Putin comments in annual Q&A session

MOSCOW – Following are highlights of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments in an annual question and answer session on Thursday.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, HIS CHOSEN SUCCESSOR

“There is a personal chemistry, I trust him…This is a person whom it is not shameful and not frightening to handover the leadership of the country.”

“I have worked with Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev) for more than 15 years and I would never have deigned to support a presidential candidate if he needed coddling and advice on how to behave.

“Dmitry Anatolyevich is a mature politician and I assure your that our relations will be quite harmonious. I will never step in for the head of state, I consider this harmful and counterproductive… Of course, I have the right to express my point of view.”

WILL HE HANG A MEDVEDEV PORTRAIT IN HIS OFFICE?

“In order to establish my relationship with Dmitry Anatolyevich I won’t need to hang his portrait on my wall if he is elected president.

“I see nothing disgraceful if government workers have a portrait of their leader in their offices.”

PUTIN’S FUTURE ROLE

“I have already received one gift, even two gifts, from the Russian people, from God perhaps. The law is formulated in such a way that this term expires. Now is not the time to cry that the term has ended, but instead to rejoice in the fact that there will be an opportunity to work in another capacity.”

“The highest executive power in the country is the government of the Russian Federation headed by the Prime Minister. There is enough authority, and Dmitry Anatolyevich and I, if the voters allow us to do so and grant us the ability to do this practically, will work out our personal relations and I assure you there will be no problems.”

“The position of the head of Russia’s government can not be transitional… As long as Dmitry Anatolyevich works in the role of president, and if I see that I am achieving the goals I myself set out for me at, and I see that I can effectively fulfill those goals, then I would work as long as it’s possible.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

“The fact it’s going on quietly without debates, slowly, around the country does not speak to a lack of democracy in the country.” It shows “that a wide majority of the citizens of Russia support the chosen course.

POSSIBLE GOVERNMENT CHANGES

“If everything goes as we have said, if the voters chose Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev) and he chooses me to head the government, then of course there will be changes in the presidential administration and in the government.

ECONONOMIC PRIORITIES FOR NEXT GOVERNMENT

Putin said the priorities for the next government would be the diversification of the economy and improving the quality of government. He said pension reform will be one of the main tasks in the nearest future and that he would like pensions to rise by 17 percent in 2008.

THIRD TERM

“I had no intention to stay for a third term, never. From the very first day I assumed office as Russian president, I have always said I would abide by the law.

“I think that if God gave me the right to work for my country, then I should be grateful for that. That is already a blessing. To cover myself with more medals or assume some sort of exalted throne, to try to stay on forever is absolutely unacceptable.

“Everyone must abide by the law, first and foremost the head of the government.

“Of course I want to work, but you know different people get hooked on different things, some get addicted to tobacco, some to money, and they say the biggest addiction is power. I never felt that. I never got hooked on that.

PUTIN’S PRESIDENCY

“I do not see any serious failings” in my eight-year presidency. “All of the goals we set have been met, all the goals achieved.

“As for my personal perception (of the achievements), I am confident I would not feel ashamed when I face all the citizens who voted for me, twice electing me president of Russia.

“For these eight years, I have been working my guts out like a galley slave, from dawn to dusk, and I have spared no effort while doing so. So I am pleased with the job I have done.”

“The most important (thing) has been putting Russia’s economy on a new foundation and ensuring growth in our citizens’ personal income, which has been some 10 to 12 percent per year.

“People need to feel this growth in their own pockets, and I think we are reaching this goal.

PUTIN’S WEALTH

“I am rich because the people of Russia twice entrusted me with leading a great country like Russia. I believe this is my greatest wealth.

“As for various rumors about my personal wealth … that is empty talk which shouldn’t even be discussed. I’ve seen some papers…That is just rubbish, just excavated from someone’s nose and then spread on those bits of paper.

COLD WAR

“To suppose that we aspire to return to the times of the Cold War is just too bold a supposition.

“We are not interested in this. Our main tasks are internal development, the resolution of social and economic problems.

TARGETTING MISSILES

“We are not going to re-target anything at anyone without extreme necessity.

“We plan no conflicts (with the West) and we hope this will not happen in the foreseeable future.

RUSSIAN MILITARY

“In Alaska last year our American partners held, if my memory does not betray me, four military exercises.”

“It speaks of the need for our military forces to work out their aviation technology and battle preparedness. Without flights, how can we do that?

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