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Highlights of Putin's Big Annual Press Conference 2014

© REUTERS / Maxim ZmeyevRussian President Vladimir Putin held the tenth annual press conference. The president talked about several important issues, including Ukraine, the fall of ruble, economic problems and relations with the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin held the tenth annual press conference. The president talked about several important issues, including Ukraine, the fall of ruble, economic problems and relations with the West. - Sputnik International
Russian President Vladimir Putin held the tenth annual press conference. The president talked about several important issues, including Ukraine, the fall of the ruble and economic problems, intensifying relations with the West, Russia's military budget, a little about his personal life and possible future presidential aspirations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during the press conference on December 20, 2012. - Sputnik International
Live Report: Putin’s Annual Big Press Conference
MOSCOW, December 18 (Sputnik) — Russian President Vladimir Putin held the tenth annual press conference earlier today. During the session, Putin discussed important issues that Russia is currently facing: the situation in Ukraine, the fall of the ruble and economic problems, as well as intensifying relations with the West.

On Ukraine:

The residents of the self-proclaimed eastern Ukrainian republics have the right to decide their future under the internationally accepted right of people to self-determination. “We must follow the general principles of the international law, and the people of Novorossiya have the right to decide their own fate,” Putin said.

The economic blockade of Ukraine's eastern regions is an absolutely futile and counterproductive path for the country's statehood.

Putin believes Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is willing to restore peace in his country, but a numer of other senior officials oppose the idea. “Naturally, the president of Ukraine wants to settle [the crisis], I have no doubts of his determination to do that. But he is not the only one [political force] there," Putin told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow - Sputnik International
Putin: People of East Ukraine Should Be Allowed to Decide Their Own Future
The planned "all-for-all" prisoner swap between the Ukrainian government in Kiev and eastern Ukraine was broken by Kiev. "Yesterday there was an agreement on swapping 30 individuals. Representatives from the militia went to the swapping area and an official representative from Kiev showed up and said: "No, we're not going to swap until the next meeting in Minsk," Putin said.

Putin said the appropriate path to settling the Ukrainian crisis was to stop building walls and start building a common humanitarian space.

Putin said Russia's position regarding the Ukrainian crisis was right, while the Western position was wrong. The West has accused Moscow of meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs after the government coup in Kiev. A number of countries have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in Ukraine’s internal affairs and underlined the importance of allowing Donbas residents to be heard, calling on Kiev to establish political dialogue with the breakaway regions.

On Economy:

Tenth annual major news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin - Sputnik International
Putin: Central Bank Key Rate Increased to Sustain Macro-Economic Stability
The current downturn in the Russian economy is provoked by external factors, mainly the slump in global oil prices. Russia's budget, which is largely dependent on energy exports, is currently suffering from the sharp decline in oil prices. The Russian economy is now facing a backlash from Western sanctions that were imposed on Moscow due to its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, although Moscow has repeatedly denied such claims.

The Economic situation in Russia may start improving already in the first quarter of 2015. “I said that even given the most unfavorable internal market condition this situation may last for about two years … But the situation may start improving even earlier … in the first, second quarter, in mid-2015 or at the end of the next year. No one can say for sure,” Putin said during a press conference.

The Russian economic recovery will take two years at worst. “If the situation takes a negative turn, then we will have to introduce some amendments to our plans. Naturally, something will have to be trimmed. However, I would like to stress that a “positive rebound,” as experts call it, and subsequent growth are inevitable under present circumstances,” the Russian leader told reporters.

On the Ruble and Central Bank:

Putin expressed hope that the ruble would continue to strengthen again foreign currencies. The Russian authorities are planning a series of measures that proved successful back in 2008.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow - Sputnik International
Putin Hopes Ruble to Keep Strengthening
Putin also urged the Central Bank to act faster in order to overcome the current economic slowdown. “Their actions need to be coordinated, collective and prudent, but without interference into the Central Bank or the government’s sphere of competence. Nevertheless, there must be coordination and it must be timely,” Putin said.

Russia’s Central Bank needs to hike key rates in order to stabilize the country’s macroeconomy. In an effort to halt the devaluation of the national currency the Russian Central Bank on Monday raised its key interest rate from 10.5 percent to 17 percent.

Relations With the West:

Abrams tanks with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division - Sputnik International
US Plans to Deploy 150 Tanks in Eastern Europe
Putin thinks the West considers itself an empire and sees other regions as its vassals, who must be oppressed. "They [the West] will always try to chain the bear", said Putin.

Putin said Russia was not attacking the West politically, but only protecting its own national interests. "The problem of modern international relations," he believes, "is that our [Russia's] partners refuse to stop; they think they have won."

Russia is willing to develop cooperation with the West, but on an equal basis and only if its national interests are respected. “Do we want relations on an equal basis? Yes, we do, but on the condition that our national interests are respected, in the sphere of security and in the sphere of economy,” the Russian leader said.

On Issues of Gas:

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow - Sputnik International
Putin: Russia Is Europe’s Only Reliable Supplier of Cheap Gas
The contract for the delivery of Russian gas to China is not detrimental for any side, even despite mutual discounts, Putin said. The president did not specify the details of the discounts, but stressed that the project turned out to be "undoubtedly profitable" for both Beijing and Moscow.

Putin said there was a possibility of creating a European gas hub on the Turkey-Greece border and it would depend on the European Union’s will. Russia is ready to work in this direction.

President Putin stressed that Russia is the only reliable gas supplier to Europe.

On Extrajudicial Executions:

Although relatives of terrorists could be aware of their plans, this does not give anyone, including the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, the right for extrajudicial executions. Everyone living in Russia must comply with the existing laws and nobody should be considered guilty, unless the court rules so, Putin said.

On Opposition:

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow - Sputnik International
Putin Defines Difference Between Opposition, Fifth Column
Putin said there was a fine line between the political opposition and the so-called fifth column, a group that operates in the interests of foreign governments. "An opposition figure, even if he’s very harsh, in the end he fights for the interests of his motherland, but the ‘fifth column’ represents people who fulfill what is dictated to them in the interests of another government and they are used as an instrument to reach political goals that are foreign to us,” Putin said.

According to Putin, the Russian government does not repress people who are against its policies. “I would like to assure you that there is no organization or any sort of repression against people who don’t agree with our actions, for example in Ukraine, Crimea, or any other external issues, no one from  official government organs do this,” Putin said.

On Military Budget and External Threats:

The Russian Defense Ministry’s budget will increase to $50 billion in 2015. “The Defense Ministry’s budget has grown for next year to about $50 billion, but the Pentagon’s budget is almost 10 times higher, about $575 billion,” Putin said.

Tenth annual major news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin - Sputnik International
Putin: Russia's Defense Ministry Budget to Grow to $50 Billion in 2015
Russia has only two military bases abroad, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Washington's planned deployment of US missile defense elements in Europe threatens Russia. “They have been deploying strategic missile defense elements not only on Alaska, but also in Europe, in Poland and Romania, right at our borders,” Putin said.

Russia is worried about Washington's plans to install an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense complex in Romania by 2015, and a similar system in Poland by 2018. Putin urged the international community to address this issue.

On His Private Life:

Putin assured that his private life was fine. "Everything is fine, don’t worry," Putin said. In 2013, Putin and his wife Lyudmila announced a decision to terminate their marriage, attributing the outcome to the pressure created by constant public attention.

On Khodorkovsky:

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pardoned in December 2013 for 'humanitairan reasons'. - Sputnik International
Putin: Khodorkovsky Pardoned for 'Humanitarian' Reasons
Putin said former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pardoned in December 2013 for "humanitairan reasons," and that he now has the right to engage in politics, including running for senior positions. Just like any other Russian citizen, Khodorkovsky has the right to engage in politics if he is willing to do so, Putin said.

Khodorkovsky, who was arrested on October 25, 2003, spent ten years in prison for fraud and tax evasion until he was pardoned this year. The former energy magnate has since relaunched his "Open Russia" foundation to push for political reforms in Russia.

On Georgia:

Russia is ready to further liberalize its market for Georgian goods, Putin said.

Putin said he would be glad to meet with senior Georgian officials in Moscow. "If the Georgian leadership believes it is possible, we will be ready to meet any representative of the Georgian leadership, including the president and the prime minister, here in Moscow," Putin said.

On Iran:

The talks between Tehran and the group of six international mediators on Iran's nuclear program look very promising as the sides continue bridging their differences, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday. - Sputnik International
Iran Nuclear Talks Look Promising: Russian Deputy FM
Putin said he might visit the Iranian capital Tehran. The issue is currently being discussed through diplomatic channels.

According to Putin, Iranian leaders are demonstrating considerable flexibility and the issue with the country's nuclear development will soon be settled.

On Possibility of Next Presidential Term:

Putin said it was too early for him to decide whether to run for another term in office. Putin also mentioned he took full responsibility for everything that was happening in the country.

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