Vladimir Putin acknowledged the “problems and difficulties” caused by the sanctions that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but suggested they would be doomed for the West.
Increasing pressure on the Russian economy pushed the ruble down to record lows and rating agencies predict that Moscow will default on its debts.
But Putin said the sanctions would mean harder times for consumers in the countries that impose them and that Russia would solve its problems and come out stronger.
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His defiant comments came as more and more multinational corporations, from Goldman Sachs to Burger King, sought to cut ties with the country in the face of global outrage over the invasion.
Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted that Russia was “shocked” by an unprecedented “economic war”.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said: “Western countries are trying to create a shortage of everyday imported goods in our country, forcing successful operating foreign companies to close. »
The measures announced by Western countries include the freezing of Russian central bank reserves and the exclusion of major Russian lenders from the SWIFT global messaging system that allows payments, as well as personal sanctions against a chain of oligarchs.
New data on Thursday showed that, with multinationals pulling out and cargo shipments to and from the country suspended by container shipping giants such as Maersk and MSC, trade had collapsed.
The figures, from supply chain tracking platform FourKites, showed import volumes for the week to March 8 were 40% lower than the week before the invasion.
Putin acknowledged that the impact of the sanctions was being felt.
“There are questions, problems and difficulties, but we have overcome them in the past and we will overcome them now,” the Russian president told a televised government meeting.
“Ultimately, all of this will lead to an increase in our independence, self-sufficiency and sovereignty.
“It is clear that at such times people’s demand for certain groups of goods always increases, but we have no doubt that we will solve all these problems by working quietly.” »
Putin said that countries taking “hostile measures” towards Russia were “asking their citizens to tighten their belts, dress warmer and point to the sanctions they impose on us as the reason for their worsening situation.”
The words came like new numbers showed US inflation to a new four-decade high, a situation that seems likely to worsen due to war and sanctions, including the US plan. reduce imports of Russian oil.
The Russian leader also noted that his country is a major producer of agricultural fertilizers and said there will be inevitable “negative consequences” for world food markets in response to Western action.
Putin said that Russia, a major energy provider that supplies a third of Europe’s gas, would continue to honor its contractual obligations.
However, the Kremlin earlier said it had banned exports of a list of items including telecommunications, medical, automotive, agricultural, electrical and technological equipment until the end of this year.
In addition to government action, Western companies continued to cut ties.
Major companies, from BP and Shell to Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonalds, have already announced they will close their doors or plan to sell assets in the country.
On Thursday, Burger King said it was cutting corporate support for its 800 restaurants in Russia.
Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs said it was shutting down operations in Russia entirely.
Fast Retailing, which owns fashion chain Uniqlo, said it would temporarily close all 49 of its stores, following backlash over comments by its boss that Russians had as much right to buy clothes as anyone else.
Meanwhile, UK-listed Rio Tinto has become the first major mining company to say it is cutting all ties with Russian companies.
Japan’s Sony and Nintendo have suspended deliveries of their game consoles.
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