Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The Latest: Putin concerned at possible US nuke pact pullout

December 14, 2017 - 5:28 am

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the Russian president's annual news conference (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is concerned about the U.S. considering a pullout from key nuclear arms control pacts, adding that Moscow will stick to them.

Speaking at his annual news conference, Putin said that Russia will "ensure its security without entering an arms race." He said Russia's military spending next year will amount to 2.8 trillion rubles (about $46 billion) compared to the Pentagon's budget of about $700 billion.

Putin said that Russia is particularly worried about what he described as perceived U.S. violations of the INF Treaty, a Cold-War era pact banning intermediate range missiles. The U.S. has accused Russia of pact violations — charges that Russia has denied. Putin said the U.S. accusations are part of a "propaganda" campaign to pave the way for the U.S. withdrawal.

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1:10 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia's economy has overcome recession and is on track for reliable growth.

Putin, speaking at his annual news conference, says the Russian economy is set to grow by 1.6 percent this year. He emphasized that the nation has overcome negative effects of a combined blow of a drop in oil prices and Western sanctions.

He pointed at a record grain harvest this year and said that Russia has become the world's No. 1 grain exporter.

Putin noted that foreign investment this year doubled and reached $23 billion.

The Russian leader said that the nation also recorded the lowest inflation this year since the Soviet collapse.

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12:25 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will seek to modernize the Russian economy if he's re-elected to another term next March.

Speaking at an annual news conference, Putin said that he wants to see Russia "aimed into the future," make its economy more flexible and increase its efficiency.

Putin, whose approval ratings top 80 percent, is set to win an easy victory in the March 18 vote.

He said he sees the development of health care and education among top priorities if he wins.

He said he would like to see more political competition, which would help make the nation's political system more balanced.

Putin said he would run as a self-nominated candidate, keeping a distance from the main Kremlin-controlled party, United Russia.

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