Adding some humor to an increasingly odd set of circumstances, Russian President Vladimir Putin made fun of former FBI director James Comey’s sharing his “notes” of conversations he had with U.S. President Donald Trump, joking that the event made Comey eligible for the same political asylum the Russian administration gave Edward Snowden.

 

President Putin was participating on a live call-in broadcast and joked that Edward Snowden has been in Russia since he was granted asylum in 2013.

He said, “It looks weird when the chief of a security agency records his conversation with the commander-in-chief and then hands it over to media via his friend,” Putin said. “What’s the difference then between the FBI director and Mr. Snowden? In that case, he’s more of a rights campaigner defending a certain position than the security agency chief.”

Sarcastically, he added that if Comey “faces some sort of persecution in connection with that, we are ready to offer political asylum in Russia to him as well.”

The jokes were evidence of Putin’s view of the congressional and FBI investigations looking for links tying Trump campaign officials to Russia. President Trump knew immediately that he and one of his staff were accused of behaving badly while staying in Russian hotels. He examined his staff member’s passport and verified that neither of them had been to Russia. The false accusations made it awkward for President Trump to build a good relationship with Russia.

The Russian president repeated that he has not interfered with the U.S. election, saying that Russia has openly shared its opinions and insists that Russia has not been involved in spying or secret activities of any kind.

President Putin said that “One should spin a globe and point anywhere – one will find American interests everyehrere and American meddling there as well. ”

He also said that he felt that he looks forward to a good relationship between the two countries.

He said that both the US and Russia could work jointly to stop the growth of weapons of mass destruction and pool efforts to tackle both countries could handle the North Korean nuclear and missile issue.

He said the two countries could also cooperate in dealing with global poverty and efforts to prevent climate change, adding that Moscow also hopes that the U.S. could play a “constructive role” in helping settle the Ukrainian crisis.

On the strongly coordinated broadcast, he said that Russia was doing find in spit of Western sanctions. He said that the restrictions have left Russians no choice but to think the problem through and eliminate Russian’s  dependence on energy exports.

Putin says he still can’t believe the U.S. Senate‘s decision this week to impose additional sanctions on Russia.  He views the sanctions as an attempt by the West to control Russia, but insisted that the restrictions have only helped unify his country.

The Republican controlled Senate voted to punish Russia for what they claim was Russian interference of the 2016 election stating that Russia staged the repeated cyberattacks that went on in the USA.

Putin states that Russia has done nothing to justify the US Senate’s moves against Russia calling the event “proof of American internal politics showing political chaos in the U.S.”

The Russian leader claimed that the “crisis is over,” pointing at modest economic growth over the last year, they also have low inflation and they’re building their currency reserves.

The majority of the questions asked during the program were were about low salaries, decrepit housing, potholed roads, failing health care and other social problems.

As in the past, Putin chided regional authorities for failing to provide due care for people and ordered them to quickly fix the flaws. Even before the show ended, local officials rushed to report that they are looking into the problems.

Asked about a wave of protests across Russia, Putin said he was “prepared to talk with everyone who genuinely wants to improve people’s lives and solve the country’s problems,” but dismissed unnamed opposition leaders for “exploiting the problems instead of offering solutions.”

Tens of thousands rallied Monday in Russia’s 11 times zones to protest official corruption, heeding a call by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Navalny was detained outside his home in Moscow before he could join the protest and later sentenced to 30 days in jail for staging an unsanctioned rally. More than 1,750 have been detained across Russia, and scores have been sentenced to jail terms and fines.

The 41-year-old Navalny announced last December that he would run for president in 2018, vowing to appeal a conviction that bars him from running.

During the call-in show, Putin remained tight-lipped about his own plans.

The 64-year-old Russian leader is widely expected to seek another six-year term in the March 2018 vote, but he hasn’t declared his intentions. Putin served two presidential terms in 2000-2008 before shifting into the prime minister’s seat for four years because of term limits. He was re-elected in 2012.

Asked if he was grooming a successor, Putin answered that he has some personal preferences, but it’s up to the voters to decide who will be Russia’s next leader. He similarly dodged a question if the annual show would be the last one with him.

Putin offered a glimpse into his closely guarded private life, saying he has two grandchildren whose privacy he wants to respect.

Putin, who in 2013 announced on state television that he was divorcing his wife, has two daughters in their early 30s who haven’t been seen in public for years and became the subject of rumors. One of Putin’s daughters was reported to be in charge of a lucrative project to build a Silicon Valley-like community under the auspices of Moscow State University.

Putin said during the show that both of his daughters live in Moscow and “work in science and education.” He said one of his grandchildren goes to pre-school and the other, a boy, has just been born. He said he doesn’t want to give details about his family for fear of hurting their privacy.

 

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