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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Criticizes Iraq War, 'Erotica'

President Vladimir Putin took a hard line against the West in his televised question-and-answer session Thursday, criticizing the U.S.-led war in Iraq and pledging "retaliatory steps" if Washington placed elements of a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

But he said precious little about who might succeed him as president after his term ends in March.

Responding to a Novosibirsk man who cited remarks made several years ago by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the effect that Siberia had too many natural resources for Russia alone, Putin dismissed the idea as "political erotica" for oil-hungry foreigners.

"I know some politicians play with such ideas in their heads," he said. "In my view, this is the sort of political erotica that might satisfy a person but hardly leads to a positive result."

He emphasized Russia's ability to defend its natural resources -- unlike Iraq, which, he said, was invaded by the United States for its oil reserves. "Russia, thank God, isn't Iraq," Putin said.

Later, a man from Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost region, asked Putin about U.S. plans to install parts of a missile shield in neighboring Poland.

"If these decisions are made without taking into account the security interests of the Russian Federation, we will take retaliatory steps that will guarantee the safety of Russian citizens," Putin replied.

Little of the marathon three-hour session was devoted to Putin's political future after his expected departure from office next year.

A man from Kazan, however, asked Putin why he had decided to lead the ticket for United Russia -- the country's dominant pro-Kremlin party -- in the Dec. 2 State Duma elections.

After a lengthy tangent about the beauty of the Kazan Kremlin, Putin said he had made the decision to ensure continuity after the 2008 presidential transition.

"In 2008, here, in the Kremlin, there will be a different person," Putin said. "Under these conditions, it is extremely important to preserve the stable course of our government."

Putin criticized the work of previous Dumas, saying they had passed populist bills that were unrealistic to implement and praised the current Duma, dominated by United Russia and often criticized as a rubber-stamp legislature.

"It is extremely important that the Duma after the 2007 elections be competent," he said. "United Russia was the key element in the efficiency of the Duma in recent years. That's why I chose to head its ticket."

Analysts and opposition parties said Putin violated campaign laws, which bar parties from campaigning until Nov. 3.

"If someone from the opposition had praised a party, he would have violated the law, but not the president," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst at the Indem think tank.

Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov said he had "no objections" to Putin's remarks about United Russia, RIA-Novosti reported.

At no point did Putin identify his preferred successor, nor did anyone directly ask him the question. In a meeting with reporters afterward, though, he hinted at his vision for the country's power structure after 2008.

"Right now, our center for decision making is the head of state -- the president. And according to the Constitution, the government is the main executive body," Putin said, Interfax reported. "Taking powers away from the government or giving it extra powers is inappropriate."

Putin also said he would not miss the presidency and that he was "building plans for the future."

He also compared himself to former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"Roosevelt laid out his plan for the country's development for decades in advance," prompting criticism from the U.S. elite, Putin told reporters, RIA-Novosti reported.

In one of his few nods to other politicians during the call-in session, Putin praised the anti-corruption efforts of Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.

But Zubkov alone cannot solve the problem, he added. "As a society, we must become intolerant of these things, from petty bribes on the road to big-time government kickbacks," Putin said.

Putin touched on another hot-button issue -- security in the North Caucasus -- while speaking to questioners from Botlikh, Dagestan, a town that was attacked by Chechnya-based rebels in 1999.

While admitting that work still needed to be done, especially in terms of lifting the North Caucasus out of poverty, Putin stressed that the region's security had improved under his presidency.

"Terrorists who are trying to blow up the situation in the North Caucasus today have no chances," he said.

Not all of the questions addressed to Putin were serious.

A woman from Kazan asked him how he found time to study foreign languages. Putin replied that he occasionally took English lessons of 10 to 15 minutes, saying it was good to speak to foreign leaders without a translator sometimes.

The most surreal moment came when the call center put a woman directly in touch with Putin.

"I don't want to speak to you, I want to speak to Putin," she told a call center representative, who assured her that Putin was listening. When the president spoke, the woman did not initially believe it was him.

Putin finally convinced her, but then she seemed to forget her question. "Thank you," she said emotionally, and hung up.

Staff Writer Francesca Mereu contributed to this report.