Defending and explaining – the Russian president has fronted up to reporters in Moscow for his traditional end of year media conference.
In front of almost 700 journalists invited to the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin answered questions about the oil giant Yukos, the crisis in Ukraine, and political change in other former soviet nations. He strongly defended the state’s takeover of the stricken oil giant Yukos’s main production unit. He said: “In my opinion everything was done within the framework of market rules. Like I told you at the press conference in Germany all state companies which are 100 per cent owned by the state can, like any other company, participate in this kind of auction. They just exercised their own right”. Putin was asked for his reaction to comments from Ukraine’s opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko that his first visit, if elected president, will be to Moscow. “We will welcome whatever decision is made and we are going to work with the new president of Ukraine. “But we want to emphasise that we hope that in Yushchenko’s team there are not going to be people who build up their political ambition on the basis of anti-russian slogans or zionist slogans,” he said. Russian media later corrected Putin’s last words, replacing zionist with anti-semitic. Another journalist called on the president to comment on the political changes in former soviet states. “Of course we need to pay attention, to help democratic processes, but if people choose to go down the road of permanent revolution, nothing good will come of that for the nations concerned. That would result in eternal conflict for the whole ex-USSR territory. Doing that would lead to very serious problems.” President Putin also again ruled out running for a third term in the Kremlin, promising to organise presidential elections in 2008 in what he called a “proper democratic way”.