Friday, December 5, 2008

Putin Hosts Live Q&A Broadcast in Russia

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised Russians economic prosperity and the prospect of warmer relations with the U.S. in a live three-hour question-and-answer session Thursday that showcased him as Russia's most powerful leader.

The nationally broadcasted call-in show was the seventh for Putin. Current Russian President Mikhail Medvedev has kept a lower profile and has not held such call-in show.

It was an interesting three hours as the Prime Minister showed his countries teeth to Russia's foes, while making every effort to sound paternal and kind to the home audience. He promised apartments to military officers, support to the unemployed, free medicines to retirees and higher wages to all Russians. Putin pledged that the government would be able to prevent a drop in living standards and implement earlier plans for salary and pension increases. He said the Russian economy was expected to post almost 7 percent growth this year despite the crisis, and promised that wages and pensions will rise by 12 percent.

"We have every opportunity to get through this difficult period with minimal problems."

Putin said Russia's currency reserves, the world's third-largest, would be sufficient to cushion the effects of the financial crisis.

Prime Minister Putin also spoke about the ruble. He said Russia will avoid “sharp” swings in the ruble by using its $454.9 billion of reserves to support the currency. The nation’s cash pool rose last week for the first time in two months, the central bank said yesterday.

We will most likely see more gradual devaluations of around 1 percent at a time, and we could see the ruble 15 percent weaker against the basket in six months and 20 percent weaker in 12 months.

Prime Minister Putin wrapped up the carefully choreographed session by taking a long string of questions sent in advance, ending with one asking what he loves most. His answer was simply "Russia."

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