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Putin holds annual press conference
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed optimism about his country's future development and stood firm on some of the disputes with the West in his annual press conference in the Kremlin.



Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his final annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, February 14, 2008.


The Russian leader, who is set to leave office in May, said he is satisfied with his eight years in office.


"I am sure I do not feel ashamed before the citizens who twice voted for me as president of the Russian Federation. All these eight years I have been dedicating all of myself to this," Putin told some 1,400 journalists attending the event, which may be his last Kremlin set piece to the press.


Putin said he managed to avoid major mistakes and achieved the goals he set for himself during his presidency, adding that the year 2007 was a "very successful" year for Russia economically.


"Russia's economic growth hit 8.1 percent last year and its purchasing power ranked seventh among world economies," he said.


"We have restored the foundations of the Russian economy on an entirely new market base and are steadily turning into one of the economic leaders," he said.


Asked about his possible role as prime minister after he leaves office as president, Putin said Russia will properly arrange relations between the president and government.


The president will set outlines and directions for national development while the government will be responsible for substantial work such as drafting budgets and carrying out social projects, Putin said.


The Russian leader said his preferred successor, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, will be an "effective" president.


Putin, who has agreed to be prime minister if Medvedev wins the election, said he's not addicted to power and will abide by the constitution, which bars him from seeking a third consecutive term.


"I was never tempted to run for a third term. I decided on the very first day of my presidency that I would not breach the Russian constitution," he said.


But he indicated he would still have a strong role in Russia for the years to come.


"I will be involved in the same tasks as when I was president," he said. As long as Medvedev is president, "I will continue working."



A man walks past television sets in an electronics shop in Moscow Feb. 14, 2008, showing Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during an annual question and answer session at the Kremlin. 


No appetite for confrontation


While commenting on Ukraine's possible accession to NATO, Putin warned Russia may target its missiles at Ukraine.


"We will have to target our missiles at sites which, in our opinion, may threaten our national security," he said.


Putin, however, said Russia does not intend to seek confrontation with any country and does not want a repeat of the Cold War.


"We will never slide into a confrontation, but we believe it will be right to fight for our interests just as our partners do," he said.


"The presumption that we want to return to the Cold War era is a very bold presumption. We are not interested in this," he said.


On the status of Kosovo, Putin said that support for its unilateral declaration of independence is "immoral" and "illegal."


Putin called on the concerned parties to abide by U.N. resolutions and urged the European Union not to adopt double standards over Kosovo.


Russia strongly opposes the unilateral proclamation of independence by Kosovo, a breakaway Serbian province mostly Albanian in ethnicity.


Kosovo, which has been administered by the United Nations since1999, is expected to unilaterally declare independence after talks failed to resolve its future status.


Russia-China relations


The Russian president hailed the partnership between Russia and China as a key factor in ensuring strategic stability in the world.


"An important interaction factor is the fact that the partnership between Russia and China is an important stabilizing factor in the world," Putin said.


China, as one of Russia's strategic partners, is enjoying fast economic growth and the increasing trade and economic cooperation between the two countries has boosted bilateral ties, Putin said.


Bilateral cooperation will expand in fields such as trade and economy, science and technology, aviation and space research, and environmental protection, he said.


"China is one of the few countries with which we have very close and long-term cooperation... I simply have no doubt that we will keep this high level of trust between our two countries and will achieve new successes, primarily in the economic area," said Putin.


(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2008)

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