Russia could collapse in 'two or three wrong steps': Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday sought to defend his controversial plan to seek a third mandate as president, saying Russia needed stability and was only a few steps from a return to the collapse of the 1990s.
Speaking in televised remarks in a rare acknowledgement of public discontent Putin said his political opponents claim that "everything is so bad, that it could not get worse."
"Saying that things cannot get worse, I would be careful. It's enough to take two or three wrong steps and everything that was before could overwhelm us so quickly that we would not even have time to look around."
"Everything here is tacked together, both in politics and in the economy," Putin said in a startling admission of the fragility of the stability that he prides himself on bringing to Russia since coming to power in 1999.
He referred to the troubled North Caucasus, saying that "we still have many problems there," while admitting that Russia as a whole has problems "with crime and terrorism."
"I never sought out this post," Putin said, referring to the Kremlin post.
"But if I set out to tackle something, I try to bring the matter to its logical conclusion or, at the very least, to bring this matter to the maximum effect."
In a punchy, populist interview broadcast simultaneously on the three main national channels, he reminded Russians of the shortages of the late 1980s as the Soviet economy collapsed, by telling a joke from the time.
"Friends come round to visit and the hosts ask: Do you want to wash your hands with soap? "Yes". Then you'll have to drink your tea without sugar."
He stressed that he had not "clung onto" his presidential position, but listed national leaders who had stood for three presidential terms, saying times of turbulence called for political stability.
With an eye to his position in history, he referred to one of his political heroes, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, stressing he stood for office four times, and quoted another, the French leader Charles De Gaulle.
"Choose the most difficult way and then you can be sure of at least one thing: you won't have any competitors."
© 2011 AFP