Putin claims U.S. actions are raising the threat of nuclear war

Washington has threatened to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), alleging that the new Russian missile, the Novator 9M729 (called SSC-8 by NATO), violates the pact, which bans either side from stationing short and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

Putin also lamented the lack of negotiations on extending the New START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and again warned that Russian Federation will do whatever is needed to ensure its national security in the face of future American nuclear developments - specifically singling out calls for tactical nuclear weapons and non-nuclear ballistic missiles.

In the wide ranging news conference on Thursday, Mr Putin said he "understood" Prime Minister Theresa May's position and recognised that Russian Federation could be affected by the economic fallout following Britain's exit from the European Union.

"You aren't interested, you don't need it?" This trend "could lead to a global nuclear catastrophe", he said.

He described British accusations of Russian involvement in the poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury as part of Western efforts to isolate and weaken Russia.

"As for ruling the world, we know where the headquarters trying to do that are located, and the place isn't Moscow", he said, noting that the Pentagon's annual budget of over $700 billion dwarfs Russia's defense spending of $46 billion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.

Asked if he wanted to rule the world, Putin joked that he would, but that there is only one place where politicians aspire for global hegemony: Washington, D.C., citing the USA defense budget.

He pointed at United States annual defence spending exceeding US$700 billion ($1,034b), comparing it with Russia's military budget of $46b ($68b).

Vehicles and structures of the U.S.-backed coalition forces are shown
Putin warns of risks of a new nuclear arms race

Earlier this month, Maria Butina pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge for trying to infiltrate conservative political groups in the USA, as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

US President Donald Trump, in October this year, had announced the US' decision to withdraw from the nuclear treaty. The pullout is also likely to strengthen Russia's role in Syria's future.

Putin, who was addressing more than 1,000 reporters from around the world, many of them holding up signs to attract his attention, faced a tougher task defending his domestic record.

An increase to the retirement age this year provoked anger and rare street protests but Mr Putin said the hike was "unavoidable" when questioned on the subject.

Putin showed no sign of backing down from Russia's stance on Ukraine, and accused his Ukrainian counterpart of provoking a naval stand-off with Russian Federation to boost his electoral prospects. The Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 seamen when they tried to sail from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov in what the USA and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies condemned as unjustified use of force by Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia.

Putin pledged that the government will create incentives to speed up growth.

The positive statistics follow a hard period in recent years when Russia's economy has suffered a combined blow of low oil prices and Western sanctions. He drew skepticism even from state TV as he touted the year's growth outlook of 1.8 percent and an upturn in household incomes.

  • Eleanor Harrison