Russian Federation 'not trying to split EU', says Putin

Anton Novoderezhkin  TASS

Anton Novoderezhkin TASS

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Chinese state media that he expects economic sanctions to be gradually lifted and Russia's relationship with Western countries to normalise.

The Russian leader said steel tariffs imposed by Washington on other nations amounted to sanctions, and that European countries had never expected they would be affected by such measures.

Putin praised his military forces, maintaining they helped combat terrorism in Syria and said their actions helped stabilize the situation there.

But, he added, "we are not building long-term installations there and, if necessary, can withdraw our servicemen quite quickly without any material losses".

The Kremlin first launched airstrikes in Syria in September 2015 in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of the conflict in President Bashar al-Assad's favour.

"Federal Chancellor for a really friendly, very open atmosphere that was created for our joint work today", Putin said during the opening ceremony of the "Old Masters From the Hermitage" exhibition organized by the Russian State Hermitage Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It's no coincidence that Austria, unlike virtually all the other European Union member states, decided not to expel Russian diplomats after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain.

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"Overall, we are heading in the right direction", he said. Yulia Skripal has said since the incident she wants to return to Russian Federation at some point in the future. "Yes, this growth is modest, small, but it is also not a fall".

"The Russian people, the voters will decide who that will be", he said. "However, I certainly think about creating conditions for a new generation of managers to emerge, they should be capable of assuming responsibility for Russian Federation", the president said.

The Russian president issued a stern warning to Ukraine not to undertake any attacks on Moscow-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country during the upcoming soccer World Cup.

Putin had been asked about the visa problems being experienced by billionaire Roman Abramovich in Britain. The nationwide broadcast on state TV channels showed frequent shots of communications workers at computers monitoring questions submitted by viewers.

In a particularly heated exchange on the annexation of Crimea and the shooting down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine, an irate Putin snapped: "If you do not like my answers, then do not ask me questions" and accused Wolf of engaging in "a monologue rather than an interview".

"Life is getting worse and worse", read another.

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