Putin says can picture leaving Kremlin for 'ordinary flat'
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he can "completely imagine" leaving the Kremlin for a more modest abode and does not consider himself a member of his country's elite.
"If someone can return to an ordinary flat and live there instead of in palace interiors, I think he has not lost contact with the outside world," Putin said in an interview broadcast Sunday on state television. "I can completely imagine life outside this position."
In the interview for a documentary to mark 15 years since he became president in 2000 Putin claimed he instinctively understood the concerns of ordinary Russians.
"For someone who does the work I do today and in the past years, this link and sense of empathy with people, with ordinary people, is extremely important and helps a lot with work," Putin said.
"It's important to me that when I meet people, those signals come to me immediately, I feel that people are discontented about something or worried... Thank God, I haven't lost that feeling yet, and I still manage to catch it immediately."
"I just feel I am part of our country, part of our people," Putin said.
While lambasted in the West over Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and support for pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine's east, Putin is still very popular at home.
A survey by the independent polling agency Levada showed his approval ratings at a whopping 86 percent in April.
The Russian strongman is known to maintain close ties to friends from his childhood in a working class family in post-war Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), some of whom are now billionaire businessmen.
"I've never been one of the so-called elite," he insisted.
Listing some of the downsides of life as a president, he said: "You can't live as a normal person does. You can't go to the cinema, you can't go to the theatre on the spur of the moment, you can't go and look round the shops."
"But those are small losses compared to what fate and the public gives to people who are in my position: that is to make the biggest possible contribution, to do all that I can ... for my country, for my people," Putin said. "That compensates for everything."
© 2015 AFP