MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the Russian president's annual news conference (all times local):
President Vladimir Putin says that he would welcome political competition but insists that the opposition must offer a positive program.
Answering a question from Ksenia Sobchak, who wants to challenge him in the March 18 presidential election, Putin said Thursday that he doesn't fear the opposition.
Sobchak's asked about opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has declared his intention to run but is barred from entering the campaign by an embezzlement conviction he claims is politically motivated. Without mentioning his name, Putin likened Navalny to former Georgian president turned Ukrainian opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who has challenged the Ukrainian government with a series of protests.
Putin said that his government wouldn't let "dozens of people like Saakashvili" plunge Russia into instability like that in Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin has brushed off a question from a well-known Russian radio journalist who was stabbed in the throat by an attacker at the station's studios.
The October assault on Tatyana Felgenhauer, deputy editor-in-chief at Ekho Moskvy, Russia's only independent news radio station, has shocked the journalistic community and raised fears of vigilante attacks inspired by hate speech on state-owned television.
Felgenhauer underwent a complex operation on her throat and has been on air only once since the attack.
Felgenhauer who represented Ekho Moskvy at Putin's annual news conference on Thursday, asked Putin about political prisoners and what she described as selective justice. Putin promptly brushed off the question, saying that such reports are "unsubstantiated."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Poland to stop trying to investigate any potential Russian role in the 2010 plane crash that killed Poland's president.
President Lech Kaczynski, the first lady and 94 others were killed in a crash in western Russia in April 2010.
Polish and Russian aviation experts have concluded that the crash was an accident resulting from errors by the crew trying to land in dense fog.
But Poland's ruling party, led by the late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has opened a new investigation and alleges that explosions preceded the crash.
Asked about calls to investigate possible Russian foul play, Putin said at his annual press conference on Thursday that there were no explosions onboard. "Experts both in Poland and Russia have said that," Putin said, adding that "it's a tragedy, catastrophe, we felt it together."
Putin accused Polish politicians of trying to boost their political capital by renewing the disputes around the crash.
"Russian-Polish relations are more important than current political infighting in Poland," he said. "Do turn this page, grow up!"
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the U.S. may be sparing some Syrian militants in the hope that they will fight Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.
Speaking Thursday at an annual news conference, Putin pointed to occasions when the Russian military in Syria would warn its U.S. counterparts about militants heading from Syria to Iraq, but the U.S. wouldn't launch an airstrike. Putin alleged that may indicate an intention to "use them in the fight against Assad."
He said that attempts to use militants for political purposes would raise long-term threats, drawing parallels with the U.S. support for al-Qaida during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Putin visited the Russian military air base in Syria Monday to declare victory in the fight against the Islamic State group and other militants and a partial Russian military withdrawal from the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on his Ukrainian counterpart to complete a prisoner exchange in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine by New Year's Eve.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's industrial heartland since 2014. Dozens of prisoners of war are still held captive on both sides of the slow-simmering conflict.
Putin, during his annual news conference, called on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to help make sure all prisoners are exchanged by New Year's Eve.
At the same time, Putin laid the blame on Ukraine for derailing the 2015 peace agreements between Kiev and the separatist rebels signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 2015. Ukraine "has no desire to implement the Minsk accords, no desire to start the political process."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the U.S. not to use force against North Korea, adding that the consequences will be "catastrophic."
Speaking Thursday at his annual news conference, Putin said Moscow was encouraged to hear U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's statement about readiness for talks with Pyongyang, hailing it as a "realistic" approach.
He emphasized that Russia opposes Pyongyang's nuclear bid and is ready for "constructive" cooperation to end the standoff. He added, however, that the U.S. "provoked" Pyongyang to develop its nuclear and missile programs by spiking a 2005 deal with Pyongyang.
At the same time, he sarcastically noted that U.S. calls on Russia to help settle the North Korean crisis follow the U.S. sanctions that put Russia on par with Iran and North Korea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that the FBI has manipulated evidence from the main whistleblower on doping at the 2014 Olympics.
Putin says Grigory Rodchenkov, who is under witness protection after fleeing to the United States last year, is "under the control" of the FBI and "American special services."
He indicated that U.S. agencies may be giving Rodchenkov unspecified "substances so that he says what's required."
Putin adds that the fact Rodchenkov was appointed to run Moscow's anti-doping laboratory in the first place "was a mistake on the part of those who did it, and I know who did it," but didn't name names or say they should be punished.
Rodchenkov's testimony played a key role in International Olympic Committee investigations which has led to Russian athletes being required to compete under a neutral flag at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says political machinations are behind the International Olympic Committee's ban on Russia's national team at the upcoming Winter Games.
Speaking at his annual news conference, Putin said Thursday that he believes that the "scandal is being created ahead of the domestic political calendar." Putin is up for re-election in March and he has suggested before that his adversaries might use the ban to dampen his popularity.
Russian athletes earlier this week decided overwhelmingly in favor of competing at the Pyeongchang Games. Russian athletes must compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia" under a neutral flag as IOC punishment for doping offenses at the 2014 Olympics.
Putin said on Thursday "whatever people say, I'm convinced, I just know this is the case" that the ban is linked to the 2018 presidential campaign.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says accusations of U.S. President Donald Trump's collusion with Russia have damaged the U.S. political system and demonstrated disrespect for those who voted for Trump.
Speaking Thursday at an annual news conference, Putin again rejected claims of interference in the U.S. presidential election, saying that the accusations against Trump have been spread by his political opponents in a bid to undermine his legitimacy.
He said that he was puzzled by the infighting, which he said "inflicted damage to the domestic political situation" and showed "lack of respect for voters" who chose Trump.
He noted Trump's achievements, saying that growing markets have demonstrated investors' confidence in Trump's economic course.
He voiced hope for a recovery in the U.S.-Russian ties, emphasizing that the two countries need to cooperate on tackling global challenges.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is concerned about the U.S. considering a pullout from key nuclear arms control pacts, adding that Moscow will stick to them.
Speaking at his annual news conference, Putin said that Russia will "ensure its security without entering an arms race." He said Russia's military spending next year will amount to 2.8 trillion rubles (about $46 billion) compared to the Pentagon's budget of about $700 billion.
Putin said that Russia is particularly worried about what he described as perceived U.S. violations of the INF Treaty, a Cold-War era pact banning intermediate range missiles. The U.S. has accused Russia of pact violations — charges that Russia has denied. Putin said the U.S. accusations are part of a "propaganda" campaign to pave the way for the U.S. withdrawal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia's economy has overcome recession and is on track for reliable growth.
Putin, speaking at his annual news conference, says the Russian economy is set to grow by 1.6 percent this year. He emphasized that the nation has overcome negative effects of a combined blow of a drop in oil prices and Western sanctions.
He pointed at a record grain harvest this year and said that Russia has become the world's No. 1 grain exporter.
Putin noted that foreign investment this year doubled and reached $23 billion.
The Russian leader said that the nation also recorded the lowest inflation this year since the Soviet collapse.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will seek to modernize the Russian economy if he's re-elected to another term next March.
Speaking at an annual news conference, Putin said that he wants to see Russia "aimed into the future," make its economy more flexible and increase its efficiency.
Putin, whose approval ratings top 80 percent, is set to win an easy victory in the March 18 vote.
He said he sees the development of health care and education among top priorities if he wins.
He said he would like to see more political competition, which would help make the nation's political system more balanced.
Putin said he would run as a self-nominated candidate, keeping a distance from the main Kremlin-controlled party, United Russia.