A four-hour televised Q & A session with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday offered a rare look into the leader’s views, his future plans and his unwavering defense of his authoritarian style of politics. Putin repeatedly rejected criticism of the Russian police forces, saying that powerful law enforcement bodies were essential to guaranteeing public order and safety and protecting the public against nationalist unrest. If the police weren’t there, Putin said in a jab to political opponents, Russia’s “liberal intelligentsia will have to shave off their goatees and put on helmets themselves and go out to the square to fight radicals themselves.” Putin also issued what observers say is a veiled call on the judiciary to keep Russian former oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail, even as he nears the end of his eight-year prison term for tax evasion. Though Putin’s TV marathon suggests he is far from leaving centre stage in Russian politics, he refused to say whether he or his protégé, current Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, will run in the country’s upcoming presidential elections in 2012.
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