MOSCOW – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that the country needed a broad series of measures to boost development, free it from a lack of progress and vault it into the future, as he gave the state of the nation address just weeks ahead of a presidential election that he is widely expected to win.
In his 14th state of the nation speech, Putin said Russia had to be open to the world and to new ideas and initiatives, as the country was at a crossroads and each step taken over next few years was going to be significant for its development.
“We need to be strong and work hard; otherwise, we will have no future. We need to focus on development so that no obstacle prevents us from making progress,” he said. “It’s up to us to determine our future.”
Putin said it was now time to address new challenges and, acknowledging that 20 million of Russia’s 146 million citizens were living in poverty, vowed to ensure sustained wage growth and cute poverty levels by half in the next six years.
He insisted that nothing he was saying had anything to do with the upcoming elections, a vote slated for March 18 that he is widely expected to win as he has been at the helm of the country since the turn of the century, alternating between the roles of Prime Minister and President.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who has been banned from taking part in the elections, has called for the vote to be boycotted as he does not believe it would be fair.