Putin talks about Panama leaks, Karabakh in call-in show

Russian President Vladimir Putin answers some of 3 million questions submitted by Russians in annual call-in show

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a live broadcast nationwide call-in in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday spoke about the Panama Papers and Karabakh conflict among many other issues, answering some of the 3 million questions submitted by Russian citizens during a highly choreographed annual call-in show.  

Ordinary Russian citizens asked Putin questions through text, email, online video, telephone and from a small studio audience.  

Karabakh conflict

Putin says there needs to be a long-term solution to the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

"Unfortunately this outburst of violence took place. We will do all we can to settle it, to find solutions acceptable to both sides and of course, long-term solutions for the Karabakh conflict are needed. They can be reached only through political means, a compromise must be found," Putin said.

The causes of the recent deadly clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in occupied Karabakh are rooted in an intractable dispute concerning the status quo of the region following World War I. This led to a short war between Azerbaijan and Armenia for the region between March and April in 1920.

After Azerbaijan and Armenia were subsumed into the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was established within Azerbaijan by the Soviet Union in 1924. Following this, violent conflict had not reemerged till the end of the Soviet era.

'Panama Papers'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said media reports about offshore accounts in Panama were a "provocation."

Putin defended his long-term friend cellist Sergei Roldugin named in the "Panama Papers" leaks and said he had done nothing wrong and spent the money he earned from business on buying expensive musical instruments which he was donating to public institutions.

"What Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin bought - I think he bought two violins and two cellos - these are unique instruments. The last one he bought - I will mention it because it has already been mentioned on the internet - [its value] is about $12 million," Putin said.

"I can suggest to thieves and the like to calm down, because Sergei Pavlovich has nothing left. To buy these instruments he spent more than he had, he owes [money] to institutions, foundations through which he bought them. Who is behind these provocations? We know that among them there are staff of official US institutions," he added.

Putin also said that United States officials were behind the Panama leaks and a media campaign designed to cast doubts about individuals.

"What matters - is that the country cannot be manipulated, cannot be forced to do what someone else wants, to dance to someone else's tune. If we are talked to in a respectable way, if they try to look for compromises, the same way we always do, then we will always find a solution which will satisfy both us and our partners," the Russian president added.

Earlier this month nearly 11.5 million tax documents have revealed an alleged network of offshore tax fortunes linked to celebrities and world leaders, including Putin.

The documents, dubbed the "Panama Papers," were obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

People walk under an electronic screen showing a nationwide call-in attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin on a street of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, April 14, 2016.

Putin criticsies Obama

Putin said US President Barack Obama didn't learn lessons from Iraq when dealing with the conflict in Libya.

"It is not easy to say such things. Barack, when he was still a senator, criticised the actions of the administration of the day for their actions in Iraq. But unfortunately, when he himself was president, he made the mistakes which he himself mentioned - in Libya. And this is right and very good that my colleague has the courage to make such statements. Not everyone can do this," Putin said during his annual televised phone-in.

Obama recently said that the "worst mistake" of his presidency was his failure to come up with action plan in the aftermath of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's ousting.

Western Sanctions against Russia

Putin said that he does not see Western sanctions against Russia being lifted in the near future in his annual televised phone-in, saying Moscow would maintain its counter sanctions against the West.

He added that the situation in the Russian economy has not been solved and the government expects a small fall in gross domestic product this year. 

TRTWorld, Reuters