19 Dec 2014

Putin breaks silence on rouble problems

7:40 am on 19 December 2014

President Vladimir Putin has sought to assure Russians that the economy would rebound after the rouble's dramatic slide this year.

At a three-hour media conference, the Russian leader blamed external factors for the currency hitting an all time low.

President Putin insisted the Russian economy would rebound.

President Putin insisted the Russian economy would rebound. Photo: AFP

Russia is heading into recession due to low oil prices, sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis and global economic problems.

The rouble has fallen about 45 percent against the dollar this year, and suffered particularly steep falls on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr Putin accepted Russia had failed to diversify its economy for the past two decades and relied too heavily on its oil and gas exports.

But he insisted the nation's currency reserves were sufficient to keep the economy stable, saying the central bank should not "burn" its $419 billion reserves.

"I don't believe you can call it a crisis - you can call it what you like," he told a packed conference hall.

If the economic problems persisted, he said, the government would have to amend its plans and reduce social spending and future growth.

But he added: "Our economy will get out of this crisis. How long? Maybe two years, but after that, growth is inevitable."

Firms stop selling to Russia

Although the rouble strengthened on Thursday morning, it has taken a battering in recent days.

The currency's collapse came after a drastic 6.5 percentage point rise in Russian interest rates to 17 percent.

Carmakers including General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover have stopped delivering to Russian dealerships in response to the sharp slide in the value of the rouble.

And this week technology giant Apple said it could not sell products online in Russia because the rouble's value was too volatile for it to set prices.

Mr Putin, 62, said Russia must diversify its economy to reduce dependence on oil, its major export and a key source of state income. The recovery could start in 2015, he said, though economic problems might last another two years.

Earlier this week, there were reports of Russians flocking to the shops to spend their cash before prices shoot back up. Many were said to be buying cars and home appliances.

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