Vladimir Putin: Russia must halve poverty rate

The Russian president has used his state of nation address to focus on living standards and announce that Russia has new missiles no other country has. Putin is seeking a fourth term in the upcoming elections.
Putin gives state of nation address (Reuters/M. Shemetov)
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday delivered his state of the nation address, emphasizing that Russia needed to improve living standards and halve the country's poverty rate.
Putin is hoping to secure a fourth term as president in Russia's upcoming election on March 18, which he is expected to win. State opinion surveys show about 70 percent of Russians favor his reelection.
"[We should] at least halve the poverty rate in the next six years," Putin said, adding that 20 million Russians currently live below the poverty line compared to 42 million in 2000.
Putin said that in 2017 the living conditions of 3.1 million families improved and that the aim was to do this annually for "no less than" 5 million families.
He said that in the next decade Russia should reach the circle of countries with 80-plus life expectancy. Russian life expectancy is currently at 73 years.
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Weapons no other country has
Putin used the state of nation address to announce that Russia has developed missiles that no other country has, as well as a new supersonic weapon that cannot be tracked by anti-missile systems.
Russia has tested new nuclear weapons, he said, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile and a nuclear-powered underwater drone that cannot be intercepted by enemies.

NATO buildup on Russia's borders and the US anti-missile system would be rendered useless by Russia's own military buildup, Putin said, adding that Russia did not intend to attack any other country and that the country's military buildup was designed to guarantee peace globally.
But, he also said the use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies would be regarded as an attack on Russia and would be answered with an immediate response.
Strengthen democracy
With the presidential elections fast approaching, Putin called for a strengthening of the country's democratic institutions.
"To move forward, to develop dynamically, we should expand freedom in all spheres and strengthen institutions of democracy, local government, structures of civil society and courts," Putin said.

Putin served as president from 2000-2008 but was unable to seek a third term under Russian law. From 2008-2012 he served as prime minister, which allowed him to keep his hold on Russian politics, and was then reelected as president in 2012.
Putin said it was the government's duty to improve living conditions for the country's elderly population and that a program of systematic support should be developed to achieve this.
"Our duty is to support the older generation. Elderly people have to have decent conditions for their lives, and we must increase pensions. They need to be regularly indexed and higher than the level of inflation," Putin said.
Putin said the country needed to "transform infrastructure" and increase the housing supply.
"We need to transform infrastructure, many regional cities and towns are changing…I suggest to start a large-scale program of development of cities and towns and double expenditures into this sphere in the next six years."
He said that Russia should spend more than 11 trillion rubles (€160 billion, $195 billion) on road infrastructure.