Putin denies part in Pussy Riot case

 

Moscow

Vladimir Putin has used his first major interview since resuming the presidency in May to deny that he had a hand in the sentencing of punk trio Pussy Riot and to castigate the United States over its Syria policy.

"I know what is going on with Pussy Riot, but I absolutely have not got involved," Mr Putin said, according to quotes released to Russian news outlets from an interview due to be broadcast in full this morning. The three women were sentenced to two years in prison last month for singing a song criticising the Orthodox Church's support for Mr Putin.

The full interview, with the Kremlin-friendly broadcaster Russia Today, is the first time Mr Putin has spoken to the media since his inauguration in May. In a short clip posted on Russia Today's website, Mr Putin appeared to castigate Western policy in Syria.

"You might just as well unlock Guantanamo, arm all of its inmates, and bring them to Syria to do the fighting. They're practically the same kind of people," Mr Putin said, presumably referring to the Free Syrian Army.

Russia has, along with China, been the main international backer of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the conflict.

Mr Putin also hedged his bets on the US presidential election. Despite a number of aggressive statements regarding Russia from the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Mr Putin said Moscow was ready to work with whichever candidate won the forthcoming vote.

It also emerged yesterday that in the coming days, Mr Putin plans to visit the remote Yamal peninsula and, dressed all in white, fly a microlight aircraft as part of an operation to save rare birds. He will have to disguise himself as a crane, reports said, so that the flock of birds believe that he is one of them and he can fly them to safety.

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