Putin defends his famous 'outhouse' remark
Russia's Vladimir Putin, whose decade in power started with a pledge to "waste Chechen rebels in the outhouse," on Friday made a rare admission that he had been upset after the crude remark slipped off of his tongue.
Speaking with steel workers in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk, the powerful prime minister nevertheless defended his 1999 comment, saying average Russians understood his earthy language.
"Remember when I blurted out that we will waste them?" Putin told the workers. "I returned to Saint Petersburg crestfallen. My buddy asks me: 'Why are you so sad?'"
"I blurted something out of place, apparently. Not good," Putin said he told his friend. "Having reached this level, I should not have wagged my tongue."
"On the face of it, what I blurted out was probably wrong. But in essence it was right," added Putin, who then served as Russia's little known prime minister.
Putin said he felt better after his friend told him what he heard a taxi driver say in passing about Putin's remark: "There appeared this dude who says the right things."
Putin's tough talk has stirred controversy on repeated occasions.
Responding to a question about Muslim militants, he suggested the reporter should come to Russia to be circumcised, and also told journalists to keep their "snotty noses" out of his private life.
In 2006, then president Putin found himself in the midst of an international scandal after his quip in the Kremlin on the sex scandal surrounding his Israeli counterpart Moshe Katsav.
"We did not know he knew how to deal with 10 women," Putin was quoted as saying, referring to the number of women who had filed complaints Katsav had molested them.
In another revelation made Friday at the steel plant, Putin said he thought his decision to lead Russia into a second war with Chechen separatists in 1999 would end his political career.
"When there was an attack on Dagestan, you could have 'chewed snot' for months and wait for elections," he said in comments released by his government.
He explained that he made the decision to order troops into the Caucasus out of concern for the country's integrity, despite widespread anti-war sentiment.
"I decided that that was it, my career was over," he said, adding that he was surprised the public later supported the war.
Critics have earlier accused Putin of deliberately waging a war against Chechnya to earn political points ahead of the polls.
Russia is heading into 2012 presidential polls in which Putin or his successor at the Kremlin, President Dmitry Medvedev, could run.
© 2011 AFP