Putin: Russia has climbed out of recession despite western sanctions

Putin: Russia has climbed out of recession despite western sanctions

Russia has climbed out of recession despite continuing western sanctions, Vladimir Putin has told the nation.

The Russian president said during a live call-in show that the restrictions have forced the country to "switch on our brains" to reduce dependence on energy exports.

Mr Putin also deplored the US Senate's decision to impose new sanctions on Russia as a reflection of western efforts to "contain" Russia, but insisted that the measures have only made the country stronger.

The Republican-led Senate voted on Wednesday to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a wide-ranging package of sanctions targeting key sectors of Russia's economy and individuals who carried out cyber attacks.

The US Senate bill follows up on several rounds of sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Putin argued that Russia has done nothing to warrant the US Senate's move, saying it highlights the west's policy of containing Russia and also reflects domestic infighting and "internal political struggle" in America.

Mr Putin said that the sanctions have given Russia an incentive to shed its dependence on oil and gas exports and "switch on our brains and talents" to develop other industries.

He emphasised that electronics, aerospace industries and agriculture have all received a boost.

Russia has responded to the US and EU sanctions by halting most western food imports, a move that has helped increase Russian agricultural output.

Russian farmers have pleaded with the Kremlin to keep the import ban even if the west lifts its sanctions, but Mr Putin said that if "our partners lift the sanctions against our economy, we will respond in kind".

The Russian leader claimed that the "crisis is over," pointing at modest economic growth over the past nine months, low inflation and rising currency reserves.

Mr Putin said that a slump in oil prices had been a more important factor in Russia's economic slowdown than the sanctions.

He acknowledged that the Russian economy has not yet shed its dependence on exports of raw materials, but noted that non-energy exports have been growing.

Mr Putin recognised that people's incomes have fallen and 13.5% of Russians now live below the poverty line.

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