MOSCOW, December 17. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin answered very diverse questions about the internal situation in Russia during his annual news conference on Thursday.
The Russian president said he was generally satisfied with the government’s work, although not fully, and was not going to change the Cabinet’s composition.
According to Putin, personnel reshuffle only impedes the government’s work.
"No significant changes in the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers are envisaged," Putin said.
The Russian president said the government’s work was "satisfactory as a whole" but admitted that the Cabinet of Ministers could work better.
The Russian economy has overcome the peak of the crisis, Putin said.
"Statistics shows that the Russian economy has on the whole overcome the crisis. In any case, the peak of the crisis," he said.
"But the government should be prepared for any development scenario," the Russian president said.
In early 2014, the Russian authorities assessed the prospects of the domestic economy’s development proceeding from the oil price of $100 per barrel. But these plans had to be reversed after a plunge in oil prices, following which all macroeconomic indicators deteriorated — GDP fell by 3.7% and inflation soared to 12.3% — Putin said.
The level of oil price projected at $50 per barrel in the 2016 federal budget still has to be adjusted further, considering current oil market trends, the Russian president said.
Putin said he had long been resisting attempts to raise the retirement age in Russia but admitted that this unpopular measure would have to be taken sooner or later so as not to do harm to pensioners themselves.
"As for the pension age as a whole, I continue holding the view that time has not yet come for this measure. But I want to be sincere: not only experts but also practical persons now tell me: you want to make good to people [not to increase the pension age] but finally this delay will do harm," the Russian president said.
According to Putin, "as longevity increases, the workforce will be decreasing compared with the number of non-working citizens and then systemic problems may emerge with sufficient deductions paid into the Pension Fund."
"But I have no answer so far about when this [pension age increase] should be done," the Russian president said.
Putin also replied to a question about whether it was time to privatize state companies, including oil major Rosneft.
The Russian president said he didn’t rule out that "the government may privatize large state companies" in 2016 so as "not to spend reserves."
"But a question arises about whether the market is currently favorable for selling valuable assets. You can never predict the market situation," he added.
Putin urged the heads of large Russian state companies to spend part of their incomes on charity.
"I hope that top managers — I have not told them about that but I hope that they hear me — could channel a part of their incomes into charity as well. They won’t get any poorer from this act," the Russian president said.
Putin said at the same time that government bodies should work more efficiently and cut ineffective expenditures.
The Russian president said he was doubtful about the need to stop the transit of Russia’s natural gas via Ukraine.
"Now about transit across Ukraine. Yes, I myself heard someone talking at the corporate level during heated discussions that we would terminate this transit all together. I’m not sure that this should be done," Putin said.
Comparing the possibilities of Ukrainian transit for Russian natural gas and the Russia-led Nord Stream-2 project to build two more stretches of the gas pipeline along the Baltic Sea bed to Europe, Putin stressed: "They require after all that the Nord Stream and its second stage in the future should meet certain requirements - reliability, the market principles of the gas transportation system operation and the legal and administrative regulation based on the highest standards."
"Are our Ukrainian partners able to do the same as what we are doing with our European partners under the Nord Stream project? If they can do that, then we’ll further work with them. If they are not, then we’ll see what to do with this," the Russian president said.
Putin assured journalists that the presidential controlling department was responding to media reports on the activity of particular officials or their children’s business.
"It is good that you pay attention to this. We must react to this. As for all these manifestations related to the children of high-placed officials, for example, if we speak about the prosecutor general, it is necessary to understand whether the prosecutor general’s children have breached law or not, whether there are some elements in the work of the prosecutor general related to a conflict of interest and whether he somehow assisted and helped these children," Putin said.
"There is the presidential controlling department for this purpose," he added.
"I simply wouldn’t like to talk about this. But this does not mean that we are not dealing with this. We need to look through all this attentively exactly in the same way as we need to look attentively and clean possible components of information appearing in the Internet," the Russian president said.
Journalists didn’t hear Putin’s answer to the question about whether Katerina Tikhonova who headed a Moscow State University project was his daughter, about which some Russian and western media sources had been reporting lately.
Putin said his children had received education in Russia and had never lived abroad.
They are not engaged either in business or politics and "they do not see to get in there," the Russian president said.
According to Putin, his daughters "continue studying and working." "They have never been the star children and they live their life," the president said.