During a marathon call-in TV show on April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Obama and declined to say if he preferred Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
In the annual marathon, which lasted almost four hours, Putin answered questions from children and adults across Russia. More than 3 million questions were submitted days before the show, ranging from breakfast food to the war in Syria.
Putin said the United States should step back from its “imperial ambitions” and learn to respect Russia’s legitimate interests.
“If they talk to us in a respectful way, we will always be able to find solutions that will satisfy everyone,” he said.
“They must simply work with Russia as an equal partner,” he added.
On the other hand, Putin praised President Obama’s courage for admitting the 2011 intervention in Libya was the worst mistake of his presidency.
“Only a very strong man could do that,” Putin said, calling Obama a “decent man.”
When asked if he would miss Obama, Putin said, “we all shall leave one day.”
The Russian leader added that he’s continuing to work actively with Obama and will also be ready to cooperate with the next elected president.
Putin declined to pick a favorite for the race to the White House.
He said if Hillary Clinton wins the election, it will be another case of members of a family winning the presidency.
“Where is the change?” he said.
The Russian president declined to say whether he will seek reelection in 2018, although he is expected to run.
Speaking about Russia, Putin vowed the country’s struggling economy will bounce back and said he will make other nations take account of Russia’s interests.
Callers also asked about tense relationships between the country and nations like Turkey and the Ukraine. Putin said his country is ready for amicable ties but will not stand down if there is hostility.
“We must respond, or otherwise they will sit on our neck and whip us,” he said.
A 12-year-old girl asked Putin who he would save if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko were drowning. Putin responded satirically, saying “if someone decides to drown, it’s impossible to save him.”
In questions about Syria, Putin praised the recapture of ancient city Palmyra from ISIS. He said Russia has stationed up the national army there to the point where it can carry out offensive acts despite a Russian military drawdown. He also said Russia’s role in Syria has advertised to international customers the latest Russian weapons, with total foreign orders currently at about $50 billion. Putin added that the demand for air defense systems was so high that three new factories had to be built to manufacture them.
On a personal note, the divorced leader was asked whether he would remarry. Putin, 63, said he was satisfied with his current status. He also joked that he would “affect the ruble rate and the oil price.”
He said he is still friends with his former wife and avoided commenting on reports that she had re-married.
“We have a very good relationship, we probably even get along even better than before,” Putin said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.