Thursday, December 18, 2014

Putin's Annual Press Conference ( December 18 , 2014 ) - Comes in the midst of ruble volatility , oil price gyrations this week and looming fresh US Congressional Sanctions to be signed imminently by President Obama ......

( Further updates  from the presser in  Presser Tweets section below ,  as appropriate. The full 4 hour presser can be accessed at the link above  ! One major point from the presser already - Putin says no plans for capital controls. Article below another key point from presser.... )

Putin says US and key oil producers may be equally interested in lower oil

Published time: December 18, 2014 12:12
Reuters / Ilya Naymushin
Reuters / Ilya Naymushin
The sharp drop in the oil price, which has lost more than 40 percent since its peak in the summer, may be because the US and some of other huge oil exporters are interested in that happening, President Putin said.
"Now we are all witnessing a decline in energy prices. There are all sorts of conversations on why this is happening. Either there’s some kind of a plot by Saudi Arabia and the US to punish Iran or influence the economy of Russia, Venezuela, and so on. It may be or it may be not,” he said.
“Maybe it is a struggle between the traditional producers of raw materials and shale oil. We cannot say for sure.”
Putin also said that plunging oil prices could lead to such a kickback that even industrialized countries would fully feel it.

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Putin's annual press conference is about to start. My estimate is 4 hours 23 minutes...

( Hmm , wonder how this happened  ? )

US President Barack Obama has not yet signed a bill clearing the way for more economic sanctions against Russia. The US State Department confirmed Jen Psaki misspoke during the press briefing.
The bill was expected to be signed “by the end of the week,”according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s statement in Tuesday. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki claimed on Wednesday that the bill was already signed.
“He signed it yesterday,” Psaki stated during the briefing, interrupting RT’s Gayane Chichakyan who was asking a question about the bill dubbed Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.
However, according to representatives of the White House “the President has not yet signed this legislation.”

"Jen [Psaki] actually misspoke during today’s briefing, so we will be correcting this with a footnote on the transcript found on the website in a few minutes," the department's officialconfirmed to Sputnik News Agency.
The bill will see some $350 million in assistance provided to Ukraine.
Besides the military and non-military assistance to Ukraine, the bill additionally allows further imposition of conditional sanctions on the Russian defense sector, such as penalties on state-owned arms dealer Rosoboronexport as well as connected individuals.
The bill also envisions $20 million in annual funding in order to support “Russian democracy and civil society organizations” including through increasing “US government-supported broadcasting activities.” Another priority is expanded broadcasting in countries of the former Soviet Union, which will cost another $10 million per year.
Although the bill does not make sanctions fully obligatory, it allows Obama to decide which parts of the bill to enforce.

‘Outdated approach’

The news comes the very same day President Obama made a historic announcement about a “policy change” towards Havana and US plans to lift the sales and exports embargo and establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.
The decades of “outdated approach” brought no regime change in Cuba which is “still governed by the Castros and the Communist party,” the US president announced.
“No other nation joins us in these sanctions. And it has had little effect,” Obama said. “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interest.”
In the case of Russia, US politicians including Obama have also admitted that restrictions imposed so far were not as effective as expected. However, “every country is hugely different,” Psaki said, apparently implying that the push for “isolation” of Russia may still somehow influence policies and processes within the country.
The Russian Foreign Ministry meanwhile expressed hope that Washington might finally realize the ineffectiveness of sanction pressure on other countries, as it eventually did in the case of Cuba.
“It is indicative that the US president has recognized the futility of years of trying to ‘isolate’ Cuba," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "We cannot but hope that Washington will be quick to realize the futility of similar sanctions pressure on other countries.”

( The past several days in the whirlwind .. )

The Russian national currency is suffering its worst turmoil since the 1998 default, as a combination of dropping oil prices, trader fears, and reduced access to international financing has sent it into free fall.

Thursday, December 18

07:51 GMT:
The Russian currency is buoyant ahead of a major public Q&A session with President Putin. It continued its recovery Thursday to open at 58.3 rubles against the USD and 71.9 against the euro.

Wednesday, December 17

12:50 GMT:
Forex Finland stopped buying the Russian ruble due to market volatility and the currency’s fast depreciation. The company said it would conduct operations in the ruble with existing clients, but won’t buy in from new customers for an indefinite period of time.
10:57 GMT:
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia has enough market instruments to break the drastic ruble fall, which is a result of an “emotion game.”
09:20 GMT:
The MSCI investment company said Russia may be excluded from the MSCI Emerging Markets Index due to the turmoil in its financial system, if the Russian government chooses to start restricting the free flow of capital to counter it.
08:00 GMT:
Ruble saw a rollercoaster morning at MICEX, falling on Wednesday’s opening only to rebound after the Central Bank launched a massive $2 billion currency intervention.
04:46 GMT:

Tuesday, December 16

17:10 GMT:
The dollar and the euro rebounded on MICEX trading to 67.8 rubles and 85.8 rubles respectively. The correction came after Economy Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev said the Russian government has prepared several measures to stabilize the Russian financial sector at a recent emergency meeting.
He added the ruble may recover somewhat after a 2 percent rise in the oil price in the US, where barrel traded at $57.03 at the end of the day after hitting bottom at $54.86
16:37 GMT:
Major Auto, a leading Russian car dealer suspended sales throughout its retailer chain due to the currency volatility.
16:28 GMT:
Apple announces that its online store in Russia has been taken down for maintenance. “Apple Store is being updated and will soon resume its work,” the company’s Russian branch said in a statement.
In mid-November Apple decided to change prices for its products sold online in Russia due to the ruble plunge.


From the Presser....

Putin standing his ground....

12:20 GMT:
Putin wishes everyone a happy new year and concludes the press conference, which ran an hour less than the previous year.

12:19 GMT:
Putin says that in the end, Russia will be stronger, both economically and in the international arena, despite the problems it is facing today.

12:19 GMT:
Putin once again says that providing for the welfare of people is the most important goal of all. He says the government will adjust pensions for the actual inflation rate.

12:18 GMT:
He says that economic growth is "inevitable", as the rest of the globe is growing economically as well.

12:17 GMT:
"We are all going through a very difficult time due to objective and subjective circumstances."

12:17 GMT:
Putin says the economy will adapt to the new situation, which has been partially sparked by low energy prices.

12:15 GMT:
He is further asked about plans to run for president again. Putin says it is too early to talk about who will run for president in 2018. Regarding the economy, he says the head of state is always responsible, and that everyone makes mistakes. He reiterates that the government is doing very well in addressing the current issues that Russia is facing.

12:15 GMT:

. At three hours, he says three more questions. Reporters starting yelling out names of their regions needing attention

12:15 GMT:
Putin is asked if he should be held accountable for the current economic problems, including the fall of the ruble.

12:14 GMT:
Putin says there is not enough money currently to implement certain projects to guarantee infrastructure projects intended to aid the Crimean Tatars.

12:14 GMT:
Putin says the conference should finish with questions regarding the economy, potentially signalling he could soon wrap the Q&A up.

12:04 GMT:
Putin says there is a strong possiblity that he will visit Tehran.

12:04 GMT:
Putin mentions how Russia promised it would build a nuclear power plant and "we have done it." Contacts between Moscow and Tehran will continue.

12:03 GMT:
Putin says they are very close to finding a solution on the Iranian nuclear question.

12:00 GMT:
Putin turns to the drop in oil prices, why that is happening, and whether there is a conspiracy between the United States and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and influence Russia's economy. Putin says there could be such a conspiracy, or maybe not. Putin says that one things that remains true is that the interests of the United States and and OPEC members could coincide, despite the US shale gas boom and how that influences oil prices.

11:41 GMT:
Putin says that sanctions had caused Russia to consider the ban on imports of new cars. He said such a move could have bolstered domestic automotive production and hurt those sanctioning Russia. He noted, however, that such a move was not needed, as the currency situation was taking care of it anyways.

As Putin speaks, Brent is up about 3%, but ruble is down 1%

11:38 GMT:
Putin says that all terror suspects should be brought to justice, but within the framework of the law.

11:36 GMT:
Ksenia Sobchak and a Chechen journalist argue over her previous question regarding whether Chechen leader Kadyrov had violated the Russia constitution in his call to burn down the homes of terrorists' family members.

11:33 GMT:
Putin notes that the situation with Georgia following the 2008 war is a "bleeding wound."He says that former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili led to this situation. He noted how Georgia's decision not to block Russia's ascension into the World Trade Organization was a positive step in mending relations, and Russia in turn opened its markets to Georgia.

11:29 GMT:
Russia says investigation into the oil company Bashneft has no connection with the issue of privatization.

11:27 GMT:
Putin turns to its relationship with China, which he calls Russia's largest trading partner. He notes that Russia and China have many common interests, and the two countries can do a lot towards stabilizing the world. He notes the expansion of nuclear energy and the potential cooperation on a number of hi-tech projects, including space exploration and aviation.

11:22 GMT:
Putin rhapsodizes about Russia's long relationship with Turkey when asked about efforts by the EU to get Turkey to join those imposing sanctions against Russia.

11:22 GMT:

Putin rhapsodizes about Russia's long relationship with Turkey when asked about efforts by the EU to get Turkey to join those imposing sanctions against Russia.

Putin says Russia wants to take a balanced approach to the Island of Cyprus, which is divided between Turkish and Greek parts. Putin stresses that Russia has close relations both with Turkey and Greece, and therefore wants to be fair in its efforts in helping bring about a resolution. He says there is much to be optimistic about.

11:07 GMT:
Putin turns to the issue of creating a free economic space with its partners like Kazakhstan, saying that their mutual market will not turn into a mutual crisis. He speaks of positive results which have already been seen with the Customs Union, noting that turnover has increased 50 times and will continue to grow.

11:04 GMT:
Putin said he wants to work on a host of global health and security issues with its Western partners if they are willing to cooperate with Russia.

11:03 GMT:
He notes the expansion of NATO forces on Russia's borders, once again asking, are we the one provoking a conflict?

Putin back onto favorite topic of U.S. military expansion toward Russia's border

11:03 GMT:
Putin says he believes Russia is right and its western partners are wrong in regards to the crisis in Ukraine. He claims that sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis are illegal and violate terms set out by the World Trade Organization.
11:01 GMT:
He mentions that Russia has a handful of foreign military bases, while the United States has military bases around the world. He also notes how the Pentagon has a budget times times higher than that of Moscow. He says looking at these figures, it's difficult to say that Russia is the one pushing conflict. He says that no one wants to listen to Russia's opinion or respect its interests.

View image on Twitter
to BBC: We're not attacking anyone, non-aggressive, have 2 military bases abroad - LIVE 

11:00 GMT:
Putin notes that Americans continued its strategic flights, with nuclear weapons on board, even after Russia had stopped such flights in the 90s. He says Russia has started such strategic flights again, but asks who provoked it.

Putin: "We are not attacking in the political sense of that word. We're not attacking anyone. We're defending our interests."

10:59 GMT:
Putin says that Russia is not seeking conflict, it is more aggressively defending its own interests. This has caused consternation in Washington.

10:57 GMT:

Russia is asked about sending Russian troops into Eastern Ukraine by the BBC, and how, as the commander in chief, he has authorized several military maneuvers which have heightened tensions with Europe. Is Putin seeking a new Cold War?

10:57 GMT:
Russia is asked about sending Russian troops into Eastern Ukraine by the BBC, and how, as the commander in chief, he has authorized several military maneuvers which have heightened tensions with Europe. Is Putin seeking a new Cold War?

10:54 GMT:
Putin says there are significant budgetary imbalances from one regional division to another. He said these imbalances affect every aspect of live, from standard of living to life expectancy.

10:52 GMT:

Putin assures that he will personally oversee the implementation. The presumption of innocence in Russia is sufficient to ensure no persecution.

Putin asked about the capital amnesty announced in the recent State of the Nation address, but no further details have emerged. How will this be implemented? What will the reaction of businesses to the law? How can they be sure they won't be persecuted by the authorities once registered in Russia?

10:47 GMT:
Putin says that for those who seized power in Kiev, Europe should have told them that in order to join the European community, they should have abided by the February 21 agreement, which had called for elections which would have taken place this month. But unfortunately, those in Europe chose another path, which led to the civil war in the country.

He noted how US Assistance Secretary of State Victoria Nuland handed out cookies on Kiev's Independence Square, which was symbolic of the Western attitude in Ukraine.

10:46 GMT:
Putin turns to the ouster of Yanukovich in Ukraine. He says that the former Ukrainian president chose not to use force, and now he's gone.

10:44 GMT:
Putin jokes that there cannot be a palace coup in Russia, as Russia has a Kremlin, and not a palace.

Reuters to Putin: People in your circle blame you for problems in country. Putin: Give me their names.

10:44 GMT:
Putin says that such a scenario couldn't happen in Russia, because the government enjoys the support of its people.

Putin is asked about the risks of of coup in Russia. Is there any change of a Color Revolution breaking out in Russia.

10:39 GMT:
Putin says the house burnings will be investigated. He notes, however, how Israel has demolished the homes of relatives of those who carried out suicide bombings. He then mentions how the United States authorized "torture" following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

"In America, torture was legalized, do you believe it?"

Putin reacts to Chechnya terror & dubious official reaction: "After 9/11, we know now, torture was legalized in US." Good point actually

10:37 GMT:
Putin says that perhaps Kadyrov was speaking out of emotion, and other people had seized on that speech to go and burn down the homes. He noted the number of police officers who were killed, and how that stoked tensions immediately after the seizure of the press house in Grozny.

10:35 GMT:

Putin turns to the question about Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who had threatened to burn down the houses of the families of terrorists suspects. Those houses were subsequently burnt down. Putin said despite the fact that many families knew about their activities of their militant relatives, that gave no one, including Kadyrov, the right to act outside of the law.

10:24 GMT:

A year after Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pardoned, a journalists from Life News says that the former oligarch had promised he would stay out of politics. He mentions that Khodorkovsky has kicked around the idea of running for president.

Putin sarcastically asks, "What country would Khodorkovsky become president of?"

Putin says no plans to introduce capital controls, he calls them "artificial limitations," on currency trading

10:06 GMT:
Putin turns his attention to speculators who are playing an active role in devaluing the ruble. He notes that these actors can both be foreign and domestic alike.

10:04 GMT:
Putin says there are not supplies of gas in Europe that would be cheaper than those Russia can supply. He notes that he wants to help Turkey's economy grow with gas pipeline project.

Putin "won't get into details" but argues hugely expensive gas pipeline to China "will not be loss-making" b/c both sides offered discounts

10:00 GMT:

Putin certainly not backing down. Accuses West of trying to subdue Russia

09:58 GMT:

Putin has spoken twice now about the need to restore a "common political area" in Ukraine.

09:58 GMT:
"If Ukraine is to preserve its territorial integrity, they have to respect everyone who lives in the territory of their country."
09:57 GMT:

Putin: "I have no doubt Poroshenko is looking for peace, but he isn't the only one in Kiev, others want fight 2 end" Here we can all agree.

09:56 GMT:
Putin says that Ukrainian troops have failed to meet the conditions under the Minsk agreement, including pulling back troops from different areas, including the airport in Donetsk.

09:54 GMT:
Putin returns to the Minsk Agreement, intended to bring about a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

09:54 GMT:

Putin says that the Minsk referendum needs to be implemented in order to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

09:51 GMT:
Putin reiterates that a diplomatic solution is needed to help those suffering in Eastern Ukraine. He says that Russia must abide by international law in helping fix the situation. He stresses the right of self-determination.
09:50 GMT:
Putin says that Russia is merely trying to maintain its "sovereignty." He says that 25-30 percent of the problems Russia is facing are due to sanctions. He says that to go through the necessary economic restructuring the country needs to grow, Russians have to work, and if they don't work, Russia will become a teddy bear. He reiterates that whatever Russia is going through, it has nothing to do with Crimea.
09:48 GMT:
Putin says they "are trying to chain the bear."
09:47 GMT:
Russia says some of Russia's "partners" supported terrorists in the Caucasus. He says that no matter what Russia does, they are against us.
09:47 GMT:
Putin turns to how Russia's hosing of the 2014 Winter Olympics was met with antipathy in some circles despite its ostensible goal of bring the world together.
09:46 GMT:
Putin says he wants to use "diplomatic means" to restore a united political space in Ukraine.
09:46 GMT:
Putin says the current economic situation is "not a price Russia has to pay for Crimea".
09:45 GMT:
Putin says that all Russians who are fighting in Ukraine are not mercenaries, as they are not being paid. He describes military operations in Eastern Ukraine as a punitive operation, but an operation that is being directed by Kiev.
09:45 GMT:
Putin says that no matter how you slice it, what happened in Ukraine this past February was a "coup."
09:45 GMT:
Putin says that all Russians who are fighting in Ukraine are not mercenaries, as they are not being paid. He describes military operations in Eastern Ukraine as a punitive operation, but an operation that is being directed by Kiev.
09:44 GMT:

View image on Twitter
Ukrainian journalist asks Putin how many troops he sent to Ukraine and how many of them died
09:39 GMT:
Putin notes that those in the West started behaving like winners after the Cold War ended. He said that they behaved like they were an empire, and other states "vassals."
09:38 GMT:

Putin's most-used phrase so far: "External economic conjuncture" that is battering Russia

09:38 GMT:
Putin turns to the theme of NATO expansion. "Isn't it a wall, a virtual wall?"
09:37 GMT:
Putin says that what Russia needs is to provide for the freedom of entrepreneurs and guarantee property rights. He says that law enforcement agencies should not be used to merely punish ones competitors. He calls for work on the industrial sector, and development of Russia’s regions. He returns to the development of the Russian Far East, a theme that featured prominently in last year’s press conference.
09:37 GMT:
Putin turns to the 25 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He notes that new walls are being built.
09:34 GMT:

Putin: Bureaucracy in Russia is nothing compared to the European Union. Bureaucracy is not a problem in our country

LIVE: Putin press conference - Central bank doing right thing, could act half a step faster

Putin says Russia has sufficient currency reserves, the ruble will recover -

"Our economy will overcome the situation. How long will it take? About two years in the worst situation." -

Lead in....

Watch live: Vladimir Putin gives yearly press conference as Russian economy in crisis

Russian journalists are getting ready to ask Putin tough questions


Earlier / Additional Tweets....

EU against Crimea to be published Friday, enforced on Saturday

Jailed Russian tycoon released before Putin press conference

A Russian tycoon placed under house arrest in September in a move that rattled markets was released from house arrest on Tuesday, just hours before President Vladimir Putin’s annual televised press conference.
A lawyer for Vladimir Yevtushenkov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying his client had been freed. The last-minute release echoes a similar move last year, when Putin announced after his annual press conference that another tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, would be set free.