Geoff Cutmore: You have said on many occasions at many platforms that I have been involved in that non-interference is your principle. But this week we have heard not only Washington but also the EU in Brussels saying that you should release protesters, you should release the leader of the opposition. They have been making calls upon you. The fact that there is an apparent interference from them, will that have consequences?
Vladimir Putin: All these calls come amid police crackdowns such as for example on Paris protesters against the murder of one of the citizens directly in his home, a Frenchman of Chinese descent. Therefore, this kind of appeals to Russia – we believe these are politicised moves aimed at influencing the domestic political life in our country.
As for our internal political developments, we consistently support anti-corruption efforts, since corruption is indeed a serious problem for us (although declining somewhat in recent years, judging by opinion polls, among other things), and for other countries. This is relevant, and we are working on it, and people can see it. I personally support keeping anti-corruption issues constantly in the focus of public attention, and always take a positive view when people take note of these issues. The only thing that I think is wrong is for certain political forces to try to use this in their own interests, for self-promotion in the political arena ahead of political events such as elections rather than to improve the situation.
We know perfectly well, and I would like to draw your attention to this: this tool was also used at the beginning of the so-called Arab spring. We also know that this led to the bloody events in the region. We know that this was one of the motivations and reasons for the coup d'état in Ukraine, our neighbour. We also know that these events have plunged Ukraine into chaos.
Therefore, we say yes to the fight against corruption – and no to using this tool for narrow and selfish political purposes. Everyone involved in political processes should act within the framework of the law. Anyone who breaks the law must be punished in accordance with Russian legislation.
Geoff Cutmore: One of my viewers actually sent a question in for this discussion. An American. And he said, if you take further consequences against the Americans over sanctions, would you stop giving them rockets so that they can get to the space station?
Vladimir Putin: We never use the “get a ticket and off you go” principle. And why should we? We never take any steps that can harm us. Americans have long been buying our rocket engines. It is advantageous to them as it saves money, including taxpayers’ money that should have gone to build their own facilities, but it is also advantageous for us because it keeps our factories working.
We never make steps that damage business, damage our international relations. And we are not going to do anything of the kind here. What the previous US administration did, I think, hurts the US economy, the American people. And as the Obama administration urged the Europeans to take the same measures, it hurts the European economy, bringing down the competitiveness of the European economy, leading to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, and it has already led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
It violates the principles of the World Trade Organisation and international rules in this area, and these are crude violations both in the economy and in human rights protection.
We keep talking about human rights, incessantly, including with regard to the rallies in Moscow and other Russian cities. Yet they just imposed sanctions in connection with the Crimean events on individuals who had nothing to do with the events, they never even had the slightest idea of what was being planned, and they learnt of what was happening from the media. Yet sanctions were just imposed on them. Where are the human rights here? Their bank accounts were closed, they cannot even use funds for making transactions for their family members and so on. Well, what are we talking about? What human rights are we talking about?
It means they should be observed in one place, and shouldn’t in another. There is no logic, no equal approach to these issues in the modern world. Unfortunately, we have arrived at such a degradation of international law and international relations. It should be rectified. Can this be done or not? It can, and let us strive to do it together. But this can only be done from both the sides.