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Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
A year in burns.
ZINGERS

Syria, Trump, and terrorists: Vladimir Putin’s 2015, in his own words

By Hanna Kozlowska

It’s been quite a year for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who went from international persona non grata for Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine to top dog in decisions concerning Syria’s civil war.

To conclude the eventful year, which also marks Putin’s 15th in power, the Russian youth organization Network has published a 400 page book of the strongman’s thoughts, entitled ”World-Changing Words, Key Quotes of Vladimir Putin.” Reminiscent of Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book,” it contains quotes from Putin’s speeches and other appearances from 2003 to 2015, and was sent out to over 1,000 Russian politicians and officials as a New Year’s gift.

The book’s cover features short aphorisms such as “Russia is my whole life” and “I drink kefir.”

Network’s Anton Volodin told Russian news agency RBK that “Putin’s words can be considered prophetic.”

The book’s introduction refers to Putin’s 2003 speech at the United Nations, per the Guardian: “If those who had been present at the UN General Assembly had listened to Putin’s words, the world would be a very different place. Hundreds of thousands of people would still be alive and Europe would not be full of refugees from the Middle East.”

That counterfactual may be debatable, but in the past year more people, including the Obama administration, have been forced to listen to the Russian president. Here are some highlights of the year, in the words of Vladimir Vladimirovich himself:

On the United States:

In May, while celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, Putin delivered a jab at the United States, in a thinly veiled-way accusing the country of world domination.  “We have seen attempts to create a unipolar world, and we see how forced bloc thinking is becoming more common,” he said.

In his first address to the United Nations in a decade, Putin continued blasting the United States. ”Do you realize now what you’ve done?” he asked, referring to the power vacuum in the Middle East and Africa that has left the region in turmoil.

During an annual meeting of  Russian pundits in October, Putin said US wanted to use terrorist groups “a battering ram to overthrow regimes they don’t like … It’s always hard to play a double game—to declare a fight against terrorists but at the same time try to use some of them to move the pieces on the Middle Eastern chessboard in your own favor.”

On Donald Trump:

In an interview following his annual news conference in December, Putin expressed his admiration for the Republican presidential frontrunner. According to different translations, Putin called him “bright” or “colorful,” and “talented, without any question. He also said he was “the absolute leader in the presidential race” and welcomed future cooperation. During the press conference, he also repeated his call to award embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter a Nobel prize.

On Turkey:

After the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in November, the president had some strong words for Syria’s neighbor. “Today’s loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists. I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else,” Putin said. During his annual news conference he also said that Turks “decided to lick the Americans in a certain place.”

On gay rights:

Russia is notorious for both officially sanctioned and everyday homophobia, but Putin doesn’t seem to see a problem. ”We have no persecution at all. People of non-traditional sexual orientation work, they live in peace, they get promoted, they get state awards for their achievements in science and arts or other areas. I personally have awarded them medals,” he told CBS’s Charlie Rose in September. He defended Russia’s anti “gay propaganda” law, saying that “we should leave kids in peace … I don’t see here any infringement on the rights of gay people.”

Earlier in the year, in a widely publicized prank, two Russian comedians called the pop singer and gay icon Elton John, pretending to be Putin, saying that the leader wanted to talk about gay rights.

Eventually, Putin actually called the singer, and said, according to the president’s spokesman: “I know you were pranked by those telephone guys, don’t be offended by them, they’re harmless, but that of course doesn’t excuse them.”