As frenzied doomsayers around the world prepare for the apocalypse on December, 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin put his trust in science, saying at a yearly Q&A that the earth won’t end for another 4.5 billion years, when the sun goes out.
“It will all end in 4.5 billion years, the reaction will stop and the Sun will turn into a White Dwarf… I don’t believe the world will end this year,” President Putin said during the press conference.
Putin, known for enjoying large open-format discussions, held his traditional end-of-year Q&A with more than 1,000 journalists on Thursday. In a wide-ranging, four-hour discussion, the Russian president touched on topics both serious and silly, like Syria and the so-called Mayan apocalypse.
Below are some of Putin’s most noteworthy quotes from the event:
On banning the US child adoption bill: “I understand, it’s an emotional response from the State Duma, but I believe it is adequate.”
On the reasoning behind the proposed ban: “We are grateful to those American citizens who follow the call of heart and adopt or want to adopt Russian children. They do it with dignity and in line with the high principles of humanism. But we also know about tragic cases, like the one where the child was left to die from heat in a locked car. The issue is not in those tragedies per se – children die here too. The issue is in the attitude of the authorities to such cases. People are spared punishment for such acts. That’s what the draft legislation is aimed to address.”
On the Magnitsky Act: “The problem is that [the US] replaced one anti-Soviet law [the Jackson–Vanik amendment] with another one. They can’t live without it… This certainly poisons our relationship.”
On anti-American rhetoric following the Magnitsky Act: “We don’t need anti-something rhetoric; it harms. But we are – or I am, for that matter – a bad Christian. When someone smites you on one cheek, you should turn to him the other. I am not morally prepared to act in this way. If we are slapped, we must respond. Or otherwise we’ll be constantly slapped… What’s worse, they [enacted a travel ban on Russian officials allegedly involved in human rights violations] without provocation. They are up to their necks in a certain substance themselves.”
On building an authoritarian regime for his personal power: “We have created stability, which is a necessary condition for development. But I can’t call this system authoritarian. I disagree with this thesis. The illustrative evidence against it is my decision to pull back to second position after my two terms. If I thought a totalitarian or an authoritarian system is preferable, I would just change the constitution. It would have been a simple thing to do. It wouldn’t even require a referendum. My decision was a deliberate pullback that ensured continuity of power and respected our laws.”
On the reduction of Khodorkovsky’s prison term and Putin’s opinion of him:“There were certain amendments [providing milder punishments for economic crimes] to the law, and probably they provided the ground for taking this decision… There is no personal persecution here. Some people try to present it as a political case… Nothing like that. It was a purely economic crime. Just look at America. People get sentences of 99 years for economic crimes there.”
On retiring and his future successor: “It’s not my job to entrust the country to somebody. It’s the job of the citizens… As for me, I will certainly sooner or later leave my office. I do care about whom will then lead the country… I am telling this with no grain of irony. I want the future leadership of the country, including the future president, to be even more successful and lucky [than my team]. It’s because I love Russia."
On rumors of illness:“My comment on my health is traditional: Wait on… [Such rumors] are benefiting the political opponents, who want to question the authorities’ legitimacy and sanity.”
On losing ground in the Middle East over supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad against the West and Arab League: “Didn’t Russia lose its ground in Libya after what the intervening countries did there? However they justified their position, the state is crumbling. Conflicts between clans are continuing… We are not concerned about what happens with Assad. We realize that his family has been in power for 40 years and that change is needed. We care about what happens afterwards. We want a solution that would save Syria from dissolution and from a never-ending civil war.”
On alleged corruption in the defense ministry: “Overall [former Defense Minister] Serdyukov can be praised for what he did to modernize the army. There were issues over his executive style, but that wasn’t why I retired him… Whether anything was stolen or not is for a court to judge. I can assure you that the prosecution will be absolutely objective. Nobody wants to blanch over anyone.”
On Depardieu: “If Gerard really wants to have a residence permit or a Russian passport, you can consider it done, the issue solved positively… I am sure [French] officials didn’t want to insult Gerard, but just as any officials, they protect their policies, the decisions they take… There is a saying: ‘Anyone can hurt an artist.’ I sympathize with Mr. Depardieu’s feelings, but I admit I feel that despite his statements he considers himself a European and a citizen of the world.”On Muslim headscarves in schools: “Our culture – I mean our traditional Islam – we don’t have it. I attended once a major Muslim event, an international conference, where we have an observer status. It was a gathering of almost all prominent figures of the Muslim world. And one of them spoke to the public: ‘What are we doing? We forbid our girls and women to be educated. We drape them in burqas. With our hands we hamper our development!’ So if Islamic figures say this is not necessary, why should we introduce alien traditions?”
On daughters and becoming a grandfather: “Do you really need to know that? Well, my children are fine. They are in Moscow. They study and also work part-time. Everything is fine for them both in private life and in terms of career. I am proud of them.”
On ending the Q&A session: “All right, folks. Thank you very much. We all know that we can’t finish our session, just like one can’t finish refurnishing his home. We can only stop it. My apologies to those who didn’t get a chance to ask their questions or didn’t hear what they wanted to hear for an answer. Thank you and goodbye.”
During his first two terms as president, Putin gave seven such press conferences, and the Q&A sessions became longer each time. In 2008, President Putin answered questions for 4 hours and 40 minutes. Putin brought the press conference to an end after 4 hours and 33 minutes, falling seven minutes short of his previous record.