Putin says economy to rebound, wants end to Ukraine crisis – Reuters

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-year news conference on Thursday. Below are some of his comments.

UKRAINE

“We think the crisis should be solved, the sooner the better.”

“It should be solved through political measures, not with the pressure … of an economic blockade or the use of armed forces.”

“We assume a general political space will be re-established. It’s hard to say now what it would be. But it seems this is what we should aim at. Both sides (of the conflict) should aim at that – both.”

“People living in southeast Ukraine should be respected.”

“In our view, this really is a punitive operation carried out by Kiev (in east Ukraine).”

NATO

“Didn’t they tell us after the collapse of the Berlin wall that NATO would not expand eastwards? But it happened immediately.”

ECONOMY

“Clearly the current situation is caused mainly by external factors.”

“External economic factors are having an impact, mainly the price of oil and gas. I think the central bank and the government are taking adequate measures.”

“If the situation develops unfavorably, we will have to amend our plans. Beyond a doubt, we will have to cut some (spending). But a positive turn and an exit from the current situation are inevitable.”

“The growth of the global economy will continue and our economy will rebound from the current situation.”

“Under the most unfavorable external economic scenario, this situation may go on for about two years. But it may also start improving in the first quarter, in the middle, at the end of the next year.”

“One way or another the economy will adapt to living and working with low energy prices.”

“Gross domestic product growth in the first ten months of this year stood at 0.7 percent, maybe 0.6 percent.”

“Current external conditions are spurring us on, will make us more effective, switch us to a path of more innovative development.”

“We must guarantee private property, stop chasing people with the help of law enforcement bodies.”

BUDGET

“It’s certain that the budget will have a surplus.”

“Despite all the turbulence on the financial market, the federal budget will be executed with a surplus this year, that is revenue will be higher than spending by some 1.2 trillion rubles, roughly 1.9 percent of GDP.”

CENTRAL BANK AND RATES

“I think some actions could have been taken more swiftly.”

“I hope the main interest rate will not remain (at its current level) throughout these difficult times which are related to external economic conditions.”

“Surely, one can give a hard time to (central bank chief) Nabiullina, but one should remember that, in general, their policies are adequate. The central bank is not the only one to be held responsible for the current situation in the country.”

(On foreign exchange interventions): “The central bank stopped and was right to do so. Maybe they should have done it sooner … maybe then they would not have had to raise the (main) rate to 17 percent.”

EXPORTERS

“We should work with exporters who have very large foreign currency revenues.”

Asked whether exporters might be told to sell foreign-currency earnings to support the rouble: “As far as I know the central bank is not planning – and neither is the government – to limit exporters along these lines. And this is right.”

GOVERNMENT

“The government should also be taking measures… Gasoline prices, food prices, we should deal with that.”

REPRISALS IN CHECHNYA AFTER A RECENT ATTACK

“As a general rule, relatives of people who commit terrorist acts know about it, at least in the vast majority of cases. But that does not give anyone, including the head of Chechnya, the right to extrajudicial reprisals.”

SUPPORT

“There is no stronger base than the support of the Russian people … There is such support for the main direction of our foreign and domestic policy. The people feel that we are acting in the interest of the vast majority of Russian citizens.”

(Reporting by Moscow newsroom, complied by Gabriela Baczynska,)

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