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'Candidate Putin' makes first appearance

China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-15 09:48


Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec 14, 2017.  [Photo/Agencies]

Stronger China ties a major boon for everyone, president says

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin held an annual news conference on Thursday in his first major public appearance since announcing he would seek a new six-year term in March 2018 elections.

During the marathon event attended by more than 1,600 journalists, Putin said stronger ties between Russia and China are good for everyone, adding that Moscow and Beijing would remain long-term strategic partners regardless of the result of the presidential polls next year.

Putin also said that China was looking with great interest at Russia's northern sea route in the Arctic, which could significantly cut the time for shipments of goods between Asia and Europe.

He also said Russia would support China's further involvement in Russian projects, including in the energy sector.

The president typically answers questions on a broad range of topics - from foreign policy to the state of provincial roads to his private life - and receives televised requests from the far corners of Russia.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin planned to spend all of the previous day preparing for his 13th such news conference.

Analysts have said the event would give a clearer idea of what to expect from Putin ahead of an election in which he is widely expected to extend his rule to 2024.

"It will be the start of the election campaign: He will have to demonstrate the result of his work and make election promises," said political analyst Konstantin Kalachev.

According to a survey published by independent pollster Levada on Wednesday, 75 percent of Russians would be prepared to vote for Putin in March, despite having yet to hear any campaign pledges since he announced his candidacy last week.

The president said Donald Trump had made "significant achievements" as US leader, rejecting claims that Moscow meddled in the US election last year.

"We can see several quite significant achievements in the short time he has been at work," Putin said when asked to assess Trump's time in power.

"Look at how the markets are reacting, they are growing. This shows confidence in the US economy. With all due respect to (Trump's) opponents, these are objective facts," he said.

He added that accusations Moscow had interfered in the US election to swing the result had been "made up" by US opposition to discredit Trump's work.

He also highlighted Russia's military campaign in Syria.

On Tuesday, Russian state television showed round-the-clock footage of Russian soldiers returning home after Putin's surprise trip to Syria in which he announced a partial withdrawal of troops.

Independent analyst Evgeny Minchenko said Syria was a "good pillar for Putin's image" - especially compared to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which had disastrous effects for Moscow.

"Comparatively, there was little blood spilled among Russian servicemen (in Syria). The army demonstrated a high level of readiness, more than the Americans did," said Minchenko.

Putin also reassured Russians on domestic issues, particularly on the economy which is returning to growth after a financial crisis following a crash in oil prices and Western sanctions.

"The economy is growing, it's an obvious fact. There is no doctoring (of figures). GDP has grown 1.6 percent, industrial production has also grown 1.6 percent. The auto industry, light industry and agriculture have experienced good growth," he said.

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