EXCLUSIVE: Putin Spills the Beans on His "Successor" Pick in Exclusive Vesti Interview

Now, we're going to ask two obvious questions. The first one: Yes, Putin has just started his new term but at some point, who will become his successor? The second one: Will Putin ever hold a summit with Trump? We asked Putin these very questions after his Direct Line program.

But first, a couple of words about it, the program. It has been updated since Putin assumed office. One of the major innovations made him basically the co-host of Direct Line. He received questions from people and held live conversations with members of the government, deputy prime ministers, ministers, and governors. We think it demonstrated not only technical progress, the operators did really well though, but also systematic progress. Putin could have followed the route the Russians are used to when they expect the higher-ups to perform a miracle. The executive branch is still there, but the local authorities can no longer hide behind Putin's back.


Curiously enough, Putin mentioned the promising young appointees when asked about his future successor. We decided to address this matter when we had a chance to take part in Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

— It feels weird saying "greetings" because we've been watching you for several hours. Mr. Putin, thanks to you we have a lot of new regional governors to interview. We began with Dyumin in Tula, then went to Mironov in Yaroslavl, Kaliningrad, Kirov, Sevastopol. It's hard to enumerate all of them. Oh, Samara too. Today, you mentioned the next generation when answering the question about your successor. You were talking about them, right? They are the new political elite. Who should we keep a close eye on?

President Putin: You know, you should keep a close eye on those who actually achieve something, who are qualified, and who live up to the high status of a head of a region of the Russian Federation. You've just named a couple of governors that are doing quite well. But I'm absolutely sure that they are not the only new appointees…

— You mean the last wave?

— That's right. You know, they aren't just amiable people, some of whom are also quite young, but they are seasoned professionals who are highly motivated to achieve results. They've got that spark in their eyes. I greatly appreciate that. I wish them success and I'll support them the best I can so that they can carry out their plans to improve the lives of our people.

— Some of them already have.

— Yes, in those regions where they've already started working.

— So the competition is on?

— You know, I've said it frankly: Life will show who accomplishes something and who's worthy of rewards. Ultimately, the citizens of Russia will choose the most worthy candidate.

— A couple of small questions regarding the recent events. I understand that we don't have much time. A week ago, we aired a story, originally shared by the Wall Street Journal which, in its turn, cited its sources in the White House, about the US initiating early-phase preparations for your meeting with Trump. Have you begun your preparations?

— It has been a pressing matter since Donald Trump was elected the President of the United States. We've been talking about that from the very beginning. Our response has always been the same: We believe that such personal meetings are not only possible, they are beneficial. I've met President Trump at several international platforms, but we didn't have a chance to devote sufficient time to the issue of Russian-American relations. I believe this meeting will be helpful. I just hope that the political situation in the US won't disrupt the meeting.

— I was just going to ask: Sure, two major nuclear superpowers have something to discuss, but will you be able to do that bearing in mind that Trump is basically a hostage of the US political system? If he makes any promises, will he be able to fulfill them?

— My experience with the President of the United States tells me that even though he has been heavily criticized recently in the international arena as well, mostly due to his economic policy, he's a thoughtful person, he's a good listener and responds adequately to his conversation partner. It gives me a reason to believe that our dialogue will be meaningful.

— Look, he has recently met with Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Macron. He treated them so tenderly, especially Macron: There was hugging and practically kissing, etc. But as the Europeans tried to raise their heads after a week or two, that might be one of the reasons he imposed what you call sanctions or higher import duties for aluminium and steel. Aren't you afraid of this tender American embrace? First, they invite you to a meeting and then, they issue ultimatums. Or it won't work on you?

— The thing is, it doesn't work on anyone. The relationship between national leaders must be appropriate and civilized. It doesn't mean that one shouldn't prioritize their national interests. There are different opinions on the decisions Trump makes. Many aspects are indeed questionable and get criticized a lot. But there's one circumstance I've already mentioned: Trump's fulfilling…

— With one exception: the improvement of our relations.

— ...his election promises. Yes, he promised to improve the relations between Russia and America. I hope that will happen eventually. In any case, we're ready for that. The ball is in their court.

— So for now, only they are preparing for the meeting.

— That's not what I said, you said that. We are ready to develop, deepen, and restore our relations with the United States. And our toolkit might include personal meetings.

— Thank you, Mr. Putin.

— Thank you.