Putin: US Doesn't Hit Fleeing Terrorists because It May Use Them Later against Syrian Government

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his signature annual press conference, where he faced a myriad of questions that touched on a wide range of issues, from foreign policy highlights to certain domestic issues, Sputnik reported.

On Syria: A Lot of Things Done, More to Do

President Putin commented on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, including his recent visit to Hmeymim Airbase.

The Russian Commander-in-Chief pointed out that "the current security situation allowed [him] to take such a trip," stressing the positive developments in the country.

Putin indicated that the US is not contributing enough to the successful resolution of the Syrian crises, urging "all parties involved" to "resist the temptation to take advantage of short-term political goals."

The terrorists are escaping Syria to Iraq and the US doesn't hit them because it may want to use them later against the Syrian government, said Putin, adding "that's very dangerous."

 The President also addressed the refugee issue, calling upon the international community to act together to resolve one of the largest humanitarian crises in history.

"All good people around the world should realize that unless we address the Syrian refugee problem together, everyone will face issues… Terrorists recruit members from groups in poverty," Putin added.  

On Trump: Russia Ready to Work Together… If You Are Up to It

The first question a foreign media outlet asked Putin concerned allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Replying to the US TV network ABC's question about the nature of contacts between the Russian government and certain officials in the Trump campaign, Putin said that it is only natural for diplomats to speak with officials in their host countries.

"What's so strange about this? Why do you have this 'Russian spy' hysteria?"

The Russian President also dismissed any accusations of interference in the 2016 US presidential race, stating that "they have been invented by those aiming to de-legitimize Trump."

"These people don't understand they are undermining their own country, they aren't showing respect for the Americans that voted for Trump."

Putin also voiced his hope that Russia and the US can "work closely on a range of issues," though he was not sure if Trump was still up to the task, given the "well-known limitations" that the US President has been facing at home.

The President also highlighted that the ultimate judgment on Trump is reserved for the American people, and expressed his respect for the US opposition.

On an Arms Race With US: Russia Will Not be Dragged Into This

Expanding on the state of the relationship between the two countries, Putin also discussed the potential US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and its implications for the international security.

"We hear talk about the problems with the INF Treaty. Apparently, conditions are being created and an information-propaganda campaign is being run for a possible US withdrawal from the treaty," Putin stated.

The Russian President noted that there is "nothing good" about the US withdrawal, which "will be highly detrimental to international security."

Putin stated that Russia does not plan to leave any missile treaty itself, though he vowed to maintain the country's security.

The President, however, emphasized that although Russia will take the necessary steps, it will avoid an arms race.

"We will not be dragged into an arms race," Putin asserted.

On Russia's Presidential Race: You Cannot Argue With the Results, but Pluralism is Vital

Turning towards the domestic matters, Putin spoke about his decision to participate in the upcoming Russian presidential race.

The president, who announced that he will run as an independent candidate in the 2018 Presidential Elections, laid down his plans for the further development of Russia.

Putin stressed that the comprehensive modernization of the Russian economy, infrastructure and healthcare as well as the introduction of new maternity benefits schemes will be at the heart of his campaign.

At the same time, the President pointed to the successes that his Administration has achieved in improving the Russian economy and social welfare.

"We made the right decisions," he said; "we've achieved 93-94% of [set goals]."

"We've accomplished a lot with services… we've reduced infant mortality rates, traffic accident mortality rates… we've made some progress on cancer, but not as much as we'd like to," Putin stated, also citing Russia's growing life expectancy.

Regarding the economy, Putin noted that despite certain setbacks, Russia has been overcoming two major challenges: dropping oil prices and Western sanctions.

"There is growth. And we overcame two well-known shocks."

"The economy is more and more reliant on the internal markets… Our internal trade grew by three percent", the President added.