MOSCOW (Reuters) - The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year news conference.
ON U.S. POLITICS
"The party that is called the Democrats has clearly forgotten the original meaning of that name."
"The use of administrative resources (by the Democrats) is absolutely shameless."
"Outstanding figures in American history from the ranks of the Democratic Party would likely be turning in their graves. Roosevelt certainly would be."
"They (the Democrats) are losing on all fronts and looking elsewhere for things to blame. In my view this, how shall I say it, degrades their own dignity. You have to know how to lose with dignity."
ON WHAT HE WOULD ASK DONALD TRUMP
"It’s hard to say. The U.S. President-elect should first have the opportunity to form his team in an orderly way. Without that, simply having unprepared meetings is not productive. What will the questions be? Questions about the normalization of our relations. Mr Trump did after all say during the election campaign that he thought it right to normalize U.S.-Russia links and said it would not get worse. Because they cannot get any worse, I agree with him on that. We’ll think together about how to make the situation better."
ON DONALD TRUMP AND THE MILITARY
"In the course of his election campaign he (Trump) spoke about the necessity of strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and strengthening the armed forces. There's nothing unusual here. To be honest, I'm a bit surprised by the words of certain other official representatives of the current administration who have for some reason set about proving that the armed forces of the United States are the most powerful in the world. No-one disputed that."
"If anyone is unleashing an arms race it's not us ... We will never spend resources on an arms race that we can't afford."
ON PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS IN 2018
"When the time is ripe (I’ll say). I will look at what is happening in the country and in the world, and based on the results of what we have done and what we can do the decision will be made on whether I will participate in upcoming elections for the Russian president."
ON THE ECONOMY
"(Economic) growth is happening thanks to certain sectors of the economy – machine building, chemicals, manufacturing and agriculture."
"We saw some economic growth in November ... This year we will probably have minus 0.5-0.6 percent (economic growth)."
"This year (inflation) will be significantly less than 6 percent ... most likely in the region of 5.5 percent – this is a record low inflation rate, and gives us cause to expect that we will be able to reach our target and very soon get to inflation of 5 percent and then 4 percent."
ON THE BUDGET DEFICIT
"The budget deficit will be a bit bigger .. 3.7 percent. In my view this is an absolutely acceptable amount because, among other reasons, we have preserved a positive external trade balance – more than 70 billion dollars (and) we have preserved our reserves ... the central bank's gold and forex reserves have even grown, and are now a little over 385 (billion dollars). Judging by that measure everything is fine. It's a good safety margin."
ON OPEC AND OIL PRICES
"We think that in the second half of 2017 the surplus of oil in the market will disappear and the oil price will stabilize. We are counting on a stabilization (of prices) at today’s level."
"It (Russian oil production cuts agreed with OPEC) will be a smooth reduction that will hardly affect our overall output. This is perfectly acceptable to us, and we are counting on a rise in prices, which has already happened ... a difference in the oil price of $10 will mean extra revenues to the budget of 1.75 trillion rubles ($28.65 billion) and an extra 750 billion rubles of income for oil companies, despite lower output. So at the end of the day everyone ends up winning.”
"In this area transparency is absolutely essential ... Undoubtedly there is a certain political element in all these issues. Sport should be cleansed, along with culture, of any sort of politics. Sport and culture are things that should unite people and not divide them."
ON UKRAINE AND CRIMEA
"I am sure that sooner or later there will be a normalization of relations with Ukraine, and it (a bridge between Russian and Crimea) will be very beneficial to the development of Russia-Ukraine relations and future commercial and humanitarian links."
"All the necessary money is in place next year so we can from Feb.1 increase pensions in line with the rate of inflation in 2016."
"The president of Turkey and the leaders of Iran (also) played a huge role in this (managing the situation around Aleppo). I don’t know if this will sound immodest, but without our participation it would have been impossible."
($1 = 61.0790 rubles)
(Reporting by Moscow Newsroom)