Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken part in a live nationwide phone-in which was broadcast on Russia's main state TV and radio stations on 25 October.
He answered questions on a variety of topics, ranging from the North Korean nuclear test to his hopes for the period after his term of office ends in 2008. A selection of his comments follows:
ON THE NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR TEST
We believe that these actions are inadmissible, and not just because it harms our relations with North Korea, not just because the tests are carried out in the immediate vicinity of our border ... Of course we should understand why it happened. I believe that one of the reasons is that not all the participants in the negotiations process were able to find the correct tone for these negotiations. One should never drive a situation into a dead end, one should never put one of the negotiating parties into a position from which it in effect has no way out, except to exacerbate the situation.
The way out of the situation is to return to the six-party negotiations ... We hear that signals are coming out of there today that the country is ready to return to the negotiating process. I believe that, given the goodwill of all the participants in this process, a way out can be found.
ON TENSION WITH GEORGIA
What is important is that we have special respect for the Georgian people. Look at the military sphere, the arts, the science: Georgians have made an immense and sometimes simply invaluable contribution to the development of Russian statehood...
We are very worried by the course the current leadership has taken to resolve its territorial problems by force. This is what worried us above all. This is what we have to prevent. We are doing it both in dialogue with our Georgian colleagues and at the international level, at the OSCE; by actively participating in the peacekeeping operations there and attempting to prevent the conflict.
And by the way, all the activities that we have been undertaking in relation to Georgia recently are not at all related to its plans to join NATO or to anything else. Our actions are governed by one thing alone: striving to prevent bloodshed.
ON SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
My profound conviction is that Russia is entering a totally new stage of development: the stage of steady economic growth and of solutions to social problems on this basis. Of these, the main one is to eliminate the imbalance between those of our people who are very well off and earn huge incomes, and those of our citizens who are as yet very poor.
ON TACKLING CORRUPTION
This is one of the most serious negative problems in our lives today, one of the most acute problems, and of course it is characteristic not only of Russia, but also of many countries in the world...
We need to increase control over the activities of both law-enforcement bodies and executive bodies of power. We need to increase the material wellbeing of officials and law-enforcement bodies. We need to create conditions under which people will value their post more than the money that they can get in the form of bribes. We need to create [the right] economic conditions. We need to create an attitude of intolerance in society to these phenomena.
ON POLITICAL MURDERS
These crimes stir up our society. In general when such bloody crimes occur, it is only legitimate that they trigger national concern. But I must tell you that the number of contract murders is going down in our country. The problem is that society pays special attention to such crimes, including with the encouragement of the mass media. This is absolutely right. We must not disregard such crimes.
I am talking about both in the political sphere and the economic sphere. The state has become more active in combating irregularities in the economic sphere, more energetic in pursuing those who are trying to line their pockets at the expense of millions of people and their welfare.
As far as politics is concerned, political struggle has not become gentler and more civilised, unfortunately. But the task of the state and the state's duty is to take any such investigation to the very end. This concerns the murders of media personalities, and murders in the economic sphere.
ON HIS CONTINUING INFLUENCE AFTER LEAVING OFFICE
Even once I have lost my powers of government and levers of presidential power, I believe that, without tinkering with the basic law for my personal interests, I will succeed in keeping the most important asset that any man in politics should cherish, namely your trust. And, by using this, we will be able to exert influence on the life of our country, and guarantee its progressive development.
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