Putin: Rouble will rise again

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation. (Kirill Kudryavtsev, AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation. (Kirill Kudryavtsev, AFP

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia's economy would rebound after the rouble's collapse against the dollar but warned that it could take two years for the country to emerge from crisis.

Under pressure to show that he had a plan to pull Russia out of the crisis at his end-of-year news conference, Putin supported the actions of the central bank and government in a crisis he blamed on external factors but said further measures would be required.

Russia's economy was heading into recession in what one minister called a "perfect storm" of low oil prices, Western sanctions in the Ukraine crisis and global economic problems.

The rouble is down 46% against the dollar this year.

Current situation

"If the situation develops unfavourably, we will have to amend our plans. Beyond doubt, we will have to cut some (spending). But a positive turn and emergence from the current situation are unavoidable," Putin said.

"The growth of the global economy will continue and our economy will rebound from the current situation."

He said Russia should diversify its economy to reduce dependence on oil, its major export and a key source of state income and a recovery could start at some point next year.

The rouble was more than 2% weaker on the day, despite central bank action to prop up the currency and around 45% down against the dollar this year.

Putin said his government did not plan to issue orders to domestic exporters to sell their foreign-currency earnings to support the rouble.  He said the central bank should have stopped its forex market interventions a long time ago and that if it had, it would not have had to raise its key interest rate in an emergency move this week.

Structural reforms

Putin had been silent as the currency collapsed this week before recovering some ground.

A prominent opponent, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, said the crisis showed Putin had mismanaged the economy and that he should organise free elections to quietly end his almost 15-year domination of Russia.

"Russia is going into decline," Kasyanov said in an interview late on Wednesday, suggesting Putin should accept that "he needs an exit strategy" to leave power.

Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said in a newspaper interview the Western sanctions were likely to last "a very long time" and Russia was paying the price for failing to carry out structural reforms, describing events as "the perfect storm".

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