Packed house for Vladimir Putin’s one-man show – and it runs and runs

A President in failing health? Not judging by this performance Shaun Walker saw in Moscow

Moscow

It went on for as long as three football matches, or an uncut production of Hamlet. In a showpiece press conference that seemed designed to quash rumours about his failing health, Vladimir Putin answered questions for four-and-a-half hours on everything from Bashar al-Assad to Gérard Depardieu; from the coming apocalypse to rural Siberian transport links.

The recurring theme of the marathon session was the Russian President’s fury at the US, and Mr Putin said he supported a law that has almost finished its passage through Russia’s parliament which will ban adoptions of Russian children by American citizens.

The bill is a reply to the Magnitsky Act, signed into law by Barack Obama earlier this month, which bans dozens of Russian officials implicated in the death in prison of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky from entering the US or holding American bank accounts.

Mr Putin faced a number of questions on the proposed adoption ban, which he described as an “emotional but correct response” to the US law, and railed repeatedly at American hypocrisy. 

“Not only are prisoners [at Guantanamo] detained without charge, they walk around shackled, like in the Middle Ages. They legalised torture in their own country. Can you imagine if we had anything like this here? They would have eaten us alive a long time ago.” Mr Putin said it was unacceptable for a country with a human rights record like that of the US to lecture Russia.

“They still point out our problems. Well, thank you, we are aware of them. But it is outrageous to use this as a pretext to adopt anti-Russian laws, when our side has done nothing to warrant such a response.”

Mr Putin said he had not yet carefully read the proposed anti-adoption law so could not back it definitively, but said he approved of the idea in principle.

On a later question about activists who have spent months in jail for causing public disturbances during a street protest the day before his inauguration as President in May, he again drew a comparison with US policy on public demonstrations. “Try to put your hand in your pocket there and pull something out, and you’ll have a bullet in the head with no questions asked,” he said. “And then they’ll support the police.”

Amid the serious issues there was also plenty of light relief. A Vladimir Putin press conference is no normal briefing. Assembled were more than 1,200 journalists; everyone from international television networks to Siberian village weeklies.

Many Russian journalists brought banners emblazoned with the name of their city. There was the reporter from faraway Magadan who used her one opportunity to pose a question to her country’s leader to inform him that he is an “energetic, beautiful man”.

Another journalist asked for an autographed birthday message for  his daughter, while a reporter from the Russian Far East suggested that  the best way to end the territorial dispute with Japan over the Kuril Islands would be to rename one of them Putin Island. (Mr Putin modestly stated that naming it Pushkin Island or Tolstoy Island would be “more productive”.) 

“Two more questions and that’s it,” implored Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s press secretary, as the three-hour mark was breached, but Mr Putin had other ideas and carried on for another 90 minutes.

Seen limping in recent months,  and apparently suffering from back pain, Mr Putin has been subject to a number of rumours to do with his health, but by the end of the marathon, he looked like the least tired person  in the hall.

When asked about his supposed failing health, he gave a trademark wry grin: “I’ll give you my traditional answer: don’t hold your breath.”

Vladimir Putin: Words of wisdom

On the end of the world:  “I know when the end of the world will come. In roughly 4.5 billion years… And what is there to be scared of, if it’s inevitable?”

On Gérard Depardieu: “I have very good personal relations with him... If Gérard wants a residency permit for Russia, or a Russian passport, consider it done.”

On democracy:  “Democracy is about respecting laws. For some reason, people here think that democracy means Trotskyism or anarchy. It doesn’t.”

On the future of Russia:  “If you compare it to other periods of Russian history, the recent one has been far from the worst... maybe one of the best. But I hope future leaders will be even more successful.”

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn