June 7, 2018 / 11:14 AM / 17 days ago

Key quotes from Russian President Putin's annual phone-in

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual phone-in on Thursday:

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a studio before a live nationwide broadcast call-in in Moscow, Russia June 7, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

ON U.S. TRADE THREAT/STEEL TARIFFS

“The introduction, for example, of restrictive tariffs on steel, on aluminum, not only for Europe but also for Canada and Mexico, in essence these are also sanctions… They are related to the pragmatic national interests of the United States.”

“When in 2007 I spoke in Munich...I spoke about the fact that the United States is widening the jurisdiction of its laws beyond its national borders, and that this is unacceptable. And that’s exactly what’s happening now, also to our European and other partners. Why is this happening? No one wanted to listen and no one did anything to stop this from developing.”

“It appears, our partners thought that this would never affect them, this counterproductive politics of restrictions and sanctions. But now we are seeing that this is happening.”

ON PROSPECT OF A THIRD WORLD WAR

“The understanding that a third world war could be the end of civilization should restrain us from taking extreme steps on the international arena that are highly dangerous for modern civilization.”

“The threat of mutual destruction has always restrained participants of the international arena, prevented leading military powers from making hasty moves, and compelled participants to respect each other. U.S. withdrawal from treaties on anti-ballistic missiles is an attempt to put an end to strategic parity, but we will respond to this.”

ON POSSIBILITY OF MILITARY FLARE-UP IN EASTERN UKRAINE

“I hope that things will not come to provocations (during the soccer World Cup). If this happens I think it would have very serious consequences for the Ukrainian government in general.”

ON PRESSURE ON RUSSIAN BUSINESSMEN IN BRITAIN AND ELSEWHERE

“With regards to big business, I spoke about this a few years ago at one of the public meetings with our business leaders. I warned them that this situation, which we see today, could develop. I warned them about this and recommended at the time that our business keeps its capital in Russia.”

“Who is going to help them abroad? They are just persecuted there. Conditions are created making their work impossible. This is a big mistake by those who are doing this in the West.”

“In essence, they are sawing the branch on which they are sitting. This is counterproductive and damaging for those involved and for the global economy.”

“Some say we need to help (billionaire Roman) Abramovich and other Russian businessmen who have ended up in a difficult situation… I wouldn’t want to speak right now about those people who have broken various laws. I am speaking about people who acquired their capital through legal means. The former and the latter are better off being in Russia.”

ON SYRIA

“Firstly, the use of our armed forces in the battlefield is a unique experience, a unique tool by which to improve our armed forces. No amount of military exercise could compare with the use of force in combat conditions.”

“Major military operations, particularly involving Russian armed forces, have ended. There isn’t even a need for them anymore.”

“Our soldiers are there (in Syria) in order to secure Russia’s interests in this critically important part of the world, which is so near to us. And they will stay there, for as long as it is in Russia’s interest for them to do so.”

“As yet we do not plan to withdraw these forces. But I direct your attention to the fact that I did not call these bases by any other name – I called them bases. We are not building long-term military structures there and if we need to, we could withdraw our military personnel very quickly, without incurring any financial losses.”

ON HIS SUCCESSOR

“Obviously, I’m always thinking about it. A successor, in the ordinary sense of the word – no, the Russian people, the voters will decide who that will be. But of course I think that we should raise a new, young generation of leaders, responsible people who will be able to take on the responsibility of Russia.”

ON HOSTING THE SOCCER WORLD CUP

“With regards to the infrastructure, these 11 stadiums. Of course, we spent a lot of money on this and it is imperative that all of this infrastructure, I completely agree, it must work and above all work toward the development of sport on a large scale.”

“I would like right now to address my colleagues in the regions, to ask them to not allow, under any circumstances, for flea markets and the like to appear at these stadiums, as appeared in other sport-related buildings in Moscow during the middle of the 1990s.”

“I think our Russian Football Union must play an active part in this… and develop a new generation of sportsmen and soccer players.”

ON THE ECONOMY

“Overall, we are moving in the right direction. We have started on the trajectory toward robust economic growth in Russia. Yes, this growth is humble, small, but it is also not a fall. Growth was at 1.5 percent last year.”

“Export in technical equipment is growing, which shows that some structural changes are going on in the economy. Export of agricultural produce, at 20 billion last year, was higher than defense exports, which were at 15 billion.”

ON TAXES

“Based on our preliminary calculations, we may in the next six years spend 17 trillion roubles (Putin said billion, but meant trillion), but to achieve the goals that we have discussed, we will need an additional 8 trillion roubles. And it is clear where we are going to find them.”

“Firstly, it is through the growth of the economy itself, that’s the main source of additional resources. It is also the more effective use of existing resources, adjustment in some senses of our macro-economic plans and of course adjustments to our tax policy.”

“Stability of tax policy must be absolutely guaranteed for the next six years.”

ON COMPLAINTS ABOUT HIGH PETROL PRICES

“What is going on right now, it is unacceptable, it is wrong. However, it must be admitted that it is the result of inaccurate regulation, that was brought in recently in the sphere of energy, in energy resources.”

“By the autumn of this year, additional measures should be introduced which will stabilize the situation on the market.”

Putin said he would support a proposal to raise export tariffs on motor fuel, equalizing them with tariffs on oil exports.

ON WESTERN SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

“This is a method by which to restrain Russia, the notorious sanctions, because endless accusations lay the groundwork for introducing restraining measures.”

“It is because Russia is seen as a threat, because Russia is seen as becoming a competitor. I believe this approach is mistaken.”

“It is clear to us that we have to defend our interests, and to do so consistently, not boorishly or rudely, in both the sphere of the economy and of defense.”

ON RESTRICTING RUSSIAN INTERNET ACCESS

“We are not going to close anything... I also worked in the security services and know it is easiest to ban, and harder to find civilized solutions. Therefore, I’m going to urge all my colleagues to take this route, the route of security and law enforcement agencies using modern methods to combat offences, including terrorism, without restricting freedoms including on the Internet.”

ON ALLEGED MEDDLING IN 2016 U.S. ELECTION

“Recently one of Germany’s famous and popular publications wrote that President Trump is pushing Europe toward Putin. If we take this together with an earlier joke, that Russia influenced elections in the United States, then this all taken together starts sounding pretty funny. We apparently influenced the election of the U.S. President, and then he gifted us Europe. Total nonsense. There’s no way to describe this other than as a joke.”

ON IDEA OF NATIONALIZING OIL SECTOR

“Nationalizing the whole oil sector would be a difficult and highly dangerous process, which could have negative consequences not only for the sector but for the whole economy.”

ON CRYPTO CURRENCIES

“... This phenomenon has its place in the world, and it’s developing. We need to monitor and analyze what’s going on thoroughly. And at some stage we will need to look at how we can take part in this process, how we can use it to avoid all sorts of restrictions in the sphere of international financial activity, among other things.”

Reporting by Moscow Newsroom; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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