MOSCOW (Reuters) - The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year news conference.
ON THE ECONOMY
"(Economic) growth is happening thanks to certain sectors of the economy – machine building, chemicals, manufacturing and agriculture."
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"We saw some economic growth in November ... This year we will probably have minus 0.5-0.6 percent (economic growth)."
"This year (inflation) will be significantly less than 6 percent ... most likely in the region of 5.5 percent – this is a record low inflation rate, and gives us cause to expect that we will be able to reach our target and very soon get to inflation of 5 percent and then 4 percent."
ON THE BUDGET DEFICIT
"The budget deficit will be a bit bigger .. 3.7 percent. In my view this is an absolutely acceptable amount because, among other reasons, we have preserved a positive external trade balance – more than 70 billion dollars (and) we have preserved our reserves ... the central bank's gold and forex reserves have even grown, and are now a little over 385 (billion dollars). Judging by that measure everything is fine. It's a good safety margin."
ON DONALD TRUMP AND THE MILITARY
"In the course of his election campaign he (Trump) spoke about the necessity of strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and strengthening the armed forces. There's nothing unusual here. To be honest, I'm a bit surprised by the words of certain other official representatives of the current administration who have for some reason set about proving that the armed forces of the United States are the most powerful in the world. No-one disputed that."
"If anyone is unleashing an arms race it's not us ... We will never spend resources on an arms race that we can't afford."
"In this area transparency is absolutely essential ... Undoubtedly there is a certain political element in all these issues. Sport should be cleansed, along with culture, of any sort of politics. Sport and culture are things that should unite people and not divide them."
ON UKRAINE AND CRIMEA
"I am sure that sooner or later there will be a normalization of relations with Ukraine, and it (a bridge between Russian and Crimea) will be very beneficial to the development of Russia-Ukraine relations and future commercial and humanitarian links."
"All the necessary money is in place next year so we can from Feb.1 increase pensions in line with the rate of inflation in 2016."
"The president of Turkey and the leaders of Iran (also) played a huge role in this (managing the situation around Aleppo). I don’t know if this will sound immodest, but without our participation it would have been impossible."
(Reporting by Moscow Newsroom)