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Live Blog: Putin Holding Televised Q&A

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting his annual question-and-answer show with the nation.


Putin Says Sanctions On Russia Nothing To Do With Ukraine
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Putin Says Sanctions On Russia Nothing To Do With Ukraine

Highlights

Final Summary

-- In his annual question-and-answer session with the public, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Western sanctions are aimed at restraining Russia, asserting that Moscow's role in the crisis and conflict in Ukraine are only a pretext for the punitive measures imposed by the European Union, United States, and other nations.​

-- He said that "the Russian army is not in Ukraine," repeating Moscow's denial that it has sent troops to aid pro-Russian rebels.

-- Putin highlighted the recent rise of Russia's ruble currency, which has gained more than 20 percent in 2015 after a steep decline last year. He also touted high oil production figures and a good harvest. He said Russians are living longer and death rates decreasing.

-- Putin linked his decision to lift a ban on supplying Iran with surface-to-air S-300 missiles with what he said was Tehran's demonstrated desire to resolve a yearslong dispute over its nuclear program, which Western nations fear is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

-- Putin took on comparisons that suggest parallels between the reigns of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, saying that "Nazism and Stalinism cannot be put on the same desk...because the Nazis directly, openly, and publicly announced as one of their goals the annihilation of concrete ethnic groups -- Jews, Gypsies, Slavs."

-- He described the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov as "tragic and shameful" and praised investigators for identifying and arresting five suspects days after Nemstov was gunned down steps from the Kremlin on February 27.

-- Putin said his country will never be a "vassal" of the United States. He said there are "superpowers" that "consider themselves the only center of power in the world."

There does seem to be less color from the regions this year.

Your live blogger will keep his opinion on this prediction to himself. (We're three hours in)

Putin: Crimea was different because human lives are on the line, but of course I will work to settle this situation.

Echo Moskvy editor-in-chief about political assasinations, including of Boris Nemtsov.

Putin doesn't address the Nemtsov murder question further.

Venediktov also asks about the bridge where Nemtsov was shot. He asks why flowers in Nemtsov's murder keep being removed.

Putin says he has no problem with flowers on the bridge and will talk to city authorities about it.

Putin asked about IS threat to Russia, turns it back on U.S.

Question: There are Russian citizens fighting with Islamic State militants. How serious is this threat? Is Russia capable of withstanding this?

Putin: Let me point out that in Iraq there was an undemocratic regime but no terrorism. But after the U.S. killed Saddam Hussein and destroyed the country others had no way to survive. They joined extremist organizations and set up IS, including military officers.

There is no direct threat but it does concern us. These people hold our passports and can come back.

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