Putin talks ‘spy-mania’ before ‘curious bunch’ at marathon year-end presser

World Today

Thirteen is considered an unlucky number in Russian culture, but during his 13th annual press conference Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared confident.

Putin fielded questions from more than 1,600 Russian and foreign journalists on issues ranging from domestic policy to global affairs. The marathon year-end review session lasted nearly four hours.

CGTN breaks down some of the highlights.


On re-election bid Putin said he’ll run as an independent candidate in the 2018 election but he does need support from political parties. He made the remarks after a journalist asked him about the aim for the next presidential campaign.

The president said Russia’s political environment needs to be competitive and he’s worked to achieve a balanced political system. Putin declined to discuss the details of his election program during today’s press conference.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for his annual year-end press conference in Moscow. /CFP Photo

On Russia’s economy

The Russian president said the development of infrastructure, healthcare, education and technology is his priority. Putin said Russia’s economy is growing, with inflation and the deficit down. The inflation rate is at its lowest in modern history, he said.

Sanctions did not have as much of an impact as the falling oil price, but they were still felt.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of a joint press briefing in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, Saturday June 25, 2016. (Greg Baker/Pool via AP)

On China-Russia ties

Putin stressed the significance of China-Russia relations and said cooperation with China is “beyond any political agenda.”

He also extended his support of Chinese involvements in Russia’s major projects and said Russia is willing to take part in broader cooperation in Asia.

“China is part of some major projects in the Arctic. We’ve just launched the first stage of the Yamal gas project. China is a major investor,” Putin said, “We have another great project on high-speed transit. We support high-speed transit from China to Europe via Russia.”

He also said the strategic partnership between the two countries will remain and last for a long period of time regardless of next year’s presidential election.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit.

On relations with the U.S. and President Trump

“There are a lot of things which can unite Russia and the USA,” Putin said in regards to the relations between the two countries, adding that they share joint challenges, such as terrorism, environmental problems, and crises in different regions of the world, like in the Middle East and the DPRK.

He also said that it is obvious that U.S. President Donald Trump is not able to improve ties with Russia due to certain restrictions.

“It’s not for me to evaluate the president’s work. This needs to be done by the voter, the American people,” he said, adding the growing American market shows how investors trust “what he [Trump] is doing in his field.”

He criticized U.S. opposition for undermining Trump’s legitimacy.

“This has all been invented by the people who oppose Trump to give his work an illegitimate character. This is strange for me, to be absolutely honest with you. This is being done without understanding that by doing this, I mean, the people who do this, they are dealing a blow to the situation of the domestic politics in the country.”

Putin went on to say he hoped relations between Moscow and Washington would normalize soon but dismissed allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Our [former] ambassador [Sergei Kislyak] is being accused of having contacts [with the Trump campaign]. Is that banned? Why all the spy mania?” Putin said.

A general view of the LNG plant in Sabetta sea port at Yamal peninsula in Siberia, Russia./CFP Photo

On nuclear arms control treaties

Putin said Russia will not “quit anything” when asked about whether the new START treaty will survive. “We will take care of our security without entering into any arms race,” Putin said.

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia signed in Prague in 2010.

He cautioned the U.S. against unilaterally withdrawing from the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty). The pact limits U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads for each country. The treaty is set to expire in 2021, but the parties could agree to an extension.

Putin warned doing away with the treaty “would be very bad for international stability and security.”

This photo taken on November 29, 2017 and released on November 30, 2017 by the DPRK’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows launching of the Hwasong-15 missile which it contends is capable of reaching all parts of the US. / AFP PHOTO

On Korean Peninsula tensions

Putin said Russia does not accept the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear status. But he also said that some of Washington’s past actions had provoked Pyongyang into violating a 2005 agreement to curb its nuclear program.

Putin warned a strike on the DPRK by the United States would have catastrophic consequences.

Putin urged the United States to stop military exercises in exchange for the DPRK halting its nuclear program.

“We’ve heard from the United States that they are going to stop military exercises, but they changed their mind. They conduct military exercises and the DPRK launches another missile. So on and so forth. This pattern should be stopped,” Putin said.

Putin said he hoped to work with Washington eventually to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Zabivaka, the official mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia official store on December 12, 2017, in Moscow, Russia. /CFP Photo

On the Olympics and 2018 World Cup

Putin said that Russia would cooperate with the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee over the accusation over Russian athletes’ doping, but he would defend their interests in courts.

“How will we build up relations with WADA and the IOC? I hope constructively, we will calmly work with them, removing those problems we do have,” he said.

“But of course working to defend the interests of our athletes, including in civil courts.”

“I know that many international officials don’t want that, but what can we do? We will be forced to help our athletes to stand up for their honor and dignity in civil courts.”

Putin also expressed confidence that Russia will have everything ready to host the 2018 soccer World Cup based on its past experience in holding major sports events.

“I am sure that everything will be up to standard and on time,” he said.

Professor Anton Fedyashin reacts to Putin’s annual address

CGTN’s Sean Callebs speaks with Professor Anton Fedyashin from American University about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual address. Among the topics Putin spoke about were U.S. President Trump’s first year in office and the need for cooperation in dealing with the DPRK.