Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the country's GDP drop on the "sanctions war" imposed by the West, before urging Russia's richest to prioritize their country over profits.
Putin made the comments while speaking at an annual meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs on Thursday.
"It was 4.7% (GDP drop) for well-known reasons, as you know — the sanctions war, the unprecedented challenges from the global economy and in the system of international relations. These problems, as you know, were not created by us," Putin said in what was his first address to business leaders since Moscow unleashed a brutal war on Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, according to CNN.
Scores of Western countries had imposed an unprecedented amount of sanctions on Russia in response to the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. alone imposed more than 2,700 sanctions against Russia, according to the Atlantic Council's new Russia Sanctions Database.
In light of mounting sanctions and the disruption of global trade, Putin asked the country's business elite to invest at home and support the greater good of their society.
"A responsible entrepreneur is a real citizen of Russia, of his country, a citizen who understands and acts in its interests," Putin said, as quoted by Reuters.
"He does not hide assets offshore, but registers companies here, in our country, and does not become dependent on foreign authorities," added the Russian president.
The audience--composed of billionaires like Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Potanin, Viktor Vekselberg, Alexei Mordashov, Andrei Melnichenko, German Khan, Dmitry Mazepin, and Viktor Rashnikov--were told how the sanctions imposed to destroy the Russian economy had failed. Nevertheless, Putin said they shouldn't sit back, and urged the business tycoons to act now.
"I understand perfectly the threats that are taking place and what the ill-wishers are telling us, saying that Russia will have problems in the medium term. Yes, this is a threat we must keep in mind," he said. "I urge you not to wait for these negative consequences of this medium term to come ... You need to act right now."
The aim behind piling sanctions on Russia was the West's move to force Putin into reconsidering his war on Ukraine. But Putin acclaimed the Russian economy's resilience and said Thursday that business leaders now have more opportunities than before the sanctions were imposed.
Putin said there are some "systemic issues with logistics, finances and technologies," but huge opportunities are rising in almost any area of activity.
"Those who stayed here and really work turned out to be smarter, more energetic, more efficient than those who left and give advice to our ill-wishers."
Reports say the impact of sanctions on Russia was not as dramatic as expected. The initial forecast said Russia would suffer a double-digit decline in the GDP. However, the country's economy contracted by 3% in 2022, CNN reported last month.
While Russia saw an initial crash after the sanctions, the country was able to fill the gaps to some extent and mitigate some of the effects. For instance, Russia was able to find other countries willing to step in after the U.S. restricted the former from acquiring the components required to make military hardware.
Trade partners like Turkey, India and the UAE as well as "no-limits" partner China have helped keep Russia afloat.
Now that the Russia-Ukraine war has entered its second year, Joe Biden's administration said they would take action to counter Russia's sanction evasion efforts.
Additionally, Biden's administration also said Russia may have circumvented the short-term effects of the sanction, but will not be able to avoid the long-lasting impact.
"The contraction this year is smaller than what I predicted publicly, but to my mind what Putin has done is prop up this year's growth, in an accounting sense, by sacrificing long-term growth potential," Daleep Singh, Biden's former deputy national security adviser and one of the primary architects of the Russia sanctions, said last month.
"The lasting consequence of this war will be that Russia has lost Europe and the G7 as energy consumers and that's going to dry out the major source of export revenue that remains. And it's going to leave Russia as a smaller, weaker, more isolated economy," Singh said.