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Putin calls for new European defence system

The Russian president accused the United States of ‘trying to upset strategic parity’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the building of a new system of European security.

Mr Putin accused the US of “trying to upset strategic parity” and said this should prompt other countries to get together to work out a new system of European security.

Responding to a question about a possible third world war, Mr Putin said during his annual call-in show that the idea of a nuclear war should ward off such a conflict.

The president said he believes other countries wrongly regard Russia as a threat and that mistaken concept could end if they see that the economic sanctions the West has put on Russia do not serve their interests.

They see Russia as a threat. They see that Russia has become a competitor to them ... we propose that this is a very mistaken policy Vladimir Putin

Russia has been hit with sanctions by the United States and the West over its 2014 annexation of Crimea, its support for separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east and its alleged interference in the US 2016 presidential election.

Britain has also blamed the nerve agent poisoning in the UK of a Russian former spy and his daughter on Russia, which it denies.

Both the West and Russia have expelled more than 150 diplomats on each side over the issue.

“This pressure will end when our partners become convinced that the methods used by them are ineffective, counterproductive and harmful to all,” Mr Putin said.

“They see Russia as a threat. They see that Russia has become a competitor to them … we propose that this is a very mistaken policy.”

The annual call-in show, like Mr Putin’s marathon news conference each winter, is an elaborate demonstration of his stamina, lasting several hours and reinforcing his dominance of Russia’s politics.

Vladimir Putin during his annual call-in show (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The nationwide broadcast on state TV channels showed frequent shots of communications workers at computers monitoring questions submitted by viewers.

This was Mr Putin’s first show since being inaugurated for a new six-year term last month, in which he promised extensive efforts to get Russia’s economy to grow into one of the world’s top five.

On Thursday he said Russia’s gross domestic product is currently 1.5% higher than a year ago.

He described it as modest but said he is confident that future “growth is guaranteed”.

Mr Putin also said the government will be looking to streamline the tax system in order to fight poverty, but denied speculation that Russia was considering abandoning its flat-rate income tax.

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