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Vladimir Putin: Russia ready to improve United States relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual press conference in Moscow on Dec. 17, 2015. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA

MOSCOW — The latest news from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s end of year news conference. All times local.

3:25 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that those who killed Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov must be tracked down and punished.

Toward the end of a news conference that lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes, Putin said he personally knew Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who was gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin.

The Russian leader says that he had not discussed the issue with the leadership of the province of Chechnya, whose residents have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the crime, but added that no one would be immune from prosecution.


3:05 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia doesn’t see a new anti-terror coalition led by Saudi Arabia as hostile to its interests, but he called for pooling global efforts to fight against terrorism.

Speaking at Thursday’s news conference, Putin said that he doesn’t quite understand the purpose of creating the new coalition, because many of its members are part of the U.S.-led coalition.

At the same time, he adds that Russia has cooperated with Saudi Arabia despite their differences on the Syrian crisis.


2:55 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is working with Egypt to restore air links that Moscow cut following the crash of a Russian airliner on the Sinai Peninsula. Moscow has said the plane was downed by an explosive device.

Putin said at Thursday’s news conference that Russia decided to suspend air travel with Egypt because its agencies aren’t immediately capable of guaranteeing safety of Russian citizens. He says that the move wasn’t political and he praised the Egyptian president for his “great personal courage” in fighting terror.

He says the air links will be restored after Russian and Egyptian officials work out a set of measures to ensure safety, including the presence of Russian representatives at Egyptian airports.


2:15 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia honestly won the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Asked to comment on the ongoing investigation into the alleged corruption at FIFA, he said that Russia has done nothing wrong. He said that the nation has won the right to host the soccer tournament in an “honest competition.”

Putin has praised FIFA’s suspended president, Sepp Blatter, for his contribution to the world soccer. And the Russian leader repeated his belief that Blatter deserves a Nobel prize for his efforts.


2:05 p.m.

President Vladiimir Putin says Russia is committed to fighting doping in sports and will cooperate with international organizations to do that.

Speaking at a televised news conference Thursday, Putin said doping harms athletes’ health and those who use it must be punished.

At the same time, he said that athletes who aren’t involved in doping should not be punished alongside the violators.

Putin said that “Russia must and will be open for a joint fight with doping,” adding that he will demand that the nation’s sports officials fully cooperate with international structures.


Russia is ready to improve ties with the United States and work with whomever is elected its next president, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday. He said his talks with U.S. Secretary John Kerry earlier this week showed that Washington is ready to “move toward settling the issues that can only be settled through joint efforts.”

Addressing Russia’s strained relations with some of its neighbors at his annual news conference, attended by hundreds of Russian and foreign journalists, Putin said he saw no possibility of overcoming the tensions with Turkey under its current leadership, and wanted to see the conflict in Ukraine settled as soon as possible.

Putin said the Russian military operation in Syria will continue until a political process starts, but it is up to the Syrians to decide when to stop fighting and sit down for talks. “We aren’t going to be more Syrian than the Syrians themselves,” he added.

He also offered assurances that the Russian economy was showing signs of stabilization despite plummeting oil prices, in fielding an array of questions from journalists representing state-owned media organizations about whether the government was coping with the challenges and whether the country could afford waging a war.

The economy is set to decline by 3.8 percent this year, and average income has dropped this year for the first time since Putin was first elected in 2000.

Russian warplanes have flown thousands of combat sorties in Syria since Moscow began its air campaign on Sept. 30. Putin said the campaign will continue until work begins on a political settlement.

The president said he was unsure whether Russia needs a permanent military base in Syria, since new Russian weapons, such as sea- and air-launched cruise missiles, give Moscow enough punch to strike an enemy from afar.

Putin said Moscow supports the U.S. draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria. He said Russia and the U.S. agree on the need to ensure the drafting of a new constitution for Syria and create mechanisms of control over future elections, in which Syrians themselves will determine their leadership.

Some of his harshest words were reserved for Turkey. After a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber along the Syrian border on Nov. 24, Putin said he was stunned that Ankara, instead of contacting Moscow to explain its actions, turned immediately to NATO.

With Ukraine, however, Putin said Russia was interested in seeing the conflict settled as quickly as possible. He urged the Ukrainian government to approve legislation on holding elections in the eastern regions, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting government troops since April 2014. More than 9,000 people have been killed.

While insisting that Russia has no regular troops in eastern Ukraine, Putin acknowledged that there have been people “performing some military tasks.”

Asked whether Moscow is ready to exchange two men Ukraine says are Russian soldiers for Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko and other prisoners, Putin said any exchange must be equal and details could be discussed with the Ukrainian authorities.

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