SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia’s defense industry should stop relying on foreign components and become self-sufficient following Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.
“We need to do our utmost for anything used in our defense sector to be produced on our territory, so that we are not dependent on anyone...,” he told a meeting of defense officials at his Black Sea residence.
“I am sure that our defense industry will benefit from that and one needs to adjust our scientific hubs for that,” he said.
Washington has threatened to target some high tech exports to Russia as part of sanctions, in addition to visa bans and asset freezes that are already in place.
Putin has said previously that replacing the components used in the defense industry would require funding and that it would take up to 2-1/2 years to switch to entirely domestic manufacturing.
Russia is the world’s second largest arms exporter. It sold more than $15.7 worth of weapons in 2013 and its defense industry has close ties with Ukraine.
Contacts between the two former Soviet republics have been affected by Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and Western charges that it is orchestrating pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, close to the border with Russia. Moscow denies the accusations.
The crisis has led to the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War, with Washington and Brussels threatening new sanctions on Russia if it attempts to disrupt a presidential election due in Ukraine on May 25.
Reporting by Denis Dyomkin, Writing by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage