Western sanctions are an opportunity for Russia to strengthen its technological and economic sovereignty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
“Recent years have shown that where Westerners imposed restrictions against us, we acquired new competencies and restored old ones at a new technological level," Putin said in opening remarks of his in-person meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow.
“This is a time of opportunity to move towards strengthening technological and economic sovereignty,” Putin added.
Putin also said he believes Russia and Belarus will get through these difficulties and will even “acquire more competencies, more opportunities to feel independent, self-sufficient, and ultimately benefit [from them], as it was the case in previous years.”
Lukashenko echoed Putin’s sentiment, saying Belarus has everything it needs for restoring its economy under sanctions.
“We need to rebuild our economy. And we have all we need to restore our own economy, we can do without them. We have everything to continue normal life and work,” the Belarusian President said.
Lukashenko also said he was glad the war in Ukraine started, citing false allegations regarding biological weapons and nuclear power stations being at risk if Russia did not invade. Lukashenko also made an unfounded claim that Ukraine was “preparing to attack not only Donbas, but also placed positions to attack Belarus.”
Some key context: Western sanctions against Russia have been devastating for the country's economy.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen yesterday outlined the economic and financial damage caused by sanctions imposed by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union in recent weeks.
"We have isolated Russia financially. The ruble has been in a free fall. The Russian stock market is closed. Russia has been effectively shut out of the international financial system," Yellen said, adding that the Russian central bank's access to its reserves has been largely cut off.
On Wednesday, one US dollar could buy 117 rubles in Moscow after the currency fell 10% and hit a new record low.
Fitch Ratings slashed Russia's credit rating on Tuesday and warned that a default was "imminent."