Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has urged the Russian people not to buy foreign currency as a safe investment despite the Russian ruble's continued slide and the economy heading into a recession. During a live interview on Russian TV, the prime minister also lashed out at Western nations for imposing sanctions over the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine, saying they were hurting both sides.
Prime Minister Medvedev acknowledged Wednesday the weak ruble and Western sanctions were hurting the Russian economy.
The Russian currency has lost 40 percent of its value since June, with falling oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine taking a toll.
In a live, annual television interview, Medvedev said he had his own money in rubles and thus was in the “same boat” as ordinary Russians. He urged the public not to convert their savings into dollars or euros, reminding them what happened after the 2008 global economic crisis, when the ruble tumbled.
The prime minister said the ruble later rose in value, and those who had converted their savings into foreign currency lost money.
Russia's energy export driven economy is headed for recession, helped by sanctions that cut its banks off from international credit and encouraged capital flight.
Medvedev said the punitive measures over Russia's March annexation of Crimea were costing both Russia and Europe tens of billions of dollars a year in lost business.
The prime minister said the return of Crimea to Russia was not an economic issue, but rather Russia's "destiny."
He rejected charges that Russia is behaving as an aggressor in Ukraine, despite its use of covert forces in Crimea and continued backing of anti-government rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russia, he said, has not quarreled with anyone nor declared war on anyone.
Over 4,300 people have died since pro-Russia rebels seized government offices in east Ukraine and declared themselves republics.
Ukraine and Western nations say Russia is training, arming, and in some cases sending in forces to fight alongside the rebels in order to maintain leverage over the pro-European government in Kyiv. The Kremlin denies the accusations and says the West is supporting Ukrainian right-wing nationalists, including neo-Nazis.
Medvedev blamed the the United States for tensions with Russia, saying Washington was behaving “unpredictably.” Nonetheless, he said Russia is ready for and open to continued relations with Europe and the U.S.
Medvedev criticized Ukraine for behaving in what he called an "uncivilized" manner during negotiations over the supply of Russian natural gas. During the years Ukraine was under pro-Russian leadership, he said, Russia gave it billion of dollars worth of discounts on natural gas. How, he said, Russia is more pragmatic.
He said if Ukraine pays the money, Russia will supply the gas. If they do not pay, the gas is not supplied. Russia has European partners, he said, who actively talked Ukraine into becoming an associate member of the EU, to move toward Western Europe. Let them help Ukraine, he said, Russia has helped already.
After months of negotiations, Russia agreed in November to a temporary gas deal to supply Ukraine with much needed winter heating.
Medvedev said the deal was made at a discount because they are not indifferent to what happens to Ukrainian people.