Putin says aims to halve 'unacceptable' Russian poverty rate in 6 years


Moscow (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he aims to cut his country's "unacceptable" poverty rate in half over the next six years, in a state of the nation address on Thursday.

"(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.

The Russian leader used to the address to outline policy for a widely anticipated new six-year term in the Kremlin following March 18 presidential elections.

Putin, who has led the country for the last 18 years, focused on domestic issues in the speech, saying that the coming years will be "decisive" for Russia.

"The well-being of Russia and the well-being of our citizens must be the foundation of everything, and it is in this area that we must make a breakthrough," Putin said.

He called for a technological push to improve Russia's living standards and economy.

"Lagging behind in technology is the main threat and our main enemy," Putin said.

"To move forward and dynamically develop, we need to expand liberties in all spheres," he added.