Russian President Vladimir Putin said his decision to rescue Ukraine with a $15 billion bailout and lower natural gas prices was solely a goodwill gesture. In his annual sit-down with reporters, Putin touched on the Ukraine , U.S. secrets-leaker Edward Snowden , Syria and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi during his four-hour exchange with reporters. Concerning Ukraine , which has experienced anti-government demonstrations recently after its president changed his mind about signing political and trade accords with the European Union , Putin said Ukraine does not need $15 billion Russia offered but hundreds of billions of dollars for reforms. He said Russia's decision to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian securities will help keep the government running and fund social welfare payments, but much larger sums are needed for Ukraine to really progress. He also said Russia isn't against Ukraine looking toward Europe , but Moscow has to protect its own interests. If Ukraine opens up to Europe , the percentage of Ukrainian agricultural products to European markets won't expand because of quality controls and other restrictions in the European Union , he predicted. Concerning former National Security Agency contractor Snowden's leaking information about the agency's massive surveillance program, Putin said he "envies" U.S. President Obama because "he can get away with it." News about the spy program isn't anything to get upset about, the Russian leader said, because it is one of the world's "oldest professions." Putin also said that no matter how "our American friends are criticized, all this work is being done to counter-terrorism." Asked if he met Snowden, Putin said no, adding he thought Snowden was "quite an interesting personality." Because of Snowden -- to whom Russia granted temporary asylum -- Putin said, "The mentality in the world has changed for millions of people." The Russian president said Snowden has lived up to a key condition for temporary asylum, not engaging in activities that cause harm to the United States . As host of the Winter Olympics, Putin said all athletes, no matter which country they represent, should be treated equally. He said that Russia expects victory but declined to predict on how many medals would be won. Concerning Syria , Putin spoke of the deal to find and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. He said Russia can be "proud of our principled stance" and shared credit with the West on the deal. Putin says the global economy has different ways of being kick started, ranging from the U.S. method of quantitative easing to reducing social spending and improving macroeconomic indicators. Putin said he thinks it is better to remove excessive money from the economy and place it into a country's reserves.
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