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On public sentiment and post-2024 plans (TASS interview)

March 19, 2020

The 17th part of Vladimir Putin's interview to TASS News Agency has been published.

The 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin project is an interview with the President of Russia on the most topical subjects of social and political life in Russia and the world. Total recording time is 3.5 hours.

Andrei Vandenko: And now about what awaits us in 2024. Are you going to be with us forever?

Vladimir Putin: If you want me to. Do you?

Andrei Vandenko: Me personally?

Vladimir Putin: The question is, in what capacity?

Andrei Vandenko: Well, this is what I am talking about. And in what capacity do you see yourself?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know, we will see.

Andrei Vandenko: Well, let us think about it.

Vladimir Putin: I still have a lot of time.

Andrei Vandenko: I cannot get a clear perspective from here. I think you can see more clearly from up there, from your high position. What do you see? What horizons open up?

Vladimir Putin: No, not at all. Do you know where you can see it? You can see it in public sentiment, in the desires of the people.

Andrei Vandenko: But the so-called elites are nervous, Mr Putin, due to this transfer. Some certainty is needed.

Vladimir Putin: I see. I understand it. The elites, yes, they might be nervous.

Andrei Vandenko: Do you like it?

Vladimir Putin: No, I do not. It is a drawback. Such an imbalance is a real drawback. I realize this. However, the people are the primary source of power. And I am not trying to show off. It is very important for me too. It is very important for me to feel, to understand what people want. It is a matter of principle.

Andrei Vandenko: So, if the people ask you to stay…

Vladimir Putin: Well, I will need to think about it. Another question is in what capacity.

Andrei Vandenko: Well, and in what capacity?

Vladimir Putin: Right now, I have no answer.

Andrei Vandenko: You are just not ready to talk about it.

Vladimir Putin: No, I am not. I still have four more years, and right now, I have no answer. But the most important thing is, let me repeat once again, and completely in honest, without trying to show off, the main issue, the matter of principle is the attitude of the vast majority of citizens. It is a matter of trust, of course.

Andrei Vandenko: You have already answered this question. Surely you did not think that it would all last this long?

Vladimir Putin: No. It never crossed my mind. I did not think that I would find myself here. It did not, and it could not occur to me.

Andrei Vandenko: And what about dropping out of the race at some stage?

Vladimir Putin: Well, you know, I feel responsible for what is going on and how, and for what will happen in the future. It…

Andrei Vandenko: Did you know in 2008 that you would be back in 2012?

Vladimir Putin: No, I did not. Well, there was such an option, but, of course, I did not know for sure. But as an option – there was such a possibility.

Andrei Vandenko: As Maxim Galkin jokes: Putin is not a name, it is a post.

Vladimir Putin: As a person holding no office, he can joke as he likes. And his jokes are quite in demand.

Andrei Vandenko: How do you react to the fact that they call you a Tsar?

Vladimir Putin: It is not true to fact. Maybe someone else can be called a Tsar. However, in my case, I do not reign, I work every day. A Tsar is one who just sits there, looks from above and says, ”They will do as I order“, while he himself would just try on a hat and look at himself in the mirror. On the contrary, I work every day.

Andrei Vandenko: What about your sources of information?

Vladimir Putin: People like me, irrespective of the country they live in, have more or less the same sources of information, and they are quite numerous. They include sociological studies, security services’ reports and the media, of course. A very important source is direct – this is very important – direct communication with the people.

Andrei Vandenko: Remember, Muller used to say, ”Nobody can be trusted, but me.“ Whom do you trust?

Vladimir Putin: Me?

Andrei Vandenko: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: You know, frankly speaking…

Andrei Vandenko: Frankly would be best.

Vladimir Putin: Most of all I trust the sentiments of average people. When I communicate with people, when there is direct contact, even briefly, I think I feel the mood of the people. And that feeling has not become less keen, over the years, it is still with me, and that is very important for me indeed. I believe that our people are very sincere. Very sincere, sensitive and frank.

Andrei Vandenko: You know, when a person meets a leader…

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Andrei Vandenko: Especially the President…

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Andrei Vandenko: Would one blurt out all personal problems to him? You have asked me how am I at the beginning. Well, it depends. And the same goes for the ordinary people, it depends. You see?

Vladimir Putin: Not everybody. Some blurt out their problems, some discuss things. Some talk about their misfortunes. But a problem of a certain person can be very indicative of the problems faced by millions.

Andrei Vandenko: Excuse me, but people mind what they say. Here I am, sitting and talking to you, but trying, for many reasons, to watch my mouth, as I do not want to let down my colleagues or to go to sunny Magadan after this interview.

Vladimir Putin: There is a big difference between you and an average citizen of the Russian Federation.

Andrei Vandenko: What kind of difference?

Vladimir Putin: It relates to you, what Vladimir Lenin once said…

Andrei Vandenko: I am going to learn something interesting about myself…

Vladimir Putin: He said about a group of revolutionaries that they were few and terribly far from the people.

Andrei Vandenko: Oh well…

Vladimir Putin: This is about people like you. No offence meant. An ordinary person does not worry about any obligations that he might have to somebody. Ordinary people say what they think, and they think what they say. And they do not bother with how their superiors might react. They just speak their mind. And what they say might be of critical importance as they speak from their heart, speak about what they like and what they do not. I highly value that, it is truly very important to me.

March 19, 2020