Russian PM talks up recovery, slams ethnic violence

Vladimir Putin said Russia`s economy would grow by up to 4 percent this year.

Moscow: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday talked up Russia`s recovery from its economic crisis, saying the economy would grow by up to 4 percent this year with real incomes rising thanks to large pension increases.

In opening remarks to an annual question-and-answer TV show, Putin delivered a robust defence of his government`s policies, saying the goal of regaining pre-crisis levels of economic activity was within reach.

"In the first half of 2012 we should get back to the pre-crisis level (of gross domestic product)," Putin said.

Responding to ethnic clashes in Moscow last week, Putin said extremism of any sort must be nipped in the bud.

"It`s necessary to harshly suppress displays of extremism from all quarters," Putin said.

The Q&A format is ideal for showcasing Putin`s stamina, grasp of detail and earthy turn of phrase.

"A Conversation with Vladimir Putin" follows a lacklustre annual address on November 30 by Putin`s successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, who has hinted he may run in the 2012 election.

Judging by the thousands of questions logged online and by telephone, social issues are likely to dominate, however. Aides have played down chances that Putin will signal whether he wants to return to the presidency in 2012.

Putin watchers will nevertheless have stopwatches running to measure the 58-year-old prime minister`s appetite for questions, and perhaps for a return to Russia`s highest office.

Last year`s show ran for just over four hours, a record.

Bureau Report