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Europe

Putin: Finance Crisis Will Cause Russia "Minimal Losses"

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking Thursday, Dec. 4 during his annual live television address to the nation, said he was confident Russia would survive the global financial crisis with minimal losses.

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"Our chances are good of going through this complicated period with minimal losses both for our economy and our citizens," Putin said in the question-and-answer session.

He added that, unlike other countries, Russia will not be lowering pensions and unemployment benefits to its citizens.

While Putin was president, the broadcast became an annual tradition and helped him boost his popularity among the Russian population.

The marathon session lasted more than three hours during which Putin answered questions ranging from everyday issues to global politics, which were asked in advance via text messages, a special website and on free phone numbers.

While answering questions on inflation and job losses, Putin said inflation would rise beyond the government's targeted level, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

"We had problems linked to inflation ... This year's inflation will be around 13 per cent", he said.

Putin promises economic growth

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Sitting pretty: Putin says Russia will survive the crisis

Putin added the economy will grow between 6.8 and 6.9 per cent this year and added that the state might add to the capital of "big companies which are fundamental for Russia's economy."

Putin said up to 5 trillion rubles ($178.9 billion) was set to help the banking system through the economic crisis.

"We are working with banks that will not waste your money," he said, and promised that there would be no sudden devaluation of the ruble. "If needed, (we) will carefully use gold and foreign exchange reserves and other government funds as we did before," Putin said.

Russians have begun withdrawing rubles from the country's banks, fearing a repeat of the 1998 financial crisis, when the currency was devalued.

While president, Putin held six question-and-answer sessions. His successor, president Dmitry Medvedev, has shown no inclination to do the same.

Analysts said Thursday's session sent a clear message that Putin plans to return as a president, since it was he - and not Medvedev - who was answering questions this year.

While answering the questions, Putin said he is pleased to be serve his country as prime minister as well as president.

This job requires great dedication. Especially regarding the current situation. It cant be helped. It is a great pleasure that fate gave me the chance to serve the country on this post", RIA Novosti quoted Putin.

Putin also warned that Moscow will cut shipments of natural gas that go through Ukraine to Europe if Kiev doesn't pay its bills. Ukraine and Russia are currently engaged in a dispute over Ukraine's payments to Russia for natural gas supplies and transit costs.

"If our partners don' fulfill their agreements , then we will be forced to cut deliveries. What else can we do?'

Powerful PM threatens to turn the gas taps off

Engineers of the Hungarian Oil and Gas Company (MOL) operate a stop-cock at the receiving area of the Druzhba (Friendship) oil pipeline in the country's largest oil refinery in Szazhalombata, south of Budapest, Hungary

Putin says Russia will turn off the taps if the bills aren't paid

He said he understands that Ukraine, like Russia and other countries, faces serious economic challenges in light of global crisis, but that Moscow is in no position to allow Kiev to continue paying reduced prices for gas.

Putin also says he is optimistic about the ties with United States, since the election of Barack Obama.

"When there is a change of power in a country such as the US, some changes occur. We very much hope that these changes will be positive," Putin said.

Putin said that he plans to spend New Year's Eve at home, watching the snow fall.

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