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Main points of Putin's annual Q&A session

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a live televised question and answer session with the Russian public on Thursday, his first as premier and leader of the ruling pro-presidential United Russia party.

MOSCOW, December 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a live televised question and answer session with the Russian public on Thursday, his first as premier and leader of the ruling pro-presidential United Russia party.

Putin, who became the leader of the United Russia party in May after stepping down as president, held six live televised question and answer sessions as head of state.

During his latest televised session held in Gostiny Dvor, an exhibition center in downtown Moscow which hosts United Russia party congresses, Putin answered 80 questions in 3 hours and 8 minutes, beating the previous record of 3 hours and 5 minutes.

Russians in 13 cities and 8 regions were able to send questions for the prime minister by telephone, on line and via text messages.

The Russian prime minister said:

Foreign policy

- he expects positive changes in relations between Moscow and Washington under Barack Obama, who is to be inaugurated as president in January

- progress has been reached on the two key disputes in Russia-U.S. relations - Washington's plans for a missile shield in Central Europe, and NATO's expansion plans

- Russia could reduce natural gas supplies to Ukraine if the country fails to pay its debts

- Russia is ready to do everything to develop cooperation with Ukraine but relations between Moscow and Kiev should be fair and "market-based"

- he hopes that new EU member states will understand the need to look to the future and not stick to the past in their relations with Russia

- joint work between Russia and the EU in the economic sphere will increase transparency and stability of both the Russian and European economies

- Georgia's attack on South Ossetia ended any chance the South Caucasus state had of bringing its rebel republics back under central control

- Georgians should decide themselves on punishment for the country's leadership that started the August conflict in South Ossetia

- Russia sees no need to establish permanent military bases in Venezuela or Cuba, but could use their military infrastructure

- the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to grant Russia the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will not be reviewed


- Russia has a strong chance of surviving the crisis with minimum losses

- Russian authorities will prevent sharp fluctuations in the ruble exchange rate

- there will not be a ruble devaluation

- Russia will see GDP growth of 6.8-6.9%, industrial production growth of 4.8%, and 13% inflation in 2008

- the Russian state will acquire large stakes in major companies in a bid to support them, but ruled out nationalization

- the 5 trillion rubles ($179 billion) allocated to prop up the banking sector amid the financial crisis is insufficient to stabilize the economy

- the Russian government may demand that monopolies reduce rises in tariffs

- Russia's government may demand that natural monopolies, including energy giant Gazprom and Russian Railways, reduce prices

- the Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending must provide banks with guarantees to solve the problem of mortgage payments

- Russia's government has no plans to toughen liberal regulations on currency and money flows


- extending the presidential term from four to six years is reasonable

- he will think about running for president again and make a decision by 2012

- he considers the power tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev "very effective"

- he has no plans to resign and there are no reasons for any government reshuffle

Social policy

- unemployment will grow from the current 1.7 million to 2 million, and pledged federal funds of $358 million to $1.8 billion to help tackle the problem

- labor quotas for foreign workers in Russia should be halved in 2009 amid the ongoing global financial crisis

- Russia's authorities are committed to increasing salaries and social payments

- Russia's employment services should set up special funds to provide assistance to Russians made redundant, adding that up to 50 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) is to be allocated for this purpose

- the state will pay maternity allowances for the birth of two or more children in advance next year and the money may be used to pay mortgages

- Russia's birth rate has reached around 7% in 2008, the highest for 15 years

- Russia has no plans to increase the retirement age

Armed Forces

- Russia's authorities have no plans to increase the length of military conscription, which is currently 12 months

- Russia's reforms to cut military personnel will be gradual and will not affect Russia's defense capability

Answering his last question "What does he like the best of all?" Putin said: "Russia."  (FULL TEXT)

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