RPT-After midnight in the library, Putin sets out his world view

Sun Jun 21, 2015 4:00am EDT
 
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(Repeats June 20 story with no changes to text)

* Putin meets journalists after economic conference

* Blames West over Ukraine, says economy holding up

* Popularity is high despite economic problems

By Paul Ingrassia

ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 20 (Reuters) - It was two minutes before midnight when Russian President Vladimir Putin finally entered the meeting room in the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, more than three hours late, to be interviewed by a dozen exhausted journalists.

His retinue seemed wearily accustomed to the late-night regimen, but Putin himself - after back-to-back meetings, a speech and an on-stage interview at his annual business conference here in his home town of St Petersburg - was fresh, fulsome and feisty.

"We won in a free fight and we are going to host the World Cup," he declared, slapping away suggestions that Russia cheated with scandal-plagued FIFA to snare the 2018 competition. "That's it!"

As for whether Russia can't, or simply won't, control its border to stop heavy weapons flowing to separatists in Ukraine: "These people got weapons with which to defend themselves. They got them in various ways."   Continued...