Putin presser: chilling news for orphans, but warm words for Depardieu (+video)
In a lengthy session, Russian President Putin backed a bill banning US adoption of Russian children – but offered residency to Gérard Depardieu, who renounced his French citizenship over high taxes.
A vigorous-looking Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the public stage Thursday for his annual multihour town-hall-like press conference in which he typically displays his magisterial command of just about every subject under the sun.Skip to next paragraph
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Though this year's talkathon had been delayed – due to Mr. Putin's health problems, it was rumored – the Kremlin leader appeared perfectly poised and hearty, and did not disappoint the nearly 1,000 mostly-Russian journalists assembled for the occasion. In just over four hours, he addressed a staggering array of matters.
Some were of burning importance, such as Russia's shifting stance on Syria's bloody civil war, and Moscow's furious reaction to the US Magnitsky List, which will target Russian human rights violators with economic and visa sanctions.
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He also surprised many by backing a draconian bill that will ban the 1,000 or so annual adoptions of Russian children by US citizens and levy tough restrictions on US passport holders doing almost anything in Russia. The bill looks set to sail through its third and final reading in the State Duma Friday.
A few of Putin's points sounded downright whimsical, including a discussion of his decision to grant a Russian passport to tax-hopping French actor Gérard Depardieu, and his insistence that he knows when the world is actually going to end (hint: it's not tomorrow).
On the matter of his health, which has dominated the Moscow rumor mill ever since Putin was spotted limping painfully at last September's APEC summit in Vladivostok, Putin had some blunt words for the journalist who asked.
"This issue is beneficial only for political opponents who are trying to question the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the authorities," he said.
"I can give the traditional answer to the health question: Don't bother waiting [for my demise]," he added.
A Putin surprise
Many experts had expected that Putin would support the Duma's riposte to the US Magnitsky List, the Dima Yakovlev bill, which imposes tit-for-tat sanctions on US officials accused of mistreating Russians, but draws the line at the more extreme amendments loaded onto it this week by Duma hard-liners, including the ban on US adoptions of Russian children.
Several Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have spoken out against the proposed ban, if only because it wrecks many years of painstaking Russian diplomacy – which resulted in a bilateral US-Russia adoption accord that finally came into force just last month.
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