Putin says Russia will emerge stronger, sanctions will rebound on West

Moscow (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that sanctions imposed against Russia would rebound against the West, including in the form of higher food and energy prices, and Moscow would solve its problems and emerge stronger.

Putin said there had been no alternative to what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine and that Russia was not a country which could accept compromising its sovereignty for some sort of short-term economic gain.

“These sanctions would have been imposed in any case,” Putin told a meeting of the Russian government. “There are some questions, problems and difficulties but in the past we have overcome them and we will overcome them now.

“In the end, this will all lead to an increase in our independence, self-sufficiency and our sovereignty,” he told a televised government meeting two weeks after Russian forces invaded neighbouring Ukraine.

His comments were designed to portray Western sanctions as self-defeating and reassure Russians that the country can withstand what Moscow is calling an “economic war” against its banks, businesses and business oligarchs.

Putin said Moscow – a major energy producer that supplies a third of Europe’s gas – would continue to meet its contractual obligations even though it has been slammed with comprehensive sanctions including a ban on U.S. purchases of its oil.

“They announced that they are closing the import of Russian oil to the American market. Prices there are high, inflation is unprecedentedly high, has reached historic highs. They are trying to blame the results of their own mistakes on us,” he said. “We have absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Hitting back against the West, the Russian government said earlier it had banned exports of telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electrical and tech equipment, among other items, until the end of 2022.

In total, over 200 items were included on the export suspension list, which also covered railway cars, containers, turbines and other goods.

‘We Will Solve These Problems’

Speaking calmly, Putin acknowledged that sanctions imposed since the Feb. 24 invasion were being felt.

“It is clear that at such moments people’s demand for certain groups of goods always increases, but we have no doubt that we will solve all these problems while working in a calm fashion,” he said.

“Gradually, people will orient themselves, they will understand that there are simply no events that we cannot close off and solve.”

Putin noted that Russia is a major producer of agricultural fertilisers, and said there would be inevitable “negative consequences” for world food markets if the West made problems for Russia.

His agriculture minister reported at the meeting that the country’s food security was ensured.

Speaking at the same meeting, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia had taken measures to limit the outflow of capital and that the country would service its external debts in roubles, not in dollars.

“Over the last two weeks Western countries have in essence waged an economic and financial war against Russia,” he said.

Siluanov said the West had defaulted on its obligations to Russia by freezing its gold and foreign currency reserves. It was trying to halt foreign trade, he said.

“In these conditions the priority is for us to stabilise the situation in the financial system,” Siluanov said.