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For first interview of new term, Putin puts priority on foreign audience

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"Putin's interview was clearly aimed at foreigners, and this is confirmed by the questions he was asked," says Sergei Mikheyev, director of the Center of Political Assessments, an independent Moscow think tank. "RT is aimed at outside audiences, and it's possible it was chosen because a big Putin interview would be the talk of the day and make its ratings go up."

Though the interview opened with Putin's upcoming speech to Pacific Rim leaders at the APEC summit in Vladivostok this weekend, he quickly moved on to more controversial issues.

Weighing in on Obama and Romney

Among other things, he appeared to express a preference for Mr. Obama to win the upcoming US presidential elections, if only because he believes a deal on the thorny strategic issue of missile defense would be more likely with him in the White House.

"My feeling is that [Obama] is a very honest man and that he sincerely wants to make many good changes," Putin said.

"But can he do it, will they let him do it? I mean that there is also the military lobby, and the Department of State, which is quite conservative," he said.

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