Putin: Russia ready for dialogue on equal terms
Moscow is ready to listen to assessments of its Western partners, when it is done in order to establish bilateral contacts, but not as a toll of political struggle, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview, which the NBC aired on Sunday.
"We are ready to listen to our partners, ready to listen to appraisals and assessments when it is done in a friendly manner, in order to establish contacts and create a common atmosphere and dedicate ourselves to shared values. But we absolutely will not accept when such things are used as a tool of political struggle," the Russian President noted.
Commenting on reports that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly discussed with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December establishing a back channel for communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, Putin stressed that Russia had no channels of communication with neither campaign, the campaigns of the US Presidential candidates. "None whatsoever. Russia did not set up and did not have any channels with anyone. There may have been official contacts with the campaigns of all the candidates, which is a standard diplomatic practice," he said.
NBC News host Megyn Kelly also asked Vladimir Putin about his relations with former Trump's adviser Michael Flynn. Putin said that he and Kelly had a much closer relationship than with Mr Flynn. "I almost did not talk to him. I said hello, we sat next to each other, then I said goodbye and left. If Mr Flynn and I had this kind of interaction, while you and I, we have spent an entire day together, and Mr Flynn was fired from his job, you then should be arrested and put in jail," Putin joked.
Speaking about the current situation in Russia, the President noted that the country has achieved a lot in seventeen years, but they still have many problems.
"You and I have had a debate today in the course of our conversation. However, in this country, since 2000 – and we have many problems, and recently even the poverty threshold has become a little worse than we planned – the situation will recover, I am confident of that, and yet our population's real wages have grown manifold. And so have pensions," the President Putin stressed.
Putin said that Russia is developing along a democratic path. "We have rallies, opposition rallies. And people here have the right to express their point of view. However, if people, while expressing their views, break the current legislation, the effective law in place, then of course, the law enforcement agencies try to restore order," he said, adding that Russian police force do not use batons, tear gas or any other extreme measures of instilling order.
Speaking about the political system and opposition, Putin said that US needs to stop interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and blame Russia for that.
"I don't want to offend anyone, but the United States, everywhere, all over the world, is actively interfering in electoral campaigns in other countries," he noted.
"Point your finger to any spot on the world's map, everywhere you'll hear complaints that American officials interfere in their political domestic processes. Therefore, if someone, and I am not saying that it’s us (we did not interfere), if anybody does influence in some way or attempts to influence or somehow participates in these processes, then the United States has nothing to be offended by. You yourselves interfere all the time," Putin said, speaking to Megyn Kelly.
In conclusion, Putin said that he feels a live, direct connection to Russia. "You have said that you have been in St Petersburg for several days. Yesterday, I had a conversation with Indian Prime Minister. He had visited the Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery, where almost 400,000 residents of Leningrad were buried, most of them civilians. They died during the siege of Leningrad. They starved to death. And buried in one of those graves is my older brother whom I have never seen. And I will never forget that, just like I will never forget the state in which this country was in the early 1990s," the Kremlin press service cited the President as saying.