LONDON (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that no Iron Curtain would fall over the Russian economy despite the sanctions imposed by the West because Moscow would not close itself off from the world like the Soviet Union did.
The sanctions imposed on the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have tipped Russia, one of the world’s biggest producers of natural resources, towards the biggest economic contraction since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Asked about possible deals with partners such as China and India amid the “closure” of Russia’s economy, Putin, speaking ahead of next week’s St Petersburg Economic Forum, said Russia’s economy would remain open.
“We will not have a closed economy, we have not had one and we will not have one,” Putin told young entrepreneurs in a televised meeting.
“We did not have a closed economy – or rather we did in the Soviet times when we cut ourselves off, created the so-called Iron Curtain, we created it with our own hands. We will not make the same mistake again – our economy will be open.”
Putin, who was born in the Soviet Union, in 2005 cast the collapse of the USSR as the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century because tens of millions of Russians were impoverished and Russia itself faced disintegration.
After major U.S. and European companies and investors left Russia, Moscow says it will turn away from the West and focus on developing its own domestic industry and develop partnerships with China, India and powers in the Middle East.
“A country like Russia cannot be fenced in,” Putin said.
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion has killed thousands, displaced 13 million and raised fears of a broader conflict between the United States and Russia, by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers.
Putin says the West wants to destroy Russia, that the economic sanctions are akin to a declaration of economic war. Ukraine says it is fighting against an imperial-style land grab and that it will never accept Russian occupation.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge)