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The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"He put across a good impression, I think they probably will do it again"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 20:56 GMT
Putin declares himself 'lazy' surfer
Vladimir Putin
Putin: An internet paddler rather than a surfer?
President Vladimir Putin has made history with his BBC News Online webcast - but revealed himself to be a lazy internet user.

Mr Putin - whose predecessor didn't even have an office computer - became the first Russian leader to go live on the internet, in an hour-long live forum from inside the Kremlin.

But as Mr Putin stressed his belief in the internet's future and importance - he revealed his own habit of relying on his advisers to surf for him.

Unfortunately, I do not make much use of it myself because of inbred laziness

Mr Putin on the internet
"It is a very promising form of communication. I am very excited about it," he said, answering the forum's first question, about his attitudes to the internet.

"Unfortunately, I do not make much use of it myself because of inbred laziness," he added with a wry smile.

Mr Putin pointed out that he had other sources of information - including advisers who did use the internet heavily, indeed so heavily that limits have been put on their time spent online.

Kremlin buildings
Kremlin aides believe the webcast will boost Mr Putin's image
He also characterised internet users as upwardly mobile people, young, energetic and well educated.

Mr Putin faced a critical question from a Russian internet user complaining that his presidential website was not up to standard - a charge to which the president readily entered a plea of guilty.

"I am not a specialist. I like the site, but I think it can be better and we can agree right now to call a contest to see how it can be changed for the better," he said.

He said details of the terms of entry would be posted on the website itself.

Internet infancy

The webcast was conducted by BBC News Online and two Russian websites, which between them received 24,000 e-mailed questions from readers.

BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall, who put the BBC News Online questions to the president, says agreeing to the interview was something of a gamble for Kremlin aides, but they saw it as a chance to boost Mr Putin's image and show off Russia's hi-tech skills.

Mr Putin has been keen to develop the use of the internet in Russia, where it is still in its infancy.

Nearly a quarter of all Russians have apparently never even heard of the internet.

I do make use of products from the internet - in particular, condensed versions of various internet publications

Mr Putin on his use of web material
While former Russian President Boris Yeltsin shunned new technology, Mr Putin used his own website to boost his presidential campaign, and has made the official Russian Government site a source of government information instead of merely a list of names.

At the G8 summit in Okinawa last year, he surprised some world leaders by suggesting they communicate by e-mail.

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See also:

27 Jan 01 | Americas
The battle over missile defence
30 Mar 00 | Americas
Q & A: Son of Star Wars
06 Mar 01 | Europe
Putin live: Transcript of webcast
06 Mar 01 | Europe
President gets personal
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