During his annual press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed major global challenges, including the raging coronavirus pandemic and the future of Moscow-Washington ties after US President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.
This year due to coronavirus-related restrictions, Putin on Thursday held his 16th annual press conference in an online format, where he spoke to journalists and the public from his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo.
The event lasted four hours and 29 minutes and included questions from the general public.
While 774 journalists were accredited to attend, only 237 were present at the International Trade Centre in Moscow where the conference was hosted.
Putin answered more than 60 questions on a wide array of issues ranging from domestic matters to international affairs and incumbent global problems such as the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite rumours about the origin of the coronavirus, there is no evidence that can back these accusations against certain countries, Putin said.
“As for the origin, there are a lot of rumours. I would not like to talk about them all while addressing the country and the whole world, particularly because we haven’t come across any evidence that confirms these accusations against anyone,” the President said.
“I think that now we need to build on other issues: not to find fault, but to unite efforts to deal with the problem.”
Joint efforts in the fight against the coronavirus would set international cooperation on the right path, according to the President.
“The priority field for the primary healthcare system is to ensure that citizens have 100 per cent access to medical services. I can see that there are many issues here that require a prompt solution. This is what we will focus on at first,” Putin said.
The Russian President expects that at least some, if not all, problems in the Moscow-Washington relations can be resolved during Biden’s presidency.
“We proceed from the premise that the newly-elected President of the US will understand what is happening… He is an experienced person both in domestic policy and in foreign policy and we expect that all the issues which have arisen, at least some of them, will be solved under the new administration,” he said.
When asked whether Russia is responsible for the deterioration of its relations with the US, Putin said that Washington withdrew from key military agreements and failed to uphold its promises.
“Did we leave the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? We didn’t do that. And we have to respond by creating new weapons systems that can confront threats… Then our colleagues (the US) withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty.”
He noted that the US accumulated a global network of military bases, and the country’s military budget amounts to $770 billion, contrasting the Russian budget that is equal to $46 billion, stressing that Russia displays a less aggressive policy than America.
The President said that due to a reluctance from the side of the US to continue dialogue and negotiations in relation to the INF Treaty, Washington cannot expect Moscow to leave things the way they are.
The President added that the termination of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which will expire in February, poses a threat and leaves the world with nothing associated with the control of the arms race.
The Russian leader also called for international assistance in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We hope that international mediators will finally move from words to deeds and help those that need assistance, refugees returning to Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.
Russia shouldn’t be the only one doing this by sending humanitarian convoys there, but also international organisations, for example, the Unicef, Unesco, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, he added.