Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a number of domestic and foreign policy issues in a question and answer session with the public.
“Live Line with Vladimir Putin,” an annual event, is broadcast on TV and radio.
It was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are some of his quotes from Wednesday’s session, which comes as Moscow’s ties with the West are highly tense on topics including Ukraine, Kremlin critic incarcerated Alexey Navalny and allegations of cyberattacks.
When vaccinated against COVID:
Last year, Russia became the first country to grant approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, and launched the first batch to the public.
Putin said: “I chose to be vaccinated with Sputnik V. The army is vaccinated with Sputnik V, and after all I am the commander-in-chief.
“After the first blow, I didn’t hear anything. About four hours later, there was some tenderness where I had the shock. I did the second (shot) at noon. At midnight, I measured my temperature. It was 37.2 (Celsius). I went to sleep, woke up and my temperature was 36.6. That was it.
“I do not support mandatory vaccination, and I continue to hold this view.”
Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014. After a pause in the struggles last year, the conflict escalated again in early 2021. In April, when Russia gathered more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited Putin to gather in eastern Ukraine.
Putin turned down that offer, saying instead that the Ukrainian leader was welcome in Moscow “at all times.” Later, Russia announced a withdrawal of troops, but Washington and Kiev say the withdrawal has been limited.
On Wednesday, the Russian leader said: “Because I should meet [Ukraine President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy if he gave up his country to full external control? The vital problems for Ukraine are not solved in Kiev, but in Washington and partly in Berlin and Paris. What is there to discuss? I don’t refuse (to meet him), I just need to understand what I’m talking about. “
On recent Russia Black Sea view with the United Kingdom:
Relations between the West and Russia also escalated earlier this month due to an incident in the Black Sea. Russia says it fired warning shots and dropped bombs on the road of a British destroyer that went into its territorial waters, but the United Kingdom has disputed that claim.
“This is certainly a provocation. It is absolutely clear. What did they want to show and what goals did they want to achieve? First of all, (the provocation) had several components. It was not only carried out by the British but also by the Americans, so the British destroyer entered our territorial waters during the day, and early in the morning, at 7:30, I think a reconnaissance aircraft. American strategy is to leave a NATO military. in Greece, in Crete. That was said for me … We looked good, observed. It was clear that the destroyer (entered our waters) first of all to pursue military objectives, trying with the help of reconnaissance aircraft to reveal the actions of our military to stop such provocations …
“There was also a political component. A meeting (with US President Joe Biden) was to be held in Geneva. One has to wonder why it was necessary to make such a provocation. Why is all this being done? To emphasize that these people do not respect the choice of the Crimean people to join the Russian Federation.
“Even if we were to sink the British destroyer near Crimea, it is unlikely that the world would have been on the brink of World War III. Because I know that those who do this cannot emerge victorious from this war. This is very important. I don’t think we would have been happy with this development.
“But at least we know why we’re fighting. We’re on our territory, we’re fighting for ourselves, for our future. We weren’t the ones going towards them, wanting thousands of miles and reaching for streams. They were the ones.” which have reached our borders and have violated our territorial waters ”.
On social networks:
In recent months, Russia has threatened social media companies that, according to their statement, have refused to remove posts that encourage children to join the protests. These bans came amid mass demonstrations in support of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.
Putin said: “We do not plan to block anyone, we intend to work with them. But there are problems. They tell us to buzz off and we do not respect our demands and Russian laws.
“We tell them, ‘You’re spreading child pornography, instructions on how to commit suicide and preparing Molotov cocktails, etc., you need to quit. “They don’t even hear what we’re saying. That’s wrong.”
On a successor:
Putin on Wednesday told Russians that the time will come when he will nominate his possible successor in the Kremlin, but said the choice will ultimately be voters.
Putin, 68, has been in power as president or prime minister since the turn of the century. His current six-year term in the Kremlin is expected to end in 2024. His comments are closely analyzed for clues as to whether he plans to extend his rule.
Last year, Russia changed its constitution allowing it to run for two more six-year terms in the Kremlin, potentially remaining president until 2036.
“On the one hand, they say that a holy place is never empty and that there are no irreplaceable people,” Putin said. “On the other hand, my responsibility is to give recommendations to the people running for the presidency. It happens in all countries of the world, I know of no exceptions.
“Of course, there will come a time when I hope to be able to say that, in my opinion, this or that person is worthy of leading a country as wonderful as our homeland, Russia.”