MOSCOW, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual news conference, which was held on Thursday. For main story please click on
"He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that... He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it, today. He says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome it? Of course we welcome it."
"I knew him personally.. He chose that way of political fighting, of personal attacks ... but I got used to that. I do not think that a person must be killed (for this). I will never accept this. I believe that this crime must be investigated and punished."
"It's not that we interrupted the talks. We need the European Commission to provide us with written guarantees that the possible route via Turkey to Europe is not only being implemented but it is of a high priority and that the European Commission would support it."
"Not a single country has the right to spread its jurisdiction to other states, to say nothing of international organisations... This does not mean at all that one should not fight corruption ... But we believe this practice, when in various parts of the world they snatch foreign citizens and drag them out to be interrogated and prosecuted, is unacceptable."
"Whether there are signs of corruption in FIFA, the investigation must show. As for Joseph Blatter, he is a very respected person, he has done a lot for the development of world soccer... He has always tried to treat football not as a sport but as an element of cooperation between countries and peoples. He is the one who should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
"As soon as we work out the mechanisms that would reliably ensure the safety of our people, we will remove all restrictions. This work is in principle being done together with our Egyptian partners."
"It's important that it does not last forever... Industry players... are not cutting their development plans and production has even increased. But the government should watch very closely what is going on in the sector in order not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs."
"I never discuss issues related to my family."
"They have never been 'star' children, they have never got pleasure from the spotlight being aimed at them. They just live their own lives."
"They live in Russia ... They have never been educated anywhere except Russia. I am proud of them, they continue to study and are working. My daughters fluently speak three European languages ... They do not just speak them, but use them in their work. They are taking the first steps in their careers, but are making good progress. They are not involved in business or politics."
"You know my position is that I resist in every possible way an increase in the retirement age. ... I still think the time has not come yet. I have no answer about when we should do it, but such an economic problem exists."
"If, for example, we're talking about the prosecutor general ... one should clarify if they, his children, broke the law or not and if there are elements of the prosecutor general's job related to a conflict of interests. For this, the presidential directorate of oversight exists."
"This (large-scale privatisation) is possible, and in principle we will continue this work."
"As far as Rosneft and Aeroflot are concerned, I have already written in my articles back in 2012 that this was possible and that we would continue this work in principle."
"We are ready to work with any president, for whom the American people will vote."
"It's them (the Americans) who try all the time to prompt us who to vote for."
"We are ready to restore it (relations with Georgia). We are seeing some signals from Georgian leaders and we are receiving them. We are ready to cancel the visa regime with Georgia."
"This doesn't put any significant (pressure) on the budget ... It's hard to imagine better training. We can conduct training for quite a long time there without significant damage to our budget."
"We will carry out air strikes and support Syrian army offensives for as long as the Syrian army carries them out."
"Russia's (Syria) plan, in principle, broadly coincides with the view put forward by the United States. That is joint work on a constitution, creation of oversight mechanisms for a future democratic election, the election itself, and recognition of its results."
"I'm not sure if we need (a permanent) base there. This is quite significant infrastructure, it needs money to be invested."
"We believe that only the Syrian people can decide who should govern them ... We support the initiative of the United States about the U.N. resolution."
"We never said there were not people there who were carrying out certain tasks, including in the military sphere. But that does not mean there are Russian (regular) troops there, feel the difference."
"We are not interested in a worsening of the conflict. We are interested in the conflict ending as soon as possible, but not by people being annihilated in eastern Ukraine."
"We do not plan to introduce any sanctions against Ukraine ... (but) Ukraine will not enjoy any benefits and preferences in trade with Russia."
"We see the action of the Turkish authorities towards our plane ... as a hostile act."
"It is hard for us to reach agreement with the current Turkish leadership, if at all possible."
"What have they achieved? Maybe, they thought that we would run away from there (Syria)? But Russia is not such a country."
"I support the central bank and the government's policy aimed at providing macroeconomic stability."
"Much as one would like to cut the rate, it shouldn't be done forcefully. It should be based on the reality of our economy, its structure"
"I am very considerate towards people, as is seen from my long stint in the job, and I think that personnel reshuffles, as a rule, are disruptive."
"There are no significant changes (reshuffles) in the pipeline."
"The government, taking into account the valuation of our exports, expects the economy to grow by 0.7 percent in 2016, by 1.9 percent in 2017, and by 2.4 percent in 2018.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that all that is calculated with an oil price of $50 per barrel. Now, the rate is lower and volatility is very high.
We will not be in a hurry to introduce changes to the budget as it would entail cuts in social spending. However, the government, of course, has been preparing different scenarios."
"Investors, understanding the reality of our economy, are starting to show interest in working here."
"We had calculated next year's budget based on $50 per barrel. This is a very optimistic valuation today. Now it's already $38. That's why we will have to correct something there."
"The Russian economy has passed the crisis. At least, the peak of the crisis." (Reporting by Moscow Newsroom; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Christian Lowe)