Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the offering of turnips to the British public during food shortages, while claiming that Russia’s economy is resilient despite Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Speaking to business leaders, Mr Putin said Western analysts had predicted that Russia’s store shelves would empty and services would collapse as a result of the sanctions.
“Life had other ideas,” he said. “Western countries themselves encountered the same problems. It has gotten to the point where their leaders are proposing that citizens switch to beets instead of lettuce or tomatoes.”
The Russian president appeared to be referring to comments from Agriculture Minister Therese Coffey, who said last month that Britons who are struggling to get imported tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in supermarkets might consider more seasonal, local turnips – a vegetable that Has suffered from image problems in recent decades due to its association with less prosperous times.
Consumers in most other parts of Western Europe did not suffer the same shortages caused by unusually cold weather that disrupted harvests in Southern Europe and North Africa.
While Russia’s 2 percent economic contraction last year belied most early forecasts, analysts say it will take years to regain its 2021 size and longer to return to its previous growth trajectory.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts growth of 0.3 percent for the Russian economy this year; well below the 3.75 percent forecast for 2022 before the invasion.
While praising Russia’s resilience, Putin also acknowledged risks to the economy and urged business leaders to put patriotism before profit.
A key reason for Russia’s resilience: A record $325bn (£270bn) in fossil fuel revenues last year as prices soared. The rising costs stemmed from fears that the war would mean a severe energy drain for the world’s third-largest oil producer.
Those earnings, combined with a slump in what Russia could import due to sanctions, pushed the country into a record trade surplus – meaning Russia’s earnings from sales to other countries far outweighed its purchases abroad.
Mr Putin spoke as another damning indictment of his forces’ behavior during the year-long war came to light when the UN-commissioned investigative body said Russia had committed wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine, including premeditated killings and torture.
The alleged crimes, including the deportation of children, were detailed in a report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine, which said some acts could amount to crimes against humanity.
Elsewhere, at least one person was killed and two injured in an explosion and fire at a building owned by the Russian security service FSB in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, according to officials quoted by Russian news outlets.
Additional coverage from Reuters
Source : www.independent.co.uk