Speaking at an annual end-of-year news conference yesterday, Putin said the Russian economy is expected to shrink by 0.6-0.7 per cent this year – a much smaller decline compared to 2015 when it contracted by 3.7 percent.
Russia is enduring a deep recession in the wake of Western sanctions and the sharp drop in oil prices.
Putin said some sectors have posted growth this year, showing that the Russian economy is on the mend.
Despite the economic backdrop, Putin said hard currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank increased this year, from $368 billion (£300) to about $385bn.
He also praised US President-elect Donald Trump for “keenly” feeling public sentiment to win the election and denied the White House’s claims of Russia’s meddling in the vote.
Speaking during a marathon end-of-year news conference that was televised live, Putin said he sees “nothing unusual” in Trump’s pledge to strengthen the US nuclear forces, calling the statement in line with the president-elect’s campaign promises. In his wide-ranging remarks, the Russian leader claimed Russia’s military is stronger than any aggressor, but acknowledged the US military is bigger. He also cast the modernisation of Russian nuclear arsenals as a necessary response to the US missile defence system.
“It’s not us who have been speeding up the arms race,” Putin said, claiming that Russian military’s nuclear missiles can penetrate any missile defence. On the US election, Putin described Obama’s accusations of Russian hacking into Democratic leaders’ e-mails as an attempt to shift the blame for Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Asked how he responded to Obama’s accusations when he brought them up in their conversation, Putin said he wouldn’t divulge details. He shrugged off Washington’s claims of the hackers’ Russian affiliation, saying they could be based elsewhere.
“The most important thing is the substance of the information the hackers have uncovered,” Putin said, adding the Democrats should have apologised to the Americans over the “manipulations” the e-mails revealed.
In response to Obama’s comment “Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave” on seeing poll results showing over one-third of Republicans view Putin favourably, he said Reagan would be happy to see his party win.”