Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will seek a new term in office in a March election and stand as an independent candidate while hoping for support from more than one political party.
Speaking at an end of year news conference, Putin insisted Russia's political system must be competitive, but the opposition lacked a strong candidate to challenge him because his opponents, while creating a lot of noise, had very little to offer the nation.
The president also addressed the issue of Russia’s relations with the US and stressed Moscow would pay proper attention to the development of its army and navy, but would not be dragged into a new arms race with the United States.
On the question of North Korea, Putin said he hoped to work with Washington, but the consequences of a strike on Pyongyang would be catastrophic.
The president declined to comment on US President Donald Trump’s record since his election saying it was up to the American people to judge the work of the president. Although he claimed Trump had pulled off some major accomplishments most notably with the economy.
He denounced as “invention” alleged claims that Russia had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. And claimed that "spymania" had been artificially whipped up between Russia and the United States, and that eventually relations between the two countries would get back to normal. He said that contacts between Russian officials and members of Trump's team during his election campaign had been routine, but had been twisted by Trump's opponents.
Referring to the situation in Ukraine, Putin said the pro-Western government in Kiev was hindering the Minsk process, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict over eastern Ukraine, and blocking efforts to broker a prisoner swap.