On a hot September day, 12 years ago, Andrei Tsybenko was ushered into a stuffy back room at the CNN studio in New York.
He had stayed up working past midnight the day before, and now the task before him, as he tried to orient himself among the mess of wires on the floor, was to introduce the English-speaking world to Russia's new ruler.
For the next 60 minutes, Tsybenko was the English voice of Vladimir Putin as the new president answered Larry King's questions about his KGB career and the sinking of the Kursk submarine.
"He was forced to answer and I had to, for the whole world, talk precisely about very slippery topics," Tsybenko said Wednesday at a Kremlin event for International Translation Day, to occur Sunday.
"It was necessary to show the whole world that a new leader had arrived, and it was necessary to explain who Mr. Putin was," he added.
Having served as a presidential interpreter under Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Tsybenko recently left the job in favor of an advisory post at the Russian Embassy in Madagascar. His departure leaves behind questions about the succession of skilled political interpreters.
University officials say incoming linguistic students do not have the same skill set as previous generations, even though simultaneous interpreters in Moscow can make 15,000 to 30,000 rubles ($500 to $1,000) a day.
The Moscow Times