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Putin Talks About Boston Bombings, Navalny, Berezovsky In Q&A Session

  • RFE/RL's Russian Service

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings will bring Russia and the United States closer together in combating terrorism.

"I just urge that this tragedy push us closer together in stopping common threats, one of the most important and dangerous of which is terrorism," he said. "And if we really unite efforts we would stop such strikes and such losses."

Putin made the remarks during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session broadcast on April 25 by the state media outlets that lasted four hours and 40 minutes.

U.S. and Russian authorities are investigating why deceased bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, visited Russia last year.

Putin accused the West of providing "informational, financial, and political" support to militants in the North Caucasus that Russia considers terrorists.

"Russia itself has been a victim of international terrorism, one of the first such victims," he said. "And I have always been annoyed when our Western partners and your colleagues from the Western media called our terrorists -- who committed brutal, bloody, sickening crimes on the territory of our country -- called them insurgents and almost never called them terrorists," Putin said.

However, Putin noted that relations with the United States have soured recently. He criticized the so-called U.S. Magnitsky list, which subjects Russian officials connected with human rights violations to targeted sanctions.

ALSO READ: U.S. Targets 18 People On 'Magnitsky List'

The measure was prompted by the 2009 death in custody of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Putin said the Magnitsky list was unacceptable.

"Nobody has investigated what has really happened [in the Magnitsky case]. Why has this been done at all? Just to make a fuss about it? As if to say, 'We are the most powerful here.' For what?" Putin asked. "This is such imperial behavior in the foreign-policy field. But who would like it? We warned that there would be a response."

Putin also said he had received two letters from former oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who died in London last month. Putin said he did not respond to the first letter and that the second arrived after Berezovsky's death.

"He wrote that he thought he made a lot of mistakes, caused damage, and he asked for forgiveness and the chance to return to his homeland," Putin said.

Regarding the trial of anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny, Putin said Russia does not have any political trials and that society would not allow a return to Stalinist policies.

Putin said he was sure the trial would be fair and added that "those who fight corruption must by crystal clean themselves."


Navalny is a fierce Putin critic accused of involvement in the theft of $510,000 worth of timber from a company in the Russian city of Kirov. He says the charges against him were fabricated at Putin’s direction to push him out of politics.

One of the first questions from the regions came from a family in Primorsk that has 15 children, 12 of them adopted. One of the children asked Putin for a playground, which Putin promised to provide.

About an hour after that exchange, the moderator of the session announced that the governor of the region had already ordered construction to begin.

Putin also said that he is generally satisfied with the work of the government of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

"Some things have been done. Some things haven't been done. Am I satisfied with that? In general, I am satisfied," Putin said. "I think that the work is proceeding satisfactorily."

Ekho Moskvy editor in chief Aleksei Venediktov asked Putin about "Stalinist overtones" during Putin's third presidential term, citing the examples of the trials of Navalny, Pussy Riot, and the Bolotnaya protesters, as well as new legislation on Internet restrictions and on the registration of nongovernmental organizations.

"I don't think there are any elements of Stalinism here," Putin said. "Stalinism is associated with a personality cult and massive violations of the law, with repressions and labor camps. There is nothing of the sort in Russia right now and I hope there will never be."

Putin regularly conducted such highly stage-managed appearances both during his first two terms as president and when he was prime minister under Medvedev. In 2011, his appearance lasted more than 4 1/2 hours.

Here are more of Putin's comments on a variety of issues from his question-and-answer session:


"This format is already familiar. It is, of course, somewhat formal in some ways, but it is nevertheless very useful. This is obvious. These direct contacts with citizens give a very true slice of what society is worried about and interested in. This kind of direct exchange of opinion, direct information, getting feedback from the regions is extremely important and extremely useful."


"The goals that were set right after the inauguration of the president were indubitably extremely complex in their realization. And I did this on purpose. I intentionally raised the bar -- I admit that -- of the results that must be achieved by the executive branch."


"We can endlessly speculate about the tragedy of the Chechen people during their deportation from Chechnya by Stalin's regime. But were Chechens the only victim of these repressions? The first and the biggest victim of these repressions was the Russian people. They suffered most of all from this. This is our common history, and you can speculate as much as you want."


"But the problem is not in nationality -- absolutely -- or in religion -- we already have said that many times. The problem is the extremist sentiments of these people. They arrived in the United States. They were given citizenship -- the younger [brother] was a U.S. citizen. And what have they decided now? They have gone so far -- not the U.S. leadership but some U.S. politicians -- as to speak of declaring the surviving criminal a prisoner of war. They are totally nuts."


"Nobody is putting anyone behind bars for their political views. Courts sentence people not for their political views or actions, but for violations of the law."


"If the activity of [nongovernmental organizations] is aimed not at improving society but is done for the sake of their own PR, to the detriment of society, then it is bad. If they try to be part of our internal political procedure and are financed from abroad, it is not bad, but we need to know about it. They need to tell us. What is so bad about it? After all, we have not banned this kind of activity."


"Nobody should have any illusions that someone who loudly shouts, 'Catch the thief!' is allowed to steal, too. At the same time it doesn't mean that people with views that are different from those of the government should be dragged to court and then to jail."

"I'm sure that this case and other cases will be handled in the most objective way. By the way, I have brought this to the attention of the Prosecutor-General's Office and other law-enforcement agencies -- it should be done in the most objective way."