Putin: Obama ‘A Decent Man’

In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency,  Russian President Vladimir Putin greets U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 summit on Sept. 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Photograph by Alexei Danichev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency,
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 summit on Sept. 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Barack Obama don’t always see eye to soul, yet Putin says he’s pretty confident Obama would save him if he were drowning.

The Russian leader held court on Russian TV today, talking about a variety of issues, including his government’s surveillance practices — with special Russian guest Edward Snowden appearing by video.

Asked about Obama coming to the rescue in a hypothetical drowning, Putin said: “I think he’s a decent man, brave and would do it.”

Mashable.com has the account, which includes Putin suggesting — as Russian, Ukrainian and U.S. officials meet in Geneva today — that there is a peaceful path forward from the Crimean occupation.

“I’m sure we will come to a mutual understanding with Ukraine,” Putin said. “We will not be able to do without each other.”

The two leaders have a way of talking past each other, as we reported here last month.

Among the callers to Putin’s show today: Snowden, the former NSA contractor who found refuge in Russia under indictment in the U.S. for espionage and theft following his release of top-secret documents about American telephone and Internet surveillance. The Washington Post and U.K.’s Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service this week for their publication of Snowden’s intel.

It seemed a setup, this question: Snowden asking Putin, a former KGB agent, if Russia collects mass communications of millions of people.

“First of all, we have strict legal regulation of the use of special services of special funds, including wiretaps and surveillance on the Internet,” Putin replied. “This regulation is associated with the need to obtain permission from a court in respect of a particular individual. So massive, indiscriminate surveillance, in accordance with the law, can not happen.”

The Obama administration can’t believe what it’s hearing here:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>SAO describes <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Putin&amp;src=hash”>#Putin</a>-<a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Snowden&amp;src=hash”>#Snowden</a> exchange like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Says Putin’s denial of a Russian security state is surreal</p>&mdash; juliannagoldman (@juliannagoldman) <a href=”https://twitter.com/juliannagoldman/statuses/456795355565137920″>April 17, 2014</a></blockquote>
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