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Putin flexes muscle in annual address ahead of election
Last Updated: 2018-03-02 08:02 | Xinhua
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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Federal Assembly in Moscow on March 1, 2018. (Kremlin Photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrated his power as a strong leader in his annual address to the parliament on Thursday, two weeks before the presidential election when he will seek a fourth term.

In the record two-hour speech, Putin used multi-media to show off Russia's newest strategic weapons, described as capable of penetrating any U.S. defense systems.

He also promised to boost the country's economy and improve living standards in the years to come.

Putin will compete with seven other presidential candidates in the election slated for March 18 and he is widely expected to win with a landslide given his high approval ratings.

While some of Putin's political rivals blamed him for using the opportunity to deliver his election program, chairwoman of the Russian Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova said she found no element of campaigning.

MILITARY STRENGTH

Russia has been modernizing its strategic arsenal in response to the U.S. global deployment of missile defense systems, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

"Russia has created and is upgrading relatively cheap but very efficient systems to overcome missile shields," Putin said in his annual address to the Federal Assembly, or the parliament.

Russia has begun testing Sarmat, a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, which has "practically no range limits" as it is capable of attacking across both the South and North Poles, he said.

According to Putin, Russia has also developed strategic weapons that do not use ballistic flight trajectories, making missile shields "useless and senseless".

Russia has developed underwater unmanned weapons capable of moving at very big depths between continents with a speed much higher than that of modern submarines, torpedoes and surface vessels, Putin said.

In addition, Russia has deployed high-precision hypersonic missiles that are capable of penetrating "existing and prospective" defense systems, according to the president.

"Kinzhal" (Dagger) missiles can fly at a speed 10 times that of sound and maneuver during the whole flight. They can deliver nuclear or conventional warheads to a target at a distance of more than 2,000 km.

"Avangard" (Vanguard) missiles can fly at a speed 20 times that of sound and can reach intercontinental distances.

In his speech, Putin vowed immediate retaliation if Russia or its allies is hit with a nuclear attack.

IMPROVING LIVING STANDARDS

"Well-being of people and comfortable incomes for Russian families are key development factors. This is where we need to make a decisive breakthrough," Putin told lawmakers from the Federation Council and the State Duma.

Putin said some 20 million Russians, or about 14 percent of the population, are living below the poverty line, which is "unacceptably high."

Putin attributed the difficulties to the economic crisis and promised to create jobs with decent incomes to "at least halve the poverty level in six years."

He said Russia will channel at least 3.4 trillion rubles (about 60 billion U.S. dollars) for the next six years to support mothers and their children, among other demographic groups.

The president said it is necessary to allocate at least 4 percent of the country's GDP from 2019 to 2024 to improve people's health. He says every Russian should have the opportunity to undergo a preventive examination once a year.

Putin also aims to boost economic growth to above the world average in the coming years after Russia was significantly hit by weak global energy prices.

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