MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir V. Putin countered tough questions Thursday about a proposal to ban U.S. adoptions of Russian children by directing harsh criticism at the U.S. government, but he refused to say clearly whether he would approve the legislation.
The proposal, which lawmakers say will be on his desk within a week, is a retaliation for a new U.S. law that takes action against Russian human-rights violators. Putin - who appears caught between the actions of hot-headed allies in parliament and members of his cabinet who say the ban would penalize Russian children while doing little to strike back at U.S. lawmakers - called it "an emotional response" but said it was "appropriate."
"Will I sign it or not? I need to look" at the specific language, he said. "Maybe today or tomorrow, I'll try to do it."
During the course of a marathon 41/2-hour news conference that was broadcast live, Putin faced unusually pointed questions intermingled with softballs from friendly reporters from Russia's more remote regions. The president has made a year-end tradition of the question-and-answer sessions, which have in the past allowed him to portray himself as a hard-edged, detail-oriented manager, equally comfortable reeling off economic statistics and demonstrating his familiarity with fishing, railway, and housing matters across the vast country's nine time zones.