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Gordon Ackerman, Hayes, UK
"Press freedom is in some cases impeded"
 real 28k

Yevgeni S. Garif, Minnesota, USA
"Putin is a good leader for Russia"
 real 28k

Tahir Nawab, New York, USA
"Under Putin, Russia is still bankrupt"
 real 28k

Tom O'Donovan, Leicester, UK
"The West shoud help Putin"
 real 28k

David Martin, Lancaster, England
"Putin looked calm and professional"
 real 28k

Stephen Constantine, Copenhagen, Denmark
"Feels that Putin isn't the right man for the job"
 real 28k

Paul A. Lux, Florida, USA
"Russia is justified in its paranoia with the West"
 real 28k

Alex Banks, Sweden/ Wales
"Putin is not a career politician"
 real 28k

Felix Agakov, Germany/ Russia
"Putin says what most people want to hear"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 12:24 GMT
Vladimir Putin: One year on

Following his historic webcast from the Kremlin earlier this week how well do we know Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin?

His aides hoped the event would show an open and confident leader, connected to the modern world. How convinced were you by his performance and by his record so far as president?

It is nearly one year since Vladimir Putin won a sweeping election victory, promising to work to end the chaos undermining the world's second biggest nuclear state.

In that time, the former KGB agent has been accused of a brutal disregard for human rights in the breakaway republic of Chechnya and of intimidation of the Russian media.

Is Mr Putin an anti-democrat pushing Russia into a new era of confrontation with the West, or the firm leader the country needs to confront its dire problems?

And is the type of webcast Mr Putin took part in this week a useful tool for ordinary people to put world leaders on the spot in the internet age - or just a public relations exercise for the benefit of the person in the limelight?

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall, who took part in the Kremlin webcast, answered your questions on Talking Point ON AIR, the global phone-in programme of the BBC World Service.

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air


This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    Your comments since the programme

    Putin is a total mistake for the Russian people. He is neglecting basics such as full employment, proper compensation for the military, rebuilding the Russian economy and fighting rampant corruption throughout the nation. Rather than taking care of the crying needs of his nation's people, he is sabre-rattling and employing diplomacy to reassert Russian great power status. It is obvious to all that Russia has become a second-rate impoverished nation and without capital it will never reacquire great power status.
    Ron Gomes, Las Vegas, Nevada


    I believe Putin is doing an excellent job of getting a strategic grip on the nation

    B, Netherlands
    In light of the fact that Russia has some severe internal economic and social difficulties I believe Putin is doing an excellent job of getting a strategic grip on the nation. I'd even go as far as to say that he seems, at least on the surface, to be one of the most competent world leaders around. Putin for US president!
    B, Netherlands

    The fall of communism has made Russia a dependent of the USA. But, it serves the US right, for pushing the Cold War temperature close to a holocaust. Years of scientific power struggle has made the country poor and fraught with corruption. The IMF and EU are now giving it handouts. But, Russia must get off its hind legs and prove that it can sustain itself in a world of opportunities. It has the talent and vision.
    Erica, Kingston, Jamaica

    Mr Putin was voted in for four years and will only get one more chance. It means that Russia is a democracy. What more does the West want? Why didn't it stop the Cold War?
    Vladimir, Serbia


    The Russian people were badly let down when communism fell

    Ian Jordan, London, UK
    The Russian people were badly let down when communism fell. They were promised so much but gained so little under Yeltsin. Putin has stabilised the economy but he needs to crack down far more on the criminal element that milks Russia of over 30% of its GDP each year. Until he can prove that his government are truly in control greater foreign investment will be slow to materialise.
    Ian Jordan, London, UK

    The people who criticise the Russian economy may wish to reflect on something that their country has that the Russians presently do not. Western and other economies rely on something that started as a temporary measure. I am talking about the tax system. Without taxes (income, sales, excise etc) most governments would collapse. So Russia needs to set up a proper tax collection and distribution system to function economically. I admire the courage of Mr Putin in going on the internet, perhaps you could persuade Mr. George W. Bush to follow suit.
    Brian Merritt, Quebec City, Canada

    Mr Putin, like previous leaders, has done little to change the status quo in Russia. His bullish tactics towards the media and possible opponents, and failure to curb crime and poverty in his country is really worrying. I think he's done nothing to change or improve the face of Russia.
    Leshao Lontubu, Raleigh, NC, USA

    Mr Putin has done a really good job for the stabilisation of the Russian economy - that's the key factor in the development of democracy. It is common knowledge that a healthy economy and rising living standards are the most important conditions for political stability and the development of democracy. If a strong middle class is created, there will be much less risk of dictatorship and human rights violation.
    Andrei Sedin, Moscow, Russia


    Mr Putin's performance was slick

    Michael Tracy, Belgium
    Mr Putin's performance was slick. But on three essential questions he was evasive: democracy, Chechnya and freedom of the media. Worrying!
    Michael Tracy, Belgium

    One should not fail to notice the similarity between Mr Putin and George Bush the former US president who used to be the head of the CIA. Mr Putin appears to have the determination to improve conditions in Russia. One of his most difficult challenges will be to establish an accountable and dependable legal framework that will attract foreign investment.
    Dimitrios Konstantakos, New York City, USA

    Putin seems to have stabilised the Russian economy, and returned Russia to its former role on the world stage without communism. I think that he is good for Russia, bad for the outside world.
    Peter Bolton, UK in USA

    Your comments during the programme


    I think the most important thing at the moment is the introduction of a strong market economy

    Bob Tubbs, Cambridge, UK
    I think the most important thing at the moment is the introduction of a strong market economy (such as now exists in parts of Southern China) and a degree of freedom for the media. The introduction of "American values" is the last thing that Russians need. It seems that many people from the USA are blind to the failings of their own country (the abundance of illegal weapons, high murder rates requiring the need for capital punishment). Russia has its own separate identity. What is needed is to repair the Russian economy, not destroy its culture. A free media is all that is required to keep the Government in check.
    Bob Tubbs, Cambridge, UK

    Putting all the criticism of Mr Putin's politics to one side, I welcome the fact that the leader of such a big country was open to this kind of discussion. Be honest: it's an expression of courage, especially if you are centre of as much criticism as Mr Putin is.
    Joachim Layes, Singapore

    Mr Putin is creating a clear 'democratic' dictatorship for himself. But I am not saying it is wrong. History has shown that Russia can only be controlled by a man with an iron hand. Mr Putin can become a great leader if he uses his power right and turns Russia into more of a democratic country rather than back to a communist one.
    Karen Arzumanyan, UK/ Russia


    Russia's problems stem from the West

    David McCullough, Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Russia's problems stem from the West. The West's intolerance of Russia during the Cold War, is to blame for the economic despair in a country that could offer so much potential to the world in so many ways.
    David McCullough, Belfast, Northern Ireland

    If this vital region is to be managed better, Putin must have the courage to address the anti-democratic nature of the KGB and other institutions in Russia by openly admitting the failures of the past, such as rule by Presidential decree, the extraordinary corruption in civil life and the ability to buy elections. How can anyone trust and invest in the largest country of the world when the basic rules of civil society for all Russians are not in place? He has a lot of work to do.
    Philip Corsano, Burlington USA

    Putin comes across as a healthy and timely breath of fresh air for the Russian people. He needs to develop more sensitivity in dealing with matters of internal security but otherwise he represents Russia's best hope of economic recovery and cultural revival. I do not believe for a minute that a man of such openness and diplomatic aplomb entertains a secret desire to return the country to communist rule. My (white Russian) grandfather would turn in his grave if he did that. Good luck to him and long may he rule!
    Simon Cameron, London, UK

    Your comments before we went ON AIR


    It is absolutely essential to the survival of the planet that this region be managed well and brought into a state of health

    Maria Ashot, South Pasadena, USA
    Mr Putin is the best chance to come along since Gorbachev for normalisation within Russia and normalisation of Russia's relations with the West and other neighbours, such as China. As the granddaughter of Imperial Russians who were active in the government of the Last Tsar, I have no particular bias in favour of post-Soviet Russian leaders. My concern is that of a global citizen, European by culture, with expertise in Russian affairs which is often lacking in bureaucrats and academics trained by Cold Warriors. Russia occupies a vast area of tremendous significance ecologically and because of its vital natural resources, not to mention human population. It is absolutely essential to the survival of the planet that this region be managed well and brought into a state of health.
    Maria Ashot, South Pasadena, USA

    I think President Putin is the right man for the right time. He is the one who I think will be fully capable of dealing with the United States abuse of its position as a superpower. I don't think we are going to enjoy a secure world without a strong Russia. The Americans and their allies will dominate the world, and impose their own version of human rights and relations between nations. They talk about human rights violations in some countries and don't talk about it in others. Such actions make many, many people regret the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    Eric Shoffner, Prague, Czech Republic

    I have grave doubts that Mr Putin is in any way a democrat and also that the Russian people actually want democracy. Naive politicians such as Margaret Thatcher talked of the Russians gaining democracy but they have no historical experience of it. A 1,000 years of history under tyrants and Tsars is not a good start. Before democracy they need stability, growth and development until their country and people are able to move towards it.
    Paul Bridle, London, UK

    Being a Russian person I think I can judge Mr Putin's year of "reign" from the inside. All he has achieved is an image and nothing else. Russian people have not begun living better than they had been for the previous 10 years, many of them being on the margins of poverty. Lack of heating, small wages etc - all this has not been either overcome or improved.
    Vera, Moscow, Russia


    The West needs to end its severe contempt for Russia and its people. Mark my words, like it or they will be a force to reckon with sooner than you think.

    Gena, Los Angeles, USA

    I do not believe that Putin believes in democracy. If you just refresh the events took place before the election in Russia you can not deny that the main strategy to win the election in Putin`s mind was to crush the Chechen rebels and to kill as many as possible. The Russian people are equally responsible for the destruction and miseries of Chechnya. It's what they elected Putin for.
    Mark Hill, Leeds, UK

    Russia is a big country situated both in Europe and Asia. I believe it is a key country to provide checks and balances in world power and stability. What Putin is doing now seems to be in that direction.
    Prayad Wesnarat, Bangkok ,Thailand

    It is ridiculous to impose judgement on one so new, considering the fact that he has done little sabre rattling or fussing. He has simply asserted himself when Russia's interests were at stake and not for publicity, poularity or a feeble attempt to instill fear in the West of Russian might. The fact that he seems to be very much behind the scenes implies a Stalin in the making; strong, able and given time will do what is necessary to reassert Russian influence, prosperity and strength
    Shadi Gharfeh, Mesa, Arizona

    Well, Mr. Putin better get Russia into shape, because if he fails, the alternative for the Russian people is voting communist. And the Russian communists have long been known to be a little blind to what true communism is.
    Asita Goonewardena, Minneapolis, USA


    If President Putin can't even find the killers of two champions of a democratic Russia, what does that say about his leadership?

    Sean, Christchurch, New Zealand

    As a first generation American born to Russian parents, I have always been fascinated with my Russian roots. I have had the privilage to live happily in Russia for extended periods of time and can say that the vast changes to the country have been amazing, many for the better and many for the worse. We must not forget that many of today's problems came from policy recommendations by Western powers. What quite a few people must realise is that while the nation seems to be in disarray, Russia is still a rather wealthy nation in terms of natural resources compared to many other former Soviet and Eastern Bloc nations. While it has become an international trend to mock the largest nation on earth, we should not forget that they are an advanced industrialised nation, not to mention they still have a large military complex! The West needs to end its severe contempt for Russia and its people. Mark my words, like it or they will be a force to reckon with sooner than you think. It is up to the West to decide whether they want Russia on their side or against.
    Gena, Los Angeles, USA

    Mr Putin was head of the FSB at the time of the investigation into the assassination of his colleague, Vice-Governor Mikhail Manevich. Nobody has been (satisfactorily) found to be behind that man's death or the death of politician Galina Staritovita; both of these people were known for their failure to be compromised and it is a festering sore in the Russian psyche that the murderers remain at large. If President Putin can't even find the killers of two champions of a democratic Russia, what does that say about his leadership?
    Sean, Christchurch, New Zealand


    The country is ever more vibrant, dynamic and forward thinking

    Steve, Midlands, UK
    I have visited Russia on numerous occasions (and lived there for a while). On my last visit, some time into Mr Putin's leadership, I saw with my own eyes the changes for the better that have already taken place. The country is ever more vibrant, dynamic and forward thinking. Thriving commercial centres are springing up, and in the well-stocked supermarkets, quality Russian-produced goods are found side-by-side with imported foreign ones - a clear sign of a measure of economic health. There is optimism in the air. Though the economic revival is still far from complete, great steps have already been taken.
    Steve, Midlands, UK

    Mr Putin represents the new generation of KGB officers: educated, polite and sceptical about communism. His KGB past, however, does not allow him to look at the world and at Russia in modern terms. People who compare him to Gerge Bush Sr forget that the CIA was and remains an intelligence agency of a democratic state, while the KGB was a major tool of a totalitarian one.
    Ilya Girin, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA

    I think Putin has put Russia on the right path and, unlike his predecessor, he seems genuinely interested in the plight of ordinary Russians. However he still has the proverbial mountain to climb in combating corruption and improving the economy. As for Chechnya, the Western media has been as much 'anti-Russia' as the (supposedly) Putin controlled media has been 'pro-Russia'.
    Mike, UK

    Everyone is tired of this phrase, but it's still early to judge Putin. At the moment, he is using the favourable situation to consolidate his power to be able to continue unpopular, but necessary reforms in the future. Since he seems to be guided by rationality rather than principle, most Russians and outsiders are concerned what those reforms will be like.
    Andrej, Russia


    President Putin represents the views of the young generation of Russians who deal with post-communist reality

    Yevgeni, Moscow, Russia
    I am a 23 year old man and as such I think President Putin represents the views of the younger generation of Russians who deal with post-communist reality with a healthy ambition to return to our long-standing traditions of excellence in academia, science, arts, literature, music and the army. We are looking to add to this list guaranteed human rights and a strong economy. Mr Putin, like most Russians, is weary of being haunted by communism fears maintained by the West. His priorities lie with the peaceful, prosperous and dignified future of Russian people, and not winning the favours of whoever wants to shape our future for us.
    Yevgeni, Moscow, Russia

    Putin knows that dictatorship time is over, it would not work in Russia or in Europe anymore. His mission is to protect democratic rights of every Russian, control the country's crime and make all of us believe in Russia again. He is the man of discipline. I believe he would do it.
    Drazenka Kovrlija, USA

    No one person can be the "saviour" of Russia or anyplace else. Mr. Putin is young and energetic and that works in his favor. But the fact that he finds redeeming features in Russia's communist past is disturbing. Communism killed millions of Russians and its neighbors, and poisoned relations with neighboring nations for generations.
    Richard, USA

    Although I think Mr. Putin seems to be a nice guy, I do think he ought to concentrate more time resolving internal Russian affairs, and less trying to wax lyrical on foreign matters. Their bleating on international issues sounds like Cold War rhetoric and seem to miss the new reality. In other words, "Get your own house in order and then tell us what you think of everyone else's".
    Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

    I have studied the previous life and skills of this man and I strongly believe that he is the right guy to lead Russia forward. Besides, he has shown that Russia demands the world's respect, no matter what their current problems are, caused by the transformation. In another bbc talking point I read something which points the future of world superpower balance: "Russians will eventually put on their new suit and come back to business again, as usual"! Well, it's a matter of time!
    Aris Aristou, Cyprus

    Putin is the KGB reply to the CIA's Gorbachev. Gorbachev came through the Communist party ranks to destroy it and Soviet Union from inside. Yeltsin was formed to continue that destruction and betrayal of the Russian people and their interests to the west. Putin was given the task of smoothly reversing that destruction and restore the deserved Russian influence over the world affairs.
    Sanath, UK

    Putin may be both anti-democrat & firm leader but what he isn't is a man who has a strong vision for his nation.
    David S, Canada

    The facts speak for themselves. Under Putin, Russia is still bankrupt and being constantly bailed out by the IMF and the EU as usual. More than ever, the Russian government is fraught with corruption. Russian violation of Human Rights in Chechnya go on unabated and unchecked, in spite of both independent and Russian media reports of torture and massacre of innocent Chechen civilians.
    Tahir Nawab, USA

    He is not a career politican, having spent much of his life in the KGB. therefore I would trust him more than one who has spent a whole lifetime in political circles. If he says something, I have greater faith in him achieving it due to his background as a until-recently-non-politician.
    Alex Banks, Wales, Living in Sweden

    Vladimir Putin's quick rise to success was on the back of the conflict in Chechnya. After a few setbacks (such as the poor handling of the Kursk incident) he finds himself at a crossroads. Yeltsin was willing to capitulate to the West to keep the western dollars flowing in.

    Putin has the power to make the changes necessary to get the economy back, but his confrontational attitude toward the US's missile defense system will only slow down foreign investment. No multinational corporation wants to sink a bunch of money into a country that is likely to escalate the current cooling of relations with the West into another cold war.
    Paul A. Lux, Florida, USA

    People don't tire of reminding that Putin was a former KGB agent while they love to ignore the fact that president Bush is the son of a chief-spy because the former president Bush was a director of the CIA.
    Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands

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