"Direct line" with Vladimir Putin: theses analysis

On June 15, the annual direct line with the Russian president was held in a traditional format of questions from the citizens of the country and answers of V. Putin. The direct line feedback format allows the Russian authorities to directly reach out the broad segments of the population, as well as foreign audiences, voice their positions on the most important problems of the country's development, and, of course, demonstrate the political and leadership skills and awareness of the country's leaders about the situation in various regions of the country. The organizers ensured the all-Russia geographical representation of participants in the direct line, including the city-village perspective, representatives of various segments of society and representatives of various professions. Some pressing issues in the field of world politics were touched upon, as well as issues relating to the personal life of the Russian president, his family and his hobbies.

V. Putin’s statement that the recession in the Russian economy has been overcome a period of growth has begun was the main thesis of the direct line.was his According to him, now for the three quarters in a row the economy has been growing, although modestly, in the non-primary and non-energy sectors, and the lowest inflation rates in the country's recent history.

At the same time, the Russian president pointed to such negative trends for the social and economic development of the country as a decrease in real incomes of the population, a rise in the number of citizens living below the poverty level and receiving incomes below the subsistence level. According to V. Putin, the outstanding problems of the Russian economy that require further work – in fact, typical for Kazakhstan as well – are the structure of the economy and low labor productivity.

 It is interesting that Bloomberg reported on Russia's recovery from a protracted recession in March, linking it in part to rising oil prices and a new methodology for calculating military spending. Bloomberg's experts at the same time noted the growth in the non-energy sector, low inflation and an increase in domestic demand. Alexei Kudrin spoke about Russia's recovery from the recession and the decrease in real incomes of the population at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum held in early June.

This sheds light on the conclusions about the state of the Russian economy, voiced by V. Putin. In the course of the direct line, V. Putin dwelled on the demographic situation, indicating important positive changes in this area.

It is worth noting that Vladimir Putin regularly attaches importance to this topic in his extended speeches, which indicates that he considers the improvement in the demographics in the country as one of the indicators of the effectiveness of his domestic policy. He explained the reasons of the demographic decline in previous years, linking it with the consequences of the demographic catastrophe in the Great Patriotic War and the collapse of the social system in the crisis of the 1990s. The number of young women in fertile age has significantly decreased, which now has a long-term negative impact. But today, the Russian president noted that the measures taken in this field resulted in the fact that the birth rate in the country is growing at a rate, that is "not achieved in European countries" Social support for fertility, including maternity capital and subsidies for a third child in regions with a complex demographic situation, will be continued in one form or another.

According to the Russian president, 98% of the problem of kindergartens' capacity in Russia has been solved. Since this issue isacute for Kazakhstan as well, it is obviously necessary to pay closer attention to the Russian experience in this field. It is difficult to imagine the direct line of the Russian president without assessing the latest developments in Russia's relations with the West and the Ukraine.

Putin commented on the situation regarding the "Immortal Regiment" action, his attitude towards Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian state official V. Medvedchuk, often called by his opponents as the Kremlin's protege. As to the Ukranian president quoting M. Lermontov's lines "Farewell, unwashed Russia" after the introduction of the EU visa-free regime for Ukraine, V. Putin responded with a quote of T. Shevchenko: " Thus, in her struggle, our Ukraine reached the last climax of pure pain:  worse than the Poles, or any other, the children crucify their mother..."

"If someone wants to be European, they should first close their offshore accounts, and then start talking about the welfare of the people," the Russian president said sarcastically, once again assuring that Russia does not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs. The American issue was covered after a question by an American, who introduced himself as a fan of Putin, a "very pro-Russian" person, about "rabid" Russophobia in the United States. Putin has told again that the Russian Empire in its time had supported the US in gaining the independence, that both countries were allies in two world wars.

For Putin, the Russophobia in the US, as well as accusations of Russia's interfering in the American election process, is the result of the escalating domestic political struggle within this country. It has to be said, this assessment has been already voiced by the representatives of Russia. Rejecting such accusations, V. Putin recalled the US propaganda, the US fueling of pro-American NGOs and influencing the course of the electoral process not only in Russia, but in many countries. Nevertheless, taking a conciliatory tone, Putin said that Russians do not consider the US as an enemy and expressed his interest in the relations eventually returning back to normal. The nuclear agenda is the central sphere, where Russia and the United States can and should cooperate...

Calling the Iranian nuclear issue an example of positive cooperation, an area where they once agreed, the Russian president expressed readiness for a constructive dialogue on the Syrian issue. It should be noted that Russia expects normalization of relations with the US without changing the situation in the Crimea.

The Crimean issue was raised in during the direct line in the context of the construction of the Kerch bridge and the discussion of the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy, which Putin directly links to the policy of containment against Russia. According to Putin's speech, the Crimean issue is only an excuse for imposing sanctions, "if it weren't for the Crimea and other problems, they would have come up with something else to contain Russia."

The recent counter-arguments of the Russian leadership regarding the sanctions may be the regularly drawn conclusion that Russia has throughout its history, "since before the October Revolution," especially when it's economy was on the rise, always lived in the conditions of sanctions.

Then V. Putin says that the sanctions have impacted not only Russia but also the countries that introduced them. He cites UN figures showing that the final balance of damage is even in favor of Russia – 55-52 billion dollars against 100 billion, respectively. The unfavorable world situation caused by the decline in prices for key items of Russian exports – oil, gas, metallurgical and chemical industries was even much more damaging than the sanctions... Here, the Kazakhstan and Russian economies, whose exports are dominated by raw materials, are also much alike.

Recognizing the negative effect of sanctions, Putin states that there are some definitely positive outcomes. The sanctions forced "to turn on brains and talents" and concentrate efforts on non-resources sector, and due to these certain positive changes are observed in a number of important industries: radio electronics, aircraft building, heavy engineering, missile engineering and pharmaceuticals.

The reduction of imports has brought about the rise of agricultural production. For a number of agricultural products, Russia not only practically covers its internal needs, but also sets a task to reach foreign markets. Not only Kazakhstan, but also Russia is interested in the Chinese market for the sale of its agricultural products. A number of sensitive topics for the Russian society were touched upon during the direct line.

For example, the situation with the "Gogol Center" and its art director K. Serebrennikov, which resonates with the creative intelligentsia, as well as the situation with Kirill Serebrennikov and the film "Matilda" directed by A. Uchitel. The Russian president was asked to comment on the fate of St. Isaac's Cathedral and the topic of renovation in Moscow.

Putin responded to the complaints of local residents from various regions, which mainly concerned the emergency condition of housing, roads, houses, delayed budgetary payments. In the direct line style, the Russian president promised to follow up on these situations, and accordingly, local executive authorities reacted promptly to correct them. The Internet has not been without criticism from individual citizens who view the direct line as "a session of collective therapy" and share their suspicions that all that is happening may be a staged show.

Another highlight of the direct line are the pop-up messages that appear on the live screen in an interactive mode. A number of messages were so uneasy for the Russian president that observers had suspicions that the organizers might have overlooked them, or that hackers might have interfered with the process. Although Putin ignored them, those who saw, in the very fact of their appearance on the screen, the sign of a great political experience and the Russian president's confidence in his position, are likely to be right.

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