Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made the following remarks during a televised program in which he answered questions from Russians nationwide.
ON ELECTIONS AND PROTESTS:
From my point of view, the result of the (December 4) election undoubtedly reflects public opinion in the country.
As for the fact that the ruling force, United Russia, lost certain positions, there is also nothing unusual about this. Listen, we have gone through a very difficult period of crisis, and look at what is happening in other countries.
It's clear that this negatively affected people to a certain degree, and the standard of living decreased, some lost their jobs.
And so it is significantly easier for the opposition to recruit people who are dissatisfied into their ranks than it was before. ... But United Russia after all retained its leading position, and that's a very good result.
The fact that people are expressing their views about what is going on in he country in the economic, social and political spheres is absolutely normal as long as everyone acts within the framework of the law. I hope it will be this way.
I am proposing and asking for the installation of web cameras at all the polling stations in the country.
ON ALLOWING MORE OPPOSITION PARTIES
Well, we will register them, probably -- we'll see. We will have to change the legislation somehow. I repeat: We can liberalise things, we can move in this direction.
ON THE ECONOMY:
We have many unresolved issues, but nevertheless some remarkable and meaningful things have been done in recent years.
Over 10 years we have cut the number of people who live below the poverty line twofold. Today it is 12.5 percent ... now this parameter is even more modest that in European countries.
Putin said that average wages in Russia had risen sharply during his rule, outpacing the rate of inflation.
We went through the crisis years of 2009 and 2010 much more softly than other countries.
Putin forecast that the economy would grow by 4.2-4.5 percent this year, and that inflation would fall to just over 6 percent.
Inflation is at a record low -- a level we have never seen in Russian history.
Putin said that the Russian state pensions system needed to be strengthened by reducing the rate of early retirement, but not by raising the statutory retirement age.
ON FORMER FINANCE MINISTER KUDRIN:
Alexei Leonidovich Kudrin never left my team. We are old comrades. He's my friend.
He has not gone far ... I understand his position on many issues ... He did a lot for the country. I'm proud that this man worked in my government.
Putin said he had met Kudrin on Tuesday to discuss the economic situation and outlook.
It's true that we don't agree on everything, but our differences are not cardinal.
Such people were needed and will be needed in past and future governments.
ON PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL MIKHAIL PROKHOROV:
Mikhail Dmitriyevich is a consistent person, he doesn't give up. I understand he has decided to use a new platform to promote the ideas he considers right for our country.
I can't say I wish him success, because I am also going to run. But I think he will be a worthy -- a strong competitor.
ON GOVERNMENT MINISTERS
They, as well as governors, are always at the forefront of criticism and of problems, and it is easy to make any of them a scapegoat. Something may be disputed, something may be criticised, but the worst we could do is turn to ministerial merry-go-round. We've had that in our history already.
As for rotation, we have talked about it, the time will come. And of course, without any doubt, the future government needs an update.
ON THE UNITED STATES
We would like to be allies with the United States, too, but what I see now ... is not alliances. Sometimes it seems to me that America does not need allies, it needs vassals.
We want to and will build relations with the United States. Because I see that certain transformations are taking place with the United States itself. American society -- to a significant degree, at least -- no longer wants to play the role of a international gendarme.
Look what happens in practice: They took a decision about Afghanistan. Did anybody consult with allies about what should be done in Afghanistan? Not a chance. They struck, and he they begabegan to bring everyone in and say, he who is not with us is against us. What a remarkable formula!
ON FOREIGN POLICY
Some want to shift Russia off to the side somewhere so that it does not interfere with them ruling the globe.
They still are afraid of our nuclear potential. ... We have our own opinion, we conduct independent foreign policy and I hope will continue to do so in the future. This, of course, can be a hurdle for someone.
But the West is not monolithic, and we have more friends than foes.
ON LIBYA AND JOHN MCCAIN
Mr. McCain ... fought in Vietnam. I think he has enough blood of peaceful civilians blood on his hands. ... Maybe he can't live without horrible, disgusting scenes of Gaddafi massacre when it was shown on all TV screens around the world how he was being killed.
Is that democracy? Who did that? Pilotless drones, including American ones. They struck his convoy. And then by radio via special forces that should not have been there anyway, brought in so-called oppositionists and fighters and destroyed him without trial or investigation.
Mr. McCain ... was taken prisoner in Vietnam and was not just in jail, they put him in a pit and he sat there for several years. Anyone would go nuts.
ON ELECTING REGIONAL GOVERNORS
We could think about ... all parties in regional parliaments ... proposing candidates for governors, regional leaders. These proposals would be filtered by the president and he would propose these candidates ... for election by the entire population of the region. This step seems to me absolutely possible and well founded.
The most necessary thing has been done. Separatism and terrorism have been suppressed. Look at what is happening in the Caucasus, how people suffer from these phenomena.
As soon as you let things go a little bit, many people will appreciate 'the difficulties of today', when they will have to face bullets to fight terrorism rather than demonstrating in the squares.
ON THE NORTH CAUCASUS:
The most important thing to do is to create jobs in the Caucasus itself. Not so long ago people were saying (Chechnya's capital) Grozny couldn't be restored; it looked like Stalingrad after the war. There are many questions for (Chechnya's leader Ramzan) Kadyrov, but Kadyrov is restoring Chechnya, and has restored Grozny like no one else has managed to.
I am certain that corruption in Chechnya is minimal, but we need to develop enterprise, the economy, the social sphere in the Caucasus so that people would not want to leave, so they could realise their potential in their native regions. And to do that, certainly, if we want to maintain the unity of our state, we have to invest money there.
(Compiled by Steve Gutterman, Edited by Douglas Busvine)