MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference (all times local):
Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning about the rising threat of a nuclear war.
Speaking at his annual news conference Thursday, Putin pointed at the U.S. intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. He said that if the U.S. puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to take countermeasures.
He also noted that Western analysts are talking about the possibility of using low-yield nuclear weapons.
Putin warned that “there is a trend of lowering the threshold” of using nuclear weapons, adding that “lowering the threshold could lead to a global nuclear catastrophe.”
Putin also emphasized that the U.S. pondering the use of ballistic missiles with conventional warheads, saying that the launch of such a missile could be mistaken for the launch of a nuclear-tipped one and trigger a global catastrophe.
President Vladimir Putin is hailing another year of Russian economic growth after a previous period of stagnation.
Putin said at an annual news conference summing up the results of the year that Russia’s gross domestic product is set to grow by 1.8 percent this year, while industrial output has grown faster at 3 percent.
The Russian president noted Thursday that the nation’s hard currency reserves have increased from $432 billion at the start of the year to $464 billion now.
The positive statistics follow a difficult period in recent years when Russia’s economy has suffered a combined blow of low oil prices and Western sanctions, resulting in stagnation.