Russian President Vladimir Putin discusses Ukraine and military assistance to Iran in annual telethon designed to give the public a chance to interact with their leader. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to the airwaves on on Thursday (April 16) with his annual question-and-answer telethon designed to give his citizens a chance to interact with their leader and hear his views on the latest developments in the country and in the world. Like last year, many questions touched on the bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between Kiev government forces and pro-Russian separatists has killed more than 6,000 people in the past year. Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of aiding the separatists with military personnel, equipment, training and intelligence. Russian denies the accusation. "To the question of whether there are or there aren't Russian troops in Ukraine, I tell you straight and clearly - there are no Russian troops in Ukraine," Putin said. "By the way during the last conflict in the southeast (of Ukraine) in Donbass it was best put by the head of the Ukrainian general staff who straight and publicly said at a meeting with western colleagues: 'We are not at war with the Russian army'. What else can be added?'" Putin also defended his decision to renew a contract to deliver an S-300 missile defence system to Tehran, based on Iran's willingness and flexibility in trying to find a solution with the West over its nuclear program. "Today Iranian partners demonstrate very big flexibility and a clear desire to reach a compromise on this Iranian nuclear programme. Actually all of the participants of this process have declared that the agreement has already been reached. The question only lies in the technical details that must be finalised by June this year," Putin said. Putin dismissed criticism of supplying the arms. The 62-year-old leader has held a call-in almost every year since he was first elected president in 2000, answering questions on issues ranging from local housing problems to regional and international conflicts. They have often been marathon performances, the longest lasting 4 hours 47 minutes in 2013, and been used by Putin to show he is in command and ready to address the people's problems, large or small.