Vladimir Putin on sanctions: They won't end soon

Putin answers Russian citizens' questions
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Story highlights

  • Putin has spent hours fielding questions from the general public on live television
  • Sanctions and Russia's deep economic crisis are a major theme

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin shrugged off repeated questions about the impact of Western sanctions on his nation during a nationally broadcast annual Q&A session.

"Sanctions are sanctions," he said. "As far as sanctions are concerned .... (they're) about the need to constrain our development," not just about Ukraine and Crimea.
    Western sanctions were implemented after Moscow annexed Crimea and pro-Russian separatists battled Ukrainian government forces in the nation's east.
    Putin predicted the sanctions would not end soon.
    On the Middle East, the Russian leader defended lifting a ban on the sale of a sophisticated air defense system to Iran.
    "We need to encourage our Iranian partners," Putin said, referring to a preliminary deal to limit Iran's nuclear program.
    Sanctions against Iran have had a dramatic impact on the nation's economy.
    On Israeli and Western fears that such a system would embolden Iran, Putin scoffed.
    "Iran is not a threat to Israel at all," he said. "It is a defense weapon."

    The spectacle

    Putin's annual exercise is fascinating for ordinary Russians, who normally get him in closely managed doses on state-run television. These sessions are live and can go on and on.
    Last year, he spoke for three hours and 55 minutes. In 2013, it was a record-setting four hours and 47 minutes.
    Organizers said public interest was especially strong this year, with 2.4 million questions submitted.
    Of course, critics of the Kremlin slam the entire event as Russia's imitation of democracy in action. It's hard to imagine a truly critical question, they say, getting aired on national television there. In fact, it's best not to look at this event as an opportunity for Russians to question their leader at all.
    Instead, it is more like a highly produced, highly choreographed chance for their leader to speak to them, and to the world.
    Last year, there was a "surprise" appearance by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia. He addressed Putin by video link, quizzing Putin about Moscow's own surveillance practices.