Putin on armageddon, Brexit… and getting married again

Putin on armageddon, Brexit… and getting married again: Russian leader reveals his thoughts on a whole host of issues during annual press conference

  • Putin was asked if he will one day remarry after divorcing his wife of 30 years 
  • ‘As a decent person, I will have to do that sometime,’ said the 66-year-old 
  • The exchange provided some light relief at the president’s annual conference
  • Putin discussed a host of political and diplomatic issues in the long session

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference is a chance for reporters to quiz him on pressing issues such as new laws, economic growth and global relations. 

It also provides a rare opportunity to ask the Russian president about his private life. 

This year proved no exception as Putin was asked if he will one day remarry after divorcing his wife of 30 years Ludmila Putina in 2013.

‘As a decent person, I will have to do that sometime,’ said the 66-year-old. 

President Vladimir Putin answers a question during his annual life-broadcasted news conference with Russian and foreign media

Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila Putin arrive at a polling station in Moscow, Russia in 2012, to vote for Putin as president. He was previously in the role of Prime Minister

To avoid giving away any details, he then masterly turned the question on the reporter to ask if he himself was married.

The journalist said that he was and then Putin joked that he probably wanted the president to ‘feel like he does.’ 

In 2016, Putin dodged a similar question by saying he promised to ‘satisfy [reporters’] curiosity one day’ and mockingly asking why they were so interested when it does not ‘affect exchange rates or oil prices’. 

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The jovial exchange this year provided some light relief after Putin discussed a host of important political and diplomatic issues in the marathon press conference.

Here, we round up some of his most important answers: 

On America’s threat to quit the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty

‘We are essentially witnessing the breakdown of the international arms control order and (the start of) an arms race.’

‘It’s very hard to imagine how the situation will develop (if the US quits). If these missiles appear in Europe what should we do? Of course, we’ll have to ensure our own security.’

On western sanctions

‘Russia throughout almost all of its history has been under some sort of sanctions… This is to do with the growth of Russia’s power and its ability to compete. A new player has appeared which must be taken into consideration.’

‘Our economy has adapted to these external constraints… And look, there’s also some advantages to this sanctions story. In what sense? It has forced us to switch on our brains in relation to many things.’

On UK-Russia ties and Brexit 

‘It is in the interests of both countries, both governments to get out of this deadlock.’

‘In terms of Brexit, if it is carried through to the end, I can understand the prime minister’s (Theresa May’s) position… There was a referendum after all. What can she do? She must enact the will of the people, expressed during the referendum.’

Russian double agent Sergei Skripal (pictured) was left in critical condition after two Russian spies poisoned him in Salisbury

On meeting Trump soon

‘I don’t know if such a meeting will happen or not.’

‘Will he be able to enter direct dialogue with Russia? I don’t know, you need to ask them.’

‘We must normalise our bilateral relations, we are ready for this, as soon as the other side is ready too.’

On Maria Butina and Skripal poisoning cases 

On Maria Butina, accused in the United States of being a Russian agent of influence: ‘I don’t understand what she is supposed to confess to. She did not carry out any orders from Russian security services. I don’t understand why she was jailed, there are no grounds for it.’

On former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned in Britain with his daughter Yulia: ‘It’s good that he wasn’t killed… Thank God, Skripal is alive.’

‘It’s simply an excuse to organise yet another attack on Russia. If there were no Skripals, they would have come up with something else, that’s clear to me.’

On Russian capture of Ukrainian sailors  

‘Provocations are always bad. A provocation aims to escalate the situation. Why do our Ukrainian partners need this development? They need to escalate the situation around the elections, to raise the rating of one candidate for the post. Did the provocation achieve its aims? In terms of raising ratings, maybe.’

Ukrainian army reservists use an anti-aircraft gun as they take part in military exercises in the Army Training Center on Wednesday

On conflict with Ukraine in Azov Sea  

‘We have an agreement from 2003… We are ready to stick to these agreements and not announce one-sided actions.’

‘When it comes to military vessels, they have to be in touch with our border guards… In the context of martial law I find it difficult to imagine, how military vessels will roam around. But overall, we would like to normalise everything (in the Azov Sea).’

On growth and the economy 

‘Inflation remains at levels that we welcome… We will go outside the Central Bank’s 4 percent reference point somewhat.’

‘We can’t create GDP growth for the breakthrough we need without changing the structure of our economy. That’s what our national goals are geared towards… to giving the economic structure an innovative character.’

‘From 2021, the government is planning for 3 percent growth, even more perhaps.’

The Russian president’s annual news conference is a chance for reporters to quiz him on pressing issues such as new laws, economic growth and global relations

On a VAT rise and inflation 

‘I expect that this (the increase in prices) will be a one-off… Recently, they (the central bank) decided to increase the (key) rate by 0.25 percentage points. There are pluses and minuses but this is done also to avoid an increase in inflation and prices. So in general I think that the decision (to raise VAT) was right.’

On use of the dollar 

‘The volume of our gold and currency reserves in dollars has fallen.’

‘De-dollarisation is exclusively to do with transactions in between economic agents, not citizens.’

‘There has been and will be no (ban on the use of the dollar).’

‘The exchange rate needs to be stable. And overall we have been managing to do this lately.’

On grain and agriculture 

‘We retain and have even grown our grain export potential to 52.5 million tonnes. We will fulfil all of our responsibilities and contracts.’

Putin said he agrees with Trump that ISIS has been defeated. Pictured: The ruined Syrian city of Raqqa, the one time capital of the Islamic State caliphate

On Kurils territorial dispute with Japan

‘The U.S. base on Okinawa has been there for decades now… We don’t understand the level of sovereignty Japan has when such decisions are made.

‘What will happen after a peace agreement is signed, we don’t know. But without an answer to this question, it will be very difficult for us to take any major decisions.’

On announcement of US withdrawal from Syria

‘In terms of the victory over Islamic State, overall I agree with President Trump.’

‘In terms of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, I don’t know what this is about. The U.S. has had a presence in Afghanistan for 17 years, let’s say? And almost every year it says that it is withdrawing troops from there. But they are still present there.’

‘We don’t see any indication of U.S. withdrawing troops as of yet but I accept that it may be happening.’

On private military contractors

‘Everyone must remain within the bounds of the law… I repeat, they are not breaking Russian law and have the right to work and promote their business interests wherever they like in the world.’

‘If this Wagner Group (name of Russian military contractor) is breaking any laws, the prosecutor’s office must give its legal opinion.’

On Ukraine setting up its own church

‘Undoubtedly it has a political rationale. Nothing good will come of it for religious freedom in general. And I’m most concerned about the division of property that will follow. It’s already happening, effectively. It could… get bloody.’ 

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