Putin rides a horse in southern Siberia's Tuva region. He goes hunting in National Parks according to the report (Reuters) Reuters

The day after being named Russia's man of the year for the 15<sup>th year in succession, a new poll has shown that 81% of Russians support their president, Vladimir Putin.

An Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research survey found that despite the massive currency crash and the fact that the Russian economy seems to be crumbling beneath his feet, Putin is more popular than ever.

The ruble has lost 50% of its value against the dollar this year, in the face of Western sanctions and tumbling oil prices. But Russians have warmed to Putin's belligerent stance towards the EU and US, and were particularly supportive of his annexation of Crimea.

The poll showed that confidence in the economy is slipping, AP reports, but Russians feel Putin is the solution rather than the problem.

It was conducted between 22 November and 7 December, a period in which the ruble crashed to record lows against the dollar and euro on an almost daily basis. Inflation soared to 9.1% over the same period, with a dearth of Western imports hurting the consumption habits of a populace that had grown used to luxuries.

First public comments from Putin

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found those who get the majority of their news from state-backed media (84%) support Putin, with 73% who get their news elsewhere feeling favourable towards him.

To stabilise the currency we might squeeze ruble liquidity. We mustn't give away our forex reserves. We must help with loans
- Vladimir Putin

The results are all the more surprising considering 60% of those polled felt they personally had been adversely affected by the sanctions regime issued by and against Russia.

On 18 December, Putin gave his first public comments on the economic crisis, during his annual televised address.

He vowed to return the Russian economy to growth within two years and implied that there would be no further currency purchases, saying: "To stabilise the currency we might squeeze ruble liquidity. We mustn't give away our forex reserves. We must help with loans. The Bank of Russia and the government in general are acting properly."

Russia bank governor victim of the crisis

He criticised the perceived inaction from the Russian central bank, saying that it "should have acted faster and harder on the ruble". This will fuel speculation that the bank's governor Elvira Nabiullina will be a high-profile victim of the crisis.

Putin claimed the crisis was completely externally manufactured but acknowledged that Russia is overly dependent on oil exports.

"The currency crisis has been provoked by external factors first and foremost but not enough has been done by us in diversifying our economy over the last two decades," he said.

Putin also said there were no plans to implement capital controls, saying: "As far as I know, the government and central bank are not going to place limits on exporters and that's the right thing to do. There are no decrees planned to impose artificial limitations."

This will perhaps allay market fears that Russia is to clamp down on the free flow of money in and out of the country.