Russian President Vladimir Putin has used crude language in a furious new attack on Turkey over the downing of a Russian combat jet last month,BBC reports. The incident on the Syria-Turkey border was a “hostile act” but Russia was “not the country” to run away, he told his annual news conference.
He saw “no prospect” of ties improving with Turkey, which Russia has put under sanctions, under its current leaders.
“The Turks”, he said, had “decided to lick the Americans in a certain place”. Russia deployed its air force to Syria in September in support of President Bashar al-Assad and has been carrying out air strikes on his opponents.
Its intervention has been heavily criticised by Turkey, the US and Gulf Arab states. Mr Putin is now into his third term as president since 2000, battling an economic crisis. Critics say civil liberties have been steadily eroded under his rule.
He remains one of the world’s most recognisable politicians, and has topped the list of The World’s Most Powerful People compiled by Forbes magazine for the third year running.
Mr Putin said Turkish officials should have picked up the phone to talk to Russia about their concerns that air strikes in Syria were hitting Turkmen rebels. Turkey, he said, had achieved nothing by shooting down the jet while Russia had bolstered its presence in Syria by deploying anti-aircraft missiles.
Mr Putin touched on other issues at the news conference
- He denied Russian regular troops were deployed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine but said there could be “people there who were carrying out certain tasks including in the military sphere”
- He predicted economic growth in Russia the new year of 0.7%, rising to 1.9% in 2017 and 2.4% in 2018, based on oil at $50 a barrel
Mr Putin said his country’s economic crisis had peaked. While oil prices had fallen sharply, he said, manufacturing had shown slight growth and there was a healthy trade balance in agriculture.
“Our economy depends on oil and gas prices, we expected Brent to be worth $100 dollars per barrel, but then it was 50, but this was an optimistic prediction too, our forecasts have to be amended again,” Mr Putin said.
“GDP is falling, inflation is 12.3%, incomes, investment are falling too but the peak of the economic crisis is over.” Mr Putin is known for his marathon performances at his news conferences, where he frequently uses hard-hitting, colourful language.
In an interview with state TV on Wednesday evening, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was a target in a “big information war [which] has been waged for a long time”. Last year, Mr Putin’s annual news conference lasted three hours and 10 minutes, while the record was set in 2008 at four hours 40 minutes.