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On the day when he turned 60 (the retirement age for Russian men), Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the Central Television program on the NTV television channel. In this interview, the president said he hoped that he enjoyed support of the majority of Russians. He also said he was not against an early release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in case it would not "infringe upon law and order." As for the notorious Pussy Riot girls' band, he said they had got what they were after.
Judging by the interview, the president is quite respectful towards the opposition, including off-parliament opposition, the Kommersant newspaper writes. "Yes, there are people, who don't agree with something, they have the right to express their point of view this way or another, but of course one must act within the framework of law," the president said.
In reply to the query whether he follows his ratings, Putin admitted that he did not pay attention to that. "But the main thing is that the overwhelming majority of the people support me," he stressed. The most important thing for the president "is some inner chemistry, the feeling of rightness and correctness of what I am doing, sensing people's reaction." But what is still more important for the president is to hear the reaction "not only of a narrow group of esteemed intellectuals," but also "of the Russian people."
Speaking about jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the president said he had nothing against him being released prematurely, the newspaper notes. "If it is done in line with due legal procedures, well, let it be so," he said, commenting on Khodorkovsky's petition for pardon. More to it, the president promised that the petition will be looked at "in a benevolent manner, without any bloodthirsty attitudes." The newspaper reminds that back in May 2011 Khodorkovsky refused to ask anyone for mercy, claiming that accusation against him and the court sentence were "absurd."
As for the two-year jail sentence imposed on three members of female punk group Pussy Riot for their so-called "punk prayer" at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, Putin said the sentence was utterly fair. "I have nothing to do with that. The court ruling was correct, they got what they wanted," the president said. According to the president, "it is right that they were arrested, and it is right that the court took this decision. Because it is wrong to undermine the basic principles of ethics and morality, to ruin the country."
"From the European and liberal Putin of the time of Anatoly Sobchak (St. Petersburg's mayor in 1991-1996)" the president "has turned into an average Russian one," the Kommersant cites Igor Yurgens, a vice president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. "The former Putin had a sense of his mission to lead the country towards progress." Judging by the interview with the Central Television, "the present-day Putin seems to no longer have this sense."
"Vladimir Putin is still the most popular politician in the country," Russian experts arrived at the conclusion on Friday, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes. The roundtable meeting called "Vladimir Putin's New Presidential Term: Challenges and Expectations" was organized by the Fund for the Development of Civil Society.
The tone for the discussion was set by the Fund's chairman Konstantin Kostin, who cites public opinion polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation. "A total of 72 percent of Russians support Putin. But what is more important is the fact that practically half of Russians pin their hopes for a better life on Putin's activity," the expert said and cited popularity ratings of other world leaders. "Thus, President of the United States Barack Obama, who has embarked on the election campaign, enjoys support from 35 percent of Americans, newly elected French President Francois Hollande, who, as a matter of fact, is the president of expectations, is supported by 46 percent of the French."
Valery Fyodorov, the director of the All-Russia Public Opinion Centre (VCIOM), cited the results of recent opinion polls. "We put the question like this: Has Putin's era brought more good or more evil to Russia in general? A similar question was asked about the Yeltsin and Gorbachyov's perestroika eras. What were the results? As for Putin's era, a total of 64 percent of the polled said it had brought more good, fourteen percent said it had brought more evil. As for Yeltsin's era, the figures were: 25 percent and 49 percent, respectively. And, finally, only 27 percent of Russians said Gorbachyov's perestroika did good for Russia, while 54 percent said it did only harm," the sociologist said. In his words, "over the past 30 years, only the decade linked with Putin was assessed as positive." More than a half of respondents, according to Fyodorov, were positive that people are living better under Putin. Only 14 percent are sure in the opposite.
There is nothing surprising about that, said Valery Fadeyev, the editor-in-chief of the Expert magazine. He reminded that in 1998 the country's GDP "was slightly more than 200 billion U.S. dollars." "And now, it is one trillion and 800 billion. It is an incredible upsurge. Dollar-denominated wages have increased likewise. After the 1998 crisis, average wages were from 70 to 80 U.S. dollars, now they reach 800 and even 900 U.S. dollars," the expert said. "It is a phenomenal result for any politician in any country worldwide."
According to VCIOM polls, Russians see positive changes in three areas, the Kommersant notes. A total of 44 percent of Russians speak about rising living standards; 44 percent say Russia's positions on the global arena have improved; 34 percent note positive changes in the situation in the North Caucasus.
Among the failed areas of Putin's activity, Russians list the situation in the social sphere (public health, education, science, culture), in the industrial and agricultural sectors. A total of 36 and 37 percent of the polled spoke about drawbacks in these spheres, respectively.
"These results are a big plus for Putin. It is vital for him to see to it that the situation does not worsen," political scientist Alexei Makarkin told the newspaper. "If nothing changes for the worse, he will be elected for the next term." According to the political scientist, Putin relies on those voters who don't expect much of the authorities, who "simply want to feel stable."