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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07MOSCOW464
2007-02-02 14:54:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Moscow
Cable title:  

PUTIN'S PRESSFEST

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  PINR  KDEM  RS 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO6529
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0464/01 0331454
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021454Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7146
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3715
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1877
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2141
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000464 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM RS
SUBJECT: PUTIN'S PRESSFEST

MOSCOW 00000464 001.2 OF 002




1. (SBU) Summary: Hosting a record number of journalists for
a marathon three-and-a-half hour session on February 1,
President Putin was relaxed and seemed to enjoy displaying
his mastery of facts. Putin was upbeat and positive,
especially in describing Russia's economic picture. Some
commentators were not impressed by his performance, however,
telling us that salesmanship notwithstanding, the journalists
had not challenged his sometimes disingenuous answers and
that there had been a few chinks in the armor. End Summary.



--------------------------

--
Good Performance For an Easy Crowd, As Expected


--------------------------

--



2. (SBU) President Putin's seventh annual press conference on
February 1 set records in terms of the number of journalists
(1232), questions (65), and minutes (211). Institute of
National Strategy Director Stanislav Belkovskiy described the
journalists to us as too pliant. Mercator Group President
Dmitry Oreshkin concurred, but noted that all of Putin's
press conferences have been done this way and it would have
been naive to expect otherwise. Oreshkin noted that Putin
had skillfully sidestepped questions about Litvinenko and
Belarus.



3. (SBU) In the opinion of Novaya Gazeta Editor Andrey
Lipskiy, Putin seemed at pains to reassure his audience that
all was going well. Oreshkin agreed, and thought that the
President had exuded self-confidence and created an
atmosphere of satisfaction, certainty, and optimism.



4. (U) Although Putin touched on Security Council Secretary
Igor Ivanov's Tehran trip on January 28, there was no
subsequent press attention.



--------------------------


Dissatisfaction with Putin's Disingenuousness


--------------------------





5. (SBU) "Pro et Contra" Editor Masha Lipman, a Putin critic,
argued that Putin had been "hypocritical" by repeatedly
refusing to use the word "successor." Citing public opinion
polls, media discussion, and elite opinion, Lipman derided
the notion that Putin would not name a successor. She
thought it hypocritical that he had proposed a free press and
civil society as a solution to corruption and rejected his
insistence that governors are not appointed. Lipman could
recall no case where Putin's nominee for governor had been
rejected by the local legislature, as Putin had said during
the press conference.



6. (SBU) Belkovskiy found it disingenuous of Putin to state
that the Russian economy was no longer so dependent on oil
and gas and that the social sphere was improving. He did,
however, believe Putin's assertion that Russia would not use
its energy resources for strategic ends. Belkovskiy claimed
that Russia's oil and gas wealth was instead used for the
benefit of Gazprom and the businesspeople linked to it.



--------------------------


Lapses Detected


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Lipskiy also detected an occasional lapse in Putin's
performance such as when a journalist asked about the
problems the mayor of Arkhangelsk, who has presidential
aspirations, was encountering. Lipskiy told us Putin dropped
all pretense of democracy in telling the journalist that the
mayor has "problems with the governor" that the mayor has to
sort out.



--------------------------


Putin's Silence Sign of Weak "Successor"?


--------------------------





8. (SBU) Center for Political Technologies Tatyana Stanovaya
concluded that Putin's refusal to identify whom he would
support as Russia's next president until the presidential
campaign had begun, which she believed meant after the Duma
election, indicated a weak successor. Noting that Putin also
had several times called for a consolidation of forces and
had suggested that United Russia and A Just Russia should
unite on strategic matters, Stanovaya suggested that Russia's
next president would be in need of united support.



9. (SBU) Ekho Moskvi journalist Yevgeniya Albats noted
Putin's emphasis on the need to consolidate the changes in
government that he had started in order to guarantee Russia's

MOSCOW 00000464 002.2 OF 002


continued development. This emphasis on consolidation rather
than on the qualities of a successor suggested to her that
the search was still on-going.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





10. (SBU) President Putin ably demonstrated why he has such
high approval ratings with Russians. His confident, at times
jocular, tone conveyed a message of control and calm. While
he disappointed those looking for clues about 2008 and left
much to be desired in the eyes of some professional
commentators, he sent out comforting messages: noting the
need to focus on addressing economic inequality and several
times reminding Russians that they will choose their leaders.
BURNS