MOSCOW, December 17. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his customary year-end news conference on Thursday. This time, amid the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the event was held online. Also, it incorporated some features of the question-and-answer program called Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, in which the head of state is asked questions from audiences across the nation.
TASS has collected the top takeaways from Putin's conference:
On Russia's fight against COVID-19
Putin thinks that Russia has tackled the COVID-19 pandemic well, perhaps better than other states.
"Not a single [healthcare] system worldwide was ready for the scale that we encountered. There is simply no system like that. <...> Compared to what was going on in the world, of course, our system turned out to be more effective."
Putin highlighted 97% effectiveness of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine.
"Russia is the first country in the world, which has invented, we could say, and started to produce the vaccine of both the Gamaleya scientific institute and the Novosibirsk-based Vector center. And we have a good vaccine [that is] both safe and effective - over 95% and higher - and specialists say its level of protection reaches 96-97%"
Putin hopes the coronavirus situation will improve in the next 6 months.
On the Navalny case
Putin said, that Alexei Navalny, who is currently undergoing medical treatment in Germany, has the support of US intelligence agencies but it’s not a reason to poison him.
"The patient at a Berlin hospital has the support of US intelligence agencies in this case. If so, it’s a curious fact and intelligence agencies should keep an eye on him. But it’s not a reason to poison him, why would anyone do that?"
Had someone wanted to poison Navalny, they would have gotten it done, Putin noted.
On Russia-US relations under Biden
Putin hopes that at least some problems in Russian-US relations will be solved under Joe Biden’s administration.
"We presume that the newly elected US president will understand what is going on - he is a person, who has experience in both domestic and foreign policy. We expect that all problems, which emerged, or at least some of them will be ironed out under the new administration," Putin said.
On amendments to Russian Constitution
Putin said the amendments to the Russian Constitution were adopted at a right time, when the situation became ripe.
"Everything is good in due time. The fight against price hikes should be conducted in due time. The same goes for amendments to the basic law. It was impossible to do a lot of things earlier," Putin said.
According to the president, some things were impossible to do before, including cementing social guarantees in the Constitution. This includes adjusting pensions for inflation and equaling the minimum wage to the minimum subsistence level, he said.
Putin added that the fundamentals of the Constitution remained unchanged.
On some 'investigative' journalism scrutinizing his life
Putin has excoriated a so-called investigative report about his life, castigating it as nothing but copy-pasting that was unreadable to the end.
"The second part that is about my family - it was impossible to read this material. I looked through it just because it is about me but it was such a cut-and-paste job, everything was lumped together. I couldn't read it all the way to the end," he said.
On Russia's GDP contraction
GDP contraction in Russia equals 3.6%, which is less than in all leading European countries and the US, Putin said.
"GDP contraction is 3.6% as of now," he said, adding that it is less than in almost all leading EU countries where GDP contraction totaled up to 9% in a number of states. Moreover, the Russian economy is faring better than the US economy, the president noted.
Russia’s industrial production "slipped" by 3% by now mainly due to the oil price, he added. "Due to the OPEC+ deal, we have cut production, which affected [Russia’s] total results," Putin explained.
On Nord Stream 2 project
The project for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is economically profitable for Europe and, in particular, for Germany, Putin said.
Putin also expects that the new US administration, led by President-elect Joe Biden, will respect the interests of Europe.
The Russian president expressed confidence that construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will be completed.
"There are around 165 km left," he said. ‘That's it, it is almost completed. I think we will finish the work," Putin said
On Russia's 'harmlessness'
Russia is "harmless and squeaky clean" compared to Western countries, Putin said.
"Now, about us being harmless and squeaky clean. Compared to you, yes, it is a fact, we are harmless and squeaky clean because we agreed to release from an unequivocal Soviet dictate those countries and nations that wanted to develop independently. We heard your assurances that NATO won’t expand to the East but you didn’t keep your promises," he said in response to a question of a BBC reporter.
The president noted that those were not written guarantees but verbal promises yet emphasized that none of them were kept as a result.
On arms race
The arms race began with the United States’ pullout from the anti-ballistic missile treaty, according to Putin.
"It has already begun. This is obvious. Everything began after the US pullout from the ABM treaty," Putin said.