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Vladimir Putin quizzed in annual live phone-in

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In a live televised phone-in, President Vladimir Putin says Russia can use Western sanctions to boost economic development by becoming more self-reliant.

Vladimir Putin said he had told business leaders that he did not expect EU-US sanctions – imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine – to be lifted soon.

“We need to use the situation to reach a new level of development,” the president said.

It is the 13th such annual phone-in – and usually they last about 4 hours.

The event is highly choreographed but does reveal Russians’ concerns.Vladimir Putin live phone in 2015

About two million people have submitted questions – and more will come in during the broadcast. Russia’s ailing economy is a national preoccupation.

Vladimir Putin said the Russian economy would take about two years to bounce back, or less as the Russian ruble’s value was rising again. But industrial output may shrink further, he warned.

He said there were encouraging signs that Russian agriculture was growing and replacing imports of Western food.

Vladimir Putin is said to have taken two days out to prepare for the phone-in by consulting ministers and other experts. The broadcast began at 12:00 local time from a studio near the Kremlin.

The Kremlin says there has been an increase in questions about foreign policy, including calls to give formal recognition to the two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Vladimir Putin is likely to face complaints about healthcare, pensions and rising food prices, as Russians’ real incomes have fallen this year for the first time since he came to power.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said about 23% of the questions submitted concerned social welfare issues, and the second biggest area of concern was housing and local services.


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