Putin live Q&A
Putin addresses the audience in a live Q&A today, in which he spoke of Ukraine, the economy, and the West.Getty

Ukraine, the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and the price of milk were among the subjects addressed by Vladimir Putin on 16 April in a marathon live phone-in with the Russian public.

The lavishly produced event, which draws a huge audience annually, lasted four hours, with selected Russians from all walks of life fielding questions to Putin on subjects ranging from geopolitics to agricultural policy.

On Ukraine, the Russian president denied recent reports that he had turned down an offer from Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to take Donbas in east Ukraine, which is contested by government forces and pro-Moscow rebels.

He accused Ukraine of forming an economic blockade around rebel-held areas. "We see a total blockade of Donbas. One can say that the current Ukrainian authorities are cutting off Donbas by their own hand. That is the problem and tragedy," Putin said, denying the Russians had sent troops to aid the rebels.

The Russian president defended his country's decision to end the self-imposed ban on sending S-300 missiles to Iran and warned Washington to treat Russia as an equal.

"The main condition is to have respect for Russia and its interests," he said, adding that the United States "doesn't need allies, they need vassals".

Despite tensions with the West rising to their worst point since the end of the Cold War, Putin said "we don't see anyone as enemy", adding "we don't recommend anyone to see us as enemy".

Putin's perspective on sanctions

In response to the Ukraine crisis, the West imposed economic sanctions on Russia, which led to the collapse of the ruble and fears of economic meltdown.

Putin said that though the sanctions were not likely to be lifted soon, the ruble's recovery was a sign of renewed investor confidence.

"If we preserve a stable situation in domestic politics, preserve the current consolidation of society, we shouldn't fear any threats," he said.

He said the Russian economy would bounce back within two years and the agricultural sector was growing and replacing food imports from the West.

One questioner, a bearded and English-accented dairy farmer introduced as "John", believed to be UK man John Kopiski who emigrated to Russia more than 15 years ago, said the statistics on agriculture cited by the Russian government were wrong.

Putin responded that he had no reason to disbelieve the statistics and that he would explore increasing government subsidies for farmers.

"You say everything is going well - sorry, that's not true," the farmer said. "I have five children... I need some assurance about their future in Russia. Do you believe the statistics or are they lying?"

On 27 February, Putin critic and former Russian deputy prime minister Nemtsov was shot dead walking across a Moscow bridge within sight of the Kremlin.

Putin described the murder as "tragic" and "shameful" and praised law enforcement for arresting the suspects quickly.

Two Chechens have been charged with the murder, with one claiming he was forced to confess under torture.