The Latest: Putin hopes for punishment of Nemtsov assassins

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MOSCOW (AP) — The latest news from Russian President Vladimir Putin's end of year news conference. All times local.

3:25 p.m.

President Vladiimir Putin says that those who killed Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov must be tracked down and punished.

Toward the end of a news conference that lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes, Putin said he personally knew Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who was gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin.

The Russian leader says that he had not discussed the issue with the leadership of the province of Chechnya, whose residents have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the crime, but added that no one would be immune from prosecution.


3:05 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia doesn't see a new anti-terror coalition led by Saudi Arabia as hostile to its interests, but he called for pooling global efforts to fight against terrorism.

Speaking at Thursday's news conference, Putin said that he doesn't quite understand the purpose of creating the new coalition, because many of its members are part of the U.S.-led coalition.

At the same time, he adds that Russia has cooperated with Saudi Arabia despite their differences on the Syrian crisis.


2:55 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is working with Egypt to restore air links that Moscow cut following the crash of a Russian airliner on the Sinai Peninsula. Moscow has said the plane was downed by an explosive device.

Putin said at Thursday's news conference that Russia decided to suspend air travel with Egypt because its agencies aren't immediately capable of guaranteeing safety of Russian citizens. He says that the move wasn't political and he praised the Egyptian president for his "great personal courage" in fighting terror.

He says the air links will be restored after Russian and Egyptian officials work out a set of measures to ensure safety, including the presence of Russian representatives at Egyptian airports.


2:15 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia honestly won the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Asked to comment on the ongoing investigation into the alleged corruption at FIFA, he said that Russia has done nothing wrong. He said that the nation has won the right to host the soccer tournament in an "honest competition."

Putin has praised FIFA's suspended president, Sepp Blatter, for his contribution to the world soccer. And the Russian leader repeated his belief that Blatter deserves a Nobel prize for his efforts.


2:05 p.m.

President Vladiimir Putin says Russia is committed to fighting doping in sports and will cooperate with international organizations to do that.

Speaking at a televised news conference Thursday, Putin said doping harms athletes' health and those who use it must be punished.

At the same time, he said that athletes who aren't involved in doping should not be punished alongside the violators.

Putin said that "Russia must and will be open for a joint fight with doping," adding that he will demand that the nation's sports officials fully cooperate with international structures.


1:55 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready to work to improve ties with the Unitded States, and to work with anyone who is elected its next president.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Putin said that his talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week have shown that Washington is ready to "move toward settling the issues that can only be settled through joint efforts."


1:20 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says Russia wants a quick settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Putin, speaking Thursday at a televised news conference, said that "we are interested in seeing the conflict settled as quickly as possible."

He urged the Ukrainian government to swiftly approve legislation on holding local elections in Ukraine, but he says the Ukrainian authorities were dragging their feet on the issue.

Put says Russia wants the conflict settled and is ready to use its influence with the rebels in eastern Ukraine to reach a compromise.


1:10 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will discuss a possible exchange of prisoners with Ukraine.

Speaking Thursday at a televised news conference, Putin said Russia has had no regular troops in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, he adds that there have been people "performing some military tasks."

Asked if Moscow is ready to exchange the two men Ukraine says were Russian soldiers for Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko and other prisoners, Putin said any exchange must be equal and details could be discussed with the Ukrainian authorities


1:00 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russian military operation in Syria will continue until a political process starts. Putin said at a televised news conference that once the Syrians decide it's time to stop fighting and launch talks, "we aren't going to be more Syrian than the Syrians themselves," and Moscow will wrap up its military action.

He says that he was unsure whether Russia needs a permanent military base in Syria. He said new Russian weapons, such as sea- and air-launched cruise missiles, give Moscow enough punch to strike an enemy and there may be no need for a permanent base in Syria.


12:50 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says the Syrian people themselves must determine who rules the country.

Putin, who met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week, said at a news conference Thursday that Moscow supports a U.S. draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria. He says a new constitution for Syria must be drafted, and a new election prepared in which the Syrians themselves will determine its leadership.

He adds that Russia believes that a political settlement is the only way to end the Syrian crisis.

Putin says Russia and the U.S. agree on the need to ensure work on a new constitution and create mechanisms of control over future elections.


12:45 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says Turkey acted contrary to its own interests by downing a Russian warplane. Speaking at a televised news conference Thursday, Putin said that he sees no possibility of overcoming the diplomatic strain under the current Turkish leadership.

He says that Russia had been willing to accommodate Turkey's interests and said he was stunned to see that Ankara hadn't tried to explain its action and immediately turned to NATO for help instead.

Putin says the deployment of Russian air defense missiles to Syria has put an end to violations of Syrian airspace by Turkish military aircraft


12:30 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says he says no need for a significant shake-up of his Cabinet. Speaking Thursday at a televised news conference, Putin said the Cabinet is coping well with the economic crisis and he sees no need to revamp its membership. He said drastic personnel changes would do no good.

Russia's economy is set to decline by 3.8 percent this year, and the average income in Russia dropped this year for the first time in Putin's rule.)


12:10 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia's economy is showing signs of stabilization despite plummeting oil prices.

Putin, speaking Thursday at a news conference televised live, said that despite a GDP drop caused by a drop in global oil prices, Russia's main commodity, the nation's industries have started to rebound.

He said the nation's currencyy reserves stand at $364 billion and a capital outflow has slowed.

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