Russian President Vladimir Putin was not able to open his annual address to parliament with news that a terrorist attack in Chechnya was over, but he did tell the audience Russia had overcome all the challenges it had faced over the last year.
As expected, the early part of the speech focussed mostly on Ukraine, sanctions, and Russia’s international relations.
Sanctions, Putin claimed, had provided a stimulus to Russia to improve its economy, and he shrugged off their effects, as he did Western and Ukrainian claims that the crisis there was inflamed and fanned by Russia,
He repeated his and many Russians’ belief that Ukrainian and Russian history are inevitably inseparable, yet insisted all former Soviet republics were free to determine their own destinies.
He concluded on economics, proposing a four-year tax freeze, SME tax breaks, and an amnesty for returning capital if invested in Russian companies.
He also warned that the central bank would get very tough on foreign currency speculators, and that the national wealth fund that had set aside money to plug possible holes in pensions would be raided to support the banks.