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Film Portrays Putin As Protector Against Terror, The West


Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently portrayed himself as a stalwart leader fighting against Western efforts to weaken Russia and subordinate it to the will of the United States.

Russian state TV is showing a new film in which President Vladimir Putin portrays himself as having protected the country, in his early years in power, against terrorists he suggests had Western support.

In the film President, which was shown on the Rossia-1 channel on April 26, Putin says nations should never "try to use terrorists to further their short-term political or even geopolitical aims."

He says some Western intelligence services believed that "if someone is taking action to shake up your geopolitical opponent -- and we now understand that that is what Russia has always remained in their consciousness -- this benefits you on the whole. It turned out that this is not so."

He said that "if one supports terrorists in one place, they will pop up in another place and certainly strike those who supported them yesterday."

Putin has repeatedly accused the West of backing or turning a blind eye to militants in Russia's North Caucasus in the 1990s and early 2000s in the hope that they would weaken Russia or cause it to disintegrate.

In the film, Putin claims that at one point Russian intelligence agencies had "intercepted direct contacts" between the separatists and U.S. intelligence officials in Azerbaijan during the early 2000s.

He didn't specify when the calls took place.

"They were really helping them even with transportation," he says.

Putin said he spoke about this with then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who, Putin says, promised to punish those involved.

"But 10 days later, my subordinates received a letter from their colleagues in Washington [that said]: 'We have maintained and will maintain relations with all opposition forces in Russia,'" he says.

Putin has frequently portrayed himself as a stalwart leader fighting against Western efforts to weaken Russia and subordinate it to the will of the United States.

In the film, he says the "political and economic elites" in the West "love us when we are destitute, poor, and stand with a hand outstretched. As soon as we begin to talk about our interests, they feel some element of geopolitical competition."

The United States and other Western governments dismiss such allegations as propaganda, saying they want Russia to be prosperous and secure.

The film covers what Rossia-1 calls on its website "the path that the country has traveled together with the president over the past 15 years."

After a stint heading the Federal Security Service (FSB), Putin became prime minister in August 1999 and was named acting president by Boris Yeltsin on December 31, 1999.

He was then elected in March and inaugurated on May 7, 2000.

Little known before his abrupt rise to power, Putin gained popularity by pursuing a war that pushed a separatist government from power in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.

President is one of several TV films feeding what critics of Putin say is a growing cult of personality created by state-controlled or loyal media outlets since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012 after a four-year stint as prime minister.

Putin's third term has been marked by a wave of anti-Western propaganda, and ties with the West have been strained severely over Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatists whose conflict with government forces in Ukraine has killed more than 6,100 people.

In the film, Putin says Russia has done nothing wrong in Ukraine.

"I am deeply convinced that we are not violating any of the rules of the game," he says, adding that he means "international law, the UN Charter, and everything linked to it."

Putin also repeats his frequent suggestion that Western nations retained an animus against Russia after the Soviet breakup of 1991 and refused to take its legitimate interests into account.

"Our partners needed to understand that a country like Russia has -- and cannot fail to have -- its own geopolitical interests," Putin says. "And it is necessary to treat one another with respect, to seek balances, and to seek mutually acceptable solutions."

That relatively soft wording seems designed to leave the door open for reconciliation while putting the onus on the West to take the first step.

With reporting by TASS, RIA, Rossia-1, and Interfax
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