1. Vladimir Putin stresses foreign policy, economic goals after ‘difficult year’

Vladimir Putin stresses foreign policy, economic goals after ‘difficult year’

Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had endured a “difficult year” but he pledged the country would pursue its independent foreign policy...

By: | Moscow | Updated: December 5, 2014 1:03 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had endured a “difficult year” but he pledged the country would pursue its independent foreign policy and economic objectives despite dogged Western efforts to weaken it.

Putin used his annual state of the nation speech to both reaffirm the Kremlin’s intention to make Russia a great power again and to try reassure the people that he was addressing troubling economic developments.

Putin called Crimea the country’s Temple Mount and said its annexation in March confirmed Moscow could protect Russians everywhere.

The West has reacted to the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine by imposing sanctions, but Putin said those events were just a pretext.

“This is not just a nervous reaction of the US and its allies to our position with regards to events and the coup in Ukraine,” he said. “If all that had not happened they would have come up with a different mode to restrain us,” he said. Whenever the West feels Russia is becoming strong, it resorts to such measures, he added.

He also made a passing reference to clashes in Grozny, which left at least 10 dead. Russia was capable of facing the threat from such terror, he said.

But the bulk of the speech focused on the economy.

Putin said the country must use the confrontation with the West to reform its economy, and to depend more on itself for food, medicine and technology.

His proposals included a no-questions-asked policy toward anyone who brought home their offshore wealth, a reprieve from the government inspections for small and medium businesses and a four-year freeze in the tax rate.

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