Russian newspapers broadly comment President Vladimir Putin’s televised question and answer session that lasted almost five hours on Thursday. The president answered a wide range of pressing questions focusing on most different themes.
Nothing unexpected happened during yesterday’s question and answer session, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily wrote. Putin confirmed his previous assessments, including those in relation to the opposition. Replying to complaints and calls of Russian citizens, he, generally speaking, focused on one theme – on responsibility of the politician burdened with dependence on his core electorate unlike “an independent expert” and the opposition.
There was just one question focusing on the international agenda. Asked by Nezavisimaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Konstantin Remchukov it drew attention to cooling in Russia’s relations with the West, mainly with the United States. Putin explained that “some cooling” between Russia and America began with events in Iraq. “Our colleagues, first of all American ones, called on us to actively join the events in Iraq,” he said. “We said then that this step was wrong and we would not do this… Our position was transparent and clear.”
“We observe chaos everywhere. And we do not think that our partners’ position is absolutely right. Why should we support the things we consider wrong?” he said. At the same time he concluded that “this does not mean that we do not need a complex of measures targeted at building relations in a certain fashion.”
Konstantin Remchukov said he was satisfied with the president’s reply. “For me, first of all, recognition of the fact of cooling in the relations was important. I placed a focus on his third term in office, but the president said explicitly that political cooling began in 2003,” he said. “This means that our relations have been degrading for 10 years. Second, he admitted that between us and the West, the U.S. in particular, there is the crisis of confidence. Third, Putin agreed that it is necessary to plan measures to develop a system of confidence between us, and these measures should be multifaceted, because one meeting cannot bring this confidence back.”
The deputy director of the Political Technologies Centre, Alexei Makarkin, described the president’s communication with citizens as a symbolic genre. The most noteworthy thing in this genre is the lack of surprises in live broadcast, where it would seem these surprises should take place. “It would seem that a person can ask an uncontrolled question on live TV. For instance, demand freedom for Navalny, Khodorkovsky… Why does no one raise his/her voice?” Makarkin explains this not only by the authorities’ intention and opportunity to block uncontrolled questions, but also in the general mood of people.
This concerns not only state censorship, the expert said. “The environment itself is rather conformist. It is afraid of any conflict with the authorities. If you ask a good question, the authorities will like it, and may be, will do something good for us. If you express your public stance, the authorities will call us on this,” he said.
In his answers to various questions Putin joked a lot, Novye Izvestiya wrote. Thus, Putin jokingly called ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin “a slacker”, who “does not want to work.” While Putin pronounced this verdict, Kudrin, who presented in the audience of the question and answer session, just smiled mysteriously in reply.
Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin's remarks took only a few minutes, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes. However, the several moments officially showed the special position of the ex-minister in the Russian state hierarchy. A clear hint was given to Premier Medvedev about possible soon service non-compliance. And Kudrin in fact is declared a strategic reserve of the main command, not only as a likely next premier, but a potential junior co-ruler of Putin, the newspaper says.
Winter time will return to Russia only if Medvedev decides so, as Putin made it clear. "I do not think it is a case when it must be intervened from the presidential level,” the Novye Izvestia notes. The president was not convinced even by a Stavropol resident who together with his entire collective farm continues living in accordance with the old time.
Putin sees no Stalinism signs in present Russia, unlike journalist Alexei Venediktov. The president does not consider the proceedings over the Pussy Riot and Alexei Navalny cases to be political, and does not view the NGO law as freedom limiting.
During Vladimir Putin's direct line session, Dmitry Medvedev's government was often mentioned as a body responsible for failures in various areas, the Kommersant writes. However, Putin does not believe dismissals are needed in the government, which has worked for less than a year. And experts note that responsibility for the authorities' mistakes may be shifted to the unpopular government, and so, its soon dismissal should not be expected.
During the session, Putin was asked whether he believed the current government was unable to perform its duties in full and it was time to replace some of the ministers, for example Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov. The president noted that the government had not worked for a year yet and the people should be allowed to prove themselves to understand who was not able to work properly. He noted a "staff leapfrog" would bring sooner more harm than benefit.
However, reproaches addressed to the government were repeatedly heard in Vladimir Putin's speech. The government was criticized for the pension reform. The president noted he had ordered to prepare a so-called pension formula by Mach this year, but it was not ready. “The work must be completed soon. If they (the ministers) fail to do it, they will have to admit that they did not carry out the assignment.” He also reproached the government for the resolution, which caused the utilities tariffs growth, the newspaper says.
It is a long-known construction when president defends ordinary citizens and all complaints are addressed to government, political analyst Alexei Makarkin noted, adding that one of the informal functions of the cabinet is to be a "scapegoat". The expert believes the government will be dismissed when it exhausts its resource in this capacity.