WORLDPOST

Vladimir Putin May Be A Funny Guy But He's Deadly Serious On Ukraine

04/17/2014 04:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 17, 2014
Kommersant Photo via Getty Images

Who would have thought a question-and-answer session with Vladimir Putin lasting 3 hours and 55 minutes could put the Russian president in such a good mood?

As Ukraine grapples with Russia's annexation of Crimea and pro-Russia unrest in the country's east, Putin used his annual call-in show, broadcast on state television, to defend sending Russian troops into Crimea and deny that Russia was behind the deadly protests in eastern Ukraine.

Here are some of the highlights from "Direct Line With Vladimir Putin" we wouldn't want you to miss, in case you didn't tune in for all 81 questions.

1. Obama would totally save Putin from drowning.

A 6-year-old girl asked Putin whether President Barack Obama would save him from drowning, The Moscow Times reported. Putin's response:

I don't have close personal relations with Obama, but I think he's a good and courageous person and for sure he would save me.

But Putin stressed that he'd prefer it to never come to that, the newspaper noted.

2. Putin really hopes he won't have to use force in east Ukraine.

Asked about the turmoil of pro-Russian demonstrations in eastern Ukraine, Putin insisted he doesn't know for sure what is happening, according to a Kremlin transcript of the show. He continued:

But we believe that we ought to do everything we can to help these people defend their rights and determine their fate on their own. This is what we will fight for.

Let me remind you that the Federation Council of Russia gave the President the right to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. I very much hope that I will not have to exercise this right and that, through political and diplomatic means, we will be able to resolve all the pressing, if not to say burning, issues in Ukraine.

3. East Ukraine ... or 'New Russia'

Putin repeatedly dove into Ukraine's historical connections to Russia, calling eastern Ukraine by its tsarist name "Novorossiya," (New Russia), The Guardian noted. In one example:

Central, eastern and southeastern Ukraine is another matter. I’ve just mentioned this area, New Russia, which has intertwined its roots with those of the Russian state. The local people have a somewhat different mentality. They found themselves part of present-day Ukraine, which had been pieced together in the Soviet period.

4. West Ukraine is just bitter.

Putin tore into the Kiev government and far-right movements in western Ukraine, claiming that "nationalism and even neo-Nazism are experiencing a resurgence in western Ukraine," according to the Kremlin transcript.

Ever the psychoanalyst, Putin claimed the root of right-wing politics is historical insecurity, referencing Ukrainians' experience of discrimination in Europe. He said:

This still lurks in their historical memory, under the crust, deep down in their hearts, see? It’s where their nationalism comes from, I think.

5. 'Little green men' are Russian.

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The president on "Direct Line With Vladimir Putin," April 17, 2014.

In response to a remark that the unmarked forces in Crimea before the annexation "looked a lot like Russians," Putin admitted they were in fact Russian troops.

The Russian-speaking forces flooded Crimea after Kiev's president was overthrown, but their refusal to identify themselves led to the nickname "little green men."

According to the Kremlin, Putin says he sent troops to protect Crimeans:

"We had to take the necessary measures in order to prevent the situation in Crimea unfolding the way it is now unfolding in southeastern Ukraine. We didn’t want any tanks, any nationalist combat units or people with extreme views armed with automatic weapons. Of course, the Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces. They acted in a civil but a decisive and professional manner, as I’ve already said."

6. 'From one spy to another'

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of U.S. surveillance programs, appeared on the show via video link from an unknown location in Russia, Russian television station RT reported. In response to Snowden's question about Russia's surveillance activities, Putin greeted him warmly:

You are a former agent or spy. I used to work for an intelligence agency, so we are going to talk the same professional language.

With a smile, Putin told Snowden that he hoped Russia would never have the same mass surveillance as the U.S., according to RT.

7. Alaska is not warm enough to annex.

Putin responded to a question about whether he had plans to annex Alaska with musings on its weather. In contrast to balmy Crimea, the icey U.S. state may just be too cold for Putin. “Who needs Alaska?” he quipped, according to Rio Novosti. He added:

It’s cold there, too. Let’s not get hot-headed.

And then he went on to make a joke about Alaska and ice cream, which was probably funny in Russian.

8. Ukraine's ex-president Viktor Yanukovych 'went on a trip.'

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The president on "Direct Line With Vladimir Putin," April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Putin admitted that he had discussed using force against protesters when speaking with ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych during mass demonstrations against Yanukovych's government earlier this year, according to the Kremlin transcript. In the end, Yanukovych "did not have the heart to sign the order," according to Putin.

Russia views Yanukovych's ouster as illegitimate and refuses to extradite the former leader from Russia.

According to Putin's version of history, Yanukovych did not actually flee Ukraine:

I don’t agree that Yanukovych fled. He had to leave, but he did not flee from Kiev; he was on a regional trip while the presidential administration and government buildings were taken over in Kiev in breach of a signed agreement.

9. Nuclear war or emotional breakdown?

Putin assured the audience that he will work with all Ukraine's politicians. He lauded his relationship with prominent Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and talked down recordings in the Russia press which appeared to show the opposition figure advocating attacks on Russians. But he couldn't resist a jibe:

I know Ms. Tymoshenko very well. Even though she calls for Russians to be “destroyed by nuclear weapon," I think she said that while having some sort of emotional breakdown.

10. Gentlemen help their ex-wives.

And on an equally pressing topic, Putin answered a question about when the country would see a new first lady, by graciously offering to set up his ex-wife.

According to Russian news service Ria Novosti, Putin outlined his dating strategy:

First, I need to marry off my former wife, Lyudmila Alexandrovna, and then think about myself.

Earlier on HuffPost:

Putin And The Night Wolves
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