom he or she come to for discussing problems. There’s a need for direct communications between the heads of municipalities and the rank-and-file people.”
He said he thought it was right that the people involved in the so-called Bolotnaya Square case - the case over the street disturbances on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square that involved a big number of supporters of the off-parliamentary opposition - were not embraced by the amnesty declared in connection with the 20th anniversary since the adoption of Russia’s Constitution.
“That’s why a decision was taken in the framework of this amnesty to leave out the people whose offenses were connected with violence against police officers and instigation of mass disorders,” Putin said.
“The authorities have a responsibility to avert crude violations of the law,” he said.
Putin added that Alexei Navalny, a leading oppositionist of the ultra-liberal mold, did not present any serious danger for the authorities and his personality was never a subject of discussions with Moscow City’s Mayor Anatoly Sobyanin in the run-up to the September 2013 election.
“He didn’t contact me do discuss any specific names,” Putin said. “But beyond any doubt, the Moscow mayor discusses political issues with the President and that’s an absolutely normal thing - there’s no surprise in it.”
Had Navalny posed danger for anyone, he would have never been permitted to take part in elections - “by legal political methods, not by administrative ones of any kind.”
As he spoke to reporters already after the completion of the news conference, he said he planned to authorize a petition for pardoning filed by the former CEO of the oil corporation YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
“He has spent more than ten years in jail and that’s a serious term and I think we should take a decision /on pardoning him,” Putin told reporters after the major annual news conference
“This petition will be entertained shortly,” he said.