December 20, 2018 / 10:09 AM / 3 months ago

Highlights - Russian President Putin's end-of-year news conference

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual end-of-year news conference on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during annual news conference in Moscow, Russia December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

ON THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR

“If, God forbid, something like that were to happen, it would lead to the end of all civilisation and maybe also the planet... These are serious questions and it’s a real shame that there’s a tendency to underestimate them.”

“There are currently certain specifics, there is a danger... We are essentially witnessing the breakdown of the international order of arms control.”

“(The U.S.) took another step, they left the (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty... Let them not say afterwards that we were trying to achieve some sort of advantage. We are not aiming for an advantage, we are aiming to retain balance and to provide for our own safety.”

ON WESTERN SANCTIONS

    “Russia throughout almost all of its history has been under some sort of sanctions... This is to do with the growth of Russia’s power and its ability to compete. A new player has appeared which must be taken into consideration.”

    “Sanctions... are just a reason to constrain Russia’s progress.

    “Our economy has adapted to these external constraints... “

    “And look, there’s also some advantages to this sanctions story... It has forced us to switch on our brains in relation to many things... Agriculture has made a leap forward unlike anything else.

    “There are advantages and disadvantages. But either way, we would like the global economy to grow without any shocks or illegitimate actions.”

ON MARIA BUTINA AND SKRIPAL POISONING CASES

On Butina: “I don’t understand, what she is supposed to confess to. She did not carry out any orders from Russian security services. Clearly she and her lawyers are fighting to get her out of jail. I don’t understand why she was jailed, there are no foundations for it.”

On Skripals: “I don’t even have anything to say on this... It’s good that he wasn’t killed... Thank God, Skripal is alive.

“This politicised, Russophobic approach - it’s a reason, simply a reason to organise yet another attack on Russia. If there were no Skripals, they would have come up with something else, that’s clear to me. There’s only one goal: to constrain Russia’s growth as a possible competitor, I can see no other goals.

ON RUSSIAN CAPTURE OF UKRAINIAN SAILORS

“Provocations are always bad. A provocation is geared towards escalating the situation. Why do our Ukrainian partners need this development? They need to escalate the situation around the elections, to raise the rating of one candidate for the post. Did the provocation achieve its aims? In terms of raising ratings, maybe.”

“He achieved his aims, at the expense of (Ukraine’s) interests and I believe these are poor methods. (The sailors) were sent, and it was expected that one of them would die. And the fact that not one of them died was a great dissatisfaction in its ruling circles.”

“An investigation is ongoing. After the proceedings it will become clear, what will happen to (the sailors).”

ON THE ECONOMY

“Inflation remains at levels that we welcome... We will go outside the Central Bank’s 4 percent reference point somewhat.”

“We have the first net budget surplus since 2011.”

“Twelve national projects were created, a plan for developing infrastructure... (Though) it’s true that there are questions about the controls over how these are implemented.”

“If we don’t set ourselves ambitious goals, we won’t reach any of them at all.”

ON GROWTH

“We can’t create GDP growth for the breakthrough we need without changing the structure of our economy. That’s what our national goals are geared towards... to giving the economic structure an innovative character.”

“From 2021, the government is planning for 3 percent growth, even more perhaps.”

“We need to enter a new league of economies, not just in terms of scale... We need to enter a new league in terms of the quality of our economy, that’s what our national goals are geared towards.”

ON INFLATION

“I expect that this (the increase in prices) will be a one-off... Recently, they took a decision to increase the (key) rate by 0.25 basis points – there are pluses and minuses but this is done also to avoid increase in inflation and prices. So in general I think that the decision (VAT increase) was right, balanced, plus this gives additional budget revenues and possibilities to fulfil our development plans which are parts of our national goals”

ON INDUSTRY

“(Support for manufacturing) is not enough, that’s why we have created a whole host of programmes linked to supporting different industries… by 2024, this will consist of 1.367 trillion roubles.”

ON KURILS TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH JAPAN AND PROSPECT OF PEACE TREATY

“Questions of security are very important, including during the creation of peace treaties... (For example) the Okinawa American base has been there for decades now... We don’t understand the level of sovereignty Japan has when such decisions are made.

“I know that Okinawa’s governor is against several decisions about the strengthening and expanding of the base, but he can’t do anything about it.”

“What will happen after the peace agreement is signed, we don’t know. But without an answer to this question, it will be very difficult for us to take any major decisions.

“I am convinced - and Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe agrees - the current situation is not normal. Russia and Japan are both interested in the complete normalisation of our relations.”

Reporting by Moscow bureau

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