Oil and Gas

HIGHLIGHTS-Russia's Putin: annual Q&A session

MOSCOW, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Following are edited highlights of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s comments in an annual question-and-answer session with Russian citizens on Thursday:


“It (the rouble exchange rate) will one way or another fluctuate in line with commodities prices.”

“We by the way do not plan to limit the liberal rules of currency and money inflow and outflow that we introduced in June 2007 when we fully liberalised our currency market. We do not intend to scrap these rules”.

“Our gold and forex reserves, the third biggest in the world,... allow us to plan for a soft landing”.

“We will not allow sharp fluctuations in the economy and the national currency and for the sake of protection of interests of citizen and the economy we, if needed, will carefully use gold and forex reserves and other government funds as we did before”

“We will have a balanced and responsible policy and we have enough of these (gold and forex reserves) resources”


“I still hope we won’t have mass unemployment in Russia though, from what we see on the labour market, it is clear that the number of people who have temporarily lost their jobs will rise,” said Putin.

He said measures will include disbursement of 10-50 billion roubles for the Federal Labour Service, new infrastructure projects, and bigger unemployment benefit of 4,900 roubles.

Asked about the quota for foreign migrants working in Russia, he replied: “We have not yet finalised these quotas (3 million people has been proposed) and I think it would be appropriate to cut them by at least 50 percent.”

Putin also said pensions will rise by 34 percent next year.


“Usually... when there is a change of power in any country, and even more so in a superpower such as the United States, some changes occur.”

“We very much hope that these changes will be positive. We are now seeing these positive signals.”

“What are they? Just take a look -- at the foreign ministers’ council of NATO member states, both Ukraine and Georgia were denied Membership Action Plans”.

Already at the level of experts, we hear from people close to the president-elect -- from his entourage, his aides -- we hear that there should be no rush in this matter, that one should not spoil relations with Russia.”

“We already hear that one should yet again rethink the expediency of deploying the Third Positioning Region of the missile defence system in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.”

“We hear that one should build relations with Russia, taking into account its interests. If these are not just words, if they get transformed into a practical policy, then of course our reaction will be appropriate and our American partners will feel this at once.”


“We are having a difficult dialogue... We understand that Ukraine’s economy is having difficulties...”

“They ask us to leave the same price as last year. But how can we keep last year’s prices if our Ukrainian partners are still getting gas twice as cheaply as Europe.”

“Try to come to any store in Germany and say that you want to get a Mercedes for free or at half price. Who will sell it at half price?”

“We believe that we won’t have problems with transit of our energy resources to key customers in Western Europe”.

“If our partners do not follow agreements or illegally siphon off our gas from transit pipelines as they did in previous years, then we will be forced to cut deliveries. What else can we do?”


“We can demand from these monopolies to at least lower the pace of tariff growth given the fact that prices of the materials that they have to buy for their investment programmes are falling as well due to (crisis) development in the economy.”


Putin said up to 5 trillion roubles was released to help the banking system through the crisis.

"We are working with banks that will not waste, blow away your money," said Putin adding those banks were Sberbank SBER03.MM, VTB VTBR.MM, Gazprombank and VEB.

Putin said those measures were not enough and the state had decided to assign 175 billion roubles to support directly through long-term loans sectors such as agriculture, defence industry and small businesses.

“We will use different tools so that this money reaches the final recipients... Other instruments, for example, include the entrance of the state in the capital of big companies, which are fundamental for the economy of the Russia Federation. I don’t rule out that these instruments will be used in a large-scale way”.

“We are ready to respond to companies requests and enter their capital on fair conditions and exit in due time also on fair terms. It won’t look like buying cheap today and selling at a big profit tomorrow. But those fair terms should be decided together with representatives of the business community”.


Putin said the government has failed to meet its inflation targets as consumer prices will rise around 13 percent this year.

“We have problems linked to inflation... The Finance Ministry was forced to release a big volume of liquidity”.

Putin said the economy will grow by 6.8-6.9 percent this year and blamed the United States for “infecting” the leading economies with the crisis.

“We (in Russia) have good chances to go through this difficult period with minimal losses both for the economy and ordinary people”, he added.


“I believe it is up to Georgia’s people to decide what kind of responsibility must be borne by those politicians who led to these harshest and tragic consequences.”

“The leadership of today’s Georgia sanctioned a bloodbath and bloody reprisal of South Ossetia’s peaceful residents, wiped 10 Ossetian villages off the face of the earth, attacked our peacekeepers, many of whom died”.

“Someone has to be brought to justice for this”.


“Russia will only remain a great nation if every people and every ethnic group -- however small -- feels in Russia as in its own home”.

“And those short-sighted, simply silly and stupid persons who violate this principle in belief that they act in the interests of the Russian people, in fact inflict irreparable damage on the Russian people.”


After the question and answer session, Putin held a brief news conference with reporters. At that session, he was asked whether he would rule out an early return to the Kremlin and replied:

“We will have to get through to 2012, then we will see.”

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