Russian President Vladimir Putin holding his last news press conference of the year in Moscow, December 20, 2012.

Dec. 22, 2012 (TSR) – Russian President Vladimir Putin held on Thursday his last press conference for 2012 which took place at the World Trade Centre on Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment.

As he went through highlights of the year from the Russian perspective, domestically and internationally to over 1,000 Russian and 200 foreign journalists, Putin also explains the reason behind the Russian Bill that prohibits Americans from adopting Russian children as response to the U.S. Magnitsky Bill that blacklists Russian officials.

Putin notes U.S. hypocrisy on human rights and explains how Abu Ghraib is yet to be held accountable for its violation of grave crimes.
Case in point: According to Business Insider,

“And in Pennsylvania, the governor is preparing to release the names of 40 Philadelphia public schools waiting for closure. At the same time, he is escalating prison construction to accommodate the expected inmate population from today’s children. His calculus is based on income and minority status — meaning that he’s closing schools for poor children but building them prisons.In 2009 there were 7.2 million people in prison and under official supervision like probation — a larger population than the state of Washington

Between 1987 and 2007 the national prison population tripled.

4 in 10 prisoners return to state prisons within three years of release.

One in 30 men between 20 and 34 is behind bars — and up to one in 13 in one state.

One in nine black men between 20 and 34 are behind bars.

734 out of every 100,000 people are behind bars in the U.S. — far and away the highest number in the world.

The United States is the world’s largest jailer. Russia and South Africa are the closest, but the rates drop dramatically after that.

Part of the bizarre prison black market, a thimbleful of tobacco can fetch up to $50 at a maximum security prison.

Typically parole programs cost taxpayers $7.47 per day per parolee, while prisons cost $78.95 per day per inmate nationwide.

Some prisoners cost more. It costs New Jersey $253 million every year to house just its death row prisoners — $11 million apiece.

Between 1987 and 2007 state prison costs rose by 315 percent to $44.06 billion a year.”

Our aim is to publish this to give the world the full context of what (West) mainstream media usually edit and fail to report – TRUTH. This is unedited.
Below is the full 270 minute new conference with English dub and in text, which will be constantly updated. However, everything is already dubbed.

* * *PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN:Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased that the media has shown such interest in today’s event. Greetings to all of you. I know that there are many journalists from the Russian regions here. I will try to answer your questions to the exstent possible and tell you my perception of the outgoing year’s results. (Can everyone hear me all right?) As usual, I will begin by citing some figures. They are widely known but I have the most recent data, so I think that you will find it interesting.

To start with, the main indicators of economic development, the growth of GDP (gross domestic product) – I have the data for January-October 2012 – 3.7%. This is slightly lower than last year, when we had 4.3% growth, but I want to point out that amid the recession in the Eurozone, slowing economic growth in the United States and even some scaling down in China, I consider this a good result overall.

What were the causes of the slowdown this year? I’ve already mentioned the first reason, the general slowdown in global economic growth and even a recession in the Eurozone, one of the leading global centres. The second reason is our domestic problem, which is primarily concerned with crop failure. Last year the grain harvest was 90 million tonnes, and this year it was just over 74 million. This had an impact on inflation to some extent, which I will talk about a little later, and slowed down the pace of economic growth in the 3rd and 4th quarter. But, I repeat, I think overall this is a satisfactory result.

As for inflation, I am sure you know that last year it was the lowest in 20 years. This is an achievement we are very proud of because we tried to suppress inflation for a long time. Now we have seen the result of our efforts. This year (as of December 17), inflation rose slightly and was 6.3%, but as you can see, the figure is very similar to last year’s.

Industrial growth was 4.7% last year and 2.7% this year, which is almost half. Naturally, we cannot be happy about that. However, the fact that investment in fixed assets has not fallen, and has even shown slight growth, gives us reason to feel optimistic. Last year the figure was 8.3% and this year it is 8.4%. At the same time, the growth was much higher in the manufacturing sector, 4.4%, which is particularly gratifying. I hope that this is also the result of the Russian Government’s constructive policy.

Now on social issues. In 2011 the average monthly salary was 23,369 rubles, and in November of this year it was 27,607 rubles [$900]. Last year’s growth was 2.8%, and this year it was 8.8%. This is a good indicator.

Another socioeconomic indicator that is very important for our country and for any other market economy is the unemployment rate and the situation in the labour market. Based on ILO calculation methods, the unemployment rate last year was 6.6% in Russia. In fact, we started the year with 6.6 % as well but by November of 2012 it fell to 5.3-5.4%. This is an excellent result and one of the best indicators in the developed economies around the world. The number of officially registered unemployed is 1%.

Real disposable incomes increased by 0.8% last year and by 4% this year. We know what is behind this growth. It is due to a sharp increase in the incomes of servicemen, internal troops and pay rises in the Interior Ministry. This is due to a 60% increase in pensions. I will speak about the planned pension increases later. The social sector wages have also posted growth. This applies to school teachers and university professors. I am sure we’ll come back to this issue. There has also been a clear growth in healthcare professionals’ salaries. Taken together, this is what has produced this result. I think it is a good result. The growth of 4% is a decent indicator.

As of October 2012, the retirement monthly pension has been raised to 9,810 rubles [$300] from 8,876 rubles. The social pension has also grown, but, unfortunately, it remains quite low: it was 5,200, and has been increased to 5,942, but bear in mind that this is the social pension.

Finally, let us look at the maternity capital. I remember there used to be a lot of questions about whether we were going to raise it. I want to reiterate: we are going to raise it and we will continue raising it. If last year the maternity capital was 365,698 rubles [$12,000], at present it is 387,640 rubles, and on January 1, 2013 it will be increased to 408,961 rubles.

To return to the economy, the banking system capitalisation is growing. What is particularly gratifying, there has been an increase in people’s deposits in our banks and our financial institutions, which grew by 19.6% year on year. In absolute figures, this amounts to 13.1 trillion rubles.

We have a trade surplus. Last year it was 198.2 billion and in January to October of this year it amounted to 164.6 billion. I think the figure for the year will not be any lower than for 2011. Bear in mind that the figures I am citing are preliminary and will be finalised in the 1st quarter of 2013.

We have been able to achieve these results not only due to the favourable global  economic factors, which were certainly in place, but also through the Government’s purposeful actions. First, Russia joined the WTO. Second, we signed the free trade zone agreement in the CIS. Third, the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space with Belarus and Kazakhstan were established. I have already talked about this at the news conference yesterday.

Trade with these countries grew by 10% – that is not bad at all. Most importantly, and I want to reiterate this in front of this large audience, we have a very good structure of trade with the Customs Union countries. Machinery and equipment make up 20% of all goods traded. That is very good, because machinery and equipment make up only 2% in our trade with the rest of the world – this is the average figure for all three Customs Union states. This suggests that we are very comfortable and the right partners for each other.

National debt remains at very low level, a little over 10%, of which the external debt makes up only 2.5%, there is little change here. We have one of the best positions of all developed economies according to this indicator.

The Central Bank’s international reserves have grown from $498.6 billion last year to $527.3 billion, this figure is for December 7. The reserve fund has also increased substantially: from $25.2 billion to $61.4 billion today. The National Welfare Fund has remained almost the same: it amounted to $86.8 billion last year and is 87.5 now.

I want to point out the stability of state finances despite the existing problems, of which we have many and I am sure we will discuss them later.

The Government made a very important decision this year to adopt the budget rule, that is, a cutoff of federal revenues and their use in current expenditure only up to the level of the price of a barrel of oil. For 2013, this level is $91 per barrel. Incidentally, this is a rather strict rule. The second part of the budget rule is that we agreed that we would not spend the money from the reserve funds until we achieve a certain level of savings in these funds. As a result, the budget is quite tight but feasible, and this together with an increase in the reserves – the Central Bank’s reserves and the Government reserves – suggests that we have a balanced and meticulous financial and economic policy.

We are particularly proud of the birth rate indicator, the best in the past 20 years, as well as a low mortality rate, also the lowest in 20 years. This suggests that people have begun to plan their lives in a different way, expanding family planning horizons. This suggests that despite all the problems, of which we have more than enough, there is a sense of confidence in the country’s future as a result of our efforts. I have cited the income growth and welfare figures. I think this has had a positive effect in addition to the special measures to boost the birth rate and positive demographic processes.

Apart from the maternity capital, which I talked about earlier, we have a comprehensive programme for the support of women who decide to have the second and subsequent children. Starting next year, in the 1st quarter, the Government will launch a programme for the support of families with three and more children. In the 50 regions of the Russian Federation where the demographic indicators have been negative for several years (the north-west of the country, parts of the Volga areas and the Far East), families will receive an additional monthly allowance amounting to the subsistence minimum for children.

That is all I wanted to say in the beginning and will end my monologue now. I am sure that you have a lot of questions, or you would not have come here. Let’s start our direct conversation.


VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr Peskov will help us to warm up at the start. To find our bearings, and then we will move on to direct communication.

DMITRY PESKOV: I know some of you by name, but not all of you, so please introduce yourselves, state your city and media outlet.

Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Ksenia Sokolova, Snob magazine.

In response to US Congress passing the Magnitsky Act, the State Duma adopted restrictive measures against US nationals who want to adopt Russian orphans. Do you think this is an adequate response? Does it not bother you that the most destitute and helpless children become a tool in a political conflict?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, you have just said that this is a response to the so-called Magnitsky Act. Let me tell you briefly what I think about it. I have already spoken about it, but let me just outline my attitude to this case.

This is undoubtedly an unfriendly act towards the Russian Federation. What is at issue here is not just officials who are not allowed to open bank accounts or own real estate. I mentioned this in my Address to the Federal Assembly recently. We also believe that Russian state officials, especially high-ranking politicians should keep their money in Russian banks. Incidentally, there are many banks in Russia with one hundred percent foreign capital, and there can be no doubt as to their efficiency and reliability. If such a bank has an office in Russia or in Vienna, or in some other capital makes no difference; what is important is that it is an international financial institution. Hold it here, please.

As for real estate, I have also spoken about this. If our colleagues abroad can help us identify those who violate laws, we will be grateful to them and can even give them a prize for their efforts. However, the issue here has nothing to do with officials. It’s a matter of one anti-Soviet, anti-Russian law being replaced with another. They can’t seem to do without it. They keep trying to stay in the past. This is very bad, and has a negative impact on our relations.

As for the issue you have mentioned, the adoption of Russian children by foreigners, as far as I know, public opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of Russians do not support the adoption of Russian children by foreign nationals. We must do it ourselves. We must support the adoption of abandoned children or orphans.

In this regard, I fully support Mr Medvedev’s proposal. We should promote this work in our country, remove bureaucratic barriers and give even more support to the families that adopt children.

Now for the American side. It’s not about specific people, US citizens who have adopted our children. We know that tragedies happen but the vast majority of people who adopt Russian children take good care of them and are good, decent people. The State Duma’s response was not to that but to the US authorities’ position. What is their position? It is a fact that when a crime is committed against an adopted Russian child, the American justice system often does not react at all and releases the people who have clearly committed a criminal offense against a child, of any criminal responsibility. But that’s not all. Russian representatives are denied any access, even as observers, in these legal processes.

We recently signed an agreement between the US State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry on the actions Russian representatives can take in such crises or conflicts. What happens in practice? In practice, it turns out that according to US legislation, states have jurisdiction over such cases. And when our representatives try to fulfil their obligations under the agreement, they say, ‘This is not a federal case, it’s a state case, and you do not have any agreements with the individual states. Go to the State Department and sort it out with them because you signed an agreement with them’. But the federal government refers them to the states. So what is the point of this agreement? Russian representatives are not even granted access as observers, much less as participants in the case.

What concerns do our partners in the United States and their lawmakers voice? They talk about human rights in Russian prisons and places of detention. That is all well and good, but they also have plenty of problems in that area.

I have already talked about this: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, where people are kept jailed for years without being charged. It is incomprehensible. Not only are those prisoners detained without charge, they walk around shackled, like in the Middle Ages. They legalised torture in their own country.

Can you imagine if we had anything like this here? They would have eaten us alive a long time ago. It would have been a worldwide scandal. But in their country everything is quiet. They have promised many times that they would close down Guantanamo, but it’s still there. The prison is open to this day. We don’t know, maybe they are still using torture there. These so-called secret CIA prisons. Who has been punished for that? And they still point out our problems. Well, thank you, we are aware of them. But it is outrageous to use this as a pretext to adopt anti-Russian laws, when our side has done nothing to warrant such a response.

I understand that the State Duma’s response is emotional but I think it is adequate.

QUESTION: Mr President, I am Alexander Kolesnichenko from Argumenty i Fakty.

I am an adoptive parent myself, and regardless of the foreign policy context I considered the amendment passed by the State Duma yesterday to be outrageous, inadequate and, sorry, cannibalistic. The people who have passed this law say that we have enough money to take care of our orphans and enough families willing to adopt tens of thousands of abandoned children. This is not true, or not completely true. Moreover, I think they are deceiving us, just as the regional authorities deceive us when they report on the growth of average wages in the public sector.

We have a national newspaper, and we get a lot of letters from the regions saying that teachers get a real shock when they compare their salaries to the so-called average wages. Sorry, this is probably another question. I hope that some of my colleagues will devote more attention to it. In yesterday’s news …

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I will answer that question too.

Go on.

QUESTION: I think there were only two good news items yesterday.

First, more people got a better idea of what the State Duma stands for.

And second, Prime Minister Medvedev said that there is a real need for new steps, new programmes.

Could you tell us in a little more detail what steps and programmes these will be? My personal three-year experience shows that our system treats adoptive parents as a threat on the one hand and a burden on the other. It was a great shock for me when we got to the final step in the process, came to court and had to face legal violations and humiliation out of nowhere.

Sorry, this is probably the third question. I am sure some of my colleagues will also ask about the judicial system.

Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have already voiced my position regarding yesterday’s decision. I disagree with you totally.

First of all, I repeat, this is not about specific people but about the attitude of the American authorities to the problems that arise in extraordinary situations when children’s rights are violated and criminal offenses are committed. They are well known, as is the reaction of the US authorities.

I will say again that they do not allow Russian representatives access to these cases, even as court observers. I believe that is unacceptable. Do you think this is normal? How can it be normal when you are humiliated? Do you like it? Are you a masochist? They shouldn’t humiliate our country. It is true that we must work to enhance our system. Moreover, we have not banned adoptions by all foreigners. There are other countries besides the United States.

As you may know, many US states do not allow observers from international organizations to be present during elections. Do you like that? The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights was told outright that they must keep a 300-metre distance or they will be arrested. And all is quiet, everyone likes it. This ODIHR wrote that the election was fine and democratic. Do you like it? I don’t think so.

Why then do you call the law cannibalistic? The fact that you have adopted a child is highly commendable. I hope that many others will follow your example. You are a sincere and decent man if you did what you did, it is true, I know what I’m saying.

As for our judicial system, which perhaps is unnecessarily meticulous in such cases. You know, this largely depends on the personality of the judge who decides the case. People are different, including in the judicial system.

I remember when my good friend and colleague Gerhard Schroeder adopted two Russian children, they came to the court in St Petersburg and the judge asked, ‘How does your eldest daughter feel about the adoption?’ She said, ‘What does that have to do with me? Nobody has asked me’. And the judge said: ‘I’m asking you. If you are against it, I will not allow it’.

You know, this makes sense because each member of the family has to make this decision for themselves. And that is what the whole judicial system is aimed at. It would have been a tough decision but a fair one. After all, there is another problem: people reject the children they adopt and the number of such cases is growing. Therefore, it would not be right to simplify procedures here. Society must have a clear understanding whether a given family is capable of bringing up a child, whether they have the means to support him and whether the state aid that the family receives will be sufficient to raise the child. All these things are extremely important, and if a family is just looking to get some benefits, then perhaps they should be rejected.

It is important to understand all these things. If you want to ask me what exactly is to be done, I will have to think about it. This should be considered by specialists, experts and people like you. I say this completely sincerely. These are not just words. These are not empty words. We must talk with the people who bring up adopted children. There are many aspects to that. But as I said, I completely agree with Mr Medvedev and we had even discussed this issue previously, that we must expand the opportunities for Russian families to adopt children, to become adoptive and foster parents, and so on. We must establish a whole range of support measures, both financial and moral.

DMITRY PESKOV: Colleagues from Kuzbass.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr President. Oksana Panarina, columnist for the Kuzbass newspaper.

First of all, I would like to invite you to visit Kuzbass on December 25. We will be mining the 200 millionth tonne of coal – this is a record in Kuzbass history. And in January, the region will be celebrating 70years since its foundation.

Now, here is my question: the issue of resettling residents from dilapidated housing is particularly acute in our region. A great deal has been done but it is not enough. Does the Government plan to increase funding for the resettlement of people from dilapidated housing?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, I want to wish you happy holidays and congratulate the miners on the record results. I must say that the production and sales of coal in Russia and abroad are increasing all the time, and this year the miners have reached new hights compared to last year. Production has increased, as well as export deliveries, which is an excellent indicator. Miners do hard and very dangerous work, which requires constant attention from the state. And the people living in dilapidated housing need the support of the whole country and the federal Government.

You mentioned the programme we have in this area. I have been to such places and talked to the people, and I have also seen the flats they were moving into. It is a very expensive programme but we will continue it. As I said in the Address to the Federal Assembly and in my previous speeches, I hope that in the coming years we will fully resolve the issue of emergency buildings. There are two reasons to tackle this first, since the conditions in emergency buildings are much worse and even dangerous, and according to the law we are obliged to resettle the residents of such housing as quickly as possible. Therefore, we will first tackle this problem, and then gradually move on to address the issue of the dilapidated housing, although we will also increase the regions’ responsibility because we cannot allow for the amount of dilapidated housing to increase as we reduce the number of emergency buildings. This danger exists, but it is a separate issue. In any case, I can assure you that it will be at the centre of our attention.

DMITRY PESKOV: ITAR-TASS, our national news agency.

QUESTION: Veronika Romanenkova from ITAR-TASS.

You have been working as President for seven months now, and during that time you already managed to dismiss several ministers and reprimand several others, something that has never happened before. Why is that? Have your standards become higher or are ministers not up to their tasks?

In general, are you satisfied with the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s performance? You are not planning to send anyone else into early retirement, are you?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: In general I am happy with both the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s performance. We must not forget that the current Prime Minister served as head of state for four years which is both a huge responsibility and great experience. For this reason I am sure that Mr Medvedev will apply and use all this in his new position. Even though I know firsthand, and not just from rumours, how difficult this work is.

In this respect we talk about having to get your hands dirty, or get down in the pit, as miners say, and assume primary responsibility for decisions made. This situation is both very important and not always correctly understood, because the responsibility involved here is tangible. Take a decision, sign something: all this entails certain results. Whether they are positive or negative, they are immediately visible.

As for dismissals, there really have not been so many. I reprimanded three ministers. Why did this not happen before, and why was it required now? First, the situation in Russia has changed. We have to resolve what have become chronic, but nevertheless very important problems, especially in the social sphere. We talked about the need to raise salaries and the like. (By the way, let me say that I did not answer the question about teachers.) People working in Government are experienced, many of them have worked in different ministries for several years now, but they have never been top decision-makers. And yet many think that they already know everything. These are colleagues with whom I have worked for many years, but they must realise that there should be no difference between what was set out during the presidential campaign as high-priority and medium-term economic and social objectives, and what the Government is currently doing. They must work towards these goals. Our country is awaiting results in these areas. We should not have a situation in which presidential statements are one thing, and the Government’s real activities are something else. Ours must be the work of a well-organised team, a unified team, otherwise there will be no results. And people should finally realise this. That’s the first thing.

Second: I did not throw anybody out. I must tell you that the minister who resigned, after working for just a few weeks (and I do not want to reveal any state secrets, there is nothing special here) had begun to ask questions about whether he was in the right place. He expected it to be a little bit different. Incidentally, there is nothing special here, this is no crime. This person was previously engaged in internal politics, and basically it seemed to him that the Regional Development Ministry would be something similar. But it’s completely different, it’s domestic work. There we need to deal with roads and roofs, figuratively speaking; it is quite another matter.

It is no bad thing when a person talks about this honestly; no one will throw him or her out because of this. It doesn’t even relate to being reprimanded. He simply said: ‘You know, I see that it is not quite what I expected’. He stated this honestly and resigned. And he was right to do so. Why should he suffer at a wrong job and make others suffer too? That would be absolutely wrong. In principle, by and large and despite the fact that I reprimanded him, he is quite a capable and experienced person, and I think that his experience could be well used elsewhere.

DMITRY PESKOV: A colleague with the sign “Farmers would like to speak.” But please, do not speak, simply ask your question.

QUESTION: Fine, thank you very much. Oleg Kashtanov, from the newspaper Izvestiya Mordovia.

I have a question from the farmers of our Republic, where they amount to 40 percent of the population. This year they have worked well: they harvested more than 1 million tonnes of sugar beets, an unprecedented amount.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Where are they 40 percent of the population, in the Republic [of Mordovia]?

OLEG KASHTANOV: In the Republic, yes.

There is an issue which they would like to raise. The problem is as follows. A new regime for subsidising regional crops according to the so-called per hectare basis will be introduced in 2013. So this regime hurts regions in which livestock breeding is highly developed. On the one hand, farmers are asking for certain adjustments to the new order, and, on the other, they promise to double their production of meat over the next three years. Thus they will contribute to Russia’s food security, something you mentioned in the Address [to the Federal Assembly].

They wrote an appeal, Mr President, and if I may I will give it to you. And my related question: can farmers count on your support?

And one more thing please, if you’ll allow me. The residents of Mordovia asked me to convey their thanks for helping the Republic organise the 1,000th anniversary of the union between the people of Mordovia and other Russia’s nations. Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: And did they forget the World Cup [in 2018]? (Laughter.)

OLEG KASHTANOV: That was a special party for us.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I know that you had a special celebration on this occasion, and it’s true that sport is developing very well in Mordovia. I think that preparations for the World Cup have become a Republic-wide phenomenon, which is very good. It’s really great that both former Governor Nikolai Merkushkin and current leaders pay so much attention to development of physical culture and sports.

But to go back to your question about the new regime of subsidies per hectare, I must say that the Government took this decision in response to persistent requests from farmers. It was farmers who raised the issue of this subsidy. True, there are different approaches to this issue, but in general such a system is used in many different countries. It’s formulated differently but it is used in many countries and is highly cost consuming. It is not fully effective on its own; the important thing is how it is applied. If you and your colleagues, Mordovian farmers, believe that there are problems associated with the system (you didn’t tell me exactly what they were), then I can promise you I will put the question to the Government today and they will try to find out exactly what the problem is. And of course if we realise that decisions taken need to be adjusted, we will correct this as well.

But as for the traditional occupations of agricultural workers in Mordovia, I have no doubt that Mordovian farmers will show their best side just as they did in previous years. I would also like to note that there is no gold, no oil, and no gas deposits in Mordovia, the same as in some other Russian regions, but the Republic is developing at quite a good pace and in a versatile way. This applies not only to agriculture; it also applies to industry, and especially gratifying is the development of cultural and educational spheres.

I am very pleased to be able to say (this is not related to the question at hand, but I want to make use of the fact that there are many media representatives here) that Mordovia is one of our best examples of a multinational republic, in which relations between different ethnic groups and religions are absolutely harmonious. We travelled there with colleagues from Hungary and Finland, and we saw women and men in traditional dress in a street in one of the villages. And the President of Finland at that time, Tarja Halonen, asked: “Are you wearing these clothes because of the special occasion?” And they answered: “Yes, but we wear our national costume on ordinary days too – in truth, it’s a bit easier”. You know, this was so organic, so beautiful and so nice, that in all honesty it made me very glad.

So I wish you all the best.

DMITRY PESKOV: Let’s continue: Life News please.

QUESTION: Good afternoon Mr President, there are many jokes going around about you, no doubt your aides have told them to you?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No, they are afraid to tell me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The latest one concerns the end of the world, for example: ‘Putin promises so much that he knows exactly when it will come’. Or for example: ‘The President decided to hold his news conference the day before the end of the world, because he wanted to pass final judgment on all of humanity’.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Just a second. First of all, I do know when the world will end.


VLADIMIR PUTIN: In approximately 4.5 billion years. As far as I remember, this is because of the life cycle of our sun, which is 7 or 14 billion years. We are now in the middle of the cycle. I may be wrong and it may only be around 7 billion years, but around 4.5 billion have passed, and after another 4.5 billion years everything will end, the reactor will simply go out. That will be the end of the world. But before that point something else will happen to the sun: it will become a white dwarf and life will already stop at that time. If you look at the question of the end of the world from this perspective, it will end earlier.

QUESTION: So you are not afraid of this?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Why be afraid if it’s inevitable?

QUESTION: People are saying that the French are scared and some are even fleeing to Russia. For example, [Gerard] Depardieu said that he received a passport from you but then Mr Peskov said that he was joking. So is it a joke or is it true? And what are the results of this? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, we have very good relations with France, we very much value our relations. They are traditionally very good.

Among our foreign partners France stands out. We have had very close spiritual ties for centuries now, despite tragic events in our common history. Nevertheless we have special economic, social and political relations with France.

Although France is a NATO member, we are met with understanding by its leaders and citizens, perhaps more so than in other countries. This is the first thing I want to say. So I hope that no decisions in this field will affect Russian-French relations.

Second: I am sure that high-ranking officials did not want to offend Gerard Depardieu. But any high- or medium-ranking officials will always defend their policy of decision-making. If this was not done very delicately, it is an unfortunate occurrence, nothing more.

But actors, musicians, and artists are people with a special, delicate psychological makeup and, as we say in Russia, the artist is easily offended. So I understand Mr Depardieu’s feelings. But I must say that even though he said – and I read his statement – that he considers himself a European, a citizen of the world, I know for a fact that he considers himself a Frenchman. I know this since we have very friendly, personal relations, even though we have not met many times. He loves his country, its history, its culture; that’s his life. And I am sure that he is going through difficult times and I hope that they will eventually end.

As for the humanitarian aspect of things, if Gerard really wants to have a residency permit for Russia, or a Russian passport, we can consider that this issue is resolved and will have a positive outcome.

DMITRY PESKOV: Tatarstan, please, left sector.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr President! My name is Dina Gazaliyeva, I represent my republic’s satellite television. I would like to know your opinion, as President of our nation, as the guarantor of the Constitution, on the statements by certain new politicians about how they want to change the territorial division of the nation’s regions. Some are even suggesting renaming them – for example, making Tatarstan the Kazan Republic and Bashkortostan the Ufa Republic. What do you think about all this?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, it is widely known that the Russian empire did not have divisions on the basis of ethnic territory lines; it simply had provinces.

This is true both of regions that are part of the Russian Federation today, as well as those that are no longer a part of our nation. For example, we had the Tiflissky Province, when there was still no Georgia. This is fully true for today’s federal constituent entities as well. And overall, things seemed to function fairly well.

Can we return to the past? I don’t know, and before talking about it, we should consult with the ethnic republics within the Russian Federation. We certainly do not need tensions in this area. In accordance with the law of the Russian Federation, no decisions along these lines can be made except through corresponding decisions by the federal constituent entities themselves. They can be adopted in two ways: either through a referendum, by vote, or through a decision by the parliament.

From the socio-economic point of view, it does sometimes make sense to talk about consolidation, so that a federal constituent entity could be just that (I spoke about this in my Address), so that it confirms its status of a sub-federal unit, and is capable of resolving its socio-economic problems and responding to current challenges.

But this should not be aimed at resolving the so-called ethnic issue. This is a very sensitive area and here, we cannot charge forward like a bull in a china shop. Let me stress this again: we are determined to adhere to the meaning and the letter of the law. In other words, issues of this kind cannot and will not be resolved without the federal constituent entities themselves.

DMITRY PESKOV: The young lady in the yellow jacket, please.

QUESTION: Inessa Zemler, Ekho Moskvy.

Hello, Mr President! I have a question and a request for clarification.

First, the clarification. First of all, I still do not understand your personal attitude toward this amendment: do you support the ban on adoptions of Russian children by Americans? In one week, the document will be on your desk and you will need to decide whether or not to sign it.

And second, my question. You said a minister was supposed to take care of the roads. But nobody is working on the M-10 highway. Will it go into operation, or it won’t?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The M-10 highway?

INESSA ZEMLER: I’m talking about that very highway, the one connecting Moscow and St Petersburg.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, as a result of all the events around the Khimki forest, construction of the highway was postponed for 18 months. At a certain point, a situation arose when foreign partners said, if you are incapable of resolving domestic problems, we will wait a few more days or a few more weeks and then withdraw from the project.

Let me remind you that this highway is largely being funded through loans issued against guarantees of the French government. Thus, the loss of our French partners was highly undesirable, dangerous, and could have completely derailed this project. In that case, nothing would be getting built at all. It is unlikely that we could have reacted swiftly enough to gather a different pool of funding.

Thus, when we are resolving issues of protecting the environment, we are doing absolutely the right thing, but we always need to balance this with national interests and the development of our country and its infrastructure. If we had begun half a year earlier, it does not mean we wouldn’t currently have this difficult situation resulting from the snowfall, because I doubt construction would already be completed. Or perhaps it would be completed; I simply do not know the schedules involved. But one thing is clear: it would be constructed much more rapidly.

I want to stress that this certainly does not mean I am against the people who care about the environment and its protection.  But we simply need to do so in a civilised manner and weigh these issues against the need for development, because development always involves contradictions in this area. It is only important for there to be direct, civilised dialogue, so that people understand what they are doing and what kind of consequences may result.

I think that overall, we have been able to organise this work with environmental organisations during preparations for the Olympic Games. Moreover, you must understand that I had to make a decision that led to certain losses in the budget when we had already begun investing money into building facilities on the border with the biosphere reserve, and then the environmental organisations insisted that we move that facility. We lost, I believe, 100 million rubles. I said, “Fine, but at least we will maintain civil peace as well as the environment, and we can still make this change.” So we did.

In this particular case, unfortunately, this problem was not fully resolved in a civilised manner. That’s too bad. But apparently, the authorities should have acted differently from the beginning as well. They should have been more transparent and open. Perhaps then it would not have led to such clashes around the Khimki forest and would not have delayed construction of the highway.

Now, with regard to the law. I have not read it yet. I do not know the details. I did not see the text. I will need to see it. And I will literally try to do so today or tomorrow. I will make a decision depending on what it says. But overall, I think I have made my position on this problem fairly clear. I cannot make it any clearer.

Will I sign it or not? I need to read it first.

QUESTION: Do you support the adoption ban or not?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, I said that I do. It is only a question of the form and wording. After all, we still have an agreement with the [US] State Department and we need to see what it says. This is not a simple question.

DMITRY PESKOV: Let’s hear now from Magadan. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Antonina Lukina, Magadanskaya Pravda.

Mr President, before this news conference, as I was about to leave, I was, of course, preparing to ask a regional question. But now, just a short while ago, I looked online and once again saw some fairly specific information concerning the President’s health.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You should spend less time reading things online, they’ll teach you bad things.

QUESTION: Sometimes I have to. And now I’m looking up at the screen (since I am sitting far away from you), and up there, you seem like such an energetic, handsome man. My colleague from Primorye always gushes about how much she loves you, and today it is easy to see why.


QUESTION: So my question is, could you please tell us where that information is coming from, and whom it serves?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: It serves political opponents who try to cast doubt on the authorities’ legitimacy and ability to perform. But I can answer the question about my health in the traditional way, In your dreams. (Laughter.)

DMITRY PESKOV: Sergei Brilyov, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Sergei Brilyov, Moscow, Rossiya TV channel.

Mr President, at the beginning of the news conference, you spoke about stability.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Did I? I hadn’t said a word about it.

QUESTION: You did.

At the end of your current term as president, you will have been in power so long that children who were born in your first year as President will become adults. Financial stability is a wonderful thing. But these 18 years – this is a special figure in Russian history; aren’t you concerned that stability could turn into stagnation?

And a legal question from a MGIMO University graduate (we studied international law there). I am not going to defend the Texas judge who did not allow observers into voting stations, I am not going to defend the American parents who killed a child, but even if every State Duma deputy takes in two children, the 450 deputies multiplied by two would make 900, and not the 956 children that Americans adopted last year. It would be wonderful if Russians were to take orphaned children into their families, but will you give the Foreign Ministry instructions to upgrade, to re-examine the Russian-American agreement? Because we do have a problem.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Let’s start with the last point. I have already said that this situation simply isn’t working: we have signed an agreement with the federal authorities, but this is an area of law that falls under state legislation, and we simply are not allowed in there. After all, we know, I have information from the consulates, consulate employees are trying to access the court as observers in accordance with the agreement – they are simply not being let in. What then is the point of this agreement? It is nonsense. So naturally, we need to look at what is in it.

Incidentally, your colleague from Ekho Moskvy asked about this problem. This agreement stipulates that if one of the parties wants to renounce it, then they must give a year’s notice. So it’s not all that simple.

As for my view on what the deputies are doing: if the President of the United States agrees so easily with his legislators, then why do you think the President of Russia should cast doubt on what Russian legislators are doing?

As for the adoption of children by lawmakers, that’s great, and I’m sure that if we were to look into the matter, some of them adopt or take in foster children. But that is not their purpose; their purpose is to create rules of conduct, to regulate certain areas of public life with the help of legislation.

One year, we had some severe frosts in Leningrad – this was back in Soviet times, in the 1980s; Romanov was the first secretary of the regional party committee. Incidentally, there were many tall tales about him using dishes from the Hermitage, which is all really nonsense, but there are different ways of looking at the past. And when everything froze and residential buildings began to freeze, he kicked nearly the entire regional committee out to the street, saying “If you can’t govern, then go work in the streets.”  This may be looked at as good or as bad, but ultimately, you need governance, and working outside in the streets is not the best use of time for an administrator at that level.

Or, we can take a well-known example from the Great Patriotic War: Voroshilov arrived to command the Leningrad Front and went into battle himself. Is that good or bad? There is no doubt that he was a courageous man, a decent, fearless man, but he should have used a different management approach. So the same is true here. After all, it would certainly be nice if every deputy takes in a foster child, but that will not resolve the problems in our nation; corresponding laws need to be passed. We have already spoken about this today, your colleague asked about it. I think that we need to improve legislation, and that is the role of our nation’s parliament.

Stable stagnation – you know, that is always a very dramatic juxtaposition, but it does not have a serious foundation. Why? Because stability is a necessary, essential condition for development; I want to stress this and I want everybody to hear it. What kind of development can we have if everything in our nation is ripping at the seams in the political sense? Who will invest money in our country?

Regardless of how people may criticise the political system in China, money is flowing into that nation, first and foremost because it is stable, because investors know they can expect that their money will not disappear in five, ten or fifteen years as a result of some kind of political shock, and this is the most important precondition for stability. This does not mean that we must create the same system that China has, but we must ensure stability as a necessary condition for development, as I have already said many times.

DMITRY PESKOV: Our Georgian colleagues who have worked in Moscow for many, many years now.

QUESTION: Tamara Nutsubidze, Georgian television channel Rustavi 2.

Mr President, you once said that relations between our countries will depend on election results. Elections took place in Georgia and new people came to power. One of the first steps our new Prime Minister took was to appoint a special envoy [for relations with Russia]. Just a week ago there was a meeting between Mr Karasin [Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister] and Mr Abashidze.

I would like to know how you personally see the future of relations between our countries, based on the fact that the top priorities for the new Georgian authorities are the country’s territorial integrity, European integration and NATO membership. Are you ready for dialogue with the new government?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are seeing positive signals, very restrained so far but nevertheless positive, from the new Georgian government. And of course we not only see the fact that the Georgian government has appointed a special representative to normalise relations with Russia, we welcome it too. And as you see, we responded in the same way, otherwise there would have been no meeting with Karasin.

We will respond in the same way, but I want to draw your attention to a problem that is well-known. It stems from the fact that the incumbent President, Mr Saakashvili, has turned the current situation into a dead-end. Frankly, I do not really understand how to get out of this. Russia can’t revoke its recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We can’t do so by definition. But Georgia can’t agree to recognise their independence either. I have no idea what we can do about this.

We truly would like to normalise relations with Georgia. And to be perfectly honest, from an economic standpoint Georgia is even more interested in this than Russia. But we are not planning on turning up our nose and saying that we do not need this. No, we think that relations between two very close nations must be normalised, and we need to try and facilitate this. I do not know how to overcome the most difficult problems in our relationship, but because there are people who are willing to work on this in a professional way, let’s think about it together.

DMITRY PESKOV: Alexander Gamov, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Alexander Gamov. Radio, television and the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Radio, television and newspaper.

REPLY: Yes, we are an empire.


REPLY: Almost: he’s fallen behind.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Be careful. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mr President, you remember that Boris Yeltsin once said “I am the first President of Russia.” So by this measure you are both the second and fourth president of Russia, and you have been president twice. A lot has already been said and will be said about how our country and our people are changing. And how has Vladimir Putin changed over the years? How does Vladimir Putin, the fourth Russian president, differ from Vladimir Putin the second Russian president? What should we expect from you, will you work once again like a galley slave? What major steps will you take in the coming years, months, and days?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: As for slavery, we started working yesterday at 10:00 am and we finished at about 10:00 pm. My last meeting with Mr Sargsyan [President of Armenia] was over at five minutes to ten. And the whole week was very similar. In general I’m used to this.

About changes, you know the wonderful well-known saying: everything flows, everything changes. Therefore, people change, things change. You know, I will tell you how I’ve changed, and of course I’ve changed for the better; I cannot say that I’ve changed for the worse. I think that would not be very reasonable from my part, but of course changes have occurred and they are a result of both life and professional experiences.

I am convinced that working as Prime Minister for four years had a very positive impact on me, as did being forced to take direct responsibility in a very difficult and acute crisis for the country. And it was impossible to hide from this; of course it would have been possible but I consider that dodging this responsibility would have been absolutely wrong. I don’t know if you followed this or not, but I know that in late 2008, early 2009 it was necessary to stand up and say publicly: “We have problems here and there, but I want to say one thing only, and that is I will not let another 1998 happen, I promise.” Can you imagine this kind of responsibility?

I just talked about the fact that the opposition does not sleep, it looks at this and at that, but just imagine if everything came crashing down? Well, that would be the end! But it is very difficult to say anything with authority because of a huge number of unidentified factors we couldn’t influence. And this was the case more than once in those four years. I had to go into the details to be able to speak with confidence. This significantly increased the level of my professional training, confidence in what I do, what the people who work with me do, our entire team. Of course this is a positive thing.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr President, my name is Rolanda Kazachakova, I’m from the Republic of Tuva. Exactly one year ago on December 12 you were in Tuva and hammered in a rail spike launching the construction of the Kyzyl – Kuragino railway line. A year has gone by and it’s still as cold: – 46C. But the government has pulled out of the project, leaving one private investor.

My question is: should the people of Tuva expect trains on the Kyzyl – Kuragino line? Or was it for nothing that you froze in -46C, hammering in that spike? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is a very complex project, as I’m sure you know. It began when one of our businesses, which I think has been abroad for quite a long time now, acquired a mineral deposit. That company then traded it for a long time and involved various players.

It then became clear after these spikes were driven in and the first tracks were laid that the company was crippled by debts.  And this is the reason why we have had difficulty attracting investors to see the project through its normal development.

But the mineral resources have a great deal of potential both in relation to the consumption of coal in Russia, of which there is a great deal, and for export, including to China. And I would really like to see this project implemented.

Incidentally, it is no secret and everyone knows very well that the road should have been built by a private company, first and foremost to develop this coal deposit. Naturally, this would lead to the improvement of infrastructure throughout the region, which would also improve residents’ quality of life.

I hope that these projects will be implemented. I think it is important to note that if the government’s participation is crucial, then we will participate.

DMITRY PESKOV: Izvestiya newspaper.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr Peskov knows everyone by sight, it’s surprising.

DMITRY PESKOV: I just have it written on a piece of paper.

REMARK: It’s good that a press secretary knows how to read.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: He can also listen.

QUESTION: Please, don’t laugh, you might not like the question.

Mr President, there are many journalists here, and we have a lot of questions for the authorities. And as it happens, we mainly associate state power with you.

In 12 years you have built quite a harsh, in some cases even authoritarian personal rule regime. Do you think this system is viable in the twenty-first century? And don’t you think it hinders Russia’s development?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that we have ensured the stability that Sergei Brilyov asked about, and solely as a prerequisite for development. And as I have already said, I think this is extremely important.

But I cannot call this system authoritarian, I disagree with your thesis. And the most striking example that disproves it is my decision to step down as President after two terms. If I considered a totalitarian or authoritarian system preferable, I would simply have changed the Constitution, it would have been easy enough to do.

This doesn’t even require any sort of national vote, it would have been enough to take this decision in Parliament, where we had more than 300 votes. I deliberately took up the second position, both to ensure the continuity of government and to show respect for the Constitution and our laws.

As you know, at that time I couldn’t set myself the goal of inevitably returning after four years. That would have been ridiculous, especially since the crisis began and no one knew what would happen. We have all been through hard times. So, you can’t call this system authoritarian. If someone believes that democracy and compliance with laws are two different things, then that person is deeply mistaken.

Democracy is first and foremost about compliance with laws. Some are under the strange impression that democracy, like Trotskyism, is anarchy. It is not! [Mikhail] Bakunin was a wonderful person and very intelligent. But we do not need anarchy, or Trotskyism either.

You know that the anarchy of the 1990s served to discredit both the market economy and democracy itself. People feared it. But these are different things. I believe that order, discipline, and adherence to the letter of the law are not in conflict with democratic forms of government.

DMITRY PESKOV: Let’s have that young lady sitting with the BAM sign.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr President,

Amur Pravda newspaper, Yelena Pavlova, Amur Region.

Just recently there was a State Council Presidium meeting on developing the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory. We heard a lot of interesting proposals and you supported them all, including the development of the Baikal-Amur Mainline, the construction of a new branch along it, and generally increasing cargo traffic on this railway line, our legendary BAM.

However, at almost the same time, the companies Russian Railways and the Federal Passenger Company made the decision to stop running two lines: Tynda – Komsomolsk and Tynda – Neryungri. And in the end eleven villages along the BAM with a population of 4,500 people were left without any transport links, that is people cannot leave either by road or by plane. As a result, the editorial office has been showered with letters. Entire village councils are gathering signatures, gathering letters to you – you have probably already received them – and the Governor sent you a letter.

How do the Russian Railways policies match up with the state’s position concerning the development of the area? Those who live along the BAM say: “The President says ‘yes, yes, yes’ and in the end they forget us and we remain in the taiga, in the wilderness.” Could you comment on this?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I understand. There are many problems in the BAM zone, and one of the most important is relocating people from unfit housing, something we have already talked about. In fact, unfortunately these structures are not even recognised as housing and therefore do not fall into the ‘unfit’ category. I have already talked about this many times, but the problem must be resolved. The first steps in this direction have been taken, and we will continue to act in the same way.

As for Russian Railways and the decisions made. As you know, next year the government will support the Russian Railways company – and if it’s not yet known then I will say it now – by providing it with 40 billion rubles. Company representatives believe that this is not enough to maintain relatively low fares for passengers on local trains and in second-class carriages on long-distance trains, since both require subsidies.

We talked about financial problems, budgetary problems, or in any event I talked about them. The Government decided on 40 billion [rubles], although Russian Railways in general and some experts too believe that subsidies should be higher. And instead of 30 billion [rubles] for these types of passenger traffic, Russian Railways will receive only fifteen.

Of course there is nothing good in all this, just as there is nothing good in disbursing funds that do not exist in the federal budget. And the company chose what to do: either to somewhat reduce trains that are not profitable, and thus reduce costs and slightly raise fares in the low-price segment, in second-class carriages, or reduce support for local traffic.

Russian Railways decided to support local traffic primarily because it involves a large number of people working in big cities and living in the suburbs.

I think we will have to come back to this again because, in my opinion, we do have the opportunity to increase support for Russian Railways. And in cases like yours, where there is no other way to travel, of course such restrictions must be addressed. I will absolutely return to this.

DMITRY PESKOV: Bloomberg – the microphone to the third row, please.

QUESTION: In your Address to the Federal Assembly you spoke about de-offshorisation of Russia’s economy. I would like to know how exactly you are going to achieve this. As an example, recall the recent Rosneft deal with TNK-BP. The AAP Consortium received $28 billion and it was an offshore operation. Do you think this money will come back to Russia? And generally, how do you plan to get the capital from low-tax jurisdictions abroad back to Russia?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: That’s a very good question. Thank you for asking it.

Why is it a good question? Because this is one of the key issues for our economy. It is clear that we must really strive for de-offshorisation, and the measures to bring it about should be careful, civilised.

The first measure is strictly administrative, and I think I mentioned it in the Address: like many other countries, including Europe, we must seek relevant agreements with offshore zones to compel disclosure of tax information and help reveal the information about the end beneficiaries of offshore companies. This is a civilised measure, and there is nothing to be concerned about. This is the first purely administrative, political and legal step.

The second measure is more difficult, but I think it is more important. We must improve our legislation to ensure that it is stable, effective and that it protects the owner’s interests.

The third measure is to improve the investment climate. These are major challenges that the state will tackle and we are developing a whole series of action plans, also in collaboration with business representatives.

As you know, we have developed a plan to improve the investment climate in the country at the suggestion of the business community and virtually all of our major associations (the Agency for Strategic Initiatives has also taken part). I must note that we have made progress in some aspects.

For example, we have moved up 30 notches in tax administration, and our rating in this parameter is higher than that of the United States. I think this shows that the objectives we have set for ourselves are achievable. All we need is to continue persistent efforts in this area, and that is what we are going to do.

DMITRY PESKOV: What does “problem” mean?

QUESTION: Hello, Mr President,

Alexei Ivanov, the Novaya Zhizn newspaper, Kirillovsky district in Vologda Region. I have a question on protected natural areas.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am sorry, I would like to answer the second part of the previous question about whether the money will come back to Russia. We cannot say for certain that it will. I have told you that Rosneft made the payment to the private shareholders of TNK, and I have said that one of the de-offshorisation measures is about improving the protection of the owner’s rights. If we recognise that they are legitimate owners, receiving the money legally, then it’s up to them where to invest these funds. I would very much want them to invest these funds, or at least a significant portion of these funds, in the Russian economy, but first we must create the right conditions. I know that my colleagues from the Government and from some of our companies are in contact with some of the beneficiaries of the deal, and I hope they will decide to invest in the Russian economy.

I beg your pardon, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr President, I have a question about specially protected natural areas – the national parks. As you know, Russia has 41 national parks. One of them, the Russian North, is located in the Vologda Region. Unfortunately, the people living on its territory cannot purchase land, the municipal district is losing investors and therefore has fallen behind in its development. How, in your opinion, should these protected areas live and develop, and what should the relationship be like between the local residents and the nature reserves? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is the same question your colleague asked earlier: there is an inherent conflict between development and nature conservation. Nature reserves have adopted a special procedure for the use of land. If you think that it should be changed so that the land could be used in the economy, let’s think about it together. It is clear that there is a number of restrictions, I know and understand that. But it is also clear that these restrictions were introduced in order to preserve these special areas that we cherish and that have national value.

Of course, this should not be at the expense of the people who live in these areas. We should think about their way of life and sources of income. Perhaps, we should consider not only the use of land in these reserves, but also ways to develop tourism and to encourage small and medium enterprises in this sector. They must get state support and create new jobs there. As I said earlier, in North America, for example, economic activity is allowed in these zones, but it is not about farm operations, first and foremost it is about promoting small and medium business there. This system works well and has minimal impact on the environment. I think we should follow their example.

DMITRY PESKOV: Sakhalin, please.

QUESTION: Vladimir Semenchik, Sakhalin, the Gubernskiye Vedomosti publishing house.

My question is about one of Russia’s most remote areas, the Kuril Islands. The Second Kuril Programme has been in force since 2006, the funding is very substantial and a great deal has been done, but the programme expires in 2015. What plans does the federal Government have for the region’s development after that, considering that it has great strategic importance for our country?

Another related issue that everyone is familiar with is territorial. Currently the third expedition to the Southern Kuril Islands is cataloguing small islands that still have no names. New names are being suggested and may be adopted later. How do you feel about the idea to name one of the small islands, for example, the Putin Island? In that case everyone will know for sure that it is a Russian island and will never be aliened from Russia.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: If that’s the aim, you don’t need to use my name; the island could be named after Tolstoy, Pushkin or some explorer. I think that would be much more productive.

Let me first address the international part of your question. As for the territorial issue, we are counting on a constructive dialogue with our Japanese colleagues. And we have received a signal from Tokyo, from the party that has came to power again, that the party’s leadership will seek to conclude a peace treaty. This is a very important signal, we highly value it and intend to conduct a constructive dialogue on the issue.

You need not have any concerns about the economic aspect, the fact that the programme will expire in 2015. Why is that? Because we adopt the federal budget for two years, 2013 and the subsequent two years, until 2015. The development of the Kuril Islands will be given due attention in the long-term programmes for the development of the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory.

DMITRY PESKOV: Moskovsky Komsomolets, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Viktoria Prikhodko, Moskovsky Komsomolets.

You said today that your aides are afraid to tell jokes about you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I was just joking. They tell me all the jokes.

VIKTORIA PRIHODKO: I understand, but I’m serious. In the past you always said that Alexei Kudrin was your source of a second opinion: when others said “yes”, he said “no.”

VLADIMIR PUTIN: He continues to do so.

VIKTORIA PRIHODKO: In your present team, who else gives you a second opinion?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, Mr Kudrin hasn’t gone away, he is still here, he is working in a different capacity, but I meet with him regularly, though not very often because we’re both busy, but regularly. And I listen to his opinion because I value it, as before. It is no accident that Mr Kudrin was named the world’s best finance minister twice, he is a top expert.

However, the difference between experts and decision-makers is that experts do have no political responsibility for these decisions, but it is always interesting and important to know their opinion to make a balanced decision. There are many competent, knowledgeable and experienced people in the world, and one of them, for instance, is Christine Lagarde, who heads the IMF. European countries have very good experts in the truest sense of the word, including those working in economics and finance, and there are people like that in the United States. I read and listen to their opinions, and I always try to compare them with our plans and the tools that we use to address the challenges facing the country.

VIKTORIA PRIHODKO: If you listen to Mr Kudrin’s advice, perhaps you have plans to put him on the team again?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The team is just a relative term. If I listen to his advice, then he is part of the team in this sense.

DMITRY PESKOV: The colleague with a sign saying “The clock”, please.

QUESTION: Sergei Fadeyev, Kaluga, the Kaluga Evening daily.

I have a question from the millions of Russian late sleepers. When will we see the end of the experiment with Daylight Saving Time? It’s been tough.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I thought you were going to ask about the environment again.

I have already talked about Daylight Saving Time: when Mr Medvedev made the decision to change to a new system he relied on the opinion expressed by a considerable part of our population who said that changing the clocks in the winter and spring had a negative impact on their health and adversely affected some sectors of agriculture. But when the decision was adopted, it turned out that there were more people who were dissatisfied with it than those who called for the change. The Government will now decide whether to change the clocks or not when they have the results of study currently being conducted by government agencies. The final decision will be based on the results of this study.

I can see that there are problems, I feel them myself: it’s dark when you get up and dark when you go to sleep, I understand. There are also more systemic problems, especially related to the upcoming major sporting events, because, the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games, or the Universiade will be broadcast in other countries. And if there is a big difference in time, three hours with Europe, and four with the UK, most of the potential audience will still be at work when the competition begins. International organisations have already pointed that out. But, I repeat, we must first be guided not by these considerations but by the interests of the Russian people. The Government is conducting a study, and the final decision will be based on its results.

DMITRY PESKOV: Let’s move on. TV Tsentr.

QUESTION: Igor Konstantinov, TV Tsentr.

The last time we all gathered for such a big news conference, the event was held in Skolkovo because Skolkovo was a priority for a number of years and was considered a point of growth for the entire country. Many promises were made and a lot of money was allocated, but now it seems that the process has stalled. How do you see the future of Skolkovo, this young research hub?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Your question seems to imply that I am behind the impetus to stall the development of Skolkovo. I assure you that this has nothing to do with the truth. Mr Medvedev is the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and he has all the decision-making powers in such matters. The situation has nothing to do with the fact that he has moved from one post to another. This is the first point.

Second, I want to draw your attention to the fact that about five or six years ago, your humble servant invited Mr Medvedev to lead the Skolkovo project, and another colleague of mine was heading the project in St Petersburg. The aim of both projects was to create modern schools of management. The only difference was that we attracted private capital to develop Skolkovo, while the site in St Petersburg was given to the university together with the funding (I think it was 8 or 9 billion rubles), but they were not able to use it. The economic crisis began soon afterwards and all the money was returned to the budget. We were not able to give them back the money amid the crisis in 2009.

Skolkovo is not the only venue and it is not the only research hub. I know that many people in the academic community were critical of the project because we have many research hubs in Russia that were established back in the Soviet times and they are well-developed centres that have proven their effectiveness. I want to say that we support them and we intend to continue supporting them in the future. We have created a network of free trade zones, and some of them are very successful. Not all of them, but some of them are excellent, and they are at the focus of our attention.

As for Skolkovo, it is one of such zones, one of the research hubs, and I think that overall it is a good idea that should be developed further. The question is how much money should be allocated to it and how much should go to our traditional research hubs and so on, but this is a technical question.


V: There are many journalists from Chechnya here, but I will give the word to that colleague from Chechnya, if you please.

QUESTION: Bilkhis Dudayeva, the Put Kadyrova [Kadyrov’s Way] newspaper.

For years the attention of the global community was…

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The animation in the hall is inappropriate, what is meant here is the elder Kadyrov, who died for his people. I would ask you to put away your smiles.

BILKHIS DUDAYEVA: The newspaper has the grand name Put Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrova.

For years the attention of the global community was focused on Chechnya and the Chechen issue. Now, thankfully, Chechnya has become a zone of peace, prosperity and socio-economic growth. Life in Chechnya is peaceful and quiet, but the epicentre of all the negative events moved to the neighbouring republics. Mr President, what do you see as the root of the problem? What steps should be taken to stabilise the situation?

And one more question. The Chechnya Svobodnaya [Free Chechnya] radio station, which has been renamed Kavkaz, reported throughout the entire Chechen campaign. I ask this question at the request of Chechen intelligentsia, who would like to see the airtime of the Kavkas radio station increase. Chechnya Svobodnaya used to broadcast 24-hours a day, whereas the airtime of Kavkaz has decreased significantly. Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Is Kavkaz part of the VGTRK holding?

BILKHIS DUDAYEVA: It is part of the Voice of Russia radio station.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have taken note of this question and will discuss it with my colleagues. We will try to change things for the better and increase the funding. The reason for the cuts is the Finance Ministry’s and the Government’s overall aim to reduce spending. I have already talked about this at the beginning: the budget is tight and the Government was forced to cut spending across the board, including funding for the media, although I am not sure that the decision was balanced and final. The media, especially in the Caucasus, play a critical role not only in promoting stability, but also in ensuring a positive outcome.

As regards the situation in the Caucasus, yes, indeed, things are much better in the Chechen Republic and not only because fewer crimes are committed, both in terms of terrorist activity and criminal offences, which is largely the merit of regional authorities, as is the republic’s economic growth. We’ve talked about this and you know this well: the reconstruction of Grozny from the ashes is a great achievement of the Chechen people. Of course, it was done with the support of the whole of Russia, but it would have been impossible without the direct involvement of the Chechen people.

As for the problems of the Caucasus as a whole. First, the number of terrorist attacks and terrorism-related crimes nationwide has fallen and statistics show this clearly. Nevertheless, crimes and terrorist attacks continue to be committed and take people’s lives. It is always a tragedy.

What is the main challenge today? It is not only to improve the performance of law enforcement agencies, although this is also necessary. Socio-economic issues are the priority: the creation of new, high-quality and well-paid jobs. I have already said that nationwide the unemployment rate is 5.2-5.3%, one of the lowest in the developed world. But the situation in the Caucasus is different.

In the Caucasus, the unemployment rate is 15, 20 and even 25%, and it is even higher among young people. This is problem number one. Young people need jobs, they need to engage in constructive work, and we must create opportunities for them to study. All of this, along with the advancement of modern humanitarian ideas and patriotism, all of this together, I am sure, will bring positive results. But it requires serious, extensive and systematic efforts.


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