Nanjing Night Net

Man of the people Putin woos millions in TV marathon

MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin attacked the tasteless extravagance of Russia’s ”nouveaux riches” in a marathon question and answer session on state television designed to bolster his already strong popularity ratings.Casting himself as a modest man of the people who had singlehandedly saved the country from financial meltdown in the past year, the Russian Prime Minister said that the gap between the haves and have-nots was too wide and criticised greedy businessmen.”Some businessmen have no sense of social responsibility and just want to squeeze as much money out of people as they can,” he said.Mr Putin’s performance in the live four-hour program on Thursday gave viewers the impression that he and not the President, Dmitry Medvedev, ran the country, reinforcing Mr Putin’s status as the front-runner in a presidential race still three years away.The Prime Minister said he would think about standing for the presidency in 2012 depending on the state of the nation nearer the time.”I will think about it. There is plenty of time,” he said.Mr Medvedev has said he would not rule himself out. Both have made it clear that only one of them will stand, but analysts say Mr Medvedev is struggling to step out of Mr Putin’s shadow.Sat before a hand-picked audience fielding carefully screened questions, Mr Putin said it was too early to think of electioneering.Yet his performance was a populist one aimed at wooing millions who have lost their jobs or seen their incomes plunge over the past year.Mr Putin therefore reserved his harshest criticism for a social group many Russians love to hate: the rich. He suggested that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oligarch who used to be Russia’s richest man, had ordered contract killings to eliminate people who got in his way.Mr Khodorkovsky has denied any involvement in the murders.Mr Putin also fumed about a recent scandal in Switzerland in which a group of Russians including the two sons of the billionaire oligarch Telman Ismailov were accused of organising a road race in sports cars that ended in a crash.”The nouveaux riches got rich very quickly but cannot manage their wealth without showing it off all the time. This is our misfortune,” Mr Putin lamented.”In Soviet times some of our rich showed off their wealth by having gold teeth put in, preferably at the front.”Lamborghinis and other pricey trinkets – they are simply today’s gold teeth to be shown off to everybody.”Allegations have been made that Mr Putin himself is fabulously wealthy, but he has denied it.Telegraph, London
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