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Putin talks economy at major press conference
December 21, 2012, 10:01 am

The Russian President at his annual press conference. [AP]

The Russian President at his annual press conference. [AP]

Vladimir Putin held a historic press conference at the World Trade Center in Moscow – the first time the annual conference has not been held in the Kremlin.

The President began the conference by reading out economic statistics, showing Russia’s good performance amid economic turbulence in the West.

“The growth of GDP – I have the data for January-October 2012 – 3.7 per cent” said the President.

“This is slightly lower than last year, when we had 4.3 per cent growth, but I want to point out that amid the recession in the Eurozone, slowing economic growth in the United States and even some scaling down in China, I consider this a good result overall.”

Over the past year Russia saw unemployment decrease, pensions and social sector wages rise, this would also be the trend for the next year, Putin said.

On top of that Putin highlighted that Russia’s national debt is at a very low level – about 10 per cent, of which the external debt makes up only 2.5 per cent.

“We have one of the best positions of all developed economies according to this indicator,” Putin said.

Over 1,000 Russian and 200 foreign journalists were accredited to cover the news conference.

In four hours and 32 minutes the President answered 60 questions and contrary to all rumours, Vladimir Putin was bright and cheerful.

The economic session was interrupted by questions on burning issues in the Russian society and the law banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

The State Duma adopted restrictive measures against US nationals who want to adopt Russian orphans; many believe this is a response to US Congress passing the Magnitsky Act.

That provoked outrage in different layers of the Russian society and even Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, has spoken out against the proposed ban.

However Putin has clearly backed the bill: “I understand that the State Duma’s response is emotional but I think it is adequate”.

On Russia’s longstanding support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Putin claimed that Russia’s only concern is to help mediate a peaceful solution.

“We are advocating a solution that would prevent the collapse of the region into continuous civil war…. Our goal is not to retain Assad and his regime,” Putin said.

Vladimir Putin has also offered ‘Green Card’ actor Gerard Depardieu a Russian passport.

“I understand the feelings of Gerard Depardieu, but even though he said… that he considers himself a European, a citizen of the world, I know for a fact, since we have a very friendly, personal relationship, that he considers himself a Frenchman,” Putin said.

The conference also had several hilarious moments that attracted wide media coverage.

Answering a question of a journalist from Vladivostok, Putin said, “Please, sit down, Masha” (Masha is a nickname for Maria), to which she replied, “Thank you, Vova” (Vova is a nickname for Vladimir).

Russian media experts suggested that the President was in good-humour but there were flashes of anger.

Daria Chernyshova