MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Russia’s economy is performing well despite the global economic slowdown and a poor harvest, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Beginning his annual news conference by reeling off a series of data for the world’s largest country, he forecast that the economy would grow by 3.7 percent this year.
“This is a good result overall,” he said, suggesting that Russia’s economy was performing well particularly if it was compared with the euro zone and the United States.
Putin, now 60, was addressing his first annual news conference, broadcast live to the nation, since he returned to the presidency in May for a six-year term after four years as prime minister.
During his first spell as president from 2000 until 2008, Putin began a tradition of giving long annual news conferences to show his grasp of policy detail. The previous one, in 2008, ran for four hours and 40 minutes.
He was expected on Thursday to try to show he still has a firm grip on Russia after the biggest protests since he began his 13-year domination of the country and to show he is strong and healthy, despite a back problem.
Putin said recession in the euro zone had acted as a drag on economic growth in Russia and that a poor harvest had hit the economy in the third and fourth quarters, lifting inflation above 6 percent.
He expressed concern over a slowdown in industrial output growth. But he highlighted Russia’s low unemployment rate of 5.3-5.4 percent, which he described as “good - one of the best in all the developed economies of the world”.