The Latest: Putin warns US not to use force against N Korea

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The Latest: Putin warns US not to use force against N Korea
The Latest: Putin warns US not to use force against N Korea

MOSCOW (AP) – The Latest on the Russian president’s annual news conference (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

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.

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2:10 p.m.

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.

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2 p.m.

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.

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1:40 p.m.

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.

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1:20 p.m.

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.

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1:10 p.m.

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.

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12:25 p.m.

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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
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