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'Nobody believed in him, only us': Putin hails Trump in four-hour press conference

Today’s press event saw some journalists holding up placards comparing Putin to Superman.

The holy trinity: A Russian journalist holds up portraits of Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen of France, and US president-elect Donald Trump in Moscow today.
The holy trinity: A Russian journalist holds up portraits of Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen of France, and US president-elect Donald Trump in Moscow today.
Image: Pavel Golovkin/PA

IT’S BECOME A Christmas tradition.

Every year, Russian president Vladimir Putin holds an intimate press conference with 1,300 of his closest friends in the national press – along with several foreign correspondents.

It’s a chance for the controversial Russian leader to sound off on subjects close to his heart:

  • Russia’s foreign policies.
  • The silver lining in the continuing contraction of the Russian economy.
  • His relationship to Donald Trump.
  • His view on opponents of Russia.

While Putin is centre-stage, the annual event is also a barometer of the state of the Russian media.

Today, some fawning journalists turned up with pro-Putin placards and posters. He did, however, also receive questions from some Russian journalists opposed to his leadership and from members of the Ukranian media and foreign journalists, including the BBC.

Russia PutinPresident Vladimir Putin gestures as journalists raise their posters with questions to him at today’s news conference in Moscow,Source: Pavel Golovkin/PAHacking

Asked by one journalist whether he is the “the most influential man in the world”, Putin said accusations that he interfered in the US presidential election were sour grapes from the Democrats and the Obama administration.

“Am I to blame?” Putin asks. Amid loud applause, he added that Trump:

precisely felt the mood of the society and worked in that precise paradigm, he went to the end, though nobody believed that he would win except us.

“The most important thing is the gist of the information that hackers provided to the public,” he said.

“What is the best evidence that the hackers unveiled true information?” he said.

“That after the hackers showed how public opinion is manipulated inside the Democratic Party… the chief of the Democratic National Committee (Debbie Wasserman Schultz) quit.

That means she admitted that the hackers showed the truth but instead of apologising… they started to shout about who initiated the hack attacks.

“Does that really matter?”

Reagan

In response to President Barack Obama’s comments that “Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave” upon seeing recent poll results showing that more than one-third of Republicans view Putin favorably, the Russian leader said Reagan would be happy to see his party win.

Asked what he thought about support among some Americans for him, Putin said:

I don’t put it down to me, the fact that a large part of Republican voters support the Russian president.
It means that a large part of the American people have the same idea of how the world should be, of our common dangers and problems.

“It’s good that there are people that sympathise with us in our concept of traditional values,” he said.

He said that Russia hopes to develop “businesslike and constructive relations that would benefit both Russia and the United States”.

Dignity

The US Democratic party has lost not just the presidential election, but also in the Senate and Congress, Putin said.

“Was that also our doing?”

They are losing on all fronts and are looking for the guilty party on the side.

“That’s beneath their dignity. You have to lose with dignity,” added Putin, who has ruled Russia for over 16 years.

A BBC reporter asked him about allegations that Russia was involved in hacking of the US election. He didn’t deny or admit the allegations but said that it was more important that the truth comes out, not who did the hacking.

Trump

The Russian president also said there was “nothing unusual” about Trump’s recent call to boost the US nuclear arsenal. ”As concerns the new president-elect of the United States Mr Trump, there is nothing new here,” Putin said.

“During his election campaign he spoke about the necessity of strengthening the nuclear component of the United States, to strengthen the armed forces.”

Syria

Putin said he has signed an order to expand Russia’s naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartus.

Putin has ordered the signing of a deal with Syria that will “expand the territory” of Russia’s naval facility in the coastal city of Tartus, and allow Russian warships into Syrian waters.

Russia’s defence ministry said in October that Moscow was poised to transform the Tartus facility into a permanent base, without providing a timeline for its transformation.

Putin called Russia’s bloody intervention in Syria a “major humanitarian action”.

He called the recapture of the devastated city of Aleppo by Syrian regime forces was a “very important” step towards stabilising the war-torn country.

“The liberation of Aleppo from radical elements is a very important part of the normalisation in Syria, and I hope, for the region overall,” Putin said during a meeting with defence minister Sergei Shoigu, Russian news agencies reported.

Ukraine and Crimea

Putin also fielded a question on the ongoing intervention in Russia’s old ally, Ukraine.

Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s province of Crimea in 2014, and since engaged in armed intervention in the country’s east, in a conflict that has cost 10,000 lives.

Economy

Russia is enduring a deep recession in the wake of Western sanctions – enacted following the Ukraine intervention – and the sharp drop in oil prices.

Putin also said that says the nation’s economy is on the path to recovery. He said that he expected the Russian economy to shrink by 0.6-0.7% this year — a much smaller decline compared to 2015 when it contracted by 3.7%.

Putin said some sectors have posted growth this year, showing that the Russian economy is on the mend.

Despite the economic backdrop, Putin said hard currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank increased this year, from $368 billion to about $385 billion.

With reporting from AP and AFP.

This article was amended at 5pm, December 23, to include further details of Putin’s comments to the media.

© – AFP, 2016

Read: Vladimir Putin basically trolled the world at his epic end-of-year press conference

Read: US news network claims Putin directly involved in Hillary Clinton hack

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