Putin: fans expect more from Russia's misfiring soccer team

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When asked about increased Western sanctions in response to Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 United States elections and the country's intervention in Ukraine, Putin described them as "unexpected" and "extraordinary".

Putin's comments came a day after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to strengthen sanctions against Russian Federation as punishment for its campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Russian economy had plunged into recession under the impact of a drop in global oil prices and Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin did not give a direct answer on Thursday when asked whether he would be Russia's president this time next year, saying only that the Russian people should decide who succeeds him.

"We have always lived under sanctions", Putin said. "This continues year after year", he said.

Putin said that a slump in oil prices had been a more important factor in Russia's economic slowdown than the sanctions.

"I do not know the details of Comey's testimony but some things are clear to me", Putin said, referring to the ex-FBI director's address to the U.S. Senate in which he spoke of awkward encounters with Trump.

The Russian president described the allegations of Russian meddling in the US election as reflection of "exacerbating political infighting".

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As in the past, Putin chided regional authorities for failing to provide due care for people and ordered them to quickly fix the flaws.

The 41-year-old Navalny announced last December that he would run for president in 2018, vowing to appeal a conviction that bars him from running. Putin served two presidential terms in 2000-2008 before shifting into the prime minister's seat for four years because of term limits.

In a cautious lifting of the veil on his closely-guarded personal life, he revealed to Russian media for the first time that he has grandchildren, while saying he wants to keep them out of the spotlight so they can grow up "normally".

On the phone-in show, Putin said that one grandson was born recently, to applause in the studio, while another is "already in preschool".

During his annual nationwide call-in show Thursday, Putin said Russia and the United States had fought beside each other during two world wars and "the Russian empire was key in securing US independence". "I want them to have a perfectly ordinary childhood and they are part of the collective in the kindergarten", he said.

He replied that he would rather not play with the past.

"Putin, do you really think that the people believe this circus with its prearranged questions?" was one of the questions displayed on screen.

Putin also called on authorities to be mindful of the needs of the residents who are to be evicted and said "citizens' rights, property rights are not violated".

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