Putin Hails Russia’s Economic Growth in Annual Press Conference

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday held his annual televised press conference, using the event to hail another year of economic growth for the country after a previous period of stagnation, RFE/RL reports.

Summing up the year’s results, Putin said Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is set to grow by 1.8% this year, while industrial output has grown faster at 3%. The Russian president also noted that the nation’s hard currency reserves have increased from $432 billion at the start of the year to $464 billion now.

The positive statistics follow a difficult period in recent years when Russia’s economy has suffered a combined blow of low oil prices and Western sanctions. GDP growth last year was only 1.5% following a two-year recession.

He repeated his calls for a “breakthrough” that would bolster the economy and improve living standards, saying that Russia needs a “new technological foundation” and must “concentrate its resources” and use them effectively.

“It is hardly possible to ensure GDP growth rates required for a breakthrough unless the economic structure is changed. Currently, that is the target of national projects, with huge funds to be earmarked to change the structure, make it innovation-based. That is what the government expects. If that happens growth rates will rise, and other development prospects will appear,” Putin said, according to state-run news agency TASS.

Asked how a breakthrough is possible when annual GDP growth is not expected to exceed 2% any time soon and former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has said it is mired in “stagnation,” Putin blamed external factors for some of the troubles.

Russia must break into a “new economic league” in terms of size and quality, he said, adding that “if we don’t set ambitious goals, nothing will be achieved.”

The Kremlin said a record number of journalists — 1,702 — were accredited to cover Putin’s 14th such press conference as president.