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Putin presents vision for a stronger Russia

President Vladimir Putin presented his economic vision for Russia at an economic forum in St. Petersburg by pledging to boost domestic industry, help capitalize banks and reduce the nation's reliance on energy exports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a defiant tone against western countries on Friday at an investment forum in St. Petersburg where he outlined his plans to boost the nation's slumping economic growth.

In a keynote speech to business leaders from around the world, Putin said economic sanctions against his country were "an instrument of political pressure" that would ultimately hurt the

economies of those imposing them


"Maybe our American friends - they are sophisticated guys - want to get a competitive advantage in their trade and economic relations over Europe," he said, thanking European businesses for taking a more "pragmatic" approach over the sanctions.

Steps toward a stronger Russia

At a time when Russia's GDP is facing slow growth - it rose 0.9 percent from January to March - Putin outlined plans to create a special state fund to help promote domestic production over western imports.

He also stressed that Russia, the world's leading producer of oil and gas, needed to reduce its dependency on energy exports, which account for roughly a quarter of the nation's GDP.

Economic sanctions imposed by western countries for Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula have weighed on the nation's economy with businesses struggling to access funding. Putin announced his government would provide Russian industries with cheap and long-term funding at a rate that did not exceed inflation plus 1 percent.

Russia's central bank has estimated that some 47 billion ($60 billion) in capital left the country in the period from January to March this year, but on Friday it announced that this trend seemed to be winding down. Only 3.4 billion euros left the country in April, according to the bank's head, Elvira Nabiullina.

sri/cjc (Reuters, dpa)

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