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14 Feb, 2008 19:32

I trust Medvedev: Putin

Vladimir Putin has sought to ease concern about a possible power-sharing row if he becomes Prime Minister after March’s presidential election. He’s told his last annual news conference that if favourite Dmitry Medvedev wins the election, the pair will wor

Medvedev has already announced that Putin will be prime minister if he becomes president.

“The Head of Government has enough powers. There will be no problems with allocating them, I assure you. We together with Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev) shall allocate them if the electorate permits that,” Putin told the news conference.

“If I see that I can implement in that job the goals I myself set, I will work [as premier] as long as the opportunity is in place,” Putin said.

More than 1,000 journalists gathered in the Kremlin for the news conference, which has set a record lasting almost five hours.

Putin says he never considered running for a third term. Nor was he tempted to change the Russian constitution, which forbids him from doing so.

Foreign Policy

The Russian President told the journalists that regardless of recent disagreements, America remains Russia’s most important trading partner.

“Whatever they say during the election campaigns,  the  fundamental  interests  of  Russia  and  the  U.S. will inevitably  push  the  leadership of both countries towards developing a positive  and,  at  least,  partnership dialogue,” the Russian president noted.

However he said that NATO is discussing energy security in a way that is ‘clearly unfriendly to Russia. We can see it’.

America's insistence on a weapons shield has forced Russia to consider aiming missiles at Eastern Europe, according to Vladimir Putin.

“If it comes into life, we are likely to aim some part of our missile system at these sites,”
the Russian leader stressed.

The President repeated Russia’s stance on Kosovo’s future, saying support for its independence was ‘immoral’.

“Europe has double standards on territorial issues. Unified principles should be applied. International law doesn’t guard the interest of small countries”.

He also explained why Russia had suspended its role in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

«»We signed a treaty on the nation and control of weapons in Europe, the CFE treaty. We have ratified it and shrunk our contingents in Europe. We don't have any single military unit in Europe. We have taken upon ourselves colonial restrictions that limit movement of our own troops on our own territory," said Putin.

Putin dismissed concerns about Russia wanting to dominate the Arctic.

The Russian flag is just a symbol, not a territorial claim, just like the American flag on the Moon, he said.

“Our research is aimed at proving that Russian Federation has the right on part of this shelf, but we are doing it in the existing international law framework, in the framework of the UN,” Putin said.

Domestic Policy

The President said while more work is needed, he is satisfied with Russia’s progress.

“We have restored the foundations of the Russian economy on an absolutely new market basis and we are confidently becoming an economic leader,” Putin told a press conference on Thursday.

“Over the past twenty years, very few countries have managed to achieve such results in the growth of their stock markets and assets as Russia has. These countries are primarily Asian countries. That is our biggest achievement,” said Putin.

In the future, Putin said the economy must diversify and become innovative. If it doesn’t evolve and become more efficient in terms of management and structure, it will come to a dead end, he believes.

He also said while state corporations are needed to finance major projects, eventually competitive bodies will be sold to private investors.

“This is our final goal – we are absolutely not going to turn to state capitalism,” Putin said.

Lighter moments

It was not all straight faces during the three hour question and answer session. Several questions raised a smile and humour from Putin.

The President called himself the richest person in the world, not through misleading reports about his wealth, but because of the strength he derives from twice being elected to rule his country.

Thursday is Valentine’s day and a journalist asked if anybody gave him a Valentine. “No,” said President. “But my wife has already congratulated me”.

Then the journalist came up to Putin and handed him a Valentine.

And in another instance Putin was asked whether Russia plans denominate the rouble – that is ‘drop off’ some digits. Putin labeled the rumour absurd several times, before exclaiming: “What else to you want me to do? Eat soil from a flowerpot or take a blood oath?”

Summing up the news conference, Aleksey Mukhin, a director of the Centre for Political Information, says it's clear that Putin is offended by the treatment of Russia over the last few years.

“In fact the Putin we saw today was the Putin after he steps down – Putin as a common person, a philosopher, a man who is sometimes sceptical and sometimes emotional,” Mukhin added.