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'Why Criticize?' Putin, Lavrov Meet Russia's Admiring Young Elite


Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) is surrounded by admirers as he attends the Seliger youth camp on August 29.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) is surrounded by admirers as he attends the Seliger youth camp on August 29.

If Russian officials seek unconditional support for anything from policy to fashion sense, they need not look farther than the Seliger youth camp.

The Kremlin-sponsored camp, some 350 kilometers northwest of Moscow, annually hosts thousands of politically minded young people -- aged between 11 and 30 -- ostensibly to discuss ideas for Russia's future. But debate is not really on the agenda.

We look at some of the one-sided conversations President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had with attendees of the Seliger youth camp last week.

Part One: Putin Meets Seliger Youth

Pavel Sadovnikov, 25, graduate student, the People's Friendship University of Russia, Moscow: "We, young historians, have prepared a school textbook called 'Russian History.' Vladimir Vladimirovich, today happens to be my birthday. If you were to personally look into the concept of our textbook and support our project, it would be the best possible birthday present for me. Thank you very much!"

Russian President Vladmir Putin: "Happy birthday. How are you planning to celebrate it?"

Sadovnikov: "I already celebrated it by presenting you my textbook, and I'm very happy about it."

E. Mityagina, student, Vyatka State Humanities University, Kirov: "Most of us here are young sociologists. We decided to conduct research about how many times your name has been mentioned by speakers who gave lectures here -- both positive and negative references. Here is the result of our small survey. The largest number of references is six times by the same speaker. Overall, speakers mentioned your name more than 40 times. All of the references were positive. There was no criticism of you by any of the speakers in the forums."

Putin at Seliger: "To the Beloved President"

Putin at Seliger: "To the Beloved President"

Putin: "You just said that -- I even took a note -- there were both positive and negative references. And then you said, 'There were no negative remarks.'"

Mityagina: "Vladimir Vladimirovich, that was our initial goal. I mean, as impartial sociologists we had to gather both positive and negative remarks about you. But unfortunately, so far we couldn't find any [negative references]. No, I mean, fortunately."

Vladimir Nelyub, professor, Bauman Moscow State Technical University: "We love you very much, and we are very much awaiting your visit to Bauman University. And we would like to give you a present -- a globe made by our students. It says, 'To the Beloved President, from Bauman.' Allow me, please, to present it to you."

Amira, student, Daghestan: "I would like to thank you on behalf of my grandmother -- a Crimean Tatar -- for providing her the opportunity to return to her ancestral home."

G. Ibragimov, Daghestan: "Vladimir Vladimirovich, I've a suggestion for you. Would you consider becoming the head of the Daghestan Republic after your presidential term expires?"

Putin: "Thank you."

Ibragimov: "I am even ready to lead your election campaign."

Anna Sazonova, the People's Friendship University of Russia, Moscow: "You look very good. Your jacket suits you very much. Thank you very much."

Part Two: Lavrov Meets Seliger Youth

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Unidentified student: "Let me say a few words to thank you. I would like to say that we are proud of you. We, the people who are present here, these people represent all of Russia. There is a representative from each corner of our country, and we all are proud of you. You are a true professional in your job. You are an excellent diplomat."

Lavrov: "Thank you."

Student: "I'm not saying this because of the recent events when you strongly defended the position and the interests of Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine. You earned the Russian people's love, trust, and respect a long time ago."

Lavrov: "Thank you."

Student: "I also want to add a few words. I congratulate you -- and it's very important -- I congratulate you on having been been in such a high post for 10 years."

Lavrov: "For some reason, I'm receiving compliments only from guys. Not a single girl has paid me a compliment."

Female student, Siberian State Aerospace University, Krasnoyarsk: "I'd like to set things right regarding the compliments and tell you that you're looking very good. And it's nice to see you casually dressed, not in a business suit."

Lavrov: "So you have decided to rectify the situation with compliments? I thought you would criticize me for something."

Female student: "But why criticize?"

Translated by RFE/RL correspondent Farangis Najibullah

Participants of the Seliger youth camp wait to meet with President Vladimir Putin on August 29.

Participants of the Seliger youth camp wait to meet with President Vladimir Putin on August 29.

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