Source: Blake Neff
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested President Obama “get a job” that suits him better in a wide-ranging interview with CNBC Friday morning.
The interview, in which Putin defended Russia’s actions on Ukraine and Edward Snowden, was conducted before a crowd assembled for the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and the Russian audience frequently showed its support for Putin.
Putin remained defiant throughout, suggesting Obama had no right to judge his actions in Ukraine and elsewhere.
“Why doesn’t he get a job in a court or something?” Putin joked.
Putin blamed the West for turmoil in the Ukraine, saying the U.S. and others had backed a “coup d’état” in the country.
He said sanctions on Russia and members of his inner circle were efforts to shift blame.
“Now, they want us to clean up the mess they created,” he said.
Putin added that he thought his friends would be justified in suing the West for the “unlawful” sanctions placed on them.
“They don’t have any relation to the events in Ukraine or Crimea,” Putin said.
Putin also joked to the crowd in exasperation following probing questions about whether he would respect the results of Ukraine’s presidential election next week.
“Oh, come on, really? He’s a difficult man to deal with. Where did you get this guy?” he asked. Putin then emphasized that he would like to see constitutional changes in Ukraine to allow greater regional autonomy, but that he was prepared to work with Kiev’s new government.
Putin said the U.S.-Russia “reset” in relations, much trumpeted after the Obama administration took power, had failed due to unilateral action by the U.S. and its allies.
“In Russia, we believe countries need to agree on certain rules,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said Russia was happy to keep working with the U.S. on areas of mutual interest. He cited Russia’s role in negotiations with Iran as a particular example, as well as Russian military action against global piracy.
The conversation briefly touched upon former NSA contracter Edward Snowden, who has found asylum in Russia since his flight from the U.S. after leaking thousands of documents on NSA surveillance practices.
Putin said Russia only sheltered Snowden as a matter of circumstance, because the U.S. had “scared the entire world” through actions such as forcibly diverting the airplane of Bolivian President Evo Morales due the fear Snowden was on board. Snowden’s inability to safely leave Russia, Putin said, left them no choice but to offer him asylum.
“Russia is not a country that is ready to extradite fighters for human rights,” Putin said to loud applause from the crowd. He denied that Snowden was a Russian agent and said Russia played no role in his day-to-day affairs.