( dpa ) - President Vladimir Putin warned Thursday that Russia would respond to threats along its borders while praising the economic growth under his watch at his final news conference before over 1,300 reporters.
Following Putin's seven minute speech, he began fielding questions from the hall packed with 1,331 reporters in a tradition he began seven years ago and that has come to be mark of his presidency.
Responding to a US reporter, Putin threatened that Russia could aim missiles at Eastern Europe if the United States and NATO built military bases there.
"We shall be compelled to retarget our missile systems on objects which we consider a threat to our national safety," Putin said, including Ukraine if the country were to join NATO.
Putin called moves to include Ukraine in NATO "undemocratic" and "against the will of the majority of the Ukrainian people."
The Russian president also accused the United States of acting unilaterally in imposing its plans for a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
"Who asked the Poles: Do they want this systems or not?" Putin stressed.
Putin, who is barred from a third term, again endorsed his deputy prime minister's presidential candidacy in a bid to share power with his hand-picked successor when he steps down in May.
"He would be a worthy president and an actual boss. I simply trust him," Putin told journalists in the great hall.
Broadcast across Russia's state television channels and radio stations, Putin ran through the Russian state's impressive growth figures of over 8 per cent per year, disseminating statistics in a form characteristic of his public speeches.
"All eight years I have worked like a slave in the gallies from morning to night for this success," Putin said at the massive press conference that was expected to last a record-breaking four plus hours.
Journalists lined up from early morning in front of the Kremlin complex for the conference that has grown in size and length every year since Putin's first news conference in 2001, which was attended by 400 journalists.