His love and pride for Russia, his pain over what is going on in Ukraine, his past as an intelligence officer and his attitude towards being called a czar – these are some of the issues brought up in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interview with American talk show host and journalist Charlie Rose.
Ahead of his much anticipated address at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down with American talk show host and journalist Charlie Rose to share his opinion on the today’s hottest news topics.
Putin on Ukraine: ‘It is absolutely unacceptable to address issues, including controversial ones, as well as domestic issues of the former Soviet Republics through the so-called color revolutions, through coups and unconstitutional means of toppling the current government’.
Of course, Russia’s closest neighbor, Ukraine, is part of the daily news agenda.
President Putin cast some light on why the Ukraine issue is such a huge problem for Russia.
“Ukraine is the closest country to us. We have always said that Ukraine is our sister country and it is true. It is not just a Slavic people, it is the closest people to Russia: we have similar languages, culture, common history, religion etc.”
He also revealed what he believes is completely unacceptable for Russia.
“Addressing issues, including controversial ones, as well as domestic issues of the former Soviet Republics through the so-called colored revolutions, through coups and unconstitutional means of toppling the current government. That is absolutely unacceptable. Our partners in the United States are not trying to hide the fact that they supported those opposed to President Yanukovych.”
Asked whether he believed the United States had something to do with the ousting of Yanukovych, causing him to flee to Russia, the president replied that he, in fact, knew this for sure, at the same time describing his sources.
“It is very simple. We have thousands of contacts and thousands of connections with people who live in Ukraine. And we know who had meetings and worked with people who overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, as well as when and where they did it.”
“We know the ways the assistance was provided, we know how much they paid them, we know which territories and countries hosted training and how it was done, we know who the instructors were.”
“We know everything. Well, actually, our US partners are not keeping it a secret.”
Putin on the sovereignty of Ukraine: ‘At no time in the past, now or in the future has or will Russia take any part in actions aimed at overthrowing the legitimate government.’
The Russian leader also stressed that Russia respects the sovereignty of Ukraine and Russia had not and would not take any part in any activities aimed at overthrowing the legitimate government of any country. He added that Russia would never resort to the use of the military force in such a case.
However, the president called on other countries to respect the sovereignty of other states, including Ukraine.
“Respecting the sovereignty means preventing coups, unconstitutional actions and illegitimate overthrowing of the legitimate government.”
Putin on Russia’s military presence in Ukraine: ‘If we keep our troops on our territory on the border with some state, it is not a crime.’
The issue of Russia’s military presence in Ukraine has long had the Western media in a flurry. But the Russian president explained it using the example of the US’ military presence in Europe.
“US tactical nuclear weapons are in Europe, let us not forget this. Does it mean that the US has occupied Germany or that the US never stopped the occupation after World War II and only transformed the occupation troops into NATO forces?”
“And if we keep our troops on our territory on the border with some state, you see it is a crime?”
Putin on his rating and popularity: ‘There is something that unites me and other citizens of Russia. It is love for our Motherland.’
The sufferings and hardships of the Second World War remain the unifying factor of the Russian nation.
“Yes, my family and my relatives as a whole suffered heavy losses during the Second World War. That is true. In my father’s family there were five brothers and four of them were killed, I believe. On my mother’s side the situation is much the same.”
“In general, Russia suffered heavily. No doubt, we cannot forget that and we must not forget, not to accuse anyone but to ensure that nothing of the kind ever happens again.”
Putin on democracy: ‘There can be no democracy without observing the law and everyone must observe it – that is the most basic and important thing that we all should remember.’
The president explained that the most important thing in the country’s domestic policy is to continue improving the political system so that every citizen feels that they can influence the life of the state and society, they can influence the authorities, and so that the authorities will be aware of their responsibility before those people who gave their confidence to the representatives of the authorities in the elections.
As for those tragic incidents where lives are lost, including those of journalists, unfortunately, it happens in all countries around the world, he said.
But if it occurs in Russia, the president stressed, the authorities take every step possible to ensure that the perpetrators are found, identified and punished.
There were a number of questions that made the president smile and answer light-heartedly.
Putin on the disintegration of the Soviet Union and recreation of the Soviet empire: ‘The Russians have turned out to be the largest divided nation in the world nowadays.
The host’s question on the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the possible recreation of a sphere of influence, which President Putin might think Russia deserves, made him smile.
“Your questions make me happy,” he responded. “Somebody is always suspecting Russia of having some ambitions, there are always those who are trying to misinterpret us or keep something back.”
“I did say that I see the collapse of the Soviet Union as a great tragedy of the 20th century. Do you know why? First of all, because 25 million Russian people suddenly turned out to be outside the borders of the Russian Federation.”
“They used to live in one state; the Soviet Union has traditionally been called Russia, the Soviet Russia, and it was the great Russia. They used to live in one country and suddenly found themselves abroad. Can you imagine how many problems came about?”
“First, there were everyday issues, the separation of families, economic and social problems. The list is endless.”
“Do you think it is normal that 25 million people, Russian people, suddenly found themselves abroad?”
“The Russians have turned out to be the largest divided nation in the world nowadays. Is that not a problem? It is not a problem for you as it is for me.”
And then there were some personal questions, such as how he feels being called a czar.
The president light-heartedly answered that the title does not fit him, though he is used to being called many different things. In fact, it does not matter to him what people call him.
He also talked about his past as an intelligence officer, admitting that every stage of one’s life has an impact on the person.
“Whatever we do, all the knowledge, the experience, it stays with us, we carry it, use it in one way or another. In this sense, yes, you are right — there is no such thing as a former KGB man. Once a KGB man, always a KGB man.”
“Once, somebody from the CIA told me that the training you have is important, that you learn to be liked as well. Because you have to charm people, you have to seduce them,” Charlie Rose said.
“Well, if the CIA told you so, then it must be true. They are experts on that,” laughed the president.
President Putin refused to assess the President of the United States, saying he is not entitled to do that. This is up to the American people.
Finally he revealed what is most important to him.
“What is important is what you think you must do in the interests of the country, which put you in such position, such a position as the Head of the Russian State.”