MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday shrugged off the negative impact of Western sanctions, saying they will only encourage Russia to build closer ties with China, India and Latin America.
Speaking at an investment forum, Putin described the sanctions as "utter silliness" that hurt Western business and offered an opportunity for others to expand in the Russian market.
Putin said the sanctions, imposed by the United States, the European Union and others over Russia's role in the Ukrainian crisis, violated basic principles of the World Trade Organization and inflicted lasting damage to the global economy.
The ruble has fallen sharply as the sanctions have taken hold, imposing severe restrictions on top Russian banks and companies to borrow on Western capital markets. Capital flight is expected to top $100 billion this year as jittery investors dump Russian assets.
Putin said that the Kremlin has no plans to introduce any currency restrictions or capital controls, adding that Russia's Central Bank has enough instruments to ensure the nation's financial stability.
He said that the government plans to expand trading in rubles with China and other nations to help lower risks.
Putin acknowledged that Russia's ban on most Western food in retaliation to Western sanctions has fueled inflation, which is expected to reach 8 percent this year, but voiced hope that prices will stabilize.
He promised that the state will be ready to provide support to those sectors and companies hit by sanctions, but will move cautiously to avoid undermining the nation's financial health.
Asked about criminal charges filed last month against one of Russia's top tycoons, Vladimir Yevtushenkov, which related to privatization of the Bashneft oil company, Putin said the Kremlin has no intention to launch a large-scale reversal of privatization deals, but added that investigators may look at some specific cases.
Yevtushenkov has been placed under house arrest in the case that has spooked investors and drawn comparisons to the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky more than a decade ago.
Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.