Putin speech: We must halve poverty in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he intends to halve poverty in the country within the next six years, in his annual state of the nation speech in Moscow.

The speech is the last before an election he is expected to win in 17 days time.

Mr Putin is laying out his key policies for his fourth presidential term.

“Every person matters to us,” he said, adding that he wanted to increase employment and longevity.

Mr Putin faces seven challengers on 18 March although none is expected to attract widespread support. They do not include prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been barred from running and has called on voters to boycott the poll.

President Putin has so far done little campaigning and said little about his plans for the next six years.

In his speech to a joint sitting of both houses of parliament on Thursday, he said he wanted Russia to emulate life-expectancy rates in Japan and France.

In 2000 there were 42 million people in Russia living below the poverty line, he said; today there were 20 million, but this still needed to come down.

He also said Russia could not take its power for granted.

“We have no right to allow the stability we have achieved to lead to complacency. Especially since we are far from resolving many problems,” he said.

“Russia is now a leading country with a powerful foreign economic and defence potential. But from the point of view of the extremely important task of ensuring people’s quality of life and welfare we, of course, have not achieved the level we require. But we have to do this and will do this,” he added to applause.

He also said a bridge to the Crimean peninsula would be open within the next couple of months. However, most of his words were tailored towards working Russians and their concerns.

He pledged to spend more on roads and reduce accidents. He said teachers deserved good salaries and wages, and that there should be better access to medical services for people in remote areas.

He also said internet access would be provided to rural populations across the country, “from the far east to the Siberian north”.

Eight candidates have been officially confirmed to run in Russia’s 18 March presidential election.

Vladimir Putin, hoping to win a fourth term, is the clear favourite. Opinion polls give him a lead of more than 60%.

Mr Putin comes fourth on the ballot paper, as candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

 

  

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