Vladimir Putin speaks at the Economic Forum in St Petersburg
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Putin said “nothing will be as it used to be in global politics” during a 73 minute-long speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. The Russian president accused the United States of treating other countries like “colonies” and said gloomy forecasts about Russia’s economy had not been fulfilled.
He told the Forum on Friday that Russia was entering a new global order as a “powerful and modern country”.
Putin said it was “obvious” the rules of the new global order would be set by “strong and sovereign states”.
During a lengthy denunciation of the US and its allies, Putin said: “Nothing will be as it used to be in global politics.”
The Russian dictator hailed his country’s strength and resilience in the face of a Western world which he accused of colonial arrogance and trying to crush his country with an economic blitzkrieg of sanctions.
Western allies led by Brussels and Washington have imposed the harshest economic sanctions any nation has faced in modern history since the Kremlin ordered troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Putin claimed the European Union could lose more than £325 billion ($400bn) because of the sanctions, which he claimed would rebound on those who had imposed them.
He called the conflict in Ukraine the action of a “sovereign country that has the right to defend its security”, accusing the West of “active military appropriation of Ukrainian territory”.
While he appeared to acknowledge the scale of destruction, he made excuses for Russian forces.
He said: “Against a backdrop of increasing risks for us and threats, Russia’s decision to conduct a special military operation was forced – difficult, of course, but forced and necessary.”
In a two-hour question-and-answer session after his speech, the Russian dictator evoked Stalingrad, the Soviet city razed to the ground by urban warfare in World War Two.
Putin said: “We must not turn those cities and towns that we liberate into a semblance of Stalingrad. This is a natural thing that our military thinks about when organising hostilities.”
The speech was delayed for an hour after a cyber attack struck the Forum’s guest accreditation and admission system, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
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Putin also took a swipe at the EU during his speech, claiming its leaders dance to someone else’s tune.
He said: “The European Union has finally lost its political sovereignty.
“Its bureaucratic elites are dancing to someone else’s tune, accepting whatever they are told from above, while causing harm to their own population and their own economy.”
He warned this “divorce from reality” would lead to populism and a number of other negative impacts.
Putin said: “Such a divorce from reality – from the demands of society – will inevitably lead to a surge of populism and the growth of radical movements, to serious social and economic changes, to degradation, and, in the near future, to a change of elites.”
However, Herman Gref, chief executive of Russia’s top bank Sberbank, warned the country’s economy may need a decade to return to the pre-sanctions levels of 2021.
Mr Gref, whose bank is considered a proxy for the Russian economy by holding the majority of the household deposits and corporate loans, estimated that countries which had hit Russia with sanctions accounted for 56 percent of its exports and 51 percent of imports.
He said: “This is a threat to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the bulk of the economy is under the fire.
“As a result – and if we do nothing – we may need around a decade to return economy to the 2021 levels.”
Western sanctions have sent consumer prices soaring, prompting Russian authorities to bring in capital controls, hike the key rate and curb foreign investors’ ability to sell their assets in Russia.
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