Two weeks after his Annual Address to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a large press conference with journalists in Moscow on December 19. This conference became Putin's tenth.
Traditionally, Putin started his press conference with brief information about the results of the work of the Russian administration in the outgoing year. According to Putin, foreign currency may continue to rise against the Russian ruble. Therefore, it is possible that one will have to cut spending, although it will not stop the Russian economy from growing. The growth of the Russian economy is inevitable, Putin said. Russia will need two years to overcome the current crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
In his opening speech, Putin also said that the federal budget for 2015 would be drawn up with surplus, that is, revenues would exceed costs. The budget profit will amount to 1.2 trillion rubles - 1.9 percent of GDP. "It will be a surplus budget, that's for certain," the Russian President said.
"Of course, the current situation has been provoked by external factors, but we proceed from the fact that we have not done much," Putin said. "Today, the situation has changed," said Putin. According to him, the Central Bank and the government "take appropriate measures." There are questions regarding the timeliness and quality of the measures, but in general, they are adequate measures," Putin said.
Vladimir Putin's press conference started with a question about the deep currency, financial and economic crisis that Russia is experiencing at the moment.
"This situation may last for two years," the president suggested, noting that there are many factors that are difficult to predict. At the same time, Putin said that he would not call the current situation a "crisis."
The president believes that the decrease in foreign exchange rate against the Russian ruble will continue. "I hope that today's and yesterday's decline in foreign exchange rates and the growth of the value of the ruble will continue," Putin said at the press conference.
Putin admitted that oil prices may continue to slide further. He also admitted that this may affect the Russian ruble and other economic indicators, including inflation.
When asked whether Russia could escape from oil dependence and use the current crisis to Russia's economic advantage, Putin noted that one could obtain this confidence through insurance. "Insurance is the reserve fund," he said.
According to Putin, the problem is not about bureaucracy. External economic environment prompts investing in the energy sector. The government is trying to create more favorable conditions for business to create real production. This is a complex problem, Putin said, because when one invests money in energy, one gets quick and big money in return.
"The things that have been happening in the Russian economy lately - are they the price that we have to pay for the Crimea?" a First Channel journalist asked Putin.
"This is not about the Crimea. This is the price that we pay to protect our natural wish to survive as a nation, as a civilization, as a state," said Putin. "This is not about the Crimea. We are defending our independence and our sovereignty."
An NTV correspondent noted that the world has recently celebrated the 25th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall, although there is already a new wall being built now. The journalist wondered if it could be possible for Russia to restore dialogue with the West.
"Now is not the time when this construction began," said Putin. According to him, it is the deployment of the missile defense system that appears to be the new wall. "Our partners did not stop, they decided that they were the Empire. They did not stop and started building the wall, despite all our attempts to work without dividing lines. Our tough stance on events, including on Ukraine, should make it clear to our Western colleagues that one must work without walls," said Putin.
Putin stressed out that "after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we became absolutely open to our partners." "In response, we saw the support to terrorism in the Northern Caucasus." Do you think that partners do that? I will not go into detail, but these are the facts, and everyone knows them," said Putin.
Speaking about the relations between Russia and the West, President Putin resorted to the image of the Russian bear, recalled the claims from Western officials about Siberia and reminded everyone about the annexation of Texas in the 19th century.
"No matter what we may be doing, we always come across problems, opposition and struggle against us. Endlessly. I have resorted to this comparison during the discussion of the Valdai Club - the comparison with the bear. If they let our bear sit quietly, maybe they will leave it alone? No, they won't. They will always be trying to chain the Russian bear. As soon as it happens, they will de-claw and de-tooth him and then make a stuffed animal from him. They'll skin the bear and hang his skin on the wall. Then they will go to his taiga. We've already heard statements from Western officials, who said that it was unfair when Russia owned Siberia. Snatching up Texas from Mexico - was that fair?" said Putin. Noteworthy, the USA annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845, when it became the 28th state.
A Ukrainian reporter, a representative of the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency, asked Putin, under which conditions he was going to release Ukrainian pilot Savchenko, Ukrainian director Sentsov and about 30 Ukrainian prisoners who currently remain in detention centers in the Russian Federation.
Putin responded that Ukrainian pilot Savchenko would be immediately released, if it was proved that she was not guilty of incriminated crimes. Having reminded of the death of Russian journalists in the south-east of Ukraine, the Russian President stressed out that Ms. Savchenko was involved in those murders. "If it turns out that she is guilty, that she was involved in those murders, then the Russian court will decide accordingly, and she will serve sentence in accordance with the court ruling," Putin stated.
"Here, in this auditorium, there are colleagues of those journalists, who died performing their duties in the south-east of Ukraine. These people did not take part in any military operations on either side, they were unarmed. It is the duty of all state structures, including the military, to protect their lives and health, to enable them to do their job to spread objective information, at least as they see it. "Those people were killed," Putin said.
"In Russia, the president is responsible for everything, - he continued. - As for the military, the president is responsible for them too, as the commander-in-chief. As for the "punitive operation," it is the Ukrainian military that conduct the punitive operation there, with the use of multiple rocket launchers," Vladimir Putin stated.
"In our public consciousness, what is happening in the south-east of Ukraine is indeed a punitive operation, but it is being conducted by the Kiev authorities, not vice versa ," said Putin.
"It was not the militia from the southeast that sent their units to Kiev, but, on the contrary, it was the Kiev authorities that sent armed forces to the southeast, using multiple rocket launchers, artillery and combat aircraft," said the president.
"We believe that the crisis in Ukraine should be resolved peacefully," said Putin. "We will be helping people the way we are doing it now, but we must proceed from the principles of international law," Putin said.
"We believe that common political space will be restored," the president said. It is both sides that must have this objective, not one, he added.
"I was one of the initiators of the meeting in Minsk," Putin said explaining the importance of the Minks agreements. "Certainly, the president of Ukraine wants to settle the conflict," Putin said, noting that there were officials in Ukraine, who already call to fight till the end.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he did not regret his decision to pardon Yukos former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
"I do not regret anything, and I think that it was an absolutely right thing to do," Putin said. The president said that he had made the decision for humanitarian reasons." "He was writing then that his mother was very sick. You know, mother is a holy cause, I'm saying this without any irony. He had served most of the sentence, so what was the point to keep the man there, I mean he may not have had an opportunity to say goodbye to his mother," said Putin.
According to Putin, what Khodorkovsky is doing now in politics is his personal choice.
"We have achieved everything that we wanted and even more from the Olympic Games in Sochi. First of all, this is a victory of Russian Olympic and Paralympic athletes. They are heroes." In addition, according to Putin, the Olympic objects in Sochi remain in use. According to him, in some countries, where the Olympics were held, such objects were abandoned. "In Russia, we conducted Formula 1 in Sochi in October, and the World Chess Championship in November," he said. "We - the Russians - now have a year-round ski and rehabilitation center," Putin added.
As for the World Football Championship (World Cup) to be held in Russia in 2018, the Russian president considers this event a very important one. "Thanks to such events, more and more children will be doing sports."
A journalist of "Rain" TV channel asked Vladimir Putin about the current events in Chechnya. The head of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, after a terrorist attack in Grozny on December 4, when 14 police officers were killed, vowed to deport relatives of the terrorists from the republic and bulldoze their houses to the ground. This was an unconstitutional statement, the journalist said.
"In Russia, all must obey the law, and no one shall be considered guilty until it is established so at court. No one, including the head of Chechnya, has the right to apply pre-trial punishment," said the president of the Russian Federation. "Those statements were emotional, he had no right to say that," Putin said.
Another journalist asked Putin about mortgage loans under the condition of the current economic crisis in Russia. The journalist, who was from Voronezh, also wondered about Putin's private life. "All is fine in my personal life," Putin said. The president added that he often sees his ex-wife, Lyudmila Putin, and his daughters, although he would like to see them more often than he can.
"As for mortgage, this is a very serious issue indeed," said Putin. According to him, with the key rate of the Central Bank of 17 percent, developing mortgage lending is difficult, "if at all possible." Prior to the difficult economic situation, mortgage was developing rapidly, Putin said. The president said that the Central Bank had raised its key interest rate before, but as, the president stressed, mortgage lending was developing, and banks were not increasing the level of mortgage loans. In this regard, Putin expressed a hope that credit institutions will act similarly now too.
Responding to a question from a journalist from Vyatka, Vladimir Mamatov, who asked Putin about the development of the domestic brewing industry, Putin created a relaxed atmosphere in the room. The journalist appeared to be drunk, as he was speaking in a funny way. Putin assumed that the journalist had had a shot before the conference. The reporter answered that he wanted to treat Putin some high-quality kvass that they make in Vyatka, but security did not let him bring anything. People in the audience were giggling as the journalist was speaking. Later it turned out, though, that Vladimir Mamatov, the journalist, had suffered two strokes and a cranial injury, which explains his manner of speech. Putin obviously did not know that. Noteworthy, Mamatov gained Putin's attention and obtained the chance to speak to the president holding up a sign of a reporter from Turkey.
"The fact that we have our own national non-alcoholic drinks is wonderful! - Putin said. - This should be promoted.. Yet, one must not do it directively, driving existing investors out. But we can help you win the Russian national market that belongs to you," Putin said.