07MOSCOW464, PUTIN’S PRESSFEST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW464 2007-02-02 14:54 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

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 &#x00
0A;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

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