Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Putin holds his last landmark press conference in Moscow’s Kremlin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held his last press conference for home and foreign journalists in the Kremlin today, February 14. It became Putin’s seventh large press conference during his stay at power.

Traditionally, Putin’s press conference has no central theme. Putin answered questions on quite a number of issues pertaining to Russia’s home and foreign policies.

A record number of journalists have been accredited for Putin’s last press conference – 1,364 people. For comparison, only 400 reporters participated in the first presidential conference in 2001. The number of attendants last year was 1,232.

Foreign diplomats evinced their interest to be present at the conference too. The guest list includes embassy officials from the USA, France and Malaysia.

Each Putin’s press conference takes more and more time. In 2003 Putin was answering questions for 2 hours 40 minutes. In 2004, Putin talked to journalists for 3 hours 2 minutes. Last year, Putin answered questions from 65 journalists during 3 hours 32 minutes.

Answering questions about his political future, Putin said Thursday that he had no reservations about becoming prime minister under Russia's next president, saying the No. 2 post would give him sufficient power.

"The highest executive power in the country is the government of the Russian Federation," Putin said.

"I should not cry but be happy that I have the opportunity to work in another capacity, and in another capacity to serve my country. I will be involved in the same tasks as when I was president. I will continue working."

Putin noted that he himself has set the course for Russia's development through 2020.

"The premiership is not a transitional post," he said. "If I can see that in this capacity I can fulfill these goals, I will work as long as possible. There is no other answer."

"I was never tempted to stay for a third term. Never," he said. "From my first day of work as president I decided for myself that I would never violate the existing constitution," the AP quotes Putin as saying.

"Some are addicted to cigarettes, some, God forbid, to drugs, and some become addicted to money. They say that the worst addiction is to power. I have never felt that. I have never been addicted to anything," he said.

When asked about his personal fortune of billions of dollars that he had supposedly amassed during eight years in office, Putin said that it was “nonsense.”

"They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on paper," he said.

Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst with close Kremlin ties, has claimed that Putin effectively controls stakes in Russian oil and gas companies worth US$40 billion (EUR 27.42 billion). The stakes, he and others claim, are hidden behind a nontransparent network of offshore trusts.

If the claims were true, it would make Putin the richest man in Europe.

Instead, Putin said with a smile, "I am the richest man in Europe and in the whole world. I collect emotions from the people who chose me to rule the countrie twice. The overwhelming support of the Russian people is my greatest wealth."

Speaking of Russia’s security, Putin said that Russia would have to target its missiles against Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic if USA deploys elements of its missile defense system in those countries.

“Our experts believe that the system threatens our national security. If it appears, we will have to react adequately. We will probably have to retarget our missiles against those objects which threaten our security. We are not building those objects in the end,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said recognizing an independence declaration by Kosovo would be "immoral and illegal," and that European countries supporting the region's bid to break away from Serbia should be "ashamed" of double standards.

"I will yet again emphasize that we consider that unilateral support for independence for Kosovo is immoral and illegal," Putin told an annual news conference in the Kremlin, days before the expected independence declaration by the province's ethnic Albanian leadership.

"I don't want say anything that would offend anyone, but for 40 years northern Cyprus has practically had independence," Putin said. "Why aren't you recognizing that? Aren't you ashamed, Europeans, for having these double standards?"

Putin lashed out at an international vote monitoring group that refused to send observers to Russia's March 2 presidential election, saying Moscow would not give in to outside pressure.

Russia is fulfilling its obligations as member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Putin said, but he accused groups within the OSCE of trying to "teach" Russia how to behave, the AP reports.

"Let them teach their wives to make cabbage soup," he said.

The OSCE's Office for Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights said this month it would not send observers to the vote, accusing Russia of setting restrictions that would prevent it from conducting an effective monitoring mission. The OSCE's parliamentary assembly is also staying away from the vote.

Putin said the groups had no right to make demands about the length or size of their missions.

"We will not let anyone force any conditions on us," he said.

Asking another question, a journalist said that the West treats Russia suspiciously and without proper respect. Putin said that he was certain of the West’s positive attitude to Russia.

“They treat Russia well. If someone writes something bad or organizes an anti-Russian campaign it does not mean that the people of that country treat Russia badly. Certain political centers try to exert influence on Russia with the help of mass media, but those attempts are taken to no avail,” he said.

Prepared by Dmitry Sudakov