Russia 'open to world', will cooperate with West: Putin


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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said his country was open to the world and would cooperate with the West despite persistent tensions over the Ukraine crisis.
"Russia is open to the world," the Russian president told foreign and Russian investors at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.
"Our active cooperation with new centres of global growth in no case means that we intend to pay less attention to our dialogue with our traditional Western partners," he told the country's main economic forum.
Putin pointedly ignored the tensions with the West, seeking instead to tout his government's successes.
"I would like to focus our attention on economic issues," Putin said with a smile, noting that a deep crisis many had predicted "had not happened."
"We have stabilised the situation," he said. "We have a stable budget. Our financial and banking systems have adapted to new conditions."
Putin made no major policy announcements, while repeating his often-reiterated pledge to improve Russia's battered investment climate.
Moscow has been locked in a confrontation with the West over Ukraine for the past year.
The economic forum got off to a rocky start Thursday amid a new spike in tensions with Brussels, with Russia seeing its state assets in France and Belgium frozen in a row over compensation for shareholders of defunct oil giant Yukos.
Russian officials reacted by saying Moscow was preparing a "judicial response" to the measure, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggesting the freeze was timed to coincide with the economic forum.
"I am not a fan of conspiracy theories but even if it is a coincidence, of course this works against those who want to work in Russia in a normal way, without some sort of artificial barriers."
Some of Putin's liberal allies including chief executive of Sberbank German Gref slammed the government's handling of the crisis.
Putin's veteran ally and former finance minister Alexei Kudrin on Thursday proposed bringing forward 2018 presidential polls to help the president conduct sweeping reforms to pull Russia out of the crisis.
"Why do we not bring forward presidential elections and announce a new programme of reforms?" said the widely-respected economist, who is believed to still wield influence behind the scenes.
Kudrin's proposal immediately unleashed debate, with some seeing it as an attempt to test public opinion.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not reject the idea out of hand, suggesting that experts would discuss it.

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