President Dmitry Medvedev has given an end-of-year interview to Russia's three major television channels in which he outlined challenges facing the country's economy, social ills, and Moscow's relations with Washington.
The interview, with the heads of state-controlled Channel 1, Rossiya, and NTV, was broadcast live at midday Moscow time.
Medvedev warned that Russia's exit from the ongoing economic crisis will be "fairly slow" and the country will remain vulnerable until it ends its dependence on oil and gas exports.
Russia's economy has declined by 8.7 percent in 2009, the worst economic decrease in the country since 1994, but the president predicted growth of up to 5 percent next year.
Medvedev said Russia avoided cutting any social-benefit programs despite the economic and financial crisis and that the government has implemented a plan to increase pensions.
He reiterated his calls for economic modernization and a reduction of dependence on revenues from oil and gas sales.
"We still have an economic system that is based on the energy market," said Medvedev. "Without modernization, our economy has no future even though it relies on huge natural riches."
Medvedev said he was generally satisfied with his own performance as head of the state since taking over from his mentor, Vladimir Putin, in May 2008.
Answering a question about his relationships with Putin, who is now prime minister, Medvedev said that "we have had friendly and amicable relationship and it has not and will not change."
Medvedev said one of his first acts next year will be to sign a decree on reforming the Interior Ministry.
That ministry has come under criticism over perceptions of widespread corruption among police and allegations that some police employees are involved in criminal activities.
The president was asked about the growing labor migration into Russia and its impact on the social and economic situations in the country.
"We have a vast country and we don't have a sufficient workforce," said Medvedev underlying Russia's need for foreign workers, who the president said are mostly engaged in "important but unglamorous jobs many Russians would not want to do."
But migrants must obey the country's laws, pay its taxes, and speak the Russian language, he added.
Official Russian figures suggest that some 12 million migrant laborers, mostly from Central Asian countries as well as China, enter Russia ever year.
Message For Obama, Too
Medvedev said Moscow and Washington are close to a new agreement on reducing Cold War-era nuclear stockpiles.
But he vowed that Russia would work on a new generation of nuclear missiles to ensure its nuclear deterrent remains effective. Medvedev said the new arsenal would be developed in full accordance with arms agreements with the United States.
And he praised U.S. President Barack Obama as a "powerful politician and interesting person.
"It's easy to talk with him," said Medvedev. "He can listen."
"Many times we have heard such words from Americans: 'You know, your point of view is of course very good but we've decided it all,'" Medvedev said. "[Obama] doesn't say that."
The Russian president's interview comes as polls suggest his popularity at home is growing.
In a poll conducted in December by Russia's Levada Center, 78 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with Medvedev's overall performance as president.
compiled from agency reports