Worst is over for Russia as rouble rebounds: Putin
PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin yesterday said the worst was over for Russia's crisis-hit economy, pointing to the recent rebound of the rouble despite Western sanctions over Ukraine.
"The rouble has stabilised and strengthened," Mr Putin said during his annual question-and-answer session.
"Experts believe that we have passed the peak of the problems. We've corrected the rate of the national currency, nothing burst and everything is working."
Following the shock collapse in the rouble late last year, the currency has bounced back to a five-month high, as fighting in eastern Ukraine has waned and oil prices have steadied. The rouble dipped below the psychologically important threshold of 50 roubles per US dollar on Wednesday, its most robust level since November.
Mr Putin touted his government's plan to turn around the economy, saying it had performed a "highly professional task". He downplayed economic problems including soaring inflation, unemployment and capital flight - estimated at more than US$100 billion (S$135 billion) last year - saying they were not "catastrophic".
Mr Putin has previously predicted that it will take Russia's economy two years to bounce back to pre-crisis levels, but said now that the recovery could happen sooner.
He said, however, that Russians should not expect the lifting of Western sanctions any time soon.
"It's all about using all of this to our advantage."
Russia has been under sanctions from the West since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine last March, and was then accused of supporting militants fighting Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine.
The ensuing economic crisis has hit Russians hard, but has so far failed to affect sky-high approval ratings of the Kremlin strongman, who many across Russia praise for standing up to the West and raising the country's international profile.