On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a four-hour question and answer session with a live studio audience. Questions were submitted via text, phone, and video link. They mostly focused on the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, as well as Russia’s deteriorating relationship with the United States. Putin still found time to crack a few jokes, offering that Alaska was too cold to annex and that he would see his ex-wife remarry before doing so himself.
More from VICE News:
Putin announced plans to use money left over from the Sochi Olympics — seriously — to revive a Soviet-era physical fitness program read more here.
Below are selected highlights from the spectacle, which included a surprise appearance from Edward Snowden.
In response to whether or not Russian forces are moving into eastern Ukraine:
Nonsense. There are no Russian units in Eastern Ukraine – no special services, no tactical advisers. All this is being done by the local residents, and the proof of that is the fact that those people have literally removed their masks.
On how the decision to annex Crimea was made:
I said in my recent speech in the Kremlin that Russia had never intended to annex any territories, or planned any military operations there, never. Quite to the contrary, we were going to build our relations with Ukraine based on current geopolitical realities....
This had not been pre-planned or prepared. It was done on the spot, and we had to play it by ear based on the situation and the demands at hand.
Edward Snowden appeared via video link, and asked Putin whether or not Russia conducted mass surveillance on its citizens:
"Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy. I used to work for the intelligence service — we are going to talk one professional language. First of all, our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law.... You have to get a court permission to stalk a particular person. We don’t have a mass system of such interception, and according with our law, it cannot exist.
On whether or not he thinks Obama would save him if he were drowning:
I am not saying we have a special relationship with the president of the US, but I think he is a decent and quite courageous person. I think he would do it.
On whether or not he is planning to annex Alaska:
What do you need Alaska for?… Russia is a northern country with 70 percent of its territory located in the north and the far north. Alaska is not located in the southern hemisphere, is it? It’s cold out there as well. Let’s not get worked up about it, all right? We'll have to pay them allowances to live in the north. We need to calculate our budget expenses.
When asked if the recently divorced Putin had plans to remarry:
First I have to see my ex-wife Lyudmila Alexandrovna married, and only then think about myself.
When asked if he would like to become president for life: