Yesterday, President Putin met with the Valdai Discussion Club at his vacation house in Sochi, Russia. A copy of his opening speech in English can be found here, but the most interesting exchanges occurred during the Q&A session after the speech. The main topic discussed (or at least reported), of course was the appointment of Viktor Zubkov to the post of Prime Minister and the burning question of who will be the next President of Russia. Here is a clip of a portion of the meeting, which unfortunately does not include Putin’s discussion of his post-presidential plans:
As Gazeta.ru has already reported, the answer to that question very much depends on which paper you read. For example, the Independent’s coverage of the meeting bears the headline – An Audience with Putin, the Leader Who Insists His Work is Nearly Done. First, I just want to say that that has to be the worst headline ever. The article accurately notes that Putin has not chosen what he will do once his term is over, but has ruled out a third term. Furthermore, in response to the question of whether he will run for President in 2012, Putin said, “By 2012 I will find something interesting for myself” (literally: До 2012 года я найду что-нибудь интересное для себя). The Times quoted Putin as saying, “In 2012 I hope to find a place where I will be comfortable instead of reading in the Western press nasty things about becoming the new president.” And though he did not rule out the possibility of a return in 2012, Gazeta reported that the reporters covering the event “got the impression that Putin does not want to return.” The Boston Globe and the Times of India, however, each quote ‘experts’ who interpreted Putin’s words to signify a greater possibility, or even likelihood to return.
Finally, Putin also addressed the question of whether Zubkov will run for President (see the video at 16:35). Seeming annoyed, he said, “He can [run for President], just like every other Russian citizen.”