Question: Regarding the Middle East. The situation with Christians plus the debate that erupted between the Pope and Turkey.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: You know, I would not want to get involved in the debate between the Pope and Turkey. I think the Pope has enough influence in the world to find a common language with anyone on this planet regardless of his or her religious beliefs. He is a sincere person who knows what he is talking about. I do not know what exactly you are referring to because I have not yet seen the latest statements. However, I am sure the people in Turkey are also smart enough to work things out and resolve any problems that may occur.
As for the Middle East and Christians, the situation is terrible. We have spoken about this on numerous occasions and we believe that the international community is not doing enough to protect the Christian population of the Middle East.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity; Christians have lived there for ages. It is sad to see that now the international community cannot protect the people who need the support of the international community.
Question: What should be done to finally put an end to the war in Ukraine?
Vladimir Putin: This is primarily an affair of the Ukrainian people, and I have already spoken a lot about the situation in Ukraine today, so I don’t see the need to add anything – the Minsk Agreements should be complied with.
Question: This year Russia and China will be jointly marking the 70th anniversary of Victory over Nazism. Could you please dwell on the significance of such joint celebrations.
Vladimir Putin: The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China are countries that bore the greatest losses in the fight against Nazism and Japanese militarism. We fought side by side for our common Victory. Therefore, it is natural that we celebrate together. The goal is not only to pay respects to our veterans and those who made a priceless contribution to this Victory. The purpose of these events is to educate the younger generation in the spirit of zero tolerance for Nazism and militarism so that never again would something like this ever happen in the history of our two countries, in the history of the world.
Question: When you spoke of the accession of Crimea to Russia, you often said this was indigenous Russian territory and it should remain Russian.
Vladimir Putin: Not exactly.
Question: This was one of the arguments you made. The thing is that Japan has the same approach to countries on the Southern Kuril Ridge. Over these 15 years, you often met with the Japanese Prime Minister, spoke to him and even agreed to resolve the issue on a ‘hikiwake’ basis, meaning ‘no winners, no losers’, a draw. Now that this has happened with Crimea, could you say that your approach to the matter has changed? What is your current approach to the Kuril Ridge issue?
Vladimir Putin: No, Crimea has had no influence on our relations with Japan regarding the peace accord and the territorial issue. At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that when we speak of Crimea being an indigenous territory, we are also referring to the people living there. We are saying that democracy – and this is something our partners who disagree with this, be it in the East or West, in Europe or on the American continent, should remember – democracy is power of the people and power resting on the will of the people. Crimea is not just a territory. There are people living there who came to the referendum and voted in favour of reunification with Russia. And we have to respect their choice.
As for the islands that you mentioned, there are people living there who would hardly vote in favour of joining Japan. This is a completely different situation that has to do with the results of World War II. By the way, if we delve into history, Russia may have different opinions regarding this territory.
We are ready for dialogue with Japan on this matter, including dialogue on the basis of the well-known documents of 1956 that, may I remind you, were ratified by Japanese parliament. However, today the dialogue has practically been stopped on the initiative of the Japanese side.
Question: After the accession of Crimea and the war in Ukraine many in the West see Russia as a threat to international security. Are they right? Should we fear Russia?
Vladimir Putin: No, they are wrong. I believe this idea is used in the interests of other countries, to turn Russia into an enemy and use this image to retain their leadership in the West.
Russia is not conducting any expansionist policy. The decision regarding Crimea – I would like to repeat what I have just told your colleague from the Japanese news agency – has to do not only with the fact that Russia considers Crimea to be its indigenous territory, but also with the will of the people.
I would like to remind you once again, that democracy – and the country you represent considers itself a democratic state – democracy is power by the people or power that rests on the will of the people. The people of Crimea came to the referendum and expressed their will. We believe everyone should respect their will.
Thank you very much.