Dmitry Peskov HARDtalk


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Dmitry Peskov

Stephen Sackur is in Moscow for a special edition of HARDtalk with Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, to ask about the future of US-Russian relations under Donald Trump.


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Now on BBC News, Stephen Sackur speaks to Dmitry Peskov,

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the spokesman for Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in HARDTalk.

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Welcome to a special edition of HARDTalk from Moscow. According to

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US intelligence chiefs the Kremlin ran a covert operation aimed to

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influence the US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump.

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If they did, it worked, but was it really so? What is the truth behind

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the swirl of allegations and what now for Russia-US relations? Well

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I'm going to the Kremlin to meet Vladimir Putin's spokesman. Is he

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triumphant or caution? Dmitry Peskov welcome to HARDTalk.

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Do you care that a host of Western intelligence agencies have accused

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your government of sophisticated, covert operations, dirty tricks,

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meddling in their internal politics, do you care? You mean cyber attacks?

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Cyber attacks, not just that, but cyber attacks have been one very big

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part of it. Let's talk about the United States first of all. Yes. We

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have to be very precise in wording. You're speaking about Secret

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Services and special services of the major states. We're speaking about

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only the United States of America and some retired gentlemen who used

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to work in MI6 or MI5, I don't know exactly, from Great Britain. The

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rest of special services in European countries, they have never accused

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Russia of interfering into somewhere they have just started to feel

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uncomfortable, at the same front of allegations - That's not Strictly

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True. What you've said isn't strictly true. Bruno Khal, chief of

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Germany's foreign intelligence agency said this, "Cyber attacks are

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taking place that have no purpose other than to elicit political

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uncertainty here in Germany. The indications show the attacks come

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from Russia. There is evidence that this is at least tolerated or

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desired by the state. " Again, accusations that have nothing

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beneath. We don't have any proof for those blamings. It is interesting

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that you began by saying it's only the United States. But it's clearly

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not only the United States. Well, the whole story started from the

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United States. The whole hysteria is being pumped up by the United States

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public opinion, United States media. It's very emotional hysteria. You

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know, sometimes it is even, it comes quite ridiculous to us to watch this

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hysteria. The director of national intelligence in the US says that the

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evidence is there with a very high degree of certainty. Admittedly we

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haven't seen the evidence because the key evidence has been redacted.

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But what he says is this, "I do not think, based on the evidence, that

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we have ever encountered a more aggressive, a more direct campaign

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to interfere in our election process. That's at your door,

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indeed, you Dmitry Peskov, have been accused of being one of the key

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architects of this campaign. Well it's a great honour for me to be so

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fist Kated. I'm not that sophisticated in cyber business.

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This is not the truth. This is number one. Number two, every day we

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have hundreds and thousands of cyber attacks against our digital systems

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in the Russian Federation. Some of them are coming from the territory

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of the United States. Dozens are am coulding from the territory of --

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are coming from the territory of Germany, dozens coming from Great

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Britain. Do you think that it means with a high state of certainty that

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those attacks against our digital systems are being promoted by the

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governments in Washington, in London or in Berlin? No. You would probably

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say no. It's out of the question. I'm more interested in what you

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think. What do you think? We think that it has nothing to do with the

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governments. Although, we also have some evidence that some foreign

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special services might stand behind some very, very tense attacks

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against our banks and against our, well, our official websites. Are you

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trying to tell me that the Russian actions in the United States, in

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Germany, we believe in Britain too, according to our intelligence

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agencies, are they retaliation? No. There are no actions. There are no

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actions. Neither Russian government nor Kremlin nor President Putin

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personally, nor military intelligence stand behind those

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attacks, if they really exist. That is a very clear position you've just

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taken. Now the United States Congress is going to over the next

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few weeks and months conduct a very serious investigation of all these

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allegations of Russian cyber hacking. They are going to use

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subpoenas. We may find a lot more specific information. If it urns out

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that they -- if it turns out that they have convincing evidence that

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Russia, the Kremlin was involved in authorising those attacks, you are

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going to be very badly exposed, aren't you? Of course. I'm carrying

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responsibility for saying that. I'm not an irresponsible person and

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working as a press secretary of President Putin, I work in Kremlin

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and am responsible for my words. So should there be any evidence, should

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there be any proof, then it will be my responsibility. It should be

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either proved or it should be dismissed. How disturbed were you

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when Donald Trump appeared to say, just a few days ago, that he now

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believes Russia is responsible for the hacking of the DNC e-mails?

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President-elect was briefed by his special services. We do not know

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what exactly was presented to him during those briefings. What we had

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access to was the public part of the report. You would probably have read

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that. I've read the public part. As I said, we don't know what redacted

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parts include. Yes, public part was quite vague. You would probably

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agree with me. It was based on assumptions, not on evidence. So

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let's wait and see. On the hacking, John McCain, and a bunch of

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Republican, democratic senators - Great admirer of my country. Perhaps

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not the greatest admirer right now. He has said and they have said that

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they're going to push forward what they're calling countering Russian

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hostilities act 2017. They are going to push for an expansion of

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sanctions against Russia specifically targeting those they

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believe responsible for the hacking. How will you respond if that

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legislation, if that expansion of sanctions goes through? So, this is

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quite an unprecedented act. What is being done by the going President

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Obama, by renewing the sanctions against Russia, without waiting

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until the period of the existing one expires, and with the new law, with

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the new law coming. So they are trying to limit the capacity, to

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limit the presidency of Trump. They're trying to push him into the

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way of bad relationship with Moscow. They say, you don't have a

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possibility to move. You don't have a possibility to choose your own

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position. You will follow our way. Which brings me to the most

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important question today, around the world, but particularly concerning

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your relationship with the United States. Do you believe President

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Donald Trump will bring with him a fundamental change, a fundamental

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shift in the relationship between Washington and Moscow?

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Unfortunately, we cannot believe. What we can do is we can express our

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hope. We want to have good relationship with America. We

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believe that we cannot solve lots of problems in this world and in our

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region, that are endangering our country without cooperation with the

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Americans. That's why we desperately need good relationship with

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Washington. But it takes two to tango. What will be the approach by

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President Trump, this is the question. We speak on the eve of the

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inauguration, will you and your boss, President Putin, be popping

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the champagne corks, when you watch the inauguration of President Trump?

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Well, you know, we are preoccupied these days. We have our Christian

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holiday called baptising, so we are preoccupied with swimming in the ice

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cold water. That's why our agenda is a little bit different. Let's allow

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ourselves to think what it means in greater detail. Donald Trump has

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talked about his admiration for Vladimir Putin, calls him a smart

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guy. But getting away from the positives, looking at perhaps a more

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realistic agenda, some of his key nominees for the top posts that of

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Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, they have said clearly they

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still regard Russia as the most important threat, the Defence

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Secretary nominee says he still believes that Russia poses a severe

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threat to Europe's security and to Nato. Listen, you cannot leave and

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you cannot develop yourself as personality in one environment and

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all of a sudden come to a different conclusion. You are a child of your

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environment. Environment in the United States currently is very

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hostile towards Russia. So we understand those statements. We do

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not expect President Trump and his administration to agree with us,

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even to agree with us even on the majority of problems. But we want to

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believe that they will be ready to talk to us. So, we want to be able

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to convey our message to Washington. We want to, we want Washington to

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will, to convey their message to us by explaining why, what exactly,

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how, when and with whom. If we don't know that, we feel ourself

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endangered. Donald Trump prides himself as a deal maker. He's begun

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to indicate there might be deals to be done. He suggested to the Times

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newspaper the other day that perhaps he would consider easing sanctions

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on Russia if Russia was prepared to talk seriously about reducing its

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nuclear Arsenal as part of a new round of talks. Are you interested

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in that sort of approach? It's a little bit different dimensions.

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Sanctions is one thing. Russia will not ever initiate discussing of the

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issue. On Ukraine, which is the reason why the sanctions sit there,

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your position on Ukraine appears unchanging. What the West wants to

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see, we don't know whether Donald Trump wants to see it, what the West

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generally wants to see is you, finally, make every effort to

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implement that Minsk peace agreement and stop your support for the

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separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The problem is that we are not the

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country who is going to, who should implement Minsk agreement. We are

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the country that should guarantee the implementation, together with

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the French and with the Germans. Minsk agreement should be

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implemented by Kiev and Minsk agreement should be

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implemented by Kiev. Mincing agreement is not something -- Minsk

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agreement is not vague. We enjoy some influence, but we cannot ask

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them to die. There's been a lot of talk about the possibility of a very

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early summit meeting between Mr Putin and soon to be President

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Trump. Is it going to happen? Well, we hope that President Putin is

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going to call President Trump after the inauguration, as soon as he's

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available and congratulate him. It's a protocol. So this congratulation

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should be delivered. We hope it will be delivered through a telephone

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call. Then we'll expect their exchange of views on a possibility

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of the meeting. What kind of time frame are we talking about?

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Currently we don't have any hints for the dates, unfortunately. Are we

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talking weeks, months, do you think? We hope, no I don't think weeks. Of

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course, I mean, he's the President of the United States and first of

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all, he's preoccupied with American business. It's like all Presidents.

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You ask me, what are we going to do tomorrow, during the inauguration,

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we are going to be preoccupied with Russian affairs. Because they are

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the issue of priority for President Putin. It's not coming weeks. But

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let's hope for the best that this meeting could take place coming

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month. Coming months. And to be clear about it, President Putin

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would like the earliest possible meeting with Mr Trump? I have no

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doubt Mr Putin will be ready for that, yes. One interesting point,

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just yesterday, it was announced here in Russia that Edward Snowden

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was given a couple more years of residency here. Some people say that

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one way to warm up relations quickly would be for Mr Putin to, in

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essence, give Edward Snowden to the incoming Trump administration as

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some sort of show of goodwill. In America they want to put him on

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trial. Donald Trump has made it plain that he personally believes

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that Edward Snowden should be punished for the release of secret

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information. Edward Snowden is a human being that can face a death

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penalty in the United States, because it's one of the few

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countries that still exercises death penalty. You'll never extradite him,

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is that what you're saying? This is a decision that can be taken by our

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immigration authorities or President Putin. I don't know. I don't know.

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But he's not a toy to be presented. He's a human being. Let's talk about

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Nato, as we go round the themes that are going to be presented to Trump

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and Putin as they consider their relationship. Donald Trump has said

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Nato is obsolete. He's also said Nato is very important to him. He

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generals tell him that Russia poses a direct threat, the way that you've

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massed both weaponry, material and man power or Nato's Eastern flank,

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are you prepared to show, again, good faith by, for example, pulling

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your missiles out? It is very complicated issue. You cannot just

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withdraw with those missiles from there without knowing that plans for

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creating entire Russian, entire missile system will be abolished on

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the European continent. Just one final point on diplomacy, again

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about dialogue, it's about Syria. It is very notable that in your

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initiative with the Turks to get some sort of dialogue going between

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the government and the rebels, which led to the ceasefire, the Americans

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weren't involved at all. Now there are more Peace Talks scheduled for

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Kazakhstan next week. Do you definitely want the Americans, under

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the new Trump administration, to be involved, to be big players

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alongside you and the Turks? Well, definitely we would welcome that. We

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would welcome that. Situation is very complicated. You know that the,

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also there is Iran, like a very important player in Syrian issue.

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The Iranians say the Americans won't be there. The Iranians are not

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welcoming the Americans. It's a very complicated issue for a very careful

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play. You and I in previous conversations have gone into great

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detail about accusations that Russia has committed human rights

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violations, some say war crimes in its military activities in Syria.

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One simple question on this: Since we last spoke, the UN general

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Assembly has voted to establish an investigative body to collect,

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consolidate and preserve, they say, evidence and prepare cases on war

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crimes and human rights abuses. Will you cooperate with that UN

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investigation? I have no doubt, yes. Should it be started and what will

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be the composition of that. Your people at the UN were gravely

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sceptical it should be started in the first place. You're saying,

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we've decided we are going to fully cooperate. No, we haven't decided.

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Theoretically, I say, theoretically, we would welcome those

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investigations. A final thought, I want to take it away from the

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international arena to the domestic arena. I just spoke to perhaps the

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leading voice in opposition to President Putin in this country

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today, a man who has declared he wants to run in the presidential

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elections in 2018 against Putin. He said to me, you know why Putin

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fights these wars, why he is projecting Russia's power in

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different arenas around the world, he is trying to distract the Russian

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people from what is going on inside their own country, the millions and

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millions condemned to live in poverty, the systemic corruption,

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which is seeing a tiny elite at the top, enriching themselves on the

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back of the majority of Russians who see no growth, no prosperity. That's

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what he's going to campaign on. That is going to cause you and your boss

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a great deal of trouble. Well, you know, unfortunately, we have a very

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weak opposition in our country. I wonder why that is. Could it be

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because they're not allowed access to state television for example? No

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it's not about state television. You have modern media and viewership of

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television is diminishing day by day. In Russia today, if you switch

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on the TV and you want to find an opposition voice it is almost

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impossible. The American President is winning elections using Twitter.

:20:45.:20:48.

In order to be a successful opposition you have to be

:20:49.:20:54.

sustainable. You have to have a programme of development of the

:20:55.:20:57.

country. You also have to be allowed a semblance of freedom. You have to

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be a person not at risk of being assassinated as Boris Nyemtsov was.

:21:07.:21:13.

Unlike Alexei Novalny, whose brother is in prison and he is on trumped up

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charges, you need the freedom to build a political movement. You know

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as well as I do, in Russia today, that's impossible. Why don't you

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think that they're not fair charges? Because the European Court of Human

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Rights has declared that they are political and it said that they were

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ill legitimate. We don't agree with that. You don't agree with the

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European Court of Human Rights when they analysed the evidence? I would

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rather trust our own court. We do have much more confidence in our own

:21:44.:21:54.

court system. Do you read Alexei Novalny's anticorruption foundation

:21:55.:21:57.

website. Once in a while, yes. You'd have seen your own name. Yes, most

:21:58.:22:01.

frequently. He wants to know how come a guy like you, a public

:22:02.:22:07.

servant on a not bad, but modest salary, how come you live in a

:22:08.:22:12.

Villa, which he's pleased to show me, which is worth, he says, $15

:22:13.:22:19.

million and the very famous watch of yours worth ?400,000. Try to double

:22:20.:22:25.

check that with a different real estate agent. Try to double check

:22:26.:22:29.

that. Do you want to tell me how much your Villa is worth, I'm happy

:22:30.:22:34.

to take your estimate? If we're here to discuss the cost of my Villa, I

:22:35.:22:38.

hope it's quite expensive. We're almost out of time. We have to wrap

:22:39.:22:43.

this up. Putin up for re-election in 2018, can you guarantee to me that

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Alexei Novany will at least be allowed to run and challenge Putin?

:22:52.:22:57.

I'm not head of central election committee. Tha can guarantee that or

:22:58.:23:02.

not guarantee that. So that's why I'm not entitled to make this kind

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of statements. Do you believe it would be best for Russia if an

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opposition leader like him were allowed to run against Putin? I

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think it would be best for Russia if we have a serious opposition with a

:23:18.:23:25.

serious approach, with experienced professionals and politicians trying

:23:26.:23:29.

to compete with acting power in the face of President Putin, who is

:23:30.:23:34.

being supported by 90% of this population. I'm taking from that

:23:35.:23:40.

last answer, that there's no question President Putin will run

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for another term in 2018? You know, we t was our first interview and I

:23:46.:23:52.

told you there was 2004, I think, or whenever... I'm not quite that old

:23:53.:23:58.

on HARDTalk. As a citizen of the Russian Federation, I hope he will

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take a decision to run. We have to end there. Dmitry Peskov, thank you

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very much for being on HARDTalk. Thank you, it was my pleasure.

:24:08.:24:29.

Hello. Cold out there isn't it? Temperatures are beginning to fall

:24:30.:24:35.

below freezing in some places. It's been

:24:36.:24:37.

Stephen Sackur is in Moscow for a special edition of the programme with Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin. US intelligence chiefs have accused the Kremlin of authorising a covert effort to influence the presidential election in favour of Donald Trump, but what's the truth behind the swirl of allegations? And what can we expect from Russia-US relations now?