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Putin Answers Questions During Annual Call-In Show


Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted an annual ritual on Thursday. He hosted a nationally televised call-in show. The president takes citizens' questions, which appear to be carefully screened, and gives answers about schools and health care and housing. Yesterday he also gave a warning to his country's neighbors. NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: While most people want to know about rising gasoline prices or how to pay their mortgages, the Kremlin made sure to slip in a few questions about President Putin's favorite subject, foreign policy. Putin was asked what would happen if the Ukrainian government tries to retake territory from pro-Kremlin separatists while Russia host soccer's World Cup this summer.


VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "If that happens," Putin said, "it would have serious consequences for Ukraine's statehood." Kiev and Moscow have been in conflict since 2014 when Russia intervened militarily on its neighbor, first by seizing the Crimean Peninsula then by supporting an armed uprising in Eastern Ukraine. Fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine, and there's speculation the Ukrainian government might go on an offensive while Russia is distracted by holding the World Cup. Russia is also deeply involved in another conflict, the Syrian civil war.


PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "First of all," Putin said, "Russian troops are getting unique combat experience that will help the country modernize its armed forces." He said Russian arms manufacturers and military officers have learned a lot since the Russian air force began backing up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad nearly three years ago. Putin said troops would stay in Syria as long as it was beneficial to Russia and in accordance, as he put it, with the country's international obligations. He said there were no plans of yet to withdraw the forces, but because of Russia's relatively light footprint in Syria, they could be moved out quickly. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lucian Kim is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. He has been reporting on Europe and the former Soviet Union for the past two decades.
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