Recalling Putin Two Decades Ago
A veteran foreign correspondent revisits an old reel of his 2003 TV interview
What does an old video reveal about an old spy and future authoritarian leader?
I recently reviewed recordings of an interview I had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin on October 13, 2003.
I’d been approached by Putin’s people in Moscow to arrange an unusual interview: In his first term as President, Putin wanted to reach out to television viewers in Asia to help establish Russia as an Asian as well as a European power.
As head of news for the Star TV network, then owned by Rupert Murdoch, we offered considerable attractions to the Russians. We had a strong Indian channel and a substantial investment in a Chinese-language channel. Putin could reach tens of millions of Hindi, English, and Chinese speaking viewers and sacrifice only an hour of his time.
So, in an ornate room in the Kremlin decorated with Czarist-era paintings, our little troika—Ajay Kumar from India, Anthony Yuen from China and I—sat before the Russian President.
Back then, P…
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