Putin at 60 Has Rule Rated Positive by Majority, Poll Shows

President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin in May reclaimed the presidency for a six-year term after a constitutional rule forced him into a stint as prime minister from 2008. Photographer: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP/Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin, who turned 60 yesterday, had his rule rated “more good than bad” by the majority of Russians more than 12 years after he first became the country’s leader, an opinion poll showed.

Sixty-four percent of Russians are positive about the Putin era, the state-run All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion, or VTsIOM, said today in an e-mailed statement. Fourteen percent said Putin’s regime is bad for Russia.

Putin in May reclaimed the presidency for a six-year term after a constitutional rule forced him into a stint as prime minister from 2008. He faced the biggest protests against his rule when tens of thousands of Russians demonstrated against alleged fraud in parliamentary elections in December and the presidential balloting in March.

While paying attention to approval ratings, “it’s the chemistry, the feeling inside that I’m doing the right thing” that lends legitimacy to his rule, Putin said in an interview broadcast late yesterday on NTV, a Russian television channel owned by OAO Gazprom Media. “There are plenty of forces that oppose the strengthening of Russia.”

Casting a rare light on Putin’s daily routine, NTV’s 50-minute film showed him swimming, lifting weights and picking through porridge, quail eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast at his residence outside Moscow. Mixed with glimpses of his working life were interviews discussing subjects ranging from the prospects of freeing jailed former Yukos Oil Co. owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky to his decision four years ago to hand the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev.

‘Living Better’

Fifty-two percent of respondents in VTsIOM’s poll said “people started living better” since Putin came to power in 2000, while 14 percent said life hasn’t improved in Russia since then. The poll of 1,600 Russians was conducted Sept. 29-30. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

“I’m sure he would have had more than 80 percent of Russians supporting his era in 2008,” Valery Fedorov, VTsIOM’s head, said by phone from Moscow. “But that was another era. The new one is just starting. And it’s about people being massively unhappy with the state.”

A VTsIOM poll conducted in 2007 showed 25 percent of Russians were positive about President Boris Yeltsin rule in 1991-1999, while 49 percent were negative about it.

Wages, Patriotism

Speaking in NTV’s film, Putin cited an increase in the well-being of Russians, including a more than tenfold increase in average wages since 2000, and uplift in public spirit as the greatest accomplishments of his tenure.

“Finally we feel like a unified, powerful state,” Putin said. “We brought that respect back.”

Russia’s opposition needs leaders able to “take responsibility for some industries, spheres of public life, and perhaps country as a whole,” Putin said.

“Despite their occasionally boorish behavior, I take it calmly and really hope serious people will appear someday” among the opposition, he said.

As for Pussy Riot, an all-female punk group whose three members were sentenced Aug. 17 to two years in prison for a protest stunt against Putin in Russia’s largest church, they “got what they wanted,” Putin said.

“Arresting them was the right thing to do and the decision taken by the court was the right thing to do,” Putin said. “The foundations of morality and virtue can’t be undermined. Otherwise what will we be left with?”

Leaving the Kremlin the second time will be easier, the Russian leader said.

“If I did that once -- without clinging to all these armchairs and phones -- that means I already have such experience,” Putin said. “I see no trouble at all in doing it for a second time.

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