Vladimir Putin's annual call-in show: Russians submit 3M questions

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MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin fielded some of the 3 million questions submitted by ordinary citizens during a highly choreographed annual call-in show Thursday.

Here's some of what he had to say in response to the queries, which came via text, email, online video, telephone, and from a small studio audience. (Russia has a population of around 143 million.)

Other world leaders

Putin made a barbed comment about Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko. He's clashed with both in the past.

A 12-year-old girl asked: "If Poroshenko and Erdogan were both sinking, whom would you save first?"

"You're putting me in a complicated situation," Putin responded. "I guess it's this way: If someone decides to drown, it's impossible to save them. But we're, of course, ready to extend a helping hand, a hand of friendship to any of our partners if they're ready for that."


When NBC News asked about his thoughts on President Barack Obama's looming departure from the White House, Putin said: "We all leave sometime. It is pointless to regret, you need to continue working."

He added: "I must say [of] that the U.S. president — you can give different assessment, it's up to the American citizens to assess, but he's working, working hard ... And I'm sure it will continue until the last moment of staying on the job — he is very responsible."

Putin vowed to "work with a new president when one comes."

Related: Putin and Obama's awkward meetings through the years:

Obama and Putin's awkward meetings through the years
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Vladimir Putin's annual call-in show: Russians submit 3M questions
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U.S. President Barack Obama, right, gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin before a bilateral meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (Mikhail Klimentyev, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, passes by US President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 in Beijing. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Presidential Press Service)
Leaders pose for a group photo at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the International Convention Center in Yanqi Lake, Beijing, on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Among those pictured are, left to right: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah; Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neil; Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; U.S. President Barack Obama; Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott; Chinese President Xi Jinping; Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak; Russian President Vladimir Putin; New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed during the two-day summit. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
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FILE - In this June 18, 2012, file photo President Barack Obama and Russiaâs President Vladimir Putin, left, go to shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. In a few days' worth of opportunistic diplomacy, Vladimir Putin has revived memories of an era many thought long gone, where the United States and Soviet Union jostled for influence in a Middle East torn between two powers. Whatever happens with its proposal to relieve Syria of chemical weapons, Russia reemerges as a player in the region _ and one who does not easily abandon allies. That's meaningful in a region where America's dumping of Hosni Mubarak has emerged as a seminal moment _ and it may resonate with Iran, whose leaders are carefully watching the global chessboard as the clock ticks toward another showdown, over their nuclear program.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
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'Panama Papers'

When asked about foreign "slander" concerning allegations that people close to him had stashed funds in offshore accounts, Putin blamed "employees of American official bodies were involved."

"Who was the first to report it? Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, which is part of an American holding, Goldman Sachs," he said, referring to the Panama Papers, a cache of records leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca that shone shine a light on the network of law firms and big banks that offer financial secrecy and investments in low-tax regimes.

"They'll continue doing this as we're nearing our [Russian] elections," said Putin, who was not named in the documents.

A key figure mentioned in the papers is Sergei Roldugin, a wealthy cellist who is godfather to Putin's eldest daughter, according to the Financial Times.

U.S. political system

When asked why there weren't more political parties in Russia, Putin, who leads the overwhelmingly dominant United Russia party, sidestepped the question and instead took a swipe at the American political system.

"Take the States. First, Bush Sr. had the power, then Bush Jr. — the family in any case," he said. "[Bill] Clinton served two terms, now his wife is a contender — the family may get to stay in power again."

Using a Russian idiom, Putin added: "As we say, husband and wife are the same devil."


He also defended the decision in March to withdraw Russian troops from Syriaafter being asked whether the move wouldn't allow ISIS to expand again, "like a hydra."

"This danger always exists if due attention is not spared to the fight against terrorism," Putin said. "Our main hope is that it's the political process, not the military action on all sides ... that will lead to peace. Everyone needs to get to the negotiation table, pass a new constitution and hold elections."

Personal life

The famously private president, whose ex-wife Lyudmila has remarried, sidestepped a question about when he would introduce a "new first lady" to the Russian public.

"I'm ... doing fine and happy with my life. I don't know if we should put these kind of questions in the spotlight — wouldn't it affect the currency rate or the oil prices?" Putin joked.

"And seriously, people are elected to the State Duma, to other posts, so that they work," he said. "I'm used to the fact that the topic you mentioned is of much interest ... and maybe one day I will be able to satisfy your curiosity."

Trump or Clinton

Putin touched on the U.S. election when asked who was "worse" for Russia, Republican and Democratic frontrunners Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

"It is not about particular people," he said. "You need to act not from a position of force, of dictating things, but with respect without it's impossible to build relations with Russia and other nations."

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