The Latest: Putin keeps mum on whether seeking another term

The Latest on Russian President Vladimir Putin's live call-in show (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ended his marathon TV show without saying if he plans to seek another term next year.

During Thursday's call-in show that lasted four hours, Putin dodged several questions about his intentions.

Asked if he was grooming a successor, he answered that he has some personal preferences but it's up to the voters to decide who will be Russia's next leader. He similarly dodged a question if the annual show would be the last one with him.

The 64-year-old Russian leader is widely expected to seek another six-year term in the March 2018 vote, but he hasn't declared his intentions. Putin served two presidential terms in 2000-2008 before shifting into the prime minister's seat for four years because of term limits. He was re-elected in 2012.


3:45 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says he is willing to work with all politicians who want to help people's lives but has dismissed unnamed opposition leaders for "exploiting" Russia's economic difficulties.

Tens of thousands took to the streets across Russia's 11 times zones on Monday in widespread anti-government protests unseen in years. The protests were called for by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was detained outside his home before he could head out to the rally and later sentenced to 30 days in jail for staging an unsanctioned rally. Navalny announced last December that he would run for president in 2018.

Asked about Monday's protest, Putin said on a live call-in show on Thursday that he was "prepared to talk with everyone who genuinely wants to improve people's lives and solve the country's problems." He dismissed "some" opposition leaders for "exploiting the problems instead of offering solutions."


3:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that he would give his approval to a much-disputed bill that would allow Moscow's City Hall to pull down Soviet-era apartment blocks and relocate 1.6 million people.

The controversial bill has rattled many in Moscow who see the plans as an encroachment on their constitutional rights and a ruse to evict them from leafy neighborhoods to high-rise ones on the city's outskirts. Moscow City Hall hails the plan that would pull down more than 4,500 blocks as a solution to get rid of dilapidated, poor-quality housing that is too costly to maintain. Thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow last month to protest against the demolition plan in the largest nonpolitical protest in years.

Putin said a during live call-in show on Thursday that the low-rise Soviet blocks will be a burden on the city's budget in 10-15 years' time if "the problem is not solved." Putin also called on authorities to be mindful of the needs of the residents who are to be evicted and said "citizens' rights, property rights are not violated."

The bill was adopted by the State Duma on Wednesday and will be up for Putin's signature once it gets a green light at the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.


3 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says the Russian military has gained "priceless" experience in Syria.

Speaking in a televised call-in show Thursday, Putin said the campaign in Syria that Russia has conducted since September 2015 has allowed the military to test its state-of-the art weapons in real combat.

The experience allowed engineers to polish weapons designs and has given a "new quality" to the Russian military, he said.

Putin added that Moscow will work to resolve the conflict, voicing hope that the growing capability of the Syrian army will allow the Russian military to scale down its involvement.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have negotiated safe zones in Syria to reduce fighting. They plan to finalize specifics related to the zones during future talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.


2:50 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will pour resources into the development of its vast Arctic region for both economic and military reasons.

Speaking in a live call-in show Thursday, Putin said the Arctic region will account for an increasing share of energy output and determine the nation's future.

Putin added that a military presence in the Arctic region is also essential for ensuring Russia's security.

The Kremlin has highlighted reaffirming the Russian presence in the Arctic as a top priority amid an intensifying rivalry over the region that is believed to hold up to one-quarter of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas.

Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic as shrinking polar ice creates new opportunities for exploration.


2:45 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin has voiced hope for normalizing Russia-U.S. ties.

Speaking in a live call-in show with the nation Thursday, Putin said Moscow and Washington could cooperate in efforts to prevent the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, including the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.

He said the two countries could also cooperate in dealing with global poverty and efforts to prevent climate change.

Putin also noted that Moscow hopes that the U.S. could play a "constructive role" in helping settle the Ukrainian crisis.

The Russian president described the allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election as reflection of "exacerbating political infighting."

He again denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying that Russia has openly expressed its views and hasn't engaged in any covert activities.


2:35 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin says former FBI Director James Comey's acknowledgement that he has given his account of conversations with President Donald Trump to a friend who leaked them to the media is "weird" and ironically offered him asylum in Russia.

Speaking Thursday in live call-in show, Putin compared Comey's move to that of NSA contractor Edward Snowden, adding on a sarcastic note that Russia could grant Comey political asylum.

Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 when it gave him asylum, resisting U.S. pressure to extradite him.


2:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced support for a planned handover of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, which became a focal point of protest there with thousands residents rallying against the plan.

The cathedral, a UNESCO-protected site, was taken over by the state during Soviet times and run as a museum. After the 1991 Soviet collapse it continued in that role, although it occasionally held religious services as well. In the largest protest there in years, thousands of St. Petersburg residents have been rallying against the plans to hand over St. Isaac's to the Russian Orthodox Church, fearing for the safety of the museum's artifacts and seeing the plan as a symbol of the church's increasing role in Russian society.

Asked about the planned handover during a live call-in show on Thursday, Putin said the original idea to set up a museum in St. Isaac's was "an insult to religious sentiment" and that the church has the right to claim it. He offered assurances, however, that a compromise will be found to accommodate the museum's needs.


1:25 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been secretive about his family life in the past, says he has two grandchildren whose privacy he wants to respect.

Putin, who in 2013 announced on state television that he was divorcing his wife, has two daughters in their early 30s who have not been seen in public for years and became a subject of rumors. One of Putin's daughters was reported to be in charge of a lucrative project to build a Silicon Valley-like community under the auspices of Moscow State University.

Speaking during a live call-in show on Thursday, Putin said both of his daughters live in Moscow and "work in science and education." He said one of his grandchildren goes to pre-school and the other, a boy, has just been born. He said he would not want to give details about his family for fear of hurting their privacy.


12:35 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the U.S. Senate move to tighten sanctions against Moscow is part of efforts to contain Russia.

The Republican-led Senate voted Wednesday to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a wide-ranging sanctions package that targets key sectors of Russia's economy and individuals who carried out cyberattacks.

Putin, speaking Thursday during a live call-in show televised nationwide, deplored the Senate's move but added that the Western sanctions against Moscow also have hurt the West itself.

He said that the sanctions have given Russia an incentive to shed its dependence on oil and gas exports and "switch on our brains and talents" to develop other industries.

Putin noted that electronics, aerospace industries and agriculture have all received a boost.


12:25 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia's economy has overcome a recession.

Putin said during Thursday's live call-in show televised nationwide that the "crisis is over," pointing at an economic growth over the past nine months. He also pointed at low inflation and rising hard currency reserves.

The Russian economy had plunged into recession under the impact of a drop in global oil prices and Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Putin acknowledged that the Russian economy hasn't yet shed its dependence on exports of raw materials, but noted that non-energy exports have been growing.