It is an event which has no rival worldwide: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference. It is the 10th time he has held the question and answer session. The questions, which were not censored, from the 1,259 journalists present included ones on Ukraine, the economy and international relations.
“Didn’t they tell us after the fall of the Berlin Wall that there will be no NATO expansion to the East? Yet it started immediately after that. Two waves of NATO expansion. Isn’t that a wall? OK, they didn’t dig trenches, but this wall is a virtual one, and they started creating it,” said Putin.
“How about the anti-missile defense system near Russia’s borders? Isn’t that a wall as well? You have to understand that they (West) didn’t stop (after the Berlin Wall). This is the most important problem for today’s international relations. Our partners didn’t stop, they decided that they are the winners, that they are the new Empire and all the rest are vassals who have to be pushed to the ground.”
Putin stressed what happened in Ukraine was a “coup d‘état, a forceful overthrowing of the regime rather than dialogue,” and dismissed suggestions Russia had carried out a “punitive operation.”
“What we see in the East of Ukraine is really a punitive operation, but it’s being conducted by today’s Kyiv authorities. I think that approach is totally counter-productive and harmful for Ukraine’s statehood and the fate of Ukrainian people.
“I hope that we will manage in the course of dialogue, and we (Russia) are prepared to be mediators in this process, to start the true political dialogue and achieve political settlement up to the rebuilding of political unity of Ukraine,” he responded to one question.
A government minister had, in advance of Putin meeting the press, said “a perfect storm” was hitting the Russian economy. The president said the central bank and government were taking adequate measures, the economy would grow.
“The rebound into positive figures with subsequent growth is inevitable. There are at least two reasons for that: firstly, the growth of the global economy will continue, even if the rate of growth will not be high. So the global economy will grow, and our economy will come out of today’s troubles. How much time will it take? In the worst-case scenario, I think around two years and, I repeat, after that the growth is inevitable, but within those two years, I have no doubt about that, we will manage to do a lot to diversify our economy,” he said.
Russians had voted their President the Man of the Year for a fifteenth time and had seen and heard him in positive mood when facing the press.