Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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Putin says Russia can defend its interests at home and abroad

MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday his country has the means and strength to safeguard its interests, domestically and abroad.

"Russia has sufficient strength and means to protect its interests on its territory and in other regions of the world," the president said in his annual televised question-and-answer session.

A mechanic from Siberia asked the president to respond to a comment allegedly made by a top U.S. politician disputing Russia's right to Siberian resources. The questioner claimed former secretary of state Madeline Albright had said several years ago that it was "unjust" that Russia has exclusive rights to the vast region.

"I am not familiar with such a statement made by Madeleine Albright, but I know that such ideas occupy the minds of certain politicians," the president answered.

"This is a kind of political erotica, which perhaps, can give some people pleasure but is unlikely to yield any results."

As a contrasting example he cited the situation in Iraq, plagued by sectarian violence and terrorist attacks against U.S. servicemen stationed in the country since the U.S.-led invasion of the country four years ago.

He called Iraq "a small country, which holds enormous oil reserves but is hardly capable of protecting itself."

Commenting on the U.S.-led occupation forces, he said: "We can all see clearly what is going on there. They've learned to shoot, but they're not doing so well with restoring order. And it is hardly attainable because, there can be no future to a war against a whole nation."