The press secretary of the head of state speaks about Vladimir Putin’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, the conflict in Syria and relations with the opposition and photoshops of the president.
Dmitry Peskov, deputy head of the presidential administration and press secretary for the head of state spoke to Izvestiya correspondent Aleksandr Yunashev on rumors of the crowning of Putin and notes that Russia’s leader works so much that he has no time for a personal life.
AY: At Valdai, Vladimir Putin said he did not rule out that he would go for another term as president. You have known him for a long time, in your view, will he remain until 2024?
DP: Let’s say this, this admission, this statement hardly can be the basis on which you can come to such conclusions. Any politician, if you ask him such a question, will give a standard reply, that he does not rule out such an option – which is what Vladimir Vladimirovich has done. I would not treat this as some sort of electoral announcements or decisions. It is premature to discuss this topic for now. There is a whole lot of time before the elections, and a lot of work.
AY: Nevertheless, he has been working at such a pace that I think wasn’t seen even during the campaign period. The impression is created that he has started a second election campaign, although it is still very far from the elections. Why such a pace?
DP: You answered your own question. The elections are still far off, therefore this cannot be campaign activities. Vladimir Putin said that a government isn’t worth a kopeck that imitates work on the eve of the elections, such a government will always be untenable. That is Putin’s work style. There are periods when he works in Moscow and concentrates on some processes. There are periods related to a large number of trips, visiting various regions and cities. Now we’re in such a period.
AY: Does he ever take a rest?
DP: Very seldom.
AY: One of the members of the Valdai Club suggested that the main opponents to Putin in the 2018 elections, if he does take part, would be Shuvalov, Shoygu and possibly Sobyanin. What are Putin’s relations now with these politicians?
DP: To discuss who will run in the elections along with Putin or without Putin is the business of political analysts who earn a living doing this. To speak seriously, so far these are absolutely groundless discussions which are like a shot in the dark. No more than that.
AY: At Valdai, the president also described how his article appeared in the New York Times. But he didn’t say in which language it originally appeared…
DP: It first appeared in Russian. Then it was translated into English on the Russian side.
AY: By you personally?
AY: Recently many rumors have circulated around the Iversky Monastery at Valdai. That it was supposedly chained off and a crowning took place there. Where did all that come from?
DP: I don’t know where all that came from, but on Sunday I really did get a lot of phone calls. I was sincerely glad to get those phone calls and reply that the only problem was that Putin was in Sochi. And what was chained off at the Iversky Monastery I couldn’t tell you. You understand that this is from the realm of fantasy, and it is pointless to refute it, and it is pointless to call these rumors nonsense. This has already been done a hundred times. Rumors persist, what can you do with them? But they have nothing in common with reality.
AY: Putin is what you could call a healthy male. Surely he must have a personal life?
DP: You know, that’s a completely normal question, it has a right to exist. But I can answer you rather simply. We voted for a president when there were elections, so accordingly, let’s focus our attention on what kind of president he is. But as for what kind of male he is, whether he has a wife or not – let’s leave that to him, let’s not interfere.
AY: What do you think, will he himself reveal something from his personal life, as happened once?
DP: That’s his decision alone, he is not obliged to discuss his personal life with someone. I can only say one thing, that frankly speaking, I would find it difficult to reply to a question about his personal life. He works so much that I cannot understand where he finds the time for it.
AY: Siberian cranes, bathyscaphes – what next? Does the president know that he is criticized for this, that people make up photoshopped memes?
DP: Some of the photoshopped images are harmless, with a sense of humor, some are offensive, you can’t agree with them. One thing is obvious – Putin will continue to express his interest in the most diverse aspects of the life of our country and the world, with the Russian Geographic Society, and his personal interest in issues related to the environment, the birth of rare types of animals, with treks, with geography and history. Obviously, he will go on doing this but I don’t know in what form. What he is doing has a positive effect. If another dozen people start thinking about environmental activity by watching Putin, that we have to save wildlife, that means it was all worth it. And that’s how it’s been going.
AY: Many in the media claim that Putin feeds off rumors. Twice he has spoken recently about some party of pedophiles, although there is no reliable information about the existence of any such party. Journalists blame the president’s office for the fact that he has incorrect notions of the world.
DP: Putin receives information from different sources: from the ministries and agencies, the mass media, polling services, news services and so on. Moreover, he obtains information from his friends, acquaintances and co-workers. It is a maximally broad spectrum of sources of information. As for the use of information publicly, as a rule, it cannot be used without the most thorough checks. As for the party of pedophiles, this information was verified in the most thorough method, including by our Foreign Ministry, and believe me, this is not unsubstantiated information.
AY: Yevgeny Royzman has won the elections for mayor in Yekaterinburg. Is a meeting with the president possible for him? Or does Putin not meet with opposition members?
DP: As far as I can recollect, the president rarely meets with mayors. As a rule, when it is a question about capitals of regions, he talks to governors. But in the course of various meetings, talks with mayors and city managers also take place. I am sure that if it is necessary, a meeting with Royzman will take place. Here there are no allergies or any prejudices. The Valdai conference you mentioned demonstrates that it is a creation of a problem and a crisis situation out of nothing, that supposedly Putin cannot talk to the opposition. He can talk to them. And the opposition understood that. But the main thing is that this not be a destructive dialogue. If it is a dialogue for the sake of constructive endeavor, as the president himself said, then he has always been and will be [ready for it].
AY: Putin has been nominated for the Nobel Prize…
DP: I heard that, but I don’t know who nominated him and I don’t know if that person has the necessary authorizations.
AY: But what do you think, is Vladimir Putin worthy of such an honor?
DP: You know, the main thing is what those who award this prize think, it is completely unimportant what we think. Putin is not an advocate of receiving all kinds of awards, prizes, and such. He is an advocate of receiving satisfaction from the achievement of results in his work. If you mean the Syrian matters and his role in the Syrian settlement, it is premature to speak of this as yet. Putin has done a great deal, all of the Russian government has done a lot and applied enormous efforts and displayed a good deal of diplomatic skill in order to save the region and even the entire world from the emergence of yet another armed conflict with unpredictable negative consequences. But for now it is impossible to make some sort of victory statements, we have to wait for when this settlement will be more tangible.
AY: Judging from recent appointments, the very same people shuttle in and out of ministries. Does the president really have such a small bench of reserves? Will new people appear?
DP: The president himself has repeatedly answered that question. The bench of reserves is fairly large. Of course some persons shuttle from one ministry to another, they return and come back, since the leadership of the country believes their rich experience is useful to tap. But a larger number of new people also appear. If you look at the government, there are a lot of new people. You yourself see that new people are appearing, Minister [for Far East Development Aleksandr] Galushka, for example, and others. And this is a fairly consistent process.