Wednesday 4th of August 2021

all the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow...

 

light and shadowlight and shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vladimir Putin is a philosopher… When he says: "There's no happiness in life, only a mirage of it on the horizon.” he means well. This is not glib. Some of the world leaders are gruffs/grubs like Trump, spoiled brats like Macron or professional deceitful politicians like Biden. Not Putin.

 

 

I repeat. He is a philosopher. He knows the value of reality. And despite what we think of Russia, Russia is a country with more philosophers by square kilometre despite its extensive empty spaces than any other country on this planet. Some of these philosophers find refuge in potato wine and vodka, but they are not the majority. Philosophy is ingrained in the language… As Noam Chomsky tells us:

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: One of the striking things about language which greatly impressed the founders of the Scientific Revolution Galileo and his contemporaries is what is sometimes called the creative aspect of human thought. We are somehow capable of constructing in our minds an unbounded array of meaningful expressions. Mostly, it happens beyond consciousness. Sometimes, it emerges to consciousness. We can use these in a way which is appropriate to situations and constantly in new ways, often which of are new in the history of the language in our own history. Well, this creative character through the centuries has been connected speculatively, but not absurdly, to a fundamental instinct for freedom, which is part of our essential nature, resistance to domination and control by illegitimate authorities, fundamental element of human nature, maybe part of the same creative capacity, which shows up very strikingly in our normal use of language.

 

Read more:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/23/podcasts/ezra-klein-podcast-noam-chomsky-transcript.html

 

And Vladimir Putin’s command of the German language is another sign of his philosophical depth. German is the language of solid stable philosophy itself. Friedrich Nietzsche, Freud and many others offer solid analysis of the human psyche, while the French lingo in more bent on freedom of the arty-farty soul and while English/American is the language of grocers. 

 

Stan Grant tells us:

 

Analysts have spent days since puzzling over what he meant.

 

Putin did add that we should cherish that glimpse of happiness. He was referring as much to trust as happiness, adding that while there was no "family trust" between the US and Russia, in the meeting with Biden "the silent lightnings of it actually flashed by".

 

Make of that what you will. Putin has been here before. He has seen off Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump — all of whom wanted a "reset" with Russia.

 

Putin is still here and, if anything, is more powerful at home and abroad. He has revived Russian influence in the world — not always entirely legitimately and by force.

 

Read more:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-20/vladimir-putin-joe-biden-meeting-last-word/100226200

 

 

Not entirely legitimately? What does this mean? Ah yes, the elimination of his major opposition… We, in the West are very much in favour of opposition to Russia’s ruling mob. We don’t like philosophers. We prefer the rich refugee oligarchs, former robber barons of Russia, now financing football clubs… 

 

Let’s say that the Ruskies would not mind having the trapping of life like those of the RICH Americans with private swimming pool (there are about 45 million people living below the poverty line in the USA and about 2.5 million in US prisons) instead of the communal waterworks where one can catch up with the neighbours and a few bacteria. Note: this last infection is also possible in private pools and this is why we have the pool guys to drop massive amounts of chlorine in them. But the Ruskies also know that the US is hell-bent on destroying Russia. Who knows why? Possibly because the Rooskies remind the US that the Red Army won WW2 and an alliance of Russian and German philosophers would have destroyed the US/UK empires of grocers...

 

The major “opposition” the West sees in Russia is a small time crook, with a tiny following, called Navalny with no other policy than to get rid of the main Russian philosopher, Putin… We fail to see that the major opposition in Russia is the Communists, well, because we don’t like the commies, do we? They are the descendants of Karl Marx, that grand German philosopher who spent time in England to study the way the grocers were shafting the workers… Now, not all the Russians are descendants of Catherine the Great, a German lady, ten times the size of Angela Merkel herself, but many Russians have inherited the spirit.  While the Germans and the Russians venerate their philosophers, including Tolstoy, we, in the West take the semi-naked Kardashian family as gurus… Ain’t cutting it, is it?

 

And we love the Nazis in Ukraine… Work this one out. Why? Because supporting these nasty guys is our way to get at Russia. It does not take a philosopher to work this one out, but it helps. Putin is not dumb, despite being a philosopher. He knows all the tricks in the book of life.

 

Reviving Russian influence by force? Hell it does not take a philosopher that one has to defends one’s own patch if one wants to survive. But a philosophising attitude will help against the deceit of the psychopathic Christians of the West. These guys fight under the banner of redemption and absolution, but with very little contrition. They will lie through their teeth as they ransack some place like Iraq or destroy someone’s fiefdom like Libya, under fake pretexts, with real bombs. 

 

This is where Putin, the philosopher (he’s also a judo black belt), saw that the US were trying to destroy Syria under false pretences… Syria was a example of happiness and ethnic harmony apart from a small group of extremist arabs who wanted everyone to lift their arse for Allah… Not only that, the US were encouraging these extremists to destroy the place, by supplying them with weapons and training… What does one do? A christian would have presented the other cheek like Jesus and bombed something in a devilish manner… Putin is actually a little guy, but a great philosopher. Despite knowing that happiness is an illusion, he knows that hardship and pain can be a nasty reality. People were going to suffer because of the empire building grocers. How gauche. Same with South Ossetia and Crimea… The way Putin swiftly stopped the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was the only thing one could do to avoid further bloodshed — even if there was a loser and a winner...

 

The force that Putin used to salvage the Syrian furniture was surgical and minimalist. Meanwhile the USA got the shits and are now stealing the Syrian oil… The Turks are protecting the Sunni extremists in Idlib. You don’t punch a bigger adversary on the nose, or anyone for that matter. Putin is a patient philosopher. Patience does far more than rage and force. He also knows how to use the force of the opponent against the opponent himself (or herself to be PC). 

 

Putin is not unhappy despite his great knowledge of history. A guy like Biden barely remembers the last five minutes and needs advisors to show him the way to the toilet block. It has been said that Putin can speak 9 Indian languages (Telugu, Hindi, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil and Urdu) and 8 foreign languages ( English, French, Arabic, not mentioning German..). Meanwhile a guy like Biden speaks gaffy political garbage as well as some English and a bit of kitchen Latin on Sundays…

 

So there, to understanding philosophy though linguistics. Putin has been more important to the planet than we realise. Had a less philosophising character taken the rein of Russia, we’d be eating radiated turnips under the skies of World War 3….

 

 

Gus Leonisky

 

Part-time philosopher.

 

 

Read from top. See toon....

 

Free Julian Assange Now.................................

intercepted...

 

2017

RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

 

https://theintercept.com/2017/06/05/top-secret-nsa-report-details-russian-hacking-effort-days-before-2016-election/

 

 

2021

REALITY WINNER, the most prominent and harshly punished whistleblower of the Trump era, has been released to a halfway house after serving most of her five-year sentence for leaking a classified document on Russia’s effort to hack the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Court filings make clear that Winner had wanted to make Americans aware that the government had concluded that Russia secretly tried to gain access to U.S. voting systems in 2016, contrary to what the Trump administration said in 2017. Winner was a contractor for the National Security Agency when she disclosed the document, which was published by The Intercept in June 2017. The NSA document described phishing attempts by Russian military intelligence against local U.S. election officials — and was the most convincing evidence to emerge of the Russian effort.

 

https://theintercept.com/2021/06/14/reality-winner-released-prison/

 

 

 

 

At this stage, I do not trust the Intercept’s Peter MaassMatthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam BiddleRyan Grim. Not because they are bad guys, but because I think they are naive.

 

The NSA and the CIA are populated with specialists of deceit. This was perfectly illustrated by the Iraq war waged by G W Bush. In order to convince the people that Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction”, an array of fake documentation, of staged events such as the Anthrax affair and a collection of “Saddam haters — so-called defectors” were used to deceive the media. It worked. But we knew here, at Gus Inc. (before joining the YD site) that the bullshit was flying by the laddle-full.

 

Fake documents ARE EASY TO MANUFACTURE. This is the bread and butter of the NSA and the CIA: producing fakery in order to target someone — this time Russia. The documents in the Intercept possession say categorically that they cannot be used to prosecute anyone — this for the principal reason that they would not stand to scrutiny in a court case. 

 

Here is the recruitment exam for the CIA:

 

Question one: How devious can you be?

 

Question two: How much are you prepared to hate Russia?

 

Question two b: China?

 

I made this up but organisation such as the CIA and the NSA have to be led by devious psychopath/sociopath by NECESSITY. The secrets are not what they discover, but WHAT THEY MAKE UP.

 

 

So what about Reality Winner?

 

Pay attention, you, Peter MaassMatthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam BiddleRyan Grim, you have been taken for mugs. She was the sacrificial lamb to make sure you would believe in the documents she gave you in earnest. She believed (possibly discretely coached by reversed psychology) she was doing the correct thing, to prove the illegitimacy of Trump’s presidency…

 

The NSA and the CIA hated Trump’s gut. They devise a way to get rid of him through impeachment, of which this was one conduit. Now you may not believe that Reality Winner (is this her real name? wow!), a poor soul, would not be sacrificed at the altar of truth…

 

Make your brain cells work and analyse Valerie Plame Wilson’s case…

 

I rest my case, though a lot more could be said… Including the case of journalists being informed by informants who are then blown up to give more credibility to the info... Yep, they do this sort of stuff...

 

Oh and carry on fighting for Julian Assange if you haven’t done it so far, PLEASE!!!!!!

 

FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be open despite the past...

Vladimir Putin has written a major article for the German newspaper Die Zeit, marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, in which he made a warning about the deteriorating security situation in Europe.

 

"The whole system of European security has now degraded significantly. Tensions are rising and the risks of a new arms race are becoming real. We are missing out on the tremendous opportunities that cooperation offers – all the more important now that we are all facing common challenges, such as the pandemic and its dire social and economic consequences", Putin said in his article Being Open, Despite the Past.

 

He said that Russia opted for beneficial relations with the EU, believing it is possible to build Europe in accordance with Charles de Gaulle's idea - "from the Atlantic to the Urals", or even "from Lisbon to Vladivostok".

 

https://sputniknews.com/world/202106221083206086-putin-warns-of-degrading-european-security-system-growing-risk-of-new-arms-race/

 

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Быть открытыми, несмотря на прошлое

(Be open despite the past)

 

22 июня 1941 года, ровно 80 лет назад, нацисты, покорив практически всю Европу, напали на СССР. Для советского народа началась Великая Отечественная война – самая кровопролитная в истории нашей страны. Погибли десятки миллионов людей, гигантский урон был нанесён экономическому потенциалу и культурному достоянию. 

Мы гордимся мужеством и стойкостью героев Красной армии и тружеников тыла, которые не только отстояли независимость и достоинство Родины, но и спасли от порабощения Европу и мир. И кто бы ни пытался сейчас переписать страницы прошлого – правда в том, что советский солдат пришёл на землю Германии не мстить немцам, а с благородной, великой миссией освободителя. Для нас свята память героев, боровшихся с нацизмом. Мы с благодарностью вспоминаем союзников по антигитлеровской коалиции, участников Сопротивления, немецких антифашистов, приближавших общую Победу. 

Пережив ужасы мировой войны, народы Европы всё же смогли преодолеть отчуждение и восстановить взаимное доверие и уважение, взяли курс на интеграцию, чтобы подвести окончательную черту под европейскими трагедиями первой половины прошлого века. И хочу особо подчеркнуть, что для становления такой Европы колоссальную роль сыграло историческое примирение нашего народа и немцев, живших как на востоке, так и на западе современной объединённой Германии. 

Напомню и о том, что именно немецкие предприниматели стали в послевоенные годы пионерами кооперации с нашей страной. В 1970 году между СССР и ФРГ была заключена «сделка века» – о долгосрочных поставках природного газа в Европу, заложившая фундамент конструктивной взаимозависимости, ставшая началом многих последующих грандиозных проектов, в том числе строительства газопровода «Северный поток». 

Мы надеялись, что окончание холодной войны будет общей победой для Европы. Казалось, ещё немного – и станет реальностью мечта Шарля де Голля о едином континенте, даже не географическом «от Атлантики до Урала», а культурном, цивилизационном – от Лиссабона до Владивостока. 

Именно в этой логике – в логике построения Большой Европы, объединённой общими ценностями и интересами, – Россия стремилась развивать свои отношения с европейцами. И нами, и Евросоюзом было сделано многое на этом пути. 

Но возобладал другой подход. В его основе лежало расширение Североатлантического альянса, который сам представлял собой реликт холодной войны. Ведь для противостояния времён той эпохи он и был создан. 

Именно движение блока на восток, начавшееся, между прочим, с того, что советское руководство фактически уговорили на членство объединённой Германии в НАТО, стало основной причиной стремительного роста взаимного недоверия в Европе. О дававшихся тогда на словах обещаниях, о том, что «это не направлено против вас», что «границы блока к вам приближаться не будут» – поспешили быстро забыть. А прецедент был создан.

И с 1999 года последовало ещё пять волн расширения НАТО. В организацию вошло 14 новых стран, включая республики бывшего Советского Союза, что фактически похоронило надежды на континент без разделительных линий. О чём, кстати, предупреждал в середине 80-х годов один из лидеров СДПГ – Эгон Бар, который предлагал кардинально перестроить всю европейскую систему безопасности после объединения Германии, причём как с участием СССР, так и США. Но никто ни в СССР, ни в США, ни в Европе не захотел тогда его слушать. 

Более того, многие страны были поставлены перед искусственным выбором – быть либо с коллективным Западом, либо с Россией. Фактически это был ультиматум. К каким последствиям привела такая агрессивная политика, мы видим на примере украинской трагедии 2014 года. Европа активно поддержала антиконституционный вооружённый переворот на Украине. С этого всё и началось. Зачем нужно было это делать? Тогда действующий президент Янукович уже согласился со всеми требованиями оппозиции. Зачем США организовали переворот, а страны Европы – безвольно его поддержали, спровоцировав раскол в самой Украине и выход Крыма из её состава?

Сейчас вся система европейской безопасности сильно деградировала. Нарастает напряжённость, реальными становятся риски новой гонки вооружений. Мы упускаем огромные возможности, которые нам даёт кооперация, тем более она так важна сейчас, когда все мы столкнулись с общими вызовами – пандемией и её тяжелейшими социально-экономическими последствиями.

Почему так происходит? И главное, какие выводы мы обязаны сделать вместе? О каких уроках истории вспомнить? Думаю, прежде всего о том, что вся послевоенная история Большой Европы подтверждает: процветание и безопасность нашего общего континента возможны лишь совместными усилиями всех стран, включая Россию. Потому что Россия – одно из крупнейших европейских государств. И мы ощущаем свою неразрывную культурную и историческую связь с Европой. 

Мы открыты к честному созидательному взаимодействию. Это подтверждает наша идея создания единого пространства сотрудничества и безопасности от Атлантики до Тихого океана, которое включило бы в себя разные интеграционные форматы, в том числе Ев­ропейский союз и Евразийский экономический союз.

Вновь повторю: Россия выступает за восстановление всеобъемлющего партнёрства с Европой. У нас много тем, представляющих взаимный интерес. Это безопасность и стратегическая стабильность, здравоохранение и образование, цифровизация, энергетика, культура, наука и технологии, решение климатических и экологических проблем.

Мир динамично развивается, сталкивается с новыми вызовами и угрозами. И мы просто не можем позволить себе тащить за собой груз прошлых недоразумений, обид, конфликтов и ошибок. Груз, который будет мешать нам сосредоточиться на решении актуаль­ных проблем. Убеждены, что нам всем надо признать эти ошибки и исправить их. Наша общая и бесспорная цель – обеспечить континентальную безопасность без разделительных линий, единое пространство равноправного сотрудничества и всеобщего развития во имя процветания Европы и мира в целом.

 

Read more:

http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65899

 

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navy exercises...

 

Russia has claimed it used live ammunition and bombs to force a British warship out of an area near Crimea.

The UK rejected Russia’s account of the incident, saying it believed any shots fired were a pre-announced Russian “gunnery exercise” and that no bombs had been dropped.

But a BBC correspondent was on the deck of the British Royal Navy’s HMS Defender as it sailed in the Black Sea – and says he witnessed the confrontation.

 

The reporter, Jonathan Beale, said he saw more than 20 Russian aircraft flying above him while he was on the British warship. There were two coastguard boats about 100 metres away, Beale reported.

The Russian military shadowed the destroyer as it sailed about 20 kilometres off Crimea’s coast, he said.

At one point he heard a warning being issued over the radio that said “if you don’t change course I’ll fire”.

“We did hear some firing in the distance but they were believed to be well out of range,” Mr Beale said.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said it ordered a patrol ship to fire warning shots at the Defender after it ignored a notice against intrusion and sailed near Sevastopol, the main Russian naval base in Crimea.

It claimed to have also dropped four bombs in the path of the vessel to force it to change course.

The ministry claimed the Defender left Russian waters just minutes later, calling the passage of the British warship through the area an act of “blatant provocation”.

Britain denies Russia’s claims

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “It’s incorrect to say either that it was fired upon or that the ship was in Russian waters.”

 

The UK confirmed that its destroyer had sailed through what it described as waters belonging to Ukraine.

The ship was “conducting an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law,” the UK Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Military experts said that whether or not the details of the Russian or British accounts were accurate, the incident appeared to represent an escalation in confrontation between the US and its allies and Russia over disputed sea lanes.

Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and considers areas around the peninsula’s coast to be Russian waters.

The UK and some other countries deem Crimea to be part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas around it.

“Innocent passage” is an internationally recognised right for ships to sail through territorial waters of a country provided they mean no harm.

“This was done to test Russian resolve over Crimea,” Mark Gray, a maritime security specialist and a retired colonel with Britain’s Royal Marines, told Reuters.

“Russia is trying to create facts on the ground and get them respected internationally so that their annexation is in effect rubber-stamped by the world,” he said, comparing Russia’s Black Sea claims to those of China in the South China Sea.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the incident showed that Russia’s “aggressive and provocative policies” in the Black Sea and nearby Azov Sea constituted a “continuous threat to Ukraine and its allies”.

In a tweet, Mr Kuleba called for more co-operation between NATO and Ukraine in the Black Sea.

-with AAP

 

Read more:

https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2021/06/24/british-navy-hms-defender-russia/

 

Now what are the UK warships doing in the Black Sea near the RUSSIAN TERRITORY OF CRIMEA? Flaunting the protocol limiting armament capability in these waters in force since 1936? It's a bit like having the Russian Navy doing exercises in the Solent... or in the waters of Scotland to help the Scottish independence movement...

 

We did hear some firing in the distance but they were believed to be well out of range,” Mr Beale said." Excuse me? Out of range?... What a wimp! No you meant it was deliberately shot short. Change the name of the ship from "HMS Defender" to "HMS Aggressor", please...

 

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nato is a weed...

When you imagine Russia’s Vladimir Putin, do you get a vision of a tougher and older Edward Scissorhands? Neither do I, but apparently western policy advisers see Russia’s president as some kind of mad gardener hell-bent on trimming world powers to his liking. The latest example being a Carnegie Endowment storytelling how Russia is the weed killer preventing NATO blossoming. No, I am not kidding.

Paul Stonski, the former senior analyst for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, says the garden shear-wielding Russian leader is out to cut NATO off at its roots. Which if you think about it, is both true and a good thing. But like all western security analysts, the narrative is always about job security.

This story, entitled “A Difficult Balancing Act: Russia’s Role in the Eastern Mediterranean,” would be brilliant if everyone on Earth were dumb as a rock. The author runs with his Eurasian analytical bone until, at a point, he looks down to see a Russian dog grasping the same bone in its teeth. Sorry for the metaphors, but western think tanks always end up blaming Russia and Putin for exactly what the elite world order in the west is doing. Expanding and growing geographically. This is why there’s always a reference to Putin reclaiming the Soviet Union. It’s because the geopolitical zombies in Washington think this way. Surely, Putin wants what we want, right?

“Russia’s assertiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean is part of its broader strategy for undermining the cohesion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) and thus complicating the Western alliance’s ability to operate, plan, and formulate policy.”

Or, in other words, Russia would like to hang on to her land, richest, and culture as long as possible. As if US administrations and the satraps in Europe were not envisioning a Fourth Reich all the time. Let’s face it, the only way Exxon can grow is by selling Russian gas, every place else is almost out. But let’s turn to our gardening motif, and the wildflowers of NATO Mr. Stonski calls “weak links” in NATO’s horticulture experiment. According to Stronski, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus are the bloc’s dandelions, daisies, and chrysanthemums waving in the eastern Mediterranean sun. Just blossoming and ready for Putin to hedge-trim into the sign of the hammer and sickle again. Only the Russian constant gardener has a small problem.

To be honest, somebody needs to formulate a new weed killer for Washington think tank botanist ideas. Take Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, for instance. It has never occurred to the westerners that Turkey nixed the F-35 and Patriot systems because the American tech just did not work. No, buying a reliable system to protect your country is a policy move period. Especially in a place where your air force generals hold such sway. In America, the DoD buys what they are told to, but in Turkey, there are other things to consider. Again, I am having trouble visualizing Putin’s long garden shears culling the daisies in preference to the dandelions. “Which ones do I make hammers, and which ones sickles?” I can just hear Putin querying Peskov or some other aide.

Well, the truth of the matter is not hidden in some rare plant DNA. Everybody is working for the harvest. And Putin’s job as chief Russian blossom tender is to make sure NATO and the western elites don’t take a lawnmower to the future harvests of his country. Isn’t that what he’s supposed to be doing? I wonder why the west just cannot admit there’s a Jolly Green Giant itching to plant little green peas and Brussels sprouts all over the world’s biggest country. Paul Stonski types many words to express that the west needs to garden better than Russia in order to cultivate eastern fields.

Come on Carnegie boys, can’t we at least get into advanced botany, Cytology, or even Epigenetics? Lawnmower detente is just old hat.

 

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

 

Read more:

https://journal-neo.org/2021/06/29/vladimir-putin-gardening-in-the-eastern-mediterranean/

 

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assangexassangex

putin — the NBC interview...

 

How uncouth of Putin to claim that he can see no-one replacing him in the near future… This is self-aggrandisement if one sees it. But on analysis, one can see that Putin is more humble than most leaders of the deluded civilised worlds. 

 

Since his accession to power, Putin has been salvaging a country that could have collapsed like Champlain Towers. The West would have had a field day ransacking the place with the freedom of unrelenting capitalism. Breaking up Russia has been on a few countries’ bucket list: think Napoleon, Hitler, the USA and its various administrations, Japan and its imperialism — all this without noting the internal robber barons called oligarchs, in bed with the "Russian Mafia". 

 

So with this heavy sense of history, a little guy, Vladimir Putin, had to find a way to salvage the furniture. One can sieve through the rubbish and suddenly one would be able to see a discreet connection between the Western ambitions to damage Russia, the Russian “Mafia”, the oligarchs and a little felon called Navalny, whose only political platform is to get rid of Putin. End of story. 

 

As I have mentioned, Putin is the only philosopher in charge of a country on this planet. Xi is trying his best to appear as a philosophising Mao, but he’s still appearing like a despot — and he may have to in order to control a massive number of people. A Joe Biden always was a devious hypocrite like all good Catholics. Confusion and conflicts should happen should he refer to a true moral compass but Joe's misunderstandings and actions are deliberate bullshitting ways through tunnels of shit. These days he has lost the plot as his faculties are diminishing beyond salvaging. 

 

So until, Russia is fully secure in the face of more shit coming from outside and some from within, Putin sees his function as necessary. It looks that the majority of Russian people, despite some grumbling about the cost of cheese and bread, agrees with him. Putin may be a president, but I feel he sees himself as a functionary first. An employee of the Russian Federation. He’s here to serve. And in order to do it at best, one needs understanding of historical trends, not just of Russia, but of the entire planet. 

 

From time to time he won’t be ashamed to show a bit of belly flab, but that’s okay for Russians need a bit of grease during the cold winters. Unlike our own Morrison who changes hats during election campaigns to show he is one of the mob to then revert to a fully suited dork in charge of government disunited, Putin will be seen doing a few feat of relaxation during his holidays. Putin holidays in Russia, unlike our “I don’t hold a hose, mate” Morrison ventures in Hawaii, while there are plenty of much better looking spots in Aussieland. BUT, being Morrison, one does not want to see more local problems, like enjoying the sunshine on the degrading Great Barrier Reef.

 

Putin has been accused of many things. Daily in the Western media he is vilified like the devil. Fortunately, Putin is still young and is the most intelligent leader on this little planet — and knows the game being played. His stint as a spy gave him an insight into the bullshit that is being thrown by the Western nations, but like in a game of tennis, Putin can throw the ball back into the adversaries courts, faster than they expect. They cheat by increasing the size of their rackets — and I mean mafioso RACKETS like NATO. Nato is a snake-oil racket.

 

My feeling is that Merkel, the leader of Germania, admires — or at least immensely respects — Putin secretly. She knows how hard it is to rule a mob of unwashed bourgeois, rightwing mobs, former communists, green carrot-eaters and Merc-makers alike. As a scientists raised in Eastern Germany, she knows the values and difficulties of walking the tight ropes…

 

I would suggest that Putin has a great sense of place and time, and of the little bickers that could unsettle a great momentum. Here is NBC interview. It shows Putin with a great sense of discreet Russian dark humour in relation to Trump. My guess is that Putin can see the dungeon trap set by the interviewer… In a diplomatic back-hander, and Gus reading between the words, Putin comments that Trump must have been the greatest because the greatest country voted for him...

 

Here is the full transcript of the NBC News interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which took place in Moscow on June 11, 2021. The interviewer is Keir Simmons of NBC News.

KEIR SIMMONS: Mr. President, it's been a long time since you sat down with an American television network. Almost three years, I think. Thank you for your time. There's a lot to discuss. I hope we have time to get to — all of the issues. But I want to begin— with— some news from the U.S.— just today. In the U.S. it's reported that Russia is preparing, perhaps within months, to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system, enabling Tehran to track military targets. Is that true? (Note from NBC: President Putin’s interpreter translates the underlined question from English into Russian as, “According to reports from the US, over the next few months, Russia is preparing new hacks of military facilities for the benefit of Iran’s nuclear program. Is that true?”)

 

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Would you mind repeating the question again, that we are preparing to hack what kind of facilities?

KEIR SIMMONS: No. It's — it — the — the report today is that — Russia is preparing to give or to offer to Iran a satellite technology which will enable Iran to target — military — to make — to — to make military targets. (LAUGH) (Note from NBC: President Putin’s interpreter translates this question from English into Russian as the following, adding the underlined phrase, “There have been reports that Russia is planning to turn over satellite technology to Iran for tracking and striking military targets.”)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. No. We don't have that kind of programs with Iran. No, it's just nonsense all over again, yet again. We have cooperation plans with Iran, including the military and technical cooperation. And all of this fits the framework of the decisions that were agreed upon in our program in regard to Iran’s nuclear program in the context of U.N. decisions together with our partners in the preparation of the JCPOA whereby some point sanctions, including in the area of military and technical cooperation, should be lifted from Iran.

We have certain programs which — concern conventional weapons, if it gets that far. However, we haven't even gone to that stage yet. We don't even have any kind of real cooperation even in the conventional weapons area. So if — if anybody is — inventing something regarding — modern space-based technology, this is just — plain fiction. This is just — fake news. At the very least, I don't know anything about this kind of thing. Those who are speaking about it probably know more about it. It's just nonsense, garbage.

KEIR SIMMONS: So presumably you'd agree that giving Iran satellite technology that might enable it to target U.S. servicemen and women in places like Iraq — or to share that information with Hezbollah or the Houthi in Yemen so they could target Israel and Saudi Arabia, (DINGS) that giving Iran that kind of — satellite technology would be dangerous?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look, why are we talking about problems that don’t exist? There is no subject for a discussion. Somebody has — invented something, has made something up. Maybe this is just a bogus story so as to limit any kind of military and technical cooperation with Iran.

I will say once again — this is just — some fake information that I have no knowledge about. For the first time I'm hearing about this information from you. I — we don't have — this kind of — intentions. And I'm not even sure that Iran is even able to accommodate this kind of technology.

This is a separate subject, a very high-tech subject. We don't rule out— cooperation with many world nations in space. But — probably everybody knows very well our position in terms that we are categorically against space militarization all together.

We believe that space should be free from any and all kinds of — weapons located in — near in near-Earth orbits. We don't have this kind of plans or any plans, especially concerning the transfer of technology of the level that you have just described.

KEIR SIMMONS: So let's move on to your summit with President Biden. The context for the summit is that he's meeting with the G7, a group that you used to belong to — with NATO, with European— leaders. President Biden has defined his first trip to Europe as quote, "about rallying the world's democracies." He views you as a leader of autocrats, who is determined to undermine the liberal democratic order. Is that true?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, I don't know. Somebody presents it from a certain perspective. Somebody looks at the development of this situation and at yours truly (THROAT CLEARING) in a different manner. All of this is being offered to the public in a way that is found to be expedient for the ruling circles of a certain country.

The fact that President Biden has been meeting up with his allies, there is nothing unusual about it. There's nothing unusual about a G7 meeting. We know what G7 is. I have been there on numerous occasions. I know what the values are in that forum.

When people get together and discuss something, it's always good. It's better than not to get together and not to discuss. Because even in the context of G7 there are matters that require ongoing attention and consideration because there are — differences, strange as it may seem.

There may be — differences in assessments of international events on the international arena and among them. And — very well then — let get together and discuss it. As far as NATO, I have said on many occasions, "This is a Cold War relic." It's something that was born in the Cold War area— . I'm not sure why it still continues to exist.

There was a time and there was some talk that this organization would be transformed. Now it has been kind of forgotten. We presume that it is a military organization. It is an ally of the United States. Every once in a while, it makes sense to meet up with your allies, although I can have an idea of how the discussion goes on there.

Clearly everything is decided by consensus. However, there is just one opinion that is correct. Whereas the other opinions are not quite that right — putting it — in careful terms. Well, there we go. Allies are getting together. What's — so unusual about it?

I don't see anything unusual about it. As a matter of fact — it's a sign of respect to the U.S. allies before a — summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents. Probably it is being presented as desire to find out their opinion on the key issues of the current agenda, including those issues that President Biden and I will discuss.

However, I'm inclined to think that despite — all of these niceties, the United States as far as their relationship with Russia, will be promoting what they consider important and necessary for themselves, above all for themselves, in their economic and military interests. However, to hear what their allies have to say about — probably never hurts. This is working procedure.

KEIR SIMMONS: So let's talk about — your meeting with President Biden, the summit that will happen after those meetings. President Biden asked you to meet with him. He didn't make any preconditions. Were you surprised?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. We have a bilateral relationship that has — deteriorated to what is the lowest point in — recent years. However, there are matters that — need a certain amount of — comparing notes and — identification and determination of mutual positions, so that matters that are of mutual interest can be dealt with in an efficient and effective way in the interests of both the United States and Russia.

So, there is nothing unusual about it. In fact, despite this— seemingly harsh rhetoric we expected, those — suggestions because the US domestic political agenda made it impossible for us to restore the relationship at an acceptable level — this meeting should have — taken place at some point.

So, President Biden launched this initiative. Prior to that, as you will know, he had supported the extension of— the START treaty, which of course was bound to meet with— support from our side. We believe that this is a treaty in the area of containment of— strategic offensive weapons, has been— worked through and thoroughly, and meets— our interests, and meets the U.S. interests. So this offer — could — could be expected.

KEIR SIMMONS: Will you go into the summit — agreeing — to begin — more arms control talks immediately after the summit? Because as you mention, President Biden has extended new START by five years. Washington would like that to be the beginning, not the end of that conversation.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We know what matters and what problems Americans want to discuss with us, we understand these questions, matters, and problems. We're prepared for this joint work. We have — certain, if not differences, than different understandings of what pace — at what pace and in what directions we need to be moving.

We know what constitutes priorities for the U.S. side. And — this is — generally speaking, is a process that needs to be advanced at the professional level along the lines of the Foreign Ministry — and Defense — Ministry on the Russian side, Pentagon and State Department of the U.S. side.

We are prepared for this work. We've heard signals that the U.S. side would like to see these negotiations resumed at this — expert level of professionals. We will see if the conditions for this have been created following the summit. Of course we are not saying no. We are proposed to— do this work.

KEIR SIMMONS: President Biden wants predictability and stability. Is that what you want?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, these are the most important things. This is the most important thing. This is the most important value, if you will, in international affairs.

KEIR SIMMONS: s — sorry to interrupt you. But he would say that you have caused a lot of instability and unpredictability.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, he says one thing. I say another thing. But maybe at some point — in certain ways our rhetoric varies and is different. But if you ask my opinion now, I am telling you what it is. The most important value in international affairs is predictability and stability.

And I believe that on the part of — the U.S. partners, this is something that we haven't seen in recent years. What kind of stability and predictability— could there be there if we remember the 2011 events in Libya where the country was essentially taken apart, broken down?

What kind of stability and — predictability were there? There has been talk of a continued presence of troops in Afghanistan. And then all of a sudden, boom!, , the troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan. What, is this predictability and the stability again?

Now the Middle East events. Is this predictability and stability, what all of this will lead to? Or in Syria? What is stable and — predictable about this? I've asked my U.S. counterparts, "You want Assad to leave? Who will replace him? What will happen when somebody— he's replaced with somebody?"

The answer is odd. The answer is, "I don't know." Well, if you don't know what will happen next, why change what there is? It could be a second Libya or another Afghanistan. Do we want this? No. Let us — sit down together, talk, look for compromise solutions that are acceptable for all the parties. That is how stability is achieved. It cannot be achieved by imposing one particular point of view, the "correct" point of view, whereby all the other ones are incorrect. That's not how stability is achieved.

KEIR SIMMONS: Let's get to some other issues. I want to just talk a little bit more about your relationship with —

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, please.

KEIR SIMMONS: — President Biden. This will not be the Helsinki summit. President Biden is — is not President Trump. You once described President Trump as a bright person, talented. How would you describe President Biden?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well even now, I believe that former US president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual talented individual, otherwise he would not have become US President. He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn't come from the U.S. establishment.

He had not been part of big time politics before, and some like it some don’t like it but that is a fact. President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics.

He has been doing it for a great deal of years and I have already said that and that is an obvious fact. Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate, and how many years he was involved in the matters of international politics and disarmament, virtually at the expert level.

That's a different kind of person, and it is my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any knee-jerk reactions on behalf of the sitting US president that we will be able to comply with certain rules of engagement, certain rules of communications and will be able to find points of contact and common points.

KEIR SIMMONS: Well, President Biden says — one time when you met, you were inches away from each other, close to each other. And he said to you, "I'm looking in your eyes, and I can't see a soul." And you said, "We understand each other." Do you remember that exchange?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: As far as soul, I'm not sure. one has to think about what soul is. But I do not remember this particular part of our conversations, to be honest with you. I do not remember. We all, when we meet, when we get together, when we talk, when we work and— strive and achieve some solutions, we all proceed from the interests of our nations and our states. And this is fundamental and is the bedrock of all our actions and intentions. And— this is the driving force and the motive for organizing meetings of this kind. And— as far as soul goes, that's something for the church.

KEIR SIMMONS: Yeah. You're a religious man. President Biden is saying he told you to your face, "You don't have a soul." (LAUGH)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not remember this.

KEIR SIMMONS: He says it was about —

(OVERTALK)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: — something wrong with my memory.

KEIR SIMMONS: — it was 10 years ago, 10 years ago when he was vice president, he says.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, he probably has a good memory. I— I— I — I do not rule this out, but I don't remember this. In personal encounters, people try to act appropriately. I do not remember any inappropriate elements of behavior on the part of my counterparts. I don't think that anything like that — has happened. Perhaps he did say something, but I do not remember.

KEIR SIMMONS: Would you have felt that was an inappropriate thing to say?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, that depends on the context. It depends on what form they're said in. One can say this in different ways. It can be presented in different ways. But generally, people meet up in order to establish a relationship and create an environment and conditions for joint work, with a view to achieving some kind of positive results.

If — one is — going to have a fight with somebody else — why bother and — have a meeting? One's better off — looking into budget and social policies — domestically. We have many issues that we have to resolve. What's the point then? It's just — a waste of time.

Of course, one can and present this for domestic political consumption, which I believe is what has been done in — the U.S. in the last two years, where the U.S.-Russia relationship was sacrificed for the sake of a fierce political strife inside the U.S. We can see that.

We know it very well. We have been accused of all kinds of things: election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations. I'm surprised that we have not yet been accused of— provoking the Black Lives Matter movement. That would have been a good line of attack. But—

KEIR SIMMONS: What do you think —

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We did not do that.

KEIR SIMMONS: What do you think of the Black Lives Matter movement?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that, of course, this movement was — used by one of the political forces domestically in the course of election — campaigns. But there is — th — th — there are some grounds for it. Let's remember Colin Powell who was State- secretary, was in charge — of — the Pentagon.

Even he wrote in — his book that even he as a high-ranking official had felt some kind of injustice towards himself his entire life as a — as someone with a dark complexion. Even from the Soviet — days— and in Russia, we have always treated with understanding the fight of African Americans for their rights.

And there are certain roots to it. And— there are — there is a certain— foundation for this. But no matter how noble the goals that somebody is driven by, if it reaches certain extremes, if it spills over into — if it acquires elements of extremism— we— we c — we can not approve this.

We can not welcome it. So our attitude to this is very simple. We support African Americans' fight for their rights, but we are against any types and kinds of extremism, which unfortunately sometimes, regrettably, we witness currently —

KEIR SIMMONS: You mention cyber—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —these days.

KEIR SIMMONS: You mention cyber attacks— and deny any involvement— by Russia. But Mr. President, there is now a weight of evidence, a long list of alleged state-sponsored cyber attacks. Let me give you five. There's a lot, but it makes a point. The U.S. intelligence community says Russia interfered with the 2016 Election.

Election security officials said Russia tried to interfere with the 2020 Election. Cybersecurity researchers said government hackers targeted COVID vaccine researchers, hacking for COVID vaccines. In April the Treasury Department said the SolarWinds attack was the world's worst with n— including not— the targets including nine federal agencies. And just before your summit, Microsoft says it's discovered another attack with targets including organizations that have criticized you— Mr. Putin. Mr. Presi— President, are you waging a cyber war against America?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dear Keir, you have said that there is a weight of evidence of cyber attacks by Russia. And then you went on to list those— official U.S. agencies that have stated as much. Is that what you did?

KEIR SIMMONS: Well, I'm— telling—

(OVERTALK)

KEIR SIMMONS: I'm giving you information about who said it so you can answer.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Right. Right. You are conveying information to me as to who said that. But where is evidence that this was indeed done? I will tell you that this person has said that, that person has said this. But where is the evidence? Where is proof? With— when there is— when there are charges— without— evidence, I can tell you, you can take your complaint to the International League of Sexual Reform.

This is a conversation that has no subject. Put something on the table so that we can look and respond. But there isn't anything like that. The la— latest thing— one of the latest attacks as far as I know, was against the pipeline system in the U.S. Right, yes. So what?

KEIR SIMMONS: But this is— but— the c— you— you mention—

(OVERTALK)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Just a moment. As far as I know, the shareholders of this company even made a decision to pay the ransom. They paid off the cyber gangsters. If you have— listed an entire set of U.S. special services (powerful, global, respectable), after all they can find whoever the ransom was paid.

And— once they do that, they will realize that Russia has nothing to do with it. Then— there's the cyber attack against a meat processing plant. Next time they will say there was an attack against some Easter eggs. It's becoming farcical, like an ongoing farcical thing, never-ending farcical thing. You said "plenty of evidence," but you haven't cited any proof. But th— again, this is— this— this is an empty conversation, a pointless conversation. What exactly are we talking about? There's no proof.

KEIR SIMMONS: You've moved on to this question of— ransomware and— and— and criminals. Russian-speaking criminals is the allegation— are targeting the American way of life: food, gas, water, hospitals— transport. Why would you let Russian-speaking criminals disrupt your diplomacy? Wouldn't— you want to know who's responsible?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, the simplest thing to do would be for us to sit down calmly and agree on joint work in cyberspace. We did suggest that—

KEIR SIMMONS: In September.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —to Obama's administration in Octo— - we started in September and - during his last year in office. In October at first, they didn't say anything. Then in November, they came back to us and said that, yes, it was interesting. Then— the election was lost.

We restated— this— proposal to Mr. Trump's administration. The response was that it is interesting, but no— it didn't— it didn't— it didn't come to the point of actual negotiations. There were— there are grounds to believe that we can build an effort— in this area with the new administration, that the domestic political situation— in the U.S. will not prevent this from happening.

But we have proposed to do this work together. Let's agree on the principles of mut— mutual work. Let's find out what we can do together. Let's agree on how we will structure counter-efforts against the process that is— gathering momentum.

We here in the Russian Federation have— cyber crimes that have increased— many times over in the last few years. We're trying to respond to it. We're looking for cyber criminals. If we find them, we punish them.

We are willing to engage with international participants, including the United States. You are the ones who have refused to engage in joint work. What can we do? We cannot build— this work, we cannot structure this work unilaterally.

KEIR SIMMONS: Well, I'm not the government, Mr. Putin. I'm just a journalist asking— you—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I understand that.

KEIR SIMMONS: —questions. But if you— you clearly want to negotiate. You must have something to negotiate with. You— you don't ask for a truce unless you're fighting in a war.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, as far as a war, NATO— and I'd— I'd like to draw your attention to that. N— NATO has officially stated that it considers cyberspace a battlefield, an area of— military action—

(OVERTALK)

KEIR SIMMONS: And you're involved in that—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —that's training—

KEIR SIMMONS: —field.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —it conduc— it conducts—

KEIR SIMMONS: Russia is—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: It conducts exercises in that battlefield.

KEIR SIMMONS: —fighting on that battlefield. Correct?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. No. No. No, that is not correct.

KEIR SIMMONS: Really?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: That is not correct. Really. If we wanted to do that, NATO said that it considers cyberspace an area of— combat. And— it prepares and even conducts exercises. What stops us from doing that? If you do that, we will do the same thing. But we don't want that. just like we don't want space militarized, in the same manner we don't want cyberspace militarized. And we have suggested on many occasions, agreeing on mutual work in the cybersecurity area in this—

KEIR SIMMONS: It— I—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —in this area. But your— your— your government refuses to.

KEIR SIMMONS: Isn't— I mean, I saw your proposal from— from September, from just in September. Isn't what you're proposing? That if you can come to an agreement over hacking and election interference, then you'll call off the hacking and the election interference if America agrees not to comment on your elections and your political opponents?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: What we count on is that nobody should interfere in domestic internal affairs of other countries, neither the U.S. in ours or we in— the USA's— political processes or any other nations. All nations of the world should be given an opportunity to develop calmly

Even if there are crisis situations they have to be resolved by the people domestically, without any influence or interference from the outside. I don't think that this call by the U.S. administr— today's administration is worth anything. I— it appears to me that the U.S. government will continue to interfere in— in— political processes in other countries.

I don't think that this process can be stopped, because it has gained a lot of momentum. However, as far as joint work in cyberspace for the prevention of some unacceptable actions on the part of cyber criminals— cyber criminals— that is definitely something that can be agreed upon. And it is our great hope that we will be able to establish this process with our U.S. partners.

KEIR SIMMONS: If you were in America, what would you fear might happen next? The lights being switched off the way they were in western Ukraine in 2015?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You mean if I were in America, what— what— what would I be— you mean if I were an American, what I would be afraid of?

KEIR SIMMONS: What—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Is that the question?

KEIR SIMMONS: What should Americans worry? What might happen next if there's no agreement on cyber?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, this is just like space militarization. This is a very dangerous area. At some point, in order to achieve something in the nuclear area in terms of— confrontation in the area of nuclear— weapons, the USSR and the United States did agree to contain this particular arms race.

Cyberspace is a very sensitive area. As of today, a great deal of human endeavors rely upon digital technologies, including the functioning of— government. And of course interference in those processes can cause a lot of damage and a lot of losses. And everybody understands that. And I am repeating a third time— for the third time: Let's sit down together and agree on joint work on how to— achieve security in this area. That is all.

What's— what's bad about it? I don't even understand. I'm not— I'm not asking you. I'm not trying to put you on the spot. But— for me as— as an ordinary citizen, it would not be clear and understandable. Why is it that your government refuses to— to do it?

Accusations keep coming, including up to— interference— involvement in a cyber attack against some kind of a meat processing plant. But our proposal to start negotiations in this area are being turned down. This is some kind of nonsense, but that's exactly what's been happening.

Once— I— I repeat one more time. It is my hope that we will be able to start engaging in positive work in this area. In terms of what's to be afraid of, why is it that we suggest agreeing on something? Because what— people can be afraid of in America, are worried of in America, the very same thing can be a danger to us. U.S. is a high-tech country. NATO has declared cyberspace an area of— combat. That means they are planning something. They are preparing something. So obviously this cannot but worry us.

KEIR SIMMONS: Do you fear that— American intelligence is deep inside Russian systems and has the ability— to do you a lot of damage in cyber?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I'm not afraid, but I bear in mind that it is a possibility.

KEIR SIMMONS: Let me ask you about— human rights— an issue that— President Biden— will raise— Mr. President. He'll raise the— issue of Alexei Navalny, targeted for assassination, now in a Russian jail. Mr. President, why are you so threatened by opposition?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Who says that I feel threatened by opposition or we are threatened by opposition? Who told you— who told you that—

KEIR SIMMONS: Well— well, a Russian court has just—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —that I am scared by opposition?

KEIR SIMMONS: Well— well—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: It's— it's just funny—

KEIR SIMMONS: A Ru— excuse me. I'm sorry. A Russian court has just outlawed organizations connected to Mr. Navalny. Literally every non-systematic opposition figure is facing criminal charges. In journalism— Meduza and VTimes have been hit with "foreign agent" labels— and face collapse. Mr. President, it's as if dissent is simply not tolerated in Russia anymore.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: This— well, you are presenting it as dissent and intolerance towards dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently. You have mentioned the law on foreign agents, but that's not something that we invented. That law was passed back in the 1930s in the United States. And that law is much harsher than ours, and it is directed and intended, among other things, at preventing interference in the domestic political affairs of the United States—

KEIR SIMMONS: But— but— but, Mr. President—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: And on the whole, I believe that it is justified.

(OVERTALK)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Do you want me to keep— do you want me to answer—

KEIR SIMMONS: Look, I'm just gonna—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Do you want me to keep answering?

KEIR SIMMONS: In America, we call what you're doing now "whataboutism." "What about this? What about that?" It's a way of not answering the question. Let me ask you a direct question. Did— did you— did you—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I— I—

KEIR SIMMONS: —did you—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I w— I— I will—

KEIR SIMMONS: Let me ask you—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I— I will look. I will look—

KEIR SIMMONS: Let me ask—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Let me— let— let me answer. You've asked me a question. You are not liking my answer , so you're interrupting me. This is— this is inappropriate. So there we go. In the United States, this law was adopted a long time ago. It's working, and sanctions under that law are much harsher—

KEIR SIMMONS: There you go, still talking about—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —than here—

KEIR SIMMONS: —United States.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —up to— up to imprisonment. Yes, yes, yes. Again you are not letting me… But I will— I will— I will revert to us. I will go back to us. Don't worry. I will not just— I will not just be focused on U.S. problems. I will— I will revert, and go back, and comment on what's happening—

KEIR SIMMONS: Because— I— because—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —on what is happening here.

KEIR SIMMONS: Because, Mr. Pre— Mr. President, I— I thought your— I thought your— belief was that nations shouldn't intervene in other countries' domestic affairs, shouldn't comment on other—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Correct.

KEIR SIMMONS: —countries'—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Correct.

KEIR SIMMONS: —politics. But there you are, doing it again.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. No. If— you muster patience and let me finish saying what I mean to say. Everything will be clear to you. But you are not liking my answer. You don't want my answer to be heard by your audience. That is the problem. You are shutting me down. Is that a free expression—

KEIR SIMMONS: Please answer.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —or is that free expression American way? So thank you very much. Here we go. The U.S. adopted this law. We passed this law very recently in order to protect our society against outside interference. We're in some of the— states, a foreign observer comes to a polling station.

The prosecutor says, "Come a l— few feet closer, and you'll go to jail." Is that normal? Is that democracy in the modern world? But— that is an actual practice in some of the states. We don't have anything like that . When I talk about these laws about noninterference or attempts at interference, what do I mean as applied to Russia?

Many entities of the so-called "civil society," the reason I say "so-called civil society" is because many of those entities are funded from abroad. Specific relevant action programs are prepared. Their core members are trained abroad. And when our official authorities see that, in order to prevent this kind of interference in our domestic affairs, we make relevant decisions and adopt relevant laws.

And they are more lenient than yours. You have— we have a saying: "Don't be mad at the mirror if you are ugly." It has nothing to do with you personally. But if somebody blames us for something, what I say is, "Why don't you look at yourselves?" You will see yourselves in the mirror, not us. There is nothing unusual about it. As far as political activities and the political system, it is evolving. We have 44 registered parties. Well, 34 I think. And 32— are about to participate in various electoral processes—

KEIR SIMMONS: Those are the registered—

(OVERTALK) 

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —across this country in— September. Yes, yes—

KEIR SIMMONS: We only have a limited amount of time, Mr. President.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is also non-systemic opposition. You have said that some people have been detained. Some people are—

KEIR SIMMONS: Those are the ones that are being—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —in prison. Yes, that is all true. You mentioned certain names.

KEIR SIMMONS: In prison—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, yes. I will— I will— I will— I will talk about it. Yes. I— I will— I will not leave any of your questions—

KEIR SIMMONS: Alexei Navalny—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —unattended.

KEIR SIMMONS: —is— is his name. Can I ask you— can I just ask you—

(OVERTALK)

KEIR SIMMONS: —a direct question? Did you order Alexei Navalny's assassination?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course not. We don't have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody. That's one. Number two is I want to ask you: Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman? Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? And they didn't go there to steal a laptop. They came with political demands. 450 people—

KEIR SIMMONS: You're talking about the Capitol riot.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —have been detained. They're facing— they're looking— they're— they're looking at jail time, between 15 and 25 years. And they came to the Congress with political demands. Isn't that persecution for political opinions? Some have been accused of plotting to topple— to take over-government power. Some are accused of— robbery. They didn't go there to rob. The people who you have mentioned, yes, they were convicted for violating their status, having been previously convicted— given convent— given suspended sentences— which were essentially warning to not— violate the Russian laws.

And they completely ignored the requirements of the law. The court went on and— passed— and turned the conviction into real jail time. Thousands and thousands of people ignore— requirements of the law, and they have nothing to do with political activities, in Russia every year and they go to jail. If somebody— if somebody is actually using political activities as a shield to deal with their issues, including— achieve their commercial— goals, then— it's something that they have to be held responsible for.

KEIR SIMMONS: There you go again, Mr. President. "What about America?" when I've asked you about Russia. Let me ask you— you mentioned Congress. Let me ask you another direct question that you— can answer. And it's an allegation that has been made, an accusation that has been made again and again now— in the United States.

The late John McCain— in Congress called you a killer. When President Trump was asked— was told that you are a killer, he didn't deny it. When President Biden was asked whether he believes you are a killer, he said, "I do." Mr. President, are you a killer?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look, I am— over my tenure, I've g— gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of— pretexts and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness. And none of it surprises me. People with whom I work and with whom we argue, we— we are not bride and groom. We don't swear everlasting love and friendship.

We are partners. And in some areas, we are rivals or competitors. As far as harsh rhetoric, I think that— this is an expression of overall U.S. culture. Of course in Hollywood, because we mentioned Hollywood at the beginning of our conversation, there are some— deep things— in— Hollywood— macho— which can be treated as— cinematographic art but more often than not it’ s macho behavior that is part of— U.S.- political culture where it's considered normal.

By the way, not here. It is not considered normal here. If this rhetoric is followed by a suggestion to meet and discuss bilateral issues and matters of international policies, I see it as desire to engage in joint work. If this desire is serious, we're prepared to support it.

KEIR SIMMONS: I don't— I don't— I don't think I heard you answer the question, the direct question— Mr. President.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I did answer. I did answer. I will add— if you let me, I have heard dozens of such accusations, especially during the period of— some grave events during our counterterrorism efforts in North Caucuses. And when it happens, I'm always guided by the interests of the Russian people and Russian state. And— sentiments in terms of who calls somebody what, what kind of labels, (THROAT CLEARING) this is not something I worry about in the least.

KEIR SIMMONS: Th— let me give you some names. Ann— Anna Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead. Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned by polonium. Sergei Magnitsky, allegedly beaten and died in prison. Boris Nemtsov, shot moments from the Kremlin, moments from here. Mikhail Lesin— died of— blunt trauma in Washington, D.C. Are all of these a coincidence, Mr. President? (LAUGH)

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look, you know, I don't want to come across as being rude, but— this looks like— some kind of— indigestion, except that it's verbal indigestion. You mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time for various reasons at the hand of different individuals.

You mentioned Lesin. Lesin used to work in my administration. I— liked him very much. He died— he perished or died in the United States. I'm not sure if he perished or died. We should ask you how exactly he perished. I— regret to this day that he is not with us. In my opinion, he's a very decent person.

As far as— the others, we found some of the criminals who committed— those crimes. Some are in prison, and we are prepared to continue to work in this mode and— along this avenue identifying everybody who violate the law and by their actions cause damage, including to the image of the Russian Federation.

However—just piling everything together is— meaningless— inappropriate, and baseless. If— one sees it as a line of attack, then very well. Let me listen to it— one more time. But I repeat it— I— I'd like to repeat that I have heard it— many times. But this doesn't baffle me. I know which direction to move in to secure the interests of the Russian state.

KEIR SIMMONS: Let's move on— to Belarus and Ukraine— two— issues that will certainly come up in— in your summit— with— President— Biden. Did you have prior knowledge that a commercial airliner would be forced to land in (THROAT CLEARING) Belarus and that— a journalist would be arrested?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. I did not know about this. I didn't know— about any airliner. I didn't know about the people who were detained there subsequently. I found out about it from the media. I didn't know— I didn't have a clue about any detainees. I— I— I don't know. It— it is of no interest to us.

KEIR SIMMONS: You appear to have approved of it— judging by your meeting with President Lukashenko soon afterwards.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Not that I approve of it. Not that I condemn it. But, well, it happened. I said recently in one of the conversations— with a European— colleague— the version of Mr. Lukashenko who told me about it was that— information had been given to them that there was an was an explosive device— on board the plane. They informed—

KEIR SIMMONS: And you believe that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —the pilot without forcing the pilot to land. And the pilot made a decision to land in Minsk. That is all. Why should I not believe him? Ask the pilot. It's the simplest thing. Ask the— ask the chief pilot. Ask the commander of the— aircraft. Did you ask him if was he forced to land? Because I— I have not— heard or seen an interview with the commander of the aircraft— that—landed in Minsk.

Why not ask him? Why not ask him if he was forced to land? Why don't you ask him? It— it's actually even odd. Everybody accuses Lukashenko, but the pilot hasn't been asked. You know, I cannot but recall another similar situation where the plane of the president of Bolivia was for— was forced to land in Vienna the order of the U.S. administration.

Air Force one, a presidential plane, was forced to land. The president was taken out of the aircraft. They searched the plane. And you don't even recall that. Do you think it was normal— that was good, but what Lukashenko did was bad?

Look, let us speak the same language and— let us use the same concepts. If, well, Lukashenko is a gangster, how about the situation with the Bolivian— president? Was it good? In Bolivia, they viewed it as humiliation of the whole country. But— everybody kept mum not to aggravate the situation. Nobody is recalling that. By the way, this is not the only situation—

KEIR SIMMONS: You're— you're— you're recalling it.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is not the—

KEIR SIMMONS: You're— you're—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —only situation of this kind.

KEIR SIMMONS: With respect, you're—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: If it’s him, you gave him an example to follow.

KEIR SIMMONS: —recalling it. But (THROAT CLEARING) is a completely different example, Mr. President. We are talking about (LAUGH) a commercial flight. Shouldn't people be able to take a commercial flight across Europe without fear of being shot down like in the case of (THROAT CLEARING) MH-17 or forced down so that a dictator can arrest a journalist?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes. Look, I will tell you one more time. What President Lukashenko told me, I don't have any reason not to believe him. For the third time, I'm telling you: Ask the pilot. Why don't you ask the pilot: Was he—

KEIR SIMMONS: But you—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —being scared? Was he being threatened? Was he being forced? The fact that information appeared that there was a bomb in— on the plane, that individuals, people who had nothing to do— who were passengers who had nothing to do with politics or any kind of domestic conflicts that— they could perceive it negatively— could be worried about it, of course that's a bad thing.

There is nothing good about this. And obviously we condemn everything that has— to do with— this, and international terrorism, and the use of— aircraft. Of course, we are against this. And— you've told me that the landing of the aircraft of the president of Bolivia is a completely different matter.

Yes, it is different except that it is ten times worse than what was done, if anything was done in Belarus. But you just won't acknowledge it. You are— ignoring it, and you want millions of people around the world to either not notice it or forget about it tomorrow. You won't get away with it. It won't happen.

KEIR SIMMONS: In the case of neighboring Ukraine— earlier this year, the European Union said you had more than 100,000— troops (THROAT CLEARING) on the Ukrainian border. Was that an attempt to get Washington's attention?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look, first, Ukraine itself constantly and I think is still doing that— kept bringing personnel and military equipment to the— conflict area in the southeast of Ukraine, Donbas. That's one. Two is that we conducted— exercises in our territory and not just in the south of the Russian Federation but also in the far east and in the north, in the Arctic.

Simultaneously, military exercises were being held in different parts of the Russian Federation. At the very t— at the same very time, the U.S. was conducting— military exercises in Alaska. Do you know anything about it? Probably not. But I'll tell you that I do know.

And that is in direct proximity to our borders. But that's in your territory, on your land. We didn't even pay attention to it. What is happening now? Now, at our southern borders, there is— there is a war game, Defender Europe, 40,000 personnel, 15,000 units of military equipment. Part of them have been airlifted from the U.S. continent directly to our borders. Did we airlift any of our military technology to the U.S. borders? No, we did not.

KEIR SIMMONS: Many of those—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Why are you worried then?

KEIR SIMMONS: But many of those exercises are a resp— are a response to your actions— Mr. President. Do you worry that your opposition to NATO has actually strengthened it? For six years, NATO has spent more on defense.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Some— some defense. Some defense. During the USSR era, Gorbachev, who is still— thank God, with us— got a promise— a verbal promise— that— there would be no NATO expansion to the east. Where is that—

KEIR SIMMONS: Where is that—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —promise? Two ways of expansion.

KEIR SIMMONS: Where is that written down? Where is that promise written down?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Right, right, right. Right, right. Well done. Well done. Correct. You’ve got a point. Nyah nyah nyah, got you good. Well, congratulations. Of course, everything should be sealed and written on paper. But what was the point of expanding NATO to the east and bringing this infrastructure to our borders, and all of this before saying that we are the ones who have been acting aggressively?

Why? On what basis? Did Russia after the USSR collapsed present any threat to the U.S. or European countries? We voluntarily withdrew our troops from Eastern Europe. Leaving them just on empty land. Our— people there— military personnel for decades lived there in what was not normal conditions, including their children.

We went to tremendous expenses. And what did we get in response? We got in response infrastructure next to our borders. And now, you are saying that we are threatening to somebody. We're conducting war games on a regular basis, including sometimes surprise military exercises. Why should it worry the NATO partners? I just don't understand that.

KEIR SIMMONS: Will you commit now not to send any further Russian troops into Ukrainian sovereign territory?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look, we— did we— did we say that we were planning to send our armed formations anywhere? We were conducting war games on— in our territory. How can this not be clear? I'm saying it again because I want your audience to hear it, your— listeners to hear it— both on the screens of their televisions and on the internet.

We conducted military exercises in our territory. Imagine if we sent our troops into direct proximity to your borders. What would have been your response? We didn't do that. We did it in our territory. You conducted war games in Alaska. God bless you.

But you had crossed an ocean, brought thousands of personnel— thousands of units of military equipment close to our borders, and yet you believe that we are acting aggressively and somehow you're not acting aggressively. Just look at that. Pot— pot calling the kettle black.

KEIR SIMMONS: Moving on— the Biden administration has said that in your— at your summit they will bring up— the case of two U.S. prisoners in Russia— Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. They are two former— Marines. Trevor Reed— is— suffering from— COVID in prison. Why don't you release them ahead of the summit? Wouldn't that show goodwill?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I know that we have— certain U.S. citizens who are in prison, have been convicted, found guilty. But if— one considers the number of— Russian Federation citizens who are in U.S. prisons, then these numbers don't even compare. they cannot be compared. The United States has— made a habit in the last few years—

KEIR SIMMONS: Okay, so—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —of catching Russian Federation citizens in third countries—

KEIR SIMMONS: I just— there's a limited amount of time, Mr. President—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —and— take them to—

KEIR SIMMONS: Unless we can have more time—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —back to the U.S. in violation of all international legal norms and put them in prison—

KEIR SIMMONS: I'd be very happy to have— to keep going for another 30 minutes.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I determine the time here, so don't worry about time. Your guy— the— Marine— he's just a drunk and— a troublemaker. As they say here— he got himself— shitfaced and— started a fight. Among other things, he— he hit a cop. It's— it's nothing. It's just a common crime. There is nothing to it.

As far as possible negotiations on the subject, sure— it can be talked about. Obviously we'll raise the matter of— our citizens who are in prison in the U.S. . Yes, it can be a specific conversation. Sure. We're h— happy to do it— although it doesn't seem that the U.S. administration— has— raised that matter. But we're prepared to do that.

Our pilot Yaroshenko has been in prison in the U.S. for a good n— I don't know how many years, 15, maybe 20 years. And— there also— the problem seems to be a common crime. We— could and should talk about it. We— we haven't been talking about this, but we could. If the U.S. side is prepared to discuss it, so are we.

KEIR SIMMONS: So his family will find that incredibly distressing to hear you talk about him that way. It does sound though as if you would consider some kind of a prisoner swap.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is nothing— there's nothing h— nothing offensive about it. He— he got drunk on vodka and started a fight. He fought a cop. There is nothing offensive about it. These things happen in life. There is nothing— nothing horrible about it. It happens to our men as well. Somebody— somebody— gulps down some vodka and starts a fight. So you violate the law, you go to prison. What would have happened if he'd— fought a cop, if he'd hit a cop in your country? He would have been shot dead on that spot, and that’s the end of it. Isn't that the case?

KEIR SIMMONS: And on the prisoner swap question, is that something that you would consider? Are you looking to negotiate? You're meeting with the president.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, of course. Of course. Even better would be a discussion of the possibility of— entering into an agreement on extradition of individuals who are in prison. This is a standard international practice. We have such agreements (THROAT CLEARING) with several countries. We're prepared to enter into such an agreement with the United States.

KEIR SIMMONS: Just to be clear so we hear it from you, which Russian prisoners in the U.S. would you be hoping to bring back to Russia by name?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, we have a whole list. I just mentioned— a pilot, a pilot named Yaroshenko who was taken to the U.S. from a— third country and was given— a lengthy sentence. He has major— health issues, but the prison administration is not paying attention to this.

You have— mentioned that— that your citizen has— coronavirus, but— nobody's paying attention to the health issues of our citizen. We're prepared to discuss these issues. Moreover, it makes sense, as you correctly said, and I completely agree with you, there are matters of humanitarian nature. And— why not discuss them as long as they pertain to the health and life of— specific individuals and— of their families? Of course. Sure thing.

KEIR SIMMONS: Just quickly before I move on, on the subject of prisons, again with Alexei Navalny, will you commit that you will personally ensure (THROAT CLEARING) that Alexei Navalny will leave prison alive?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look— such decisions in this country are not made by the president. They're made by the court whether or not to set somebody free. As far as the health, all individuals who are in prison, that is something that the administration of the specific prison or penitentiary establishment is responsible for.

And- there are medical facilities — in— penitentiaries— that are perhaps not in the best condition. And— they are the ones whose responsibility it is. And I hope that they do it properly. But to be honest, I have not visited such places for a long time.

I visited one in Saint Petersburg some time ago and— that was a very grave impression that was made on me by the medical facilities in a prison. But since then, I hope, some things have been done— to improve the situation. And— I proceed from the premise that the person that you have mentioned, the same kind of measures will— apply to that person, not in any way worse than to anybody else who happens to be in prison.

KEIR SIMMONS: His name is Alexei Navalny. People will note that you weren't prepared to say—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Oh, I don't— I c— I don't care.

KEIR SIMMONS: —that he would leave prison alive.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look, look. I— look. Please listen to me carefully. His name can be anything. He's one of the individuals who are in prison. For me, he one of the citizens of the Russian Federation who has been found guilty by a court of law and is in prison. There are many citizens like that.

By the way, our so-called prison population— the people who are in prison, has in the last few years— been reduced by almost 50%, which I consider a big victory for us and— a major sign of— our legal system becoming more humane.

He will not be treated any worse than anybody else. Nobody should be given any kind of special treatment. It would be wrong Everybody should be in an equal situation. This is called the most favored nation treatment. Not worse than anybody else. And the person that you have mentioned, that applies to him as well.

KEIR SIMMONS: Appreciate the extra time, Mr. President. The team has been in quarantine for almost two weeks, so this interview is very important to us. I want to ask you about China. China is working on its fourth aircraft carrier. It has two. Russia has one, and it's not in— in service at the moment. China refused to take part in arms control talks last year. You complain so much about NATO to your west. Why do you never complain about China's militarization to your east?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The first thing I want to say is that over the last few years, the last few decades, we have developed a strategic partnership relationship— between Russia and China that previously had not been achieved in the history of our nations, a high level of— trust and cooperation in all areas: in politics, in the economy, in the area of technology, in the area of military and technical cooperation. We do not believe that China is a threat to us. That's one. China is a friendly nation. It has not declared us an enemy, as the United States has done.

KEIR SIMMONS: China hasn't b—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Don't you know anything about this? That's— that's number one. Number two is that China is a huge, powerful country, 1.5 billion. In terms purchasing— power— parity, the Chinese economy has exceeded that of the United States. And in terms of trade for the previous year, last year, China has— China has tied Europe for the first place, whereas the U.S. has dropped to the second position. Do you know about this?

China has been developing. And— I understand that what's beginning is— a certain kind of— confrontation with China. Everybody understands it. We can see it. Why hide from and be scared of— these issues? However, we're not alarmed by it, including, among other things, by the fact that our defense sufficiency, which is how we describe it, is at a very high level, including because of this. But the most important thing is the nature and level of our relationship with China. You said China will have four aircraft carriers. How many does the United States have?

KEIR SIMMONS: A lot more.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: There you go. That's my point. Why would we worry about the Chinese aircraft carriers? On top of everything else, we have a hugely vast border with China, but it's a land border. It's a land border. What? Do you think the Chinese— aircraft carriers will cross our land border? This is just— a meaningless— conversation—

(OVERTALK)

KEIR SIMMONS: But you— you also have a Pacific coast.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You are right that there will be four of them. It is correct that there will be four of them. Right. Coast? Well, the coast is huge. But the— the bulk of the border between us and China is a land border. And, yes— you're right that there will be four of them because one needs to be in maintenance, one needs to be on combat duty, one needs to be in repairs. There is nothing excessive here for China.

That is why what you said, that China won't engage in negotiations— arms control— it refuses to negotiate reductions in nuclear offensive weapons. You should ask the Chinese about it, whether it's good or bad. It's— for them to decide. But their arguments are simple and understandable.

The level— both in terms of the amount of— ammunition and— warheads and— delivery vehicles, the United States and Russia are far, far ahead of China. And the Chinese justly say, "Why would we make reductions if we are already far behind what you have? Or do you want us— do you want us to freeze our level— of nuclear deterrence?

"Why should we freeze? Why we a country with a 1.5 billion population cannot at least set the goal of achieving your levels?" These are all debatable issues that require thorough consideration. But— making us responsible for China's position is just comical.

KEIR SIMMONS: What do you think of China's treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, (THROAT CLEARING) I have met— certain— Uyghurs. It's also— it— it's always possible to find individuals who criticize the central authorities. I have met Uyghurs on my trips to China, and I assure you at the very least what I heard with my own ears, that on the whole they welcome the policies of the Chinese authorities in this area. They believe that China has done a great deal for people who live in this part of the country from the perspective of the economy, raising the cultural level, and so on and so forth. So why should I offer assessments—

KEIR SIMMONS: You— you— you know that—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —looking at the situation—

KEIR SIMMONS: You know that—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —from— from— from— from a s— from outside—

KEIR SIMMONS: You know— you know there are many— Uyghurs who do not say that and that America has accused China of genocide. The secretary of state has accused China of genocide over the Uyghurs. There is the accusation of a million— Uyghurs in so-called concentration camps. Is that your message to the Muslim communities in the former Soviet Union? You don't think anything wrong is happening there?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: As far as the Muslim community in Russia, I need to give a message to it through policies of the Russian authorities vis-à-vis Muslims in the Russian Federation. That is how I need to give my message to the Muslim community in the Russian Federation. We're an observer in the Organization of Islamic Conference.

About 10% of our population, probably a little more, are Muslims. They are citizens of the Russian Federation who do not have any other fatherland. They're making a colossal contribution to the development of our country. And that— pertains to both— clerics and— ordinary citizens.

Why should I speak to and build a relationship with this part of— our population by reference to the situation in China without understanding thoroughly what is happening there? I think that— you're better off asking about all these problems the foreign minister of the Chinese— People's Republic or the— U.S. State Department.

KEIR SIMMONS: It's just a question of whether you are prepared to criticize China. China, for example, abstained on Crimea at the Security Council. China's biggest banks have not contravened American sanctions against Russia. Do you think you get 100% support from China?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, we are neighboring countries. One does not choose one's neighbors. We are pleased with the level, as I said, - unprecedentedly high level of our relationship as it has evolved over the last few decades, and we cherish it, just like our Chinese friends cherish it, which we can see. Why are you trying to drag us into some kind of matters that you evaluate as you see it fit for building your relationship— with China? I— I will tell you completely— can I— can I speak—

KEIR SIMMONS: Please. Yeah.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: —can I be completely honest? We can see attempts at destroying the relationship between Russia and China. We can see that those attempts are being made in practical policies. And your questions, too, have to do with it. I have set forth my position for you.

I believe that this is sufficient, and I'm confident that the Chinese leadership being aware of the totality of these matters, including the part of their population who are Uyghurs, will find the necessary solution to make sure that the situation remains stable and benefits the entire multi-million-strong Chinese people, including its Uyghur part.

KEIR SIMMONS: You understand, of course, I— I'm just trying to question you about Russia's position in relation to China and the United States. Let me ask you in— yeah, let me ask you in a different way. Are you splitting off from the U.S. space program and moving forward with China?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. No, why? We are prepared to work with the U.S. in space. And— I think recently the head of NASA said that he could not imagine development of space programs without its partnership with Russia. We welcome this statement.

KEIR SIMMONS: Can— can—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: And we value—

KEIR SIMMONS: —I just— I just explain? Because the— the head of the Russia space agency h— has threatened— leaving the international space program in 2025— and specifically talked about sanctions— in relation to that threat.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, honestly, I don't think that Mr. Rogozin, that is the name of the head of— Roscosmos, has threatened anyone in this regard. I've known him for many years, and I know that he is a supporter— he is a supporter of expanding the relationship with the U.S. in this area, in space.

Recently, the head of NASA spoke in the same vein. And I personally fully support this. And we have been working with great pleasure all of these years, and we're prepared to continue to work. For technical reasons though, and that's a different matter, is that the International Space Station is— coming to an end of its service life.

And maybe in this— regard, the Roscosmos does not have plans to continue their work. However— based on what I heard from— our U.S. partners they, too, are looking at future cooperation in this particular segment in their certain— in a certain way.

But on the whole, the— cooperation between our two countries in space is a great example of a situation where despite any kind of problems in political relationships in recent years, it's an area where we have been able to maintain and preserve the partnership and both parties cherish it.

I think you just misunderstood the head of the— Russian space program said. We are interested in continuing to work with the U.S. in this direction, and we will continue to do so if our U.S. partners don't refuse to— to— to do that. It doesn't mean that we need to work exclusively with the U.S.

We— have been working and will continue to work with China, which applies to all kinds of programs, including— exploring deep space. And— I think there is nothing but —positive information here. I— frankly, I don't see any ex— any— contradictions here. I don't think any mutual— exclusivity here.

KEIR SIMMONS: Let— let me— let me ask you— one more way just to understand the relationship between China, Russia, and the— America. If the People's Liberation Army made a move on Taiwan— how would Russia respond to that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: What? Are you aware of China's plans to militarily solve the Taiwan problem? I don't know anything about it. As we frequently— say— politics do not require the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is inappropriate in politics. There is no "could be" and "would be" in politics.

I cannot comment on anything that— is not a current reality of the modern world. Please bear with me. Don't be angry with me. But I think this is— this is a question about nothing. This it not happening. Has China stated that it intends to solve the Taiwan problem militarily? It hasn't happened.

For many years, China has been developing its relationship with Taiwan. There are different assessments. China has its own assessment. The U.S. has a different assessment. Taiwan may have its different assessment of the situation. But fortunately, hasn't come to— a military clash.

KEIR SIMMONS: I'm being told to wrap up. But if I could just— ask you a couple more questions. Our own And—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Sure, please. Go ahead—

KEIR SIMMONS: Our own— our own Andrea Mitchell— saw just this month— the last border crossing into Syria— where supplies literally keep people alive. You're threatening to close that crossing in July— at the Security Council. Why would you do that, knowing that it will cause the death of refugees?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Look— unfortunately there are a great deal of tragedies there already. And— all our actions in their totality need to be geared at stabilizing the situation and bringing it into a normal course. And with support of Russia, Syria has been able— Syria— the Syrian authorities have been able to bring back under their control over 90% of the Syrian territory.

What needs to be set up now is just humanitarian assistance to people, irrespective of any kind of political context. But our partners in the West, in the West in general, both the U.S. and Europeans— have been saying that they're not going to give help to Assad.

What does Assad have to do with it? Help out people who need that assistance. Just the most basic things. They won't even lift restrictions on supplies of— medications and medical equipment even in the context of— the corona— virus infection. But that is just inhumane.

And this kind of cruel attitude to people to people cannot be explained in any way. As far as the crossing— border crossings. There is the Idlib area where— combatants are still robbing people, killing people, raping people. There is— nothing's happening. There is the— Al-Tanf Zone, which by the way is controlled by U.S. military.

Recently there we caught a group of— gangsters, bandits who came— who had come from there. And they directly said that they had— specific goals as far as— Russian military facilities. As far as border crossings, our position is such that assistance needs to be given just as it should be done in the entire world, as it is provided for in the provisions of international humanitarian law.

Assistance should be given through the central government. It shouldn't be discriminated against. And if there are grounds to believe that the central government of Syria will plunder something, well, set up observers on the part of the International— Red Cross and— Red Crescent oversee everything.

I don't think that anybody in the Syrian government is interested in stealing some part of this humanitarian assistance. It just needs to be done through the central government. And in this sense, we support President Assad because a different mode of behavior would be undermining the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic. And that's all. As far as the Idlib zone, the Turkish troops there effectively control the border between Turkey and Syria and convoys cross the border— without any restrictions on their numbers in both directions.

KEIR SIMMONS: Mr. President, you extended the constitution so that you could be president of— of Russia until 2036. Do you worry that the longer you are in power and without any sign of someone to replace you, the more instability there may be when you finally do choose to leave office?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: What will collapse overnight? If we look at the situation in which Russia was in the year 2000 where it was balancing on the brink of preserving its territorial integrity and sovereignty, the number of— individuals below the poverty line was colossal. It was catastrophic.

The GDP level had dropped below anything that's acceptable. Our FX and gold reserves were $12 billion, whereas our— foreign debt was $120 billion if we—count it in dollars. Now, there are many other problems. The situation is completely different.

Of course, somebody will come and replace me at some point. Is all of this going to collapse? We've been fighting international terrorism. We have nipped it in the bud. Is it supposed to come back to life? I don't think so. Another matter is that on the political scene, different people can emerge with different points of view. Great. Very good. You know, I have linked my entire life to— my entire fate to the fate of my country to such an extent that there isn't a more meaningful—

VLADIMIR PUTIN: (IN PROGRESS) —goal in my life than the strengthening of Russia. If anybody else— and if I see that person, even if that person is critical of some areas of what I have been doing, if I can see that this is an individual who has constructive views that he or she is— committed to this country and is prepared to sacrifice his entire life to this country, nor just some years, no matter his personal attitude to me, I will make sure, I will do everything to make sure that such people will get support.

It is a natural biological process. At some point, someday, we will all be replaced. You will be replaced at where you are. I will be replaced at where I am. But I am confident that the fundamental pillar of— the Russian economy and statehood and its political system will be such that Russia will be firmly standing on its feet and look into the future confidently.

KEIR SIMMONS: And would you look from that person for some kind of protection the same way that you offered to Boris Yeltsin when you took over?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am not even thinking about that. These are third-tier issues. The most important thing— the single most important thing is the fate of the country and the fate of its people.

KEIR SIMMONS: Very good. Thank you very much for your time, Mr. President. We've gone over, and I really appreciate it. It was a really interesting conversation, so thank you.

 

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Direct Line 2021 with Vladimir Putin

 

by Vladimir Putin  

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Good afternoon.

We are broadcasting Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

The moderators in this studio are Nailya Asker-zade…

Nailya Asker-zade: …and Yekaterina Berezovskaya.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Our colleagues, Tatyana Remezova and Natalya Yuryeva, are working with volunteers in the Message Processing Centre.

Last year we combined two projects, the annual news conference and Direct Line. The format of today’s event is different. The focus is on direct communication, only the President and the people, without unnecessary intermediaries.

Nailya Asker-zade: During today’s live broadcast, you will often hear about a special platform, the Moskva – Putinu mobile app. It is a kind of a guide or entry pass to this programme, which is available to everyone.

So, President of Russia Vladimir Putin is on the air.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Natalya Yuryeva: We are in the Message Processing Centre, the heart of Direct Line. As you can see, right behind me an editor is processing a call. You can see the numbers for your calls and text messages on the screen.

The only way to personally address the President is via videoconference with the help of the Moskva – Putinu special mobile application, and the President will possibly answer your call.

Tatyana Remezova: Hard and meticulous work is underway in the Message Processing Centre. As of now, we have received nearly 2 million questions. Whatever many people say, telephone calls and text messages remain the most popular means of communication; together, they account for over a million questions. But many people are also making use of the Moskva – Putinu application, which has been downloaded over 650,000 times.

Just like last year, we are being assisted by volunteers. They have been working with the questions for a second week now, and many of the people’s problems have been settled even before this programme began.

Mr President, considering my experience at other Direct Lines, I can assume that you will be able to answer no more than 70 or 80 questions. What happens to other questions, as there are already nearly two million of them?

Vladimir Putin: I would also like to begin our current meeting with this, and here is what I would like to say.

In 2019, over one million questions were received when the Direct Line took place in this full format. And many hundreds of thousands of questions were asked last year when the Direct Line was combined with the Big News Conference. I would like to assure you – to make what would seem to be a self-assured statement, but, nevertheless, I would just like to say that we try to make sure that not a single question goes unnoticed.

As I have already mentioned, over one million questions were received in 2019. Over 500,000 questions have already been processed today, moreover, specific answers have been provided. Work continues on some of them because, to respond properly and positively, it is necessary to amend the regulatory framework and to include the resolution of these questions in regional budgets or even the federal budget.

It would be impossible to conduct this large-scale job without the assistance of the Russian Popular Front and other public organisations that have joined this work and cooperate very actively with administrations at various levels, including local, regional and federal, in order to help people.

This, of course, helps me because I receive all the questions. But I would now like to address the volunteers and people who are processing these questions, and I would like to thank them on behalf of the citizens because, of course, I receive the questions, but you help ordinary Russian citizens, and I would like to thank you very much for this.

I hope that we will organise the same productive work following today’s event, although I hope that we will be able to address the problems that interest people the most during our direct conversations, and we will try and resolve some of them during our current conversation.

Thank you very much.

Nailya Asker-zade: People with hearing impairments can watch a special sign-language version of our programme on the Public Television of Russia (OTR).

I suggest moving on to specific questions.

Of course, people are mostly concerned about the new COVID-19 wave. New virus mutations appear, and people want to know whether there are any clear rules. Why is it that the authorities stipulate an allegedly voluntary vaccination, while two-thirds of people working in certain sectors have to get vaccinated in Moscow and some other regions? Why are mass events allegedly banned but it is possible to hold the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship? What should be done so that governors, officials and ordinary citizens get to know what the exact rules are?

Vladimir Putin: This is very simple. As for the UEFA Euro 2021, of course, first of all, we had to fulfil the obligations that the state had assumed regarding hosting these major sporting events.

But, in general, it is very simple to understand what is happening in this sphere. All you need to do is have a look at the law. As you may recall, I once said that I do not support mandatory vaccination, and I continue to adhere to this point of view. We need to look at the law of, I believe, 1998, about the immune protection of the population which comprises two main parts – a national immunisation schedule, which is mandatory, this vaccination is mandatory. Some of our colleagues suggested transferring vaccination against the coronavirus infection to this nationwide immunisation schedule, the nationwide programme. But the State Duma deputies did not support this motion, so, COVID vaccination did not make it to this section of the nationwide vaccination

 

programme and is not mandatory nationwide.

However, the second part of this law says that in the event of an increase in the number of cases and in the event of an epidemic in separate regions of the Russian Federation and upon the recommendation of chief sanitary doctors, regional heads can introduce mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people, especially risk groups. The heads of 10 constituent entities of the Russian Federation used this regulation to introduce mandatory vaccination for certain risk groups. This was carried out under the 1998 law.

Therefore, there is no confusion in Russia, and everyone is acting in accordance with the law that I just mentioned.

Nailya Asker-zade: So, there will be no nationwide lockdown, right?

Vladimir Putin: This is a different question. Our colleagues’ efforts in 10 regions aim to prevent the need for a lockdown, when entire enterprises are shut down and people find themselves out of work or without income; small and medium-sized businesses go bankrupt and individual incomes decline. Certain regions introduced these mandatory vaccination-related rules for certain groups of the population to prevent this from happening.

As you are aware, experts have already mentioned this many times on television, online and in many media outlets, on all television channels, that vaccination is the only way to put an end to further spread of the pandemic. We can do this since we have four high-tech, safe and very effective vaccines. So, I hope some of our citizens who are still biased about the vaccines will change their minds as the vaccination continues. Over 20 million – I believe, 23 million people – have been vaccinated. As you can see, everything is okay and, thankfully, we do not have any tragic vaccination side effects as is the case with AstraZeneca or Pfizer.

Nailya Asker-zade: You have reassured me regarding the lockdown.

Vladimir Putin: I hope so.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we know that you know about the vaccine from your personal experience, and you have become an example for the whole country. However, we have a question. If I may, I will read a text message we have received.

Vladimir Putin: Please do.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Tell us the truth: Did the President get vaccinated or not? Why is there no video?”

Other people are asking which vaccine you received; there are many similar questions. Everyone wants to know.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

I was indeed asked not to reveal which vaccine I received so as not to give it a competitive advantage. But I can see that there are very many questions regarding this.

As for the video, I do not believe that showing it is so important. What if you receive the jab not in the arm but in some other part of the body? Would I be obliged to show the video nevertheless?

Look, there are many crooks around who pretend to be getting vaccinated. Regrettably, the medics often play along, making the shot with some unknown substance, maybe not even a medication.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Just saline?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, just saline or nothing at all.

I hope that the majority of our people understand that when I say that I have taken the jab this is indeed so. I believe that cheating is unacceptable at this level.

As for me, when I got the shot back in February, there were only two vaccines available commercially: EpiVacCorona from the Vektor Centre in Novosibirsk and Sputnik V, as you know. Both vaccines are good. The third one was barely created then and was not available commercially at the time.

Of course, I could have taken any of them. But, strange as it may seem to some people, I did not even consult the doctors. I just looked at what shots my acquaintances had received. As I said, both vaccines are good and modern. The one from the Vektor Centre is wholly synthetic and, as they say, more advanced. But as I could see from the example of my acquaintances – maybe I should not say this, but I nevertheless want to explain my reasoning – the duration of effect of the Vektor vaccine is a bit shorter, although it has other advantages, such as the absence of any side effects at all, specifically fever or any other side effects. But I believed that I needed to be protected for as long as possible, and so I chose to be vaccinated with Sputnik V, especially considering that the military are getting vaccinated with Sputnik V, and I am their Supreme Commander, after all.

I have already talked about this, but I can repeat. I did not feel anything after the first jab, only slightly sore in the shoulder after about four hours. I had my second jab at noon and took my temperature at midnight, it was 37.2. I went to bed and when I woke up it was 36.6. That was it. In about 20 days, I think, I had a blood test that showed that I had a high level of protection. I recommend you do the same.

Did you get vaccinated?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No, actually. I had COVID-19 not so long ago; it is too early to do it. The Healthcare Ministry recently issued recommendations on vaccination for those who have had COVID-19. If I am not mistaken, they should wait six to 12 months for their natural antibodies to wane.

Nailya Asker-zade: There is time to think.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Now things are clear.

Vladimir Putin: You know, the Healthcare Ministry issued its recommendations, and the World Health Organisation also released its guidelines, only a few days ago.

Normally, when there is no pandemic, it is recommended to get revaccinated in 12 months but when there is a peak or rising morbidity, it is recommended to get inoculated again in six months. These are WHO recommendations.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: My time will be in the autumn, then.

Vladimir Putin: Was it mild?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, I would say so. But what we see on the news and online, so many stories are just terrifying.

Vladimir Putin: People get infected even after they have had the vaccine, in about 10 percent of cases. However, they recover fast and with no serious consequences, which is important. This is what matters, I think. Without a vaccine, this illness may result in quite severe long-term consequences. That is why you, too, should watch your health and go through rehabilitation, if necessary.

Nailya Asker-zade: After hearing your account, many will probably decide they just want Sputnik V – but not everybody. Vaccine hesitancy is explainable: people have doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines. Do they protect against new strains? You probably know that some people have still fallen ill after getting vaccinated and the incidence rate among such people is high.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I have just mentioned that, about 10 percent, on average. Again, in their case, the illness is mild. Some very famous people have become ill even after getting the vaccine. I do not want to disclose names. After all, it is their private matter. But they are quite famous in Russia. Last week, one of my colleagues got ill. Yesterday I was told he was already back at work. Some people close to me were vaccinated too but still got the coronavirus, unfortunately. But they recovered fairly quickly and did not need any strong medication. I am talking about people in my immediate circle. What I am saying is vaccination makes sense.

I had meetings recently, as you may know, in the Kremlin, we were awarding the Hero of Labour stars and State Prizes to our scientists, including those who had invented the vaccine. Let me reiterate what I heard from them, they speak in public continually: the disease may take a severe turn, but what is worse, it might have remote consequences. This should certainly be considered.

You know there are, there have always been people who believe that no inoculations at all are needed. There are many people in this category.

Nailya Asker-zade: The anti-vaxers.

Vladimir Putin: And not only anti-vax dissidents, there are enough of them both in this country and elsewhere.

What is happening in the world? What are specialists saying? When a sweeping vaccination campaign against the main infections is afoot, it seems that everything is fine and there is no need, as some people believe, to get vaccinated. “Why get a jab? Almost no one is sick.” But as soon as the vaccination level drops to a certain threshold – bang, all of a sudden there is an outbreak and everyone is scrambling to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

We should take our cue from the specialists, not people who do not know much about this matter and listen to rumours. After all, this is happening all around the world. You know, the things I heard: that there is nothing at all, that in reality there is no epidemic. Sometimes I listen to what some people are saying – they seem to be grown-up, educated people. I do not know where they are taking this from. When you tell them that this is happening all over the world, they reply: “Right, country leaders have come into collusion.” Do they have any idea of what is happening in the world, of the contradictions that are plaguing today’s world, where all leaders allegedly upped and conspired with each other? It is all absolute rubbish.

Nailya Asker-zade: But some people believe that the virus has been artificially created.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: This is a point for discussion to this day, a very active discussion, by the way.

Vladimir Putin: This is a different matter: artificial or non-artificial. The question is, how to get protection from it? Wait, like you, until taken ill and then feel cheerful and merry? You are a very young person and in good form, but there are people with a different constitution, with chronic ailments and advanced in age. These are the so-called risk groups, let me repeat it once again. This is dangerous, a danger to life, while being vaccinated is not dangerous. We have not had a single serious complication, nothing: I had a fever of 37.2 [Celsius]. So what? True, my daughter (she was also vaccinated with Sputnik V) had a temperature of 37.5.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: This is also normal.

Vladimir Putin: Also, for just one day, and that was all, nothing more.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let me go over how our work today will be organised.

We have received 2 million appeals, and people continue to write, call and send messages. We collect them and group them by topic. Please note that these are the main topics of people’s appeals. We can choose any, for example, Communications and Internet, and find out what our viewers are interested in.

Vladimir Putin: Ok.

Nailya Asker-zade: Or, for example, healthcare. Of course, everyone is interested in how the fight against COVID is being organised, how the vaccination is going, primary care and availability of medications.

Vladimir Putin: Please pick the one you like best.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, let us focus on the sub-topic “Vaccination and fighting COVID.” Please note that the federal districts are shown at the bottom of the screen. We can choose any and see the cities from which people are sending their questions.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Please also note that we have different types of appeals: some are in video format, others are written text, and there will also be telephone calls and live broadcasts. I propose launching a video call from Moscow. Shall we?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please, any one of them.

Yevgeny Tsvetkov: Yevgeny Tsvetkov, Moscow.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Yevgeny.

Yevgeny Tsvetkov: My wife is a teacher at a Moscow school and has a medical exemption due to a long-standing chronic illness. However, the head of the school does not accept this exemption and wants her to bring a vaccination certificate by July 15. My wife cannot comply, but if she does not, they say they will fire her. Is that legal at all?

Vladimir Putin: I can tell you right away that this is illegal. If there is a medical exemption, no one can ask a person to take the vaccine. I think that the head of the school where your wife works is unaware of this. I hope that he or she hears this and lifts these illegal demands.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let’s continue to take questions on this topic.

I see we have a message from Omsk. A person, who had recovered from the coronavirus, was discharged from the hospital and was told that free rehab was available at one of three institutions. One of them had run out of places, and the other one asked for a payment of 50,000 rubles for the service. What do you have to say to this person who recovered from the coronavirus? I was ill as well, and I know that patients need some rehab time.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is true, and we are now busy trying to organise this. Actually, there has never been any rehabilitation system as a factor of improving health after illnesses in Russia.

Nailya Asker-zade: But we had health resorts back during the Soviet era, did we not?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, we had health resorts, and we still have them. Incidentally, they usually worked as holiday hotels or ordinary hotels. But this was back in the Soviet times, when we had many things and did not have many others.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We did not have COVID.

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, there was no COVID, thankfully.

Vladimir Putin: But there were other diseases. Incidentally, the vaccination system was quite strict in the Soviet Union, nearly all vaccinations were mandatory. Did anyone ask the parents’ permission when their children were vaccinated at schools? Nobody did, everyone was vaccinated.

Nailya Asker-zade: Were you vaccinated like that too?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, why not? I was from a simple workers’ family. My parents were workers. Who asked them? Nobody did. And nobody asked me either. We were simply lined up in the school’s medical room, were given our jabs just like that and off we went. But we had stability when it came to combating infections. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the social system almost disintegrated as well, including in the areas we are discussing now.

We will now invest some serious money; funds have been earmarked in this rehabilitation system, and we will shortly sign contracts for the delivery of the necessary equipment. The trouble is that special equipment is necessary for post-coronavirus rehabilitation, because COVID hits the vascular and respiratory systems, as well as other organs. We are allocating these funds; they are being transferred right now, and we will start working on this project.

As for any paid services, I do not know the reasons for this, but, as I have already mentioned, this case must be looked into. We will do so, if the required information is available.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: If you wish, we can contact the person who asked this question. He is from Omsk.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, let us do it.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We will do this later during the programme. We can do this.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us move on now to the Message Processing Centre.

Vladimir Putin: Anyway, the funds for the creation of a post-coronavirus rehabilitation system have been allocated, and the system is being established.

Nailya Asker-zade: We are moving to the Message Processing Centre. Natalya Yuryeva, go ahead please.

Natalya Yuryeva: Our Message Processing Centre is being literally bombarded with questions. There are almost two million questions. Let us find out where people are calling from. For example, I see a message from Moscow. The person who wrote it has not yet introduced himself. Naturally, there are plenty of questions about vaccination. I know that there is one video question. Where from?

Remark: From Moscow.

Natalya Yuryeva: It is also from Moscow. From Yekaterina Kachailova. Let us see a video she sent us.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead please.

Yekaterina Kachailova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

I planned to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but unfortunately, doctors at vaccination centres could not tell me if my illnesses were contraindications for getting a jab. I can check my temperature and blood pressure at home as well, and, of course, I would not go for a jab if I feel sick.

Could you please tell me where I can get qualified aid and an answer to my question: What are the risks and consequences of this jab? Thank you for your help and answer.

Vladimir Putin: Katya, the answer is very simple. It is out in the open. If you have some illnesses, chronic or recent, you do know about them. You are bound to visit your doctor, a specialist who monitors you as a patient. This is the doctor you should address. He must tell you whether you should get a jab or not. Nothing is easier.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: As far as I understand it, she did not get an answer to this question.

Vladimir Putin: No. However, she said she asked about it at vaccination centres where they may not necessarily know the answer. Who works there? Medical nurses and the like. But probably this is a question for narrow specialists who monitor their patients. It is necessary to ask them whether a jab is all right or not. They must know the answer.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest returning to the call centre. Do you have more calls or messages?

Alexander Maksimov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Alexander Maksimov: My name is Sasha Maksimov. I study in the third form of school No. 2070 in Moscow. We will start a new academic year in two months. Please tell us how it will be: at a school desk or at home? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Sasha, I cannot give a definitive answer to your question because we do not know how the coronavirus situation will develop in the country and in the place where you live.

That said, the question is clear, but most likely, children in junior forms will go to school. After all, we hardly ever shut them down during the worst times of the past year, spring and summer. So, most probably, for elementary school, the academic process will be organised in the usual format.

As for the senior school, as I have already said, this will depend on specific circumstances. But I hope that we will eventually reach the level of herd immunity we are talking about, in part, owing to active vaccination, which will allow schools and universities as well as small, medium-sized and large businesses to operate as usual.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we understand that you are now immune to the coronavirus and, probably, to some unfriendly countries.

We have received the following question as an SMS message via the number 04040 from Igor Oboimov in Moscow: Why is Ukraine not listed among these unfriendly countries? Here is another message on the same subject: Will you meet with President Zelensky?

Vladimir Putin: Why is Ukraine not listed among unfriendly countries? This is because I do not regard Ukraine as a country unfriendly towards Russia. I have noted many times, and I can repeat once again that, in my opinion, Ukrainians and Russians are a single people.

See for yourself: The Jews come to Israel from Africa, Europe, and other countries. Black people arrive from Africa, right? Those arriving from Europe speak Yiddish, rather than Hebrew. Although they are diverse, the Jewish people, nevertheless, cherishes its unity.

Well, Israel is far away. We have the Mordvins, one of Russia’s indigenous ethnic groups. This people is subdivided into the Erzya, Moksha and Shoksha ethnic groups, and there are three other ethnic groups. However, all of them consider themselves part of the Mordvin people. Although they speak the language of one ethnic group, the Erzya and the Moksha do not understand each other. Their respective languages are more different than the Russian and Ukrainian languages, but they cherish their unity. There are several reasons why. First, they are smart, and they realise that a breakup yields no positive results and simply weakens an ethnic group. There are also external factors to consider. What do I mean? Since the Middle Ages, efforts have always been made to divide and break up the Russian people. Rzeczpospolita launched this policy because Poland itself wanted to become a great power. Consequently, it tried to split up all nearby ethnic groups around itself. Austro-Hungary continued this policy in the run-up to World War I. But we have to understand this.

How did this country interpret ethnic aspects in the past? There were the Great Russians, the White Russians and the Little Russians. Sometime later, they started dividing the single Russian people under the influence of external factors, and the Bolsheviks also contributed to this process. Unfortunately, we cannot discuss this matter in great detail. By the way, I have thought it over, I will write a separate analytical article, and I will set forth my view of this subject. And I hope that people in Russia and Ukraine will read it.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Because people just do not know many things, do not know the history.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, people have no interest in that; they are living in a world of their own. But this is important for all of us.

So, I do not regard the Ukraine people unfriendly. Nothing of the kind. Russians and Ukrainians are a single people. But the Ukrainian leadership, the current authorities of modern Ukraine are clearly unfriendly to us. This is perfectly obvious. Otherwise there is no explanation for the draft law submitted by the Ukrainian President to the Verkhovna Rada, the law on indigenous peoples under which Russians are not an indigenous people in that territory. It defies comprehension. Russians have lived there for centuries, and now they have been declared as non-indigenous people. What can this lead to? As a result, part of these people could emigrate. But where would they go? They have flats, jobs and so on in Ukraine. And so they will have to reregister [as Ukrainians], because they would be second-class citizens otherwise. This would reduce the overall number of Russians. This effect will be comparable to the negative impact of weapons of mass destruction. This is serious. This is pushing the Russian language out of everyday life.

You see, there are narrow-minded people and far-right nationalists everywhere; they exist in Russia and also in Ukraine. They are acting in all sincerity, but not wisely. The results of their activities will be destructive. This also concerns the suppression of the opposition in Ukraine.

Viktor Medvedchuk, whom I regard as a Ukrainian nationalist, was seized and confined to his apartment ahead of the election campaign, and they also ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet. Absolutely illegal and unconstitutional decisions have been taken. But nobody is paying any attention to this. This shows people in the country that there are no legal opportunities for the forces which want to develop and strengthen their country, including by developing normal relations with Russia, that they have no chance. They are nipped in the bud: some are jailed, others are placed under house arrest, and still others are simply killed in the street.

Why meet with Zelensky if he has accepted the full external management of his country? The main issues concerning Ukraine’s functioning are not decided in Kiev but in Washington and, partly, in Berlin and Paris. What is there to talk about then?

Nevertheless, I do not refuse to hold such meetings, but I first want to understand what issues we can discuss.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, our editors tell me that we have Yevgeny Tsvetkov on the phone. He is the one who told us about his wife, who is facing dismissal for refusing to get vaccinated because of a medical exemption.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Ecxuse me, but let us first take another call on a related subject, post-COVID rehabilitation.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Nailya Asker-zade: Vladimir Vasilkov from Omsk. The caller is unavailable.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We did not get through the first time, but I think we will reach him during the programme.

Vladimir Putin: Maybe we will get back to this subject later.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, certainly.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us get back to the Message Processing Centre. Tatyana, do you hear us?

Tatyana Remezova: Yes, colleagues, I do, thanks a lot.

We have already processed tens of thousands of questions, analysing them and calling people back to ask for details. The top five most popular subjects include the economy and price hikes. If you enter the word “price” or “prices” into the question database, you get tens of thousands of questions.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Tatyana Remezova: I can see that one of the video addresses was recorded in a grocery store. Let us see it.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Question: Mr President, tell us, please, why bananas from Ecuador – here is the price – are cheaper that carrots grown in neighbouring regions – this is the price tag. Another question is about potatoes: why are they so expensive? How can people, for example, my mother, who lives on a subsistence wage, survive with such food prices? Does anyone control prices in Russia, or do they just appear out of the blue? That is, do people simply think up a figure and then write it on the price tag?

Nailya Asker-zade: If I got it right, carrots cost 110 rubles per kilo and bananas, 70 rubles.

Yekaterina Berezovskya: And butter costs 500–600 rubles.

Vladimir Putin: Look, the global food price indices are the highest in 10 years. Regrettably, this is a global trend; food prices are increasing everywhere.

Of course, this affects us as well, considering that Russia is part of the global economy. There are many reasons for these increases; I will not list all of them, but they include the printing of currency by the main currency issuing countries, the consequences of the coronavirus, the decline in production and jobs, and so on and so forth.

We had the biggest price increases on food last year and early this year. Sugar increased the most, up 41 percent. Sunflower oil followed in its wake.

You probably know what the Government and we said about this. The Government made a number of decisions to control food prices.

Regarding these measures, the first was an agreement between producers and retail networks. The second was subsidies for producers of the final product for the purchase of raw materials at high prices. Later, export duty increases were introduced on foreign trade. Other regulation measures are being discussed, so in general the state is tracking this problem, though maybe sometimes the response is delayed. I spoke about this problem at one of the meetings with the Government. Let me repeat that the above measures are being taken.

Now regarding butter: you said 500–600. Prices on milk are generally stable and, as you know, butter is made from milk. This is why prices on that have increased between 3.5 to 5 percent recently. I would like to emphasise that this is below the inflation rate because the inflation has almost reached 6 percent, 5.9 percent, to be exact. So, this is less than the inflation rate.

That said, there are problems in this respect. This is what I think Valentina was talking about – the so-called borsch basket: carrots, potatoes, etc.

Nailya Asker-zade: She asked why bananas cost less than carrots.

Vladimir Putin: Just a moment. Not only carrots but also potatoes. This is because we ran out of some domestic products. Last year, we produced over 19 million tonnes of potatoes. This year we will have about 22 million – I hope this is more than enough. That is a million tonnes we missed. They bring vegetables not from a next-door region but usually from abroad, from Belarus, or Turkey where it is warmer. Naturally, in this context it is important to look at logistics. How much will it cost with this kind of shipping, and so on.

Naturally, we must keep an eye on this as well, but let me say again that we will soon take in the vegetable harvest, and I hope it will affect prices. That said, the development of agriculture also includes vegetables and fruit, but now we are not fully meeting domestic demand for them.

For instance, we have practically resolved the problem of chicken meat and pork. We produce enough to meet domestic demand and even export them. In fact, we export a lot. By the way, last year agriculture made a record $30 billion on exports, over $30 billion. This has never happened before.

Incidentally, a decision was also made on grain with a view to curbing prices on bread and bakery products inside the country by introducing export quotas and export customs duties.

Recent price hikes on bakery products and sunflower oil have been a mere 0.1 percent. Prices on sugar have also increased by about 0.1 percent. In other words, regulating measures are being taken and are resulting in the desired effect but, unfortunately, not on all food items. We will press on.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we get back to the topic of agriculture a bit later because we have finally gotten through to Omsk.

Vladimir Vasilkov. Let us have this call on air.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Vladimir Vasilkov: Hello.

I worked for more than 40 years and was awarded the title of Omsk Region Labour Veteran. I recently received a small increase in my pension but the Labour Veteran title was withdrawn along with my benefits. They used to pay me 550 rubles, which was at least something, and now I am nobody. It was a slap in the face. And I know more people like me.

Nailya Asker-zade: Excuse me, but your question was about your COVID-19 recovery and the rehabilitation you need.

Vladimir Vasilkov: Yes, that is another question that I have.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please, Mr Vasilkov.

As concerns the Labour Veteran title, I know that, unfortunately, it has been an issue in the regions. It is up to regional authorities to award the Labour Veteran title and to withdraw it. I think it absolutely unjustified. They should not take away what has already been given.

Vladimir Vasilkov: I am not the only one.

Vladimir Putin: I know and I believe that this decision was wrong. That is my opinion and I hope Omsk will hear me. There is a general rule, which is stipulated by the Constitution, no less: you cannot deprive people of the benefits they already have. This aspect of the matter must be reviewed carefully by officials at all levels.

Nailya Asker-zade: As I promised, shall we get back to the topic of agriculture?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us see what questions arecoming in from those who till the land, as they say. What shall we choose? Let us go to Ufa. Here is a message: “All the crops are dying due to drought in Bashkiria. Cattle are dying. Irrigation services used to be available. This is a global problem. Please look into this. When will irrigation services be available again?”

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to say that we are proud of our agricultural workers and their results. I have already said that even their export results are outstanding, no less. Productivity and production are growing fast. Vegetable and fruit cultivation could be better, but additional support is necessary.

Overall, support for the agricultural sector is quite substantial, around 350 billion rubles. We support other areas as well. For example, we will allocate 35 billion for the social development of rural areas. We also allocate 70 billion every year for farmland reclamation. That is 70 billion every year for this purpose.

Irrigation services are part of these efforts. We allocate more than 7 billion a year for this purpose and will continue to do so. Irrigation is very important, considering climate change. We will be ramping up these efforts across all the areas I have just mentioned.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, to follow up on agriculture, I would like to quote a few text messages. “Mr President, they say there will be a tax on livestock. Is it true?” someone from the Rostov Region is asking. In fact, not everyone is aware that there may be such a thing as a tax on livestock.

Nailya Asker-zade: Horned livestock.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, horned livestock. As far as I understand, agricultural producers have been exempted.

And one more follow-up question from Izrail Murzabekov in Ingushetia, who engages in selective sheep breeding. He is asking for help with the lease of land and writes the following: “Any kind of land, even wasteland, at least something.”

Vladimir Putin: Where does he live?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Nazran, Ingushetia.

Vladimir Putin: Ok. With regard to help, I will definitely have a word with the head of the republic. Land in the North Caucasus is worth a lot; it really is a valuable asset. But since this person engages in real business, an important business – selective breeding, right? Sheep breeding?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, selective sheep breeding.

Vladimir Putin: This is very important. This is something that we have been increasingly focused on lately. It is true of seeds and livestock. This is critically important. We are only taking the first steps in this direction.

We have resolved the chicken meat problem, but not everyone is aware – no, this is a serious matter – that we mainly import eggs in order to raise chickens. We need to have our own eggs to begin with. The same applies to cattle and sheep breeding.

To reiterate, we are moving forward towards this goal. Of course, people who engage in this business deserve special support. I will definitely have a word with the head of the republic.

The first part of your question was…

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: The first part of the question was about the tax on livestock. Is it true that…

Vladimir Putin: We should impose a tax on those who spread such rumours. No, no one is going to impose any tax on livestock.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: People are worried. This question comes from the village of Chaltyr, Rostov Region, apparently, a small place.

Vladimir Putin: I hope that I will be heard not only in the Rostov Region, but other regions of the Russian Federation as well.

Nailya Asker-zade: Most importantly, the Finance Ministry should hear you.

Vladimir Putin: No, no, no. Take my word for it, no one is planning anything like that. These are just rumours.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, I suggest we move on. The Economy section has a sub-section called Industry and Production. Let us see if we have received any messages or calls on this topic.

Troitsk is on the line, we have a video call, that is, people can go on the air. And Nizhny Novgorod is also calling.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Which one will we choose?

Vladimir Putin: It does not matter.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us listen to Troitsk.

Vladimir Putin: Troitsk – where is it?

Nailya Asker-zade: It is in Moscow’s immediate suburbs.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Hello, you are on the air.

Vladimir Putin: Good day, Svetlana.

Svetlana Mironova: Mr President, good day.

Here is my question. My name is Svetlana Mironova. I want to ask about the surging prices of building materials. I will give you an example: my family lives in a small flat of 33 square metres. The children are growing and now there is not enough room for everyone, so this year we planned to improve our living conditions. We bought a plot of land and started to think about building a house. I will use the fence as an example: three or four months ago it cost about 150,000 [rubles]. Today we will have to fork out 260,000 for a fence made of ordinary corrugated iron. It is quite a sum for our family. We want to understand – my family and those families who have found themselves in the same situation – if prices will remain the same or if they will increase or, maybe, with your assistance, they will be more affordable to us. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Hopefully, I can also help to make them affordable. I will explain what I mean.

First, of course, this was caused by inflation and the price increases in the consumer market across the board. The inflation rate in our country has gone up to 5.9 percent, or almost 6 percent, from about 4 percent. Of course, our objective is to push it down. That is why the Central Bank has increased slightly its key interest rate to avoid an excessive money supply in the economy.

I believe the current inflation rate will get back to its target indicator – 4 percent. This year, we will hardly achieve this, but I believe we will be able to bring it [the inflation rate] down to 5 percent and, generally, make sure that inflation holds steady at this level, yet, thinking of making it lower. This is my first point.

Secondly, regarding the reasons behind it, in my view, there will be more questions like this during our meeting today. This was caused by the changes in the situation in many world markets for commodities, in particular, metals.

Prices on metals have increased sharply on world markets. Incidentally, this includes foodstuffs. Prices on sugar went up on world markets and so our producers began selling it abroad. As a result, we had a shortage of sugar, and prices jumped. The same happened with metals. Metal prices increased on world markets. Here, they are trying to raise them to global levels, and so everything linked with this instantly gets more expensive.

Action is being taken now to curb prices on these basic goods, which includes construction goods. I hope this will affect you as well. We know all this and are taking the necessary steps to keep the situation stable.

By the way, maybe this is worth considering: are you selling your flat or are you keeping it?

Svetlana Mironova: We would like to keep it, of course.

Vladimir Putin: For those who are selling their flats, people have probably noticed this, but I would still like to repeat once again. I recently talked about this at the United Russia congress: if a person sells a flat within five years and buys a new one, he has to pay personal income tax. Considering growing housing prices, people were losing a fair amount of money. They could have at least made a down payment.

I suggested then that if a person buys a new flat within a year, he should not pay this tax when selling his flat. This may concern you less, but it has a direct bearing on all those who want to improve their housing conditions by selling their old flat and buying a new one. I believe this is how it will be. We will work to stabilise the situation in the construction market as well.

There are a number of other measures, but we will discuss them later. They are related to infrastructure loans, utilities loans and the like, but I believe that together these measures should promote stabilisation in the construction market.

In the meantime, I would like to wish you success. I hope you will manage to carry out your plans. I would like to wish your family and you personally all the best.

Svetlana Mironova: I was happy to see you.

Vladimir Putin: The pleasure is mine.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Thank you, Svetlana.

Mr President, besides our TV viewers, your colleagues in the Government are obviously listening to us.

Vladimir Putin: I am 100 percent sure.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We just received a message. Tatyana Golikova said that not even 10 percent (you noted that 10 percent of vaccinated people could fall sick after a jab) but more like 2.5 percent could get it again. Whom should we believe?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Ms Golikova, of course, because she is dealing with this professionally every day. She was the Healthcare Minister and knows what she is talking about.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us read a question that was texted to us: “Why not have the governors hold direct lines like you do, annually or quarterly? That would reduce the number of questions for the President.”

By the way, heads of some regions, such as Moscow, Tatarstan and St Petersburg, to name a few, are already doing so, mainly through social media.

Vladimir Putin: I think this would do no harm to anyone, because direct communication is important not only because people have the opportunity to ask the head of state or region questions. What is more important – and I have said this many times – is that the most pressing issues that concern our citizens are selected in the process. This is critically important in order to fine tune our practical moves in the most important areas such as social policy, healthcare, housing construction, etc. That is why I would encourage regional leaders, my colleagues, to listen to what our citizens have to say.

Nailya Asker-zade: Occasionally, even simple issues cannot be resolved without the President or the Governor. It happens.

Vladimir Putin: It does. Perhaps, we should strive to make sure that things get addressed automatically, but we still have a long way to go. In any case, this feedback is always very helpful.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, speaking of feedback, if your colleagues could spend more time talking to the people, they would hear questions, including those coming from small and medium-sized businesses. Clearly, this year is difficult for everyone, and this segment was hit hard, but at the same time it received support. Just several days ago, you instructed the Government to exempt small businesses in the catering sector from VAT.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, but under certain conditions: there must be receipts for everything, so that everything is transparent, not just their services, but there should also be receipts for the goods that they purchase and use in their work and this should be transparent.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us hear what the businesspeople have to say about this. Let us hear from Surgut, which has also joined us on this direct line.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Please, you are on the air. Mr Kharlov, can you hear us?

Vladimir Putin: We are listening to you.

Maxim Kharlov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Maxim.

Maxim Kharlov: Here is my question. As a representative of the business community, I have repeatedly applied for financial support – loans for expanding my business – but the terms offered by the lending institution preclude effective development. The interest rates are high, 18 percent and up, and loan terms are under three years, that is, very short, and they also want collateral. These terms preclude obtaining any effective financial support and prevent the channeling of funds into business expansion and, as a result, the development of entrepreneurs who can become the driving force of our economy.

Hence, the question: is the Government considering effective support for entrepreneurs in the following matters – extending lending terms, lowering interest rates and decreasing collateral requirements? I am talking about loans to finance working capital. The amounts are small, anywhere from 5 to 10 million, which a micro business may need. This is my question.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Kharlov, this is not an idle question, I understand you perfectly well. Small and medium-sized businesses, small enterprises, micro businesses, and providing them with funding are critically important matters. Of course, the pandemic hit small and medium-sized businesses hardest. We are aware of this as well. But please note that we, the Government, have taken a package of measures to support small and medium-sized businesses, including loans at zero percent or 2 percent with subsequent repayment of these loans, if the number of employees remained unchanged, loan term extension, cutting tax rates, including social contributions, in half. This is a major package of measures.

The things you are talking about are also important, I understand you perfectly. But organising this kind of work, say, collateral-free loans, is a delicate matter. After all, it is not difficult to apply for a loan. But how do you pay it back? This could undermine our financial and banking system. Although, of course, the banks enjoy big revenues. Thankfully, our financial system is stable, which is very good. But making decisions that could, in fact, rock this financial platform is also, clearly, a dangerous approach.

You said they are asking for 18 percent now, correct? That is too much, I agree, because the average rate is currently 12 percent for small businesses and microlending. There are preferential terms as well. I am not sure if anyone has ever offered them to you. Look, we have easy-term lending. What is that about? The Central Bank key rate is 5.5 percent currently, I believe, plus 2.75 percent on top of this key rate; 5.5 and 2.75 add up to 8.25, if I have it right. That is much better than 18 or even 12 percent.

Last year, in order to ensure this kind of work, we made available – and people received – a trillion rubles from budget sources. That sounds like a lot of money, but it is absolutely not enough if you think about the needs in this sector of the economy.

Mr Kharlov, we will, of course, continue to expand this system. It is a matter of budgetary capacity or budgetary constraints, on the other hand. But 18 is a bit too much. If you leave your details, your contact information…

Nailya Asker-zade: We have that.

Vladimir Putin: Our colleagues have your contact information. We will take a look at the banks you have contacted and the tools that you, in my opinion, could use, and the bank should have helped you do that.

Good luck.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us move on to another topic – defence and security.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Nailya Asker-zade: This must be a very important question because there could not be unimportant questions in the section.

Let us see. Here is, for example, a video from Krasnoyarsk. Shall we watch it?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Lyubov Shendeleva: Hello, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Lyubov Shendeleva: My name is Lyubov Shendeleva, I live in Krasnoyarsk and I am a pensioner.

My question, I believe, is important to many people. For how long will telephone scammers, taking advantage of their impunity, as well as people’s gullibility, be stripping them of the little money they have?

Posing as bank clerks or employees at any other organisation, they take money from the most vulnerable section of the population, that is pensioners and senior citizens.

When exposed, they even start sending messages with threats. How long is this going to last? I believe there are some technical means that can help track them down and punish them. We are asking you for protection. Thank you for your attention.

Nailya Asker-zade: A problem like this does exist in many regions. Here is another example. Sitting next to you at the Victory Day parade was Vasily Pronin. You exchanged a few words with him and straightened his jacket. A few days later, scammers stole 400,000 rubles from him. So, this problem is common in many regions. Vasily Pronin is 96 years old.

Vladimir Putin: I do not even want to comment on this. They are just rogues. People committing such crimes, targeting elderly people, war veterans, are simply rogues. Of course, we need to fight this. Unfortunately, crimes of this sort are on the rise and the growth is significant. Whereas the overall situation with fighting socially harmful, grave crimes in our country is satisfactory, and we have even seen some decline, there has been an increase – a significant increase of 25 percent – in crimes like those mentioned.

What are the reasons for them? In my opinion, the first thing that creates an unfavourable background and is contributing to the increase in crimes like these are illegal sales of personal data. Of course, the government and law-enforcement agencies must address this issue very seriously. Criminals use illegally obtained personal data, big data, to act.

Several questions here require special attention.

First, this is largely the competence of the Central Bank. They should be more active in countering phishing sites. As I see it, these phishing websites probably stem from the word “fish.”

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: A phishing site imitates the real one.

Vladimir Putin: They are looking for their victims in the net. Previously, it took the Central Bank several weeks and even months to locate such sites and shut them down. Now it does so in three days. But even this is not enough. It must be more active. This is the first point.

The second point. Commercial banks, the accounts in which money comes in or goes out, must meticulously monitor these processes to reduce to zero the opportunities for scammers.

That said, we must take into account the fact mentioned by Ms Shendeleva, that scammers are also involved in social engineering, where social services operate and often act on their behalf. People must simply bear this in mind and be very attentive in this respect.

There are also issues that are at the junction of competence of law enforcement bodies and the Central Bank. What are these issues? What is at odds?

On the one hand, the Central Bank and other financial institutions must keep bank deposits secret, but on the other, law enforcement bodies must have an opportunity to intervene in criminal activities at an early stage and prevent them.

However, under the law that ensures the secrecy of bank deposits, that is, banking financial secrecy, law enforcement bodies have the right to receive the required information from banks only if a criminal case is opened or by decision of a court. Yet, there is a solution. What is it? The Central Bank can contact law enforcement bodies at its own initiative if it detects some dubious transactions. But if the Central Bank has this right, operations units of the Interior Ministry, other law enforcement bodies or special services can contact the Central Bank. The Central Bank can check dubious transactions and provide information. It is relatively easy to develop this process with modern communications, and it is possible to do this quickly. I believe we should go down this road to start with. Naturally, it is essential to upgrade this practice and improve the regulatory framework.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, a question about a different drama, actually, a big one.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is related to the British warship near Crimea. Do you think the world was on the brink of a Third World War, of all things?

Vladimir Putin: No, I do not think so. Is this a question or did you…?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We have received questions on this matter.

Vladimir Putin: No, I do not think so. I will explain what I think and what I do not.

First, this was apparently a provocation; it was obvious that it was a provocation. What did they mean to show and what goals did they want to achieve?

To begin with, this was a comprehensive provocation, and it was conducted not only by the British but also by the Americans. The British entered our territorial waters in the afternoon, whereas earlier, at 7:30 am, a US strategic reconnaissance plane took off from a NATO military airfield in Greece, I think from Crete. I was briefed on this, of course, I know all about it. If I remember correctly, tail number 63/9792. We saw it very clearly and monitored it. It was clear that the destroyer entered [our territorial waters] in pursuit of military objectives, trying to uncover the actions of our Armed Forces to stop a provocation, with the help of the reconnaissance aircraft they were trying to identify how we operated, and where things were was located and how they operated. We saw this and sent them the information which we deemed necessary. I may have let this slip; I hope the military will forgive me. This is the first thing.

The second thing is the political component. Recently, a few days ago, a meeting was held in Geneva. The question was: why was there such a provocation? What was all of that for? For the sake of emphasising that these people do not respect the Crimeans’ choice to join the Russian Federation? Is there something they do not understand there? Fine, keep not accepting it. But why a provocation of this kind?

Nailya Asker-zade: Maybe NATO is teasing us? The Sea Breeze exercise is underway now, and yesterday there was a Dutch frigate.

Vladimir Putin: Here is what I would like to say. You said that this put the world on the brink of a global war. No, of course, not. Even if we had sunk that ship, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine that this would have put the world on the brink of a third world war because those who did this know they could not win a war like that. This is very important.

I do not think that we would have been happy at the turn of events you mentioned, but we at least know what we are fighting for: we are fighting for ourselves and our future on our own territory. It was not us who covered thousands of kilometres by air and sea towards them; it was them who approached our borders and entered our territorial sea, which is a crucial component in the overall situation.

I am not concerned about this or that somebody does not respect the choice of the people in Crimea to join Russia. I have a different concern. Look now, they raised a clamour over the fact that we were conducting exercises on our own territory near the Ukrainian border. I instructed the Defence Ministry to quietly end the drills and withdraw the troops, if this is such a great concern for them. We did so. But instead of responding positively and saying “Ok, we understand your reaction to our indignation,” what did they do? They approached our borders.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, you said during your annual Address to the Federal Assembly that picking on Russia for any reason has become some kind of new sport. Does this mean they tried to pick on us again this time?

Vladimir Putin: No, this is not picking on us. As I said, this is not what is worrying me. I am worried about another, more fundamental thing, namely, the beginning of military development in Ukrainian territory. Under the Ukrainian Constitution, no foreign bases can be established in the country. Training centres and other facilities and formats are possible. But the military development of a territory that directly borders on our country creates a considerable security problem for us. This has to do with the vital interests of the Russian Federation and the Russian people. Of course, this is alarming, and we must think about it.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest that we move on to the next group of questions about social policy, which is largely tied to the economy, but is somewhat separate, and see what kind of questions we received from families with children. I see we have a video message from Astrakhan, and we also have a text message. Shall we watch the video?

Vladimir Putin: I am fine with that, please.

Nailya Asker-zade: Good afternoon, Ms Pluzhnikova. You are on live, please go ahead.

Oksana Pluzhnikova: Good afternoon, Mr President. I am speaking on behalf of all mothers in Astrakhan Region. We want to ask you about the new rules concerning payments for children aged 3 to 7.

Under the new rules, the calculations are based on income earned over the 12 months of 2020, but everyone knows that it was a difficult year for all of us: many have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Our region is no exception, and to this day, employment has remained a problem in our region, but I think, this is the case all over the country.

Here is my question: the authorities in our region require income information for 12 out of 12 months in 2020, although the Government resolution does not talk about providing information on each of the 12 months in 2020. In other regions, showing one month of official income is enough to receive a child allowance. Why is it that only our region interprets this resolution in its own way and denies payments to single mothers, large families, considers a flat and a house one single piece of property, and does not deduct alimony from the income that is paid to another family? The Astrakhan Region’s ministry cites specifically the Government resolution, not the regional one when these questions are asked.

We asked some ministers from other regions for help, and wrote to Olga Batalina herself [Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection]. The answer was that the minimum requirement is a pay stub for one month. Ms Batalina told us this, as did other ministers, including Natalya Oskina [Minister of Social Protection of Altai Territory]. But our ministry holds its ground and wants us to show proof of income for 12 months.

Please help get things in order in our ministry. Why are they disregarding this resolution?

Nailya Asker-zade: We are talking about the zero income rule, which says that if people are not officially employed, they are not eligible for child allowances.

Vladimir Putin: Correct.

Ms Pluzhnikova, can you rephrase that? Why exactly are you being denied these allowances?

Oksana Pluzhnikova: Because we are unable to show proof of income for 12 months. One month or five months are not good enough for them, they want 12 months.

Vladimir Putin: Under the resolution, it is based on yearly income. Your annual income…

Olga Pluzhnikova: Correct, annual income. But in other regions, one month is enough.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Pluzhnikova, look, if you have exceeded this amount of income in any given month, it does not mean that you should be denied payment. It would be illegal then.

We will need to take a closer look. Do our colleagues have your details?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, of course.

Vladimir Putin: I will issue appropriate instructions.

Oksana Pluzhnikova: Mr President, may I take one more second of your time?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, go ahead please.

Oksana Pluzhnikova: This concerns the same issue, because those whose child benefits were approved last year and then expired have lost them due to lack of income. Even if they spend one month without an income, they lose these benefits.

Vladimir Putin: What do you mean “lack of income”? I do not understand.

Oksana Pluzhnikova: They have simply lost it.

Nailya Asker-zade: This is zero income. If a person does not receive an official income, he is not entitled to get any payments because some people might rely only on these payments and are not motivated to get a job.

Vladimir Putin: You are saying that if a person does not work, he is denied the payments. Is that right? Do I understand you correctly?

Oksana Pluzhnikova: No. If a person works for 11 months but misses one month, these are grounds to deny him the payments.

Vladimir Putin: That is clear. So, he works for 11 months and does not work for just one month, and he is denied the payment benefit, right?

Well, let us figure it out. I will certainly instruct the Government to analyse this situation and provide a response. That said, if a person lost his job, the simplest thing for him is to be registered at an employment service. This is the easiest thing to do. Once he does this, nobody has the right to deny him the payment of relevant benefits. He should do that immediately…

Oksana Pluzhnikova: But they are not taking into account registering at the labour exchange. So, we do not know what to do about this. We are in complete chaos.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Pluzhnikova, I am telling you that if a person has registered at the labour exchange, nobody has the right to deny him payments. This is illegal. However, we will try to analyse your case separately. I will certainly instruct the Government to do this.

But let me repeat for the third time, that if a person loses his job but registers at an employment office, he cannot be denied relevant payments. I hope my colleagues in your region, Astrakhan, will hear this and respond. But even if they do, I will still instruct the Government to deal with this specific case. Is that all right?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us hope that justice will prevail.

Oksana Pluzhnikova: Ok, thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you for bringing this issue up because, as you said, it concerns many people. I hope we will make corresponding adjustments here to ensure people’s rights.

Nailya Asker-zade: We have had similar inquiries from the Astrakhan Region.

Vladimir Putin: Wonderful. All right. We will figure this out.

Thank you, Ms Pluzhnikova.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, as a follow-up on social support: families with children are indeed getting extensive support during the complicated year of the pandemic. Applications for some payments can be submitted as early as tomorrow. For example, pregnant women in difficult circumstances and single parents. And a great help for parents whose children will go to school – 10,000 rubles. These payments will also begin in August.

Clearly, the plans are ambitious. Will the system withstand this extra load?

Vladimir Putin: It will.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Will it be possible to pay everything out on schedule?

Vladimir Putin: It will. In the first year, 46 billion rubles are earmarked for the first two categories – pregnant women who applied early on in their pregnancy, and the second category. These funds have been reserved, slightly over 46 billion. There will be a little more next year. We do not see any problems here. I had another talk with the Finance Minister yesterday – all the money has been set aside. The issue with children starting school had not been resolved because according to the law, children can go to school at the age of six, not seven. However, in some families, children will start school at the age of six, whereas in others they will not. Naturally, the Government raised the issue: what if people get the money but their child will not start school at six?

However, I believe, and I am sure that the Government will hear me, that everyone should be paid including those families with six-year-olds, even if they do not start school this year. But I am just reminding parents that it is a lump-sum payment, therefore the money they get this year should be spent on preparing the child for school and buying some things in advance even if the child does not start school this year.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I suggest continuing our live marathon and going to the Message Processing Centre.

Natalya Yuryeva has the floor.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you.

We have a message that we just cannot ignore. It is rather a cry from the heart. Our hearts really sank as we read it. I ask the editors to display the message from Svetlana Chemezova of Yaroslavl.

She writes as follows: “Hello, Mr President,

I live with my 9-year-old son, work as a cleaner and my wage is low – 12,700 rubles. Payments are deducted from my wage at work to repay the loan, after which I am left with 1,500 rubles. I have no money to pay my utility bills and rent or buy schoolbooks for my son – I have no money to spend. My strong wish is that you help poor people and resolve the issue of loans, which a hopeless situation can force them to take.”

Vladimir Putin: I understand that the situation is not easy. I have a concrete answer and I will get straight to it.

Generally, as you see, we are carrying out a whole package of measures to support people who have found themselves in an uneasy situation, to say nothing of those with children, and to support families with children. I will not list them all now but this package includes a broad range of measures.

But this is not about this set of measures only; what matters is that we want the government to always lend a shoulder in any form to [families with] children from their birth almost all the way until they graduate from school, should they end up stranded. We have just talked about one measure from this package. There are also measures to support women visiting a clinic in their early pregnancy, who happen to be in a difficult situation, and other measures – all until her child starts going to school, and also to single-parent families. Hopefully, you will also be able to take advantage of some of these tools.

As for the loans, there is a specific decision that was finalised yesterday: on the initiative of the United Russia party, some deputies, a law was passed, and I signed it yesterday, under which no payments, including those to repay loans, can be deducted from a person’s income if that leaves him with an amount below the minimum subsistence level. I believe this measure will protect people in your situation, which they can take advantage of. I strongly believe this is not all that can work to support you. I repeat again that we have a diversified package of measures to support families with children.

It is a very important thing I have just said. That is, from this moment, the banks have no right to withdraw money from a person’s account to repay loans they have issued to this person, if he or she is left with an amount below the minimum subsistence level.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Incidentally, we have also received messages like this regarding microloans.

Vladimir Putin: Right.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I suggest that we pick the Miscellaneous and Personal section, which is, perhaps, the most unpredictable and, potentially, the most exciting section.

We have an audio call.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us pick. Here it is, Starodub, Bryansk Region.

Alexander Ismailov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Alexander Ismailov: I am Alexander Ismailov from the town of Starodub, Bryansk Region. Here is my question: what dreams of yours will no longer come true?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Ismailov, I think every person, everyone literally – you and I, and these lovely young ladies sitting next to me, and everyone who is listening to us now – we all should think about the best to come, hope for the best, and this cannot but be part of a dream. I hope you have one too, and I have one as well. There must not be a place in life where a person has nothing to dream about or hope for. I think we need to think positively.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: That is, we can dream no matter what the dream is?

Vladimir Putin: Correct.

Nailya Asker-zade: Most importantly, one should not forget how to dream.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Right.

Vladimir Putin: You know, there is a popular belief that if…

Nailya Asker-zade: …if you really want something, it will come true.

Vladimir Putin: It will definitely come true; this is one thing. And you need to think positively, then good things will happen.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us hope that everything will be fine and COVID will eventually go away, because we are very tired of it.

Vladimir Putin: No, it will not go away by itself. We need to get vaccinated.

Nailya Asker-zade: We will definitely heed your advice.

Vladimir Putin: And you need to get revaccinated.

Nailya Asker-zade: Definitely. As we have already understood, it must be Sputnik and nothing else.

Vladimir Putin: Not necessarily.

Nailya Asker-zade: Well, if the President chose Sputnik, how can we choose anything different?

Vladimir Putin: No, no, this is not at all necessary.

Nailya Asker-zade: You are in good health.

Vladimir Putin: So what? You know, there is also, I repeat, EpiVacCorona that was developed by Vektor, which does not even cause a spike in temperature.

Nailya Asker-zade: Absolutely safe.

Vladimir Putin: All we do is absolutely safe.

Nailya Asker-zade: No reaction, correct.

Vladimir Putin: No reaction whatsoever. A person does not even feel they were vaccinated. This is important for some people, you know.

Nailya Asker-zade: We still have a section “Infrastructure and Housing and Utilities.”

There are many problematic inquiries, especially on gas infrastructure development. This has always been an urgent issue for the regions. Even after you announced the initiative on reducing the cost of utility connections, the number of questions has not decreased. Maybe, it has even increased.

Vladimir Putin: Sorry, not about reducing costs.

Nailya Asker-zade: Free pipeline miles.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, free miles.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us see what inquiries we have on this issue.

For example, we have Crimea, Karachayevo-Circassia and other regions. My computer is not obeying me. Who will win – technology or me. I do not know. We can choose.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We have many messages in different formats. Gas connection is here…

Vladimir Putin: Just press the “gas connection” button and that is it.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us see this one.

Svetlana Kultygina: Mr President,

Last year we asked you about gas connections, but we have not received a written answer. The regional Energy Ministry promised to reply but never did. Wood is very expensive and gas cylinders were banned. Can you tell us how to live, what to do? I am 70 and my husband is 74. Meanwhile, there are mayors’ summer houses near us and they have all the gas they need. What can we do?

Vladimir Putin: I understand this is the Sverdlovsk Region. If the mayor has gas at his summer house, the pipe main must be somewhere near, right? So, under the adopted decision, a gas pipe must be laid to your plot of land. This service must be free.

As for what to do next, this is a separate issue, how to arrange gas supply inside your land plot. Let us look closer at this later. You have their information, right?

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, of course, we have all the information.

I suggest moving to Karachayevo-Circassia.

Vladimir Putin: Just a second. Please, leave this information for me so I have it.

Nailya Asker-zade: Of course, we have all the information. This was the Sverdlovsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, we will do this in a way that ensures that these promises are honoured. Notably, the pipeline must be connected to their land plot free of charge. As for the facilities inside the land plot, we will deal with that separately.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: So, Karachayevo-Circassia?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: You are welcome, you are online, please, go ahead.

Roza Kappusheva: Hello!

Vladimir Putin: Hello, Roza.

Roza Kappusheva: I am addressing you with a request on behalf of the residents of the northern part of Ust-Jeguty town in the Karachayevo-Circassian Republic. I am asking for help with gas supply. The pipeline here is mere 200 metres away from us, but according to our estimates, each family has to pay about 200,000 rubles to get gas. Most families living here are young families with many children, and this is a lot of money for an ordinary family. I ask you to help us, to assist. Unfortunately, the local authorities respond to our requests by saying there is no money. We do not live in a mountainous village. The pipeline is very close. Can you please check on this?

Vladimir Putin: Is this a direct link?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Kappusheva, please, tell me. Do they want you to pay 200,000 for laying the gas pipe to your land lot?

Roza Kappusheva: No, this is the total of our expenses.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is probably the outstanding amount.

Vladimir Putin: We still need to figure out what sort of expenses they are. To lay the pipe or proceed with the work on your property, or what?

Nailya Asker-zade: It is probably a project and a tie-in.

Vladimir Putin: Wait, wait, we will get to the point.

Roza Kappusheva: The first thing is the permit, they demand money for that, too. Second – laying the pipe proper at the required distance.

Vladimir Putin: To lay the pipe to your property, right?

Roza Kappusheva: Right. And not just to my property; other people live further on. This district has gas distribution connections at some properties; however, many people do not have a gas line.

Vladimir Putin: Got it.

Ms Kappusheva, we will be figuring this out. I will talk to the head of the republic about this, but I want you and others to know that the pipe must be laid free of charge from the main pipeline to your property and that of the others.

Roza Kappusheva: But not everywhere.

Vladimir Putin: It must be done either at the expense of Gazprom or the companies in charge of gas distribution in your republic. It means it is free up to the property line, to the fence, as they say, whereas the owner pays for the line inside the property.

However, there are some ideas in this respect, too. I recently talked to some Government members about this. They should draft a single contract for all the work on the properties to be done according to a single plan with centralised purchasing which means lower prices. It means that everything concerning laying the pipe up to the fence, to your property, must be done for free, not for 200, 300 or even 100,000 rubles. In some places it might even cost a million. But this should never be your concern.

I assure you that I will definitely speak with the head of the republic about this.

Nailya Asker-zade: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Wait a second. Are you satisfied with the answer, Ms Kappusheva?

Roza Kappusheva: Yes. But we have a completely new district.

Vladimir Putin: So what?

Roza Kappusheva: And so there is a lot to do.

Vladimir Putin: This is clear. But that is another question.

Roza Kappusheva: As for gas, yes, of course. If it turns out this way, we will be grateful to you.

Vladimir Putin: Alright. Done.

Roza Kappusheva: It will be a miracle.

Vladimir Putin: I will make sure. Agreed then. Thank you.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: These are everyday issues.

Vladimir Putin: It is ok. Why not? These are people’s concerns.

Nailya Asker-zade: I would like to explain the situation, if I may.

After the law on the ”free mile“ came into force, the cost of the tie-in and the project increased two to three-fold in some regions. We have received similar messages, for example, from Crimea.

Vladimir Putin: This is not just a question of whether the law on this free mile is enforced, although it may not be a mile, it could be five metres or a kilometre or more. The question is that due to the rise in prices for some types of products, including those for metals, prices are simply rising – first. Second, people have to go to different companies, which really start to drive up the cost of these works. That is why I said that now the Government is considering the possibility of doing this under one contract, one agreement, and minimising costs.

Nailya Asker-zade: Why should the project cost increase – due to rising paper prices?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is an issue that should be given special attention. I completely agree with those who are talking about this. And I repeat, this is why the Government is now working on a standard-form contract so that there is no unjustified overpricing.

Nailya Asker-zade: The law on a free mile for gas pipelines did not apply to gardeners’ non-commercial partnerships, and there are a lot of those in the Moscow Region, we have received many requests. Here are some examples. Reutov: ”The last mile pipe, about 150 metres, costs 90,000 rubles.“ Next, Volgograd: “There is a private gas pipeline 15 metres away from my house, but the owner is demanding 300,000 rubles for gas connection. Help me deal with this.”

Vladimir Putin: As for gardeners’ non-commercial partnerships (SNT), indeed, what we have been talking about so far are only localities where people live permanently, and there are thousands of them in the Russian Federation. So, a decision was taken to make the last mile free for localities where people live permanently, at least at the first stage.

Nailya Asker-zade: In the Moscow Region, many people live [permanently] in such SNTs.

Vladimir Putin: Right, many people live like this, but today, at this stage, we are talking about people who officially live permanently, for a long time, in towns.

There are different gardeners’ partnerships, there are those that stand apart, and the problem is that their land is, let’s say, collective property. This gives rise to legal issues.

There are partnerships that are located within the boundaries of a town, which means that, roughly, a pipeline to the fence of this gardeners’ partnership inside a town should be laid free of charge, and everything behind the fence is seen as a single household because the land is collective property.

The many thousands of towns are included in the first stage of the joint project to make the last mile free. Gas must also be supplied to SNTs by 2024–2025. This is part of the national gas infrastructure development programme, which covers 77 constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Why not all constituent entities? Because some of them do not have centralised gas supply. The Gas Supply Programme of the Russian Federation will be carried out in the 77 regions that have centralised gas supply.

Let us wait and see how we follow through on this stage. You see, even here there are many questions regarding the last mile to individual households. Things need to be put straight. At least, we should implement it as a pilot project. Again, there are tens of thousands of households like the above. We will see what comes of it: if it works, and works as it should, we will, probably, take additional steps to address other issues as well.

Nailya Asker-zade: We are looking forward to it.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, people of all ages from all over the country are writing to us. Understandably, young people have many internet-related questions. We have such subtopics as Communications and the Internet and Internet Regulation. Let’s give our next question to Moscow. This is a direct video call. Let’s take it.

Vladimir Putin: Please go ahead.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: You are on the air.

Nikita Levinsky: Hello, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello, Nikita.

Nikita Levinsky: I am a blogger. My name is Nikita Levinsky. I have over 1 million followers on Instagram. My colleagues asked you this question in 2018 and later checked up on it, but the issue is so pressing for my colleagues and me that I would be remiss not to ask the question again. If there is an opportunity, I will take advantage of it. Should we expect foreign social media, websites or media hosting websites such as TikTok, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube and others to be blocked?

Vladimir Putin: No. We do not have any such plans. We are not going to block anyone. We are going to work with them. But the problem is that they tell us where to go and how to get there each time they fail to comply with our rules and laws. Nikita, you are a Russian citizen, are you not? You and I should have a sense of dignity, your colleagues, too.

Nikita Levinsky: I know what you are talking about.

Vladimir Putin: When they tell us, “You know, we will be working in your country, and if you do not like something, we will give you beads and you should be happy with those shiny objects.” This humiliates our dignity. If they work in our country and earn good money, they must abide by our laws. We are not asking them to do anything special.

So, as step one, and I hope step one will be enough, we insist and we want these international platforms to open their full-fledged representative offices in our country – legal entities with which we can at least maintain a dialogue.

We also tell them: “You are distributing child pornography or suicide instructions, or how to make Molotov cocktails, and so on – you must remove that content.” And they simply do not listen to us, they do not even want to hear what we are saying. This is wrong.

No self-respecting country around the world behaves this way. Everyone in Europe and even more so in Asia insists on a civilised approach to this kind of work, especially so since sometimes they are not behaving in a civilised manner in their own countries, either.

So, we understand that we are being heard and some of our colleagues are going to comply and open offices in Russia. If they do not comply, or if their offices do not abide by our rules and Russian law, then there are various technical methods, including slowing the speed and so forth. To reiterate, we have no plans to shut down anything.

What I would like is to see our respective companies also develop in this direction and provide creative and talented people like you and your fellow bloggers with an opportunity to express themselves on Russian social media and on similar platforms, to provide services to our citizens in a variety of areas and make our lives better.

Nikita Levinsky: Thank you.

Nailya Asker-zade: Many social media users have breathed a sigh of relief, probably including Nikita. Of course, it is better to look for mutually acceptable solutions and talk, rather than ban, as was the case with Telegram.

Let’s go to the Message Processing Centre.

Vladimir Putin: I think we reached an agreement with Telegram. It is operational, and everything is fine.

Nailya Asker-zade: Ok then.

Message Processing Centre. Tatyana Remezova, go ahead.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you very much, Nailya. I suggest moving from TikTok and Instagram to a more pressing issue – housing and utilities.

Mr President, we would like to show you billing statements we received from residents of Demyanka village in the Tyumen Region. Demyanka or the village of Demyanskoye. So a flat with an area of 70 square metres received a bill for 74,780 rubles. The flat next door – 60 square metres received a bill for 50,661 rubles for April. We have these payment demand orders. We are not inventing anything; these are the facts. We will try to connect with Demyanka residents, which sent us these documents. They should respond to our direct video call. Let us see: Housing and Utilities, Demyanka.

Good afternoon, you are on the air, the President hears you. Please go ahead.

Tarlan Tagirov: Hello, Mr President,

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon!

Tarlan Tagirov: I am Tarlan Tagirov and standing behind me are residents of Demyanka village, in particular, those who live in the building on 4 Pionerskaya Street and 15 Zheleznodorozhnaya Street. We were all moved to a new building under the programme to relocate people from dilapidated housing. We were beyond ourselves with joy, but our joy was spoiled by the following facts.

The first fact – we were relocated from dilapidated housing to new buildings for an additional payment of up to 330,000 rubles. This was contrary to the law and the Housing Code. However, we bought our flats. We were relocated last February and received our utility bills. They varied from 40,000 to 70,000 rubles. We approached many authorities and they gave us the same response: the rates are economically justified. We cannot get anywhere. We went to the prosecutor’s office, the governor’s executive office, district administration and the housing inspection on pricing policy, but we are not getting anywhere.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of residents in our building are pensioners. They receive pensions from 10,000 to 20,000 rubles. The utility bills run from 20,000 rubles and up. This is simply unrealistic. People have been put on the brink of survival. Such fees do not exist anywhere. We have to pay 333 rubles for a cubic metre of cold water. This fee is multiplied by 1.5 times, so there is a surcharge on this payment. When we lived in our old building, we paid 1,482 per gigacalorie for heating, whereas now the rate is 5,331 rubles, plus there is a surcharge of 50 percent.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Tagirov, I understand. There is one thing that I probably did not hear well enough. In the beginning, you said that you had to pay a fair amount of money during relocation. What for? I did not understand.

Tarlan Tagirov: I will be more precise, if I may.

Last September we were invited to the administration to submit applications for consent to be relocated from dilapidated housing. The application is written in no particular format expressing a residents’ consent to relocation. However, we were surprised to see that applications had already been written on our behalf with the following wording: “I ask you to withdraw my old apartment and provide a new one in return, taking into account the buy-out price,” which in itself implies an additional payment for relocation. Naturally, the residents refused to sign this application. Then, a week later we were summoned again by the head of the village administration. She persuaded the residents that there would be no cheating since there was heavy criminal prosecution and the administration would not dare it. The people believed her words and signed the applications. And this year, right before the relocation, we were billed up to 330,000 rubles in extra charges. The apartments had been evaluated according to market value without a reduction ratio.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Tagirov, I see a powerful support team behind you, like the one Yasha the Artilleryman had in The Wedding in Malinovka film. So the victory will be ours, do not doubt it.

First of all, I do not understand what sort of extra charges those are. It is nonsense, I don’t understand this, but I promise that we will sort it out. That is first. Second, the numbers you gave … Are you with us?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I think, he hears us on TV now.

Vladimir Putin: I hope you hear me. First, it is unclear what sort of extra charges they are. Second, the figures you gave me are mind-boggling, to put it mildly, both for water supply and the common meter. Water, if memory serves, costs on average 37 rubles per cubic metre, and two rubles per gigacalorie, although it might be more expensive in the Tyumen Region. This is on average, but again, it can cost more in Tyumen. But it is totally incomprehensible where the numbers you mentioned come from and the final payment result. One can imagine that the residential building was not completely settled, and then those tenants who moved in were obliged to pay for maintenance of the entire building. But I understand that you have all the flats settled. I promise you that we will definitely deal with this, at any rate we will find out what is going on.

You know, I really do understand from visiting the dilapidated buildings people live in, and of course, it is a great happiness when people move from these slums to normal housing. But this should not be accompanied by levies, but rather by support for the further operation of this building, and I think that it will be so in this case. We have the information, right?

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, we do. This is the Tyumen Region, village of Demyanka, We can contact him, Mr Tarlan Tagirov.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Tagirov, we will certainly sort this out.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest looking at what other problems there are in our housing and utilities sector.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s do this.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let’s watch a video address from Pskov.

(Playing a video address.)

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: This is a case when a video speaks louder than words.

Vladimir Putin: Yes. Is the author of this address on the line?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No.

Nailya Asker-zade: We can call him.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please do.

Nailya Asker-zade: We will do this later.

Colleagues, please try to get in touch with Pskov.

In the meantime, I will ask the next question.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Nailya Asker-zade: Why only the Far East has a curator among deputy prime ministers?

Vladimir Putin: Will we get back to the previous subject?

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, we certainly will. I promise.

Vladimir Putin: Ok.

As for the curators of some regions from among the Government leadership, we do indeed use this method for the Far East and the Arctic, and for the Sothern Federal District. We recently discussed this matter with the Government leadership. Overall, this practice is paying off.

We have agreed that the Prime Minister will submit proposals for the senior officials, deputy prime ministers, to oversee developments in some regions. I regard this as justified, especially because this method ensures closer contact with the regions concerned and a deeper and more sustainable insight into their problems. I hope that as a result of this practice the decisions made in the [federal] centre will be implemented more meaningfully and accurately and will have a greater effect for the territories.

Nailya Asker-zade: Does this mean that all current deputy prime ministers will also be made responsible for some other regions?

Vladimir Putin: Not “some other regions” but specially assigned regions.

Nailya Asker-zade: In addition to the Far East, will each region have a curator?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is what we have agreed to do. We will see how this system functions on a larger scale other than only in the Far East, the Arctic or the North Caucasus.

Nailya Asker-zade: We are still trying to get in touch with Pskov.

We are now moving on to the Message Processing Centre.

Vladimir Putin: Please, keep trying.

Nailya Asker-zade: I will keep my word.

Tatyana Remezova.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you.

I would like to say a few words about the good work our volunteers have already done during this Direct Line programme. For example, they have expedited the delivery of medications and food, helped a disabled person in the Saratov Region to get an electric wheelchair, cleared away landfills in the Rostov Region, and cut down a tree that was threatening people in a residential house in the Tver Region. But we have encountered a problem. When somebody calls Direct Line and local officials learn about this, that person starts getting calls with hints and even threats. One of such cases was reported by our volunteer, Regina Kireyeva.

Regina, tell us about it, please.

Regina Kireyeva: In her message, Yelena Kalinina, a resident of Novokuznetsk, requested assistance in repairing the roof of kindergarten-school No. 235 where her grandson Ratmir studied. The renovation was badly needed because children faced completely insanitary conditions.

Tatyana Remezova: By the way, we have a photo of this school and the roof, sent by Ms Kalinina. Will you please show the photos?

Regina Kireyeva: I then called the Department of Education and asked them to comment on the situation.However they could not believe that a Direct Line volunteer was calling them and declined to provide me with any information. Ms Kalinina called the Direct Line the next day and requested that her message be deleted because representatives of the Department of Education had phoned her and asked her to delete it. “Do you not feel sorry for the kindergarten director and your grandson?” they said, whatever that may mean.

Tatyana Remezova: This is very interesting wording:“Do you not feel sorry for your grandson?” What does her grandson have to do with all this? I believe that we should now try to contact Ms Kalinina and find out how she is now.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Tatyana Remezova: We will try and do it.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, let’s do it.

Tatyana Remezova: We go to the Regional Government section. Great, we have Ms Kalinina on the line.

Ms Kalinina, you are on air, and the President can hear you. Are you not afraid of speaking on Direct Line after all that has happened?

Yelena Kalinina: Good afternoon.

I am having trouble hearing you, I can hardly hear what you are saying.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let’s try to call her back later and go on to the next question now.

Vladimir Putin: Phone her right now.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let’s call Ms Kalinina back.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, she is standing there. Give her the phone.

Nailya Asker-zade: Ms Kalinina, we will try to call you back. It appears that there are some magnetic storms and communications problems.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, not.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We are focusing on the equipment but sometimes even the equipment fails.

Nailya Asker-zade: Right now, we suggest calling Pskov. Here is the call that we promised you. Yes, we are ready to air this call about water problems.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Kalinina, we will be right back.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Right now we have Pskov.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, give us Pskov.

Nailya Asker-zade: Good afternoon, Andrei. We saw your video. You have approached the matter creatively, indeed. Please tell us about your problems.

Andrei Tarasov: Hello, studio. Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Andrei Tarasov: Indeed, the problem is very unusual.

The fact is that under the Clean Water programme, which Pskov has been carrying out since 2003, and according to applicable regulations, our city, since it has over 200,000 people, is supposed to have additional water supply sources. Pskov has a second alternative for water from an underground water source with wells as deep as 70 metres or so. However, when the project was being implemented, no one thought about what would happen to this water when it is heated up.

This water from the underground source has good bacteriological indices, that is, there is no bacteria in it. It is fairly clean and meets sanitary standards, but it precipitates when heated. Heavy sediment has killed all new buildings in the area of this water intake. We have a building that is three years old, and the hot water supply in it has stopped. The same has happened to other buildings. For example, there is a block of flats in Okolnaya Street with polypropylene pipes which preclude rust. However, there is rust-like sediment. We clean it…

Most importantly, we began to discuss this problem with the municipal authorities, and everyone is saying: everything is up to code, everything is fine. Pskov Region Governor Mikhail Vedernikov stepped up and promised to help …

They are unable to find the money to build a water treatment plant because the water meets sanitary standards. As far as I know, they have contacted various authorities, but no one has allocated the money for this. We are now trying to find the money to install this water treatment plant as part of upgrading the water supply system. We appreciate your help with this.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Nailya Asker-zade: The quality of the call leaves much to be desired, but you understood the main question.

Vladimir Putin: I did. The problem is clear, Mr Tarasov. I understand that this is not an old system, it is new and modern. But unfortunately, the water quality gives rise to the processes that you mentioned.

Of course, this certainly requires additional financial resources. Look, a fairly large amount of money has been set aside for similar projects. We have set aside about 500 billion rubles for infrastructure projects, with 150 billion coming directly from the National Welfare Fund for housing and utilities, and another 150 billion coming through infrastructure securities and DOM.RF. These sources can be used to address these problems.

I understand that the money has been spent and it is difficult to return to this, but what can we do, things happen. People cannot live in such conditions. Therefore, I will instruct the Government, the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Utilities, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin and, of course, we will get in touch with the Governor. They will sit down and find a source of funding to resolve your issue, no doubt about it.

Andrei Tarasov: Mr President, a quick follow-up question, if I may.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Unfortunately, the connection is very poor.

Yelena Kalinina is standing by for your call again.

Nailya Asker-zade: From Novokuznetsk.

Ms Kalinina, can you hear us?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: While they are re-establishing the connection, Mr President, I would like to continue with the muddy water theme. We went through the entire mass of information. In fact, there are very many messages. There was Pskov, for example. The Penza Region: “A filthy liquid is coming from the taps instead of water. You can’t wash your face with it, let alone drink it.” What is more, people sent not just messages but also photographs like these. (Shows a photograph.) The Leningrad Region: “The water is either muddy or there is no water at all. I receive a tiny pension, but we have to buy water at the shop,” says Galina Smirnova.

Vladimir Putin: Look, I have already spoken about this, but I would like to reiterate: It is with all the problems of this kind in mind that a decision has been taken to allocate additional funds.

Everyone is aware of what is really happening in this sphere, but I will repeat: the local, municipal and regional authorities are seeking to avoid making decisions related to tariff hikes, because purchasing power has declined, particularly during the pandemic period, when the real incomes of many people dropped. Raising the tariffs, increasing the payments is a very hard decision, of course, and clearly it is difficult for people to endure all this. This is all clear. That is why the local authorities are restraining the growth of tariffs. Hence the underfunding of the sector itself, the delays in maintenance, failure to replace water pipes… It is very difficult to organise the investment process because it becomes unattractive. It is as simple as that.

It is for this reason that the decisions I have mentioned were made. We have allocated 150 billion rubles from the National Welfare Fund directly for housing and public utilities and another 150 billion – via DOM.RF, in total 500 billion for infrastructure. These are the sources that can and will be used to address problems of this sort. The only thing that the regions need to do is to prepare relevant proposals in good time, address the Government and defend their proposals, the documents should be properly drawn up.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Colleagues, let us go back to the Message Processing Centre. Natalya Yuryeva, please. I know you have an interesting story.

Natalya Yuryeva: In fact, we have very many enquiries regarding the emergency state of school buildings, complaints are coming from practically all over the country. I suggest we travel to the Far East and receive a video call from Ussuriysk, the village of Vozdvizhenka.

Hello, you are on air. Please introduce yourself and put your question to the President.

Natalya Tolmacheva: Hello, Mr President. We are chilled here and very nervous. Forgive me, please, I will read what I have to say because I am nervous.

Vladimir Putin: Please, Ms Tolmacheva.

Natalya Tolmacheva: At the end of the last academic year… Do you hear me?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, we can hear you well.

Natalya Tolmacheva: A wall collapsed in the old building of our school. The building is about half a century old. Of course, we have another building, but it is too small. It is crowded there, and we will have to study in two shifts.

Please help us build a new modern school.

The army left our town in 2009, and everything has gone down the drain. We have raw water and dilapidated housing – it is impossible to live there. Roads are another story, just like all over the country. We have no water treatment facilities, and our sewers spill out right outside the town.

In general, we are bogged down with problems, and we would like to ask for your assistance in drawing serious attention to us.

Vladimir Putin: All right. Ms Tolmacheva, as I see it, you really have many problems. We will certainly talk to the regional leaders about what needs to be done after the withdrawal of Defence Ministry units and what can be done in the near future. I understand you are worried about the condition of the school, right?

Natalya Tolmacheva: Yes, that is the main problem.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I see. This is why you are standing together with the kids there. Is that the school behind you?

Natalya Tolmacheva: Yes, that is the old building of our school.

Vladimir Putin: If a wall fell down, the school is obviously dilapidated.

Look, we have about 40,000 schools in the Russian Federation, and some of them are in bad condition. It will not be enough to bring them up to standards. We must build new schools, about 1,300 schools in all. If your school is dilapidated, you should have a new one.

About 60 percent of schools – we have about 40,000 schools – need current repairs and 10 percent major repairs. Funds have been allocated for all these projects, including for the construction of new schools and major repairs. The programme is practically ready and will be carried out. All the leaders of your region have to do is submit the relevant applications, and we will certainly help you.

Natalya Tolmacheva: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: You are welcome. I wish you all the best and a nice day to your kids.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I am being told that Yelena Kalinina is with us.

Vladimir Putin: Is she? Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Ms Kalinina, can you hear us?

Oh well, it looks like we will not be able to talk to Novokuznetsk.

Vladimir Putin: Perhaps your superiors do not want us to.

Nailya Asker-zade: The connection seems to get blocked.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: They are putting up all kinds of obstacles.

Yelena Kalinina: No, they do not want us to talk.

Vladimir Putin: Now I can hear you.

Go ahead.

Yelena Kalinina: Hello.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Yelena Kalinina: Here you go. Our kindergarten, our kindergarten-school No. 235 for children with special needs opened in 1982, or 40 years ago next year.

You see, we get absolutely no help. We recently opened an experimental class. My grandson was in it. He studied for two years with this class.

The kindergarten has a badly leaking roof. We have asked the authorities about it. We asked and begged. They promised, but nothing was done until I directly appealed to you.

Nailya Asker-zade: The connection is still very bad.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: But we got the gist of the problem.

Vladimir Putin: We got it.

Ms Kalinina, can you hear us?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I think Ms Kalinina will watch us on television when she gets a chance. I am sure all of Novokuznetsk is following this story.

Vladimir Putin: The problem with the school is clear.

Nailya Asker-zade: Would you like to clarify about the kindergarten?

Vladimir Putin: Apparently, the school and kindergarten are one facility. I got it.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, what would your comment be?

Vladimir Putin: What is happening to Ms Kalinina herself?

Nailya Asker-zade: She has been receiving threats.

Vladimir Putin: From who?

Nailya Asker-zade: Apparently, from the administration of this kindergarten. They told her she should not have reported this issue to the President.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: The Department of Education called her.

Vladimir Putin: This is the Kemerovo Region, right?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Novokuznetsk. She was threatened. They told her she would lose custody of her granddaughter.

Vladimir Putin: Custody of her granddaughter? Because she reported this problem to us?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Correct.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Kalinina, if you can hear us, please do not worry about custody of your granddaughter. There is no such problem anymore. Anyone who threatened you needs to worry about their own problems.

As concerns the school, I just answered a similar question. We have a budget of tens of billions of rubles for the construction and renovation of schools, both major repairs and maintenance.

Do you have any information on this school?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Of course.

Vladimir Putin: I will talk to the Governor. It is the Kemerovo Region, I think.

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, the Kemerovo Region. Their Governor is Sergei Tsivilev.

Vladimir Putin: (Addressing Sergei Tsivilev.) Mr Tsivilev, I am also asking you to address this issue and apply to the school renovation programme in due time. Since this school and kindergarten are one facility, it is only one job instead of two. And please make sure to deal with the authorities who are threatening the same people they are supposed to be serving.

I hope you will take timely and adequate decisions. Please report to me on the outcome.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Colleagues, we are going back to the Message Processing Centre. Natalya Yuryeva, please go ahead.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you.

We also have examples of how the problem was resolved even before our programme started. Malika Aliyeva from Maikop has asked you for help, Mr President, and I know that the volunteers managed to help her. Sirin Hamida talked to the girl and her mother.

Sirin, please share with us what was done to help Malika.

Sirin Hamida: Mr President, unfortunately, 13-year-old Malika lost her eyesight when she was just six. We were touched by her story and asked the Russian Popular Front for help. The Front activists teamed up with the volunteers and found sponsors who bought a Braille display for Malika.

Natalya Yuryeva: Mr President, Malika wondered whether it was possible to include these modern Russian developments on the list of technical rehabilitation equipment that the state provides free of charge.

Vladimir Putin: We have a list of the rehabilitation equipment for people with disabilities approved by the Government and the Healthcare Ministry. Moreover, there are plans, which are being implemented, for contactless electronic appeals, so that people do not only choose a particular device or a piece of rehabilitation equipment on their own, but also receive payment via the Treasury. This can certainly be done, and we will do so. I am sure that the Government members can hear me, including Deputy Prime Minister [Tatyana] Golikova and Healthcare Minister [Mikhail] Murashko. Please include Braille display on the list of such rehabilitation equipment.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we will continue with our screen, we have not used it for a while. The big topic is Social Policy, and the sub-topic is the Labour Market. There are also many calls and messages here. Let’s give the floor to the village of Abatskoye. This is a video message.

Svetlana Shtrakhova: Good afternoon, Mr President,

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Svetlana Shtrakhova: I am a resident of Abatskoye, a village in the Tyumen Region. My name is Svetlana Shtrakhova, and I am 51 years old.

For four years now, I have been unable to find a job. I asked the governor and other authorities to help, but no one wants to resolve the issue. When will there finally be jobs in Russia for everyone, young people and people of my age alike? Everyone is tired of unemployment-related problems.

Thank you. Goodbye.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Shtrakhova, of course, the labour market and employment is an issue of fundamental importance. When employed, people are not just busy; they feel they are needed and independent, and this is one of the most important areas that the state as a whole and municipal and regional leaders should address.

The Tyumen Region is one of our leading regions in terms of income levels and development rates; therefore, the Tyumen Region leaders should, of course, focus more on the problems you just mentioned.

Unfortunately, unemployment has increased in our country during the pandemic. Before we started fighting COVID, the total unemployment rate was 4.6–4.7 percent. Alas, it increased to over 6 percent at some point and is now around 5.9 percent, going down already.

The Government has a goal to get back up to the pre-crisis level of 4.6–4.7 percent. This trend is, fortunately, emerging now and we must do what we can to maintain it because, in the long run, it contributes to economic development and ensures that people have a decent income.

If you have not been able to find a job for a long time, it is even sadder because it is not directly related to COVID-19. Of course, the Tyumen Region, which receives proper funding from the federal budget and has rather good economic indicators, should address this issue more thoroughly. But I am certain that your Governor can hear us, and I hope that he will pay more attention to the town from which you are calling.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I am being told that the bad connection with Yelena Kalinina was not a coincidence. Apparently, there have been major DDoS-attacks on our digital systems which are still happening as we speak.

Nailya Asker-zade: Hackers.

Vladimir Putin: Are you kidding? Seriously?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes. Even hackers are watching us. That is good to know.

Nailya Asker-zade: The whole world talks about supposed Russian hackers when there are…

Vladimir Putin: Hackers from Kuzbass.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We will try to fix our systems shortly.

Nailya Asker-zade: Now let’s move on to cultural affairs, a topic which does not get enough attention. Here is a message we received: “I am a teacher of literature and I work in a village. Our people are not rich. My students could go to the regional centre but they simply have no money to buy theatre or museum tickets. Is there any way to help our students?”

Vladimir Putin: Who sent this?

Nailya Asker-zade: The woman did not introduce herself. She just sent this message.

Vladimir Putin: And she is a teacher?

Nailya Asker-zade: She teaches Russian and literature.

Vladimir Putin: We have a proposal that has been discussed by the Government for a few months. We want to name it Pushkin Card. It would be a way to distribute small funds among people aged 14 to 22 specifically for this purpose.

Students will be able to use the funds between September and December of this year and next year. Each card holder would receive 3,000 rubles for four months. Why 3,000? Because even if they want to go to the Bolshoi Theatre, they would still be able to do it. As far as I know, Bolshoi tickets are fairly pricy so this allowance could be spent at once. But in other cases, this money can be spent on concert tickets, museums, exhibitions and other cultural events. I really hope that young people will take advantage of this new opportunity and visit not only regional but national cultural venues as well.

I think this is important for young people. Many want…

Nailya Asker-zade: Of course, they want to do something with their free time.

Vladimir Putin: Not only that. Many want to learn more about our cultural heritage but they have to save a lot first. I hope that when it comes to culture, they will not have to save too much. Their expenses will be covered by the state.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, let us open the section Domestic Policy, and the sub-section Federal Power.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I hope nothing will prevent us from airing a call from Krasnodar.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Nikolai Dolzhenko: Mr President,

You came to power after Boris Yeltsin passed it on to you of his own free will. Is such a transfer of power possible today? Do you have a member of your team that you could transfer power to without any doubts?

Vladimir Putin: Mr Dolzhenko, look. Boris Yeltsin did not hand over this power to me. The point is that according to our law, our Fundamental Law, if the President resigns, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation becomes Acting President. I was the Prime Minister.

I will tell you straight, and there are no secrets here, this decision was preceded by other events. At one time, I was the Director of the Federal Security Service (FSS). When Boris Yeltsin offered me the position of Secretary of the Security Council, the organisation that coordinates the work of government agencies on behalf of the President at the political level, I had to choose a successor for the position of FSS Director, on the President’s instructions.

To my surprise, the people I offered this job to refused. Why? The situation in the country was very complicated and not everyone, in fact, very few, wanted to assume this responsibility. In addition, when Boris Yeltsin suggested I present myself in the polls in the future, I said: “Mr Yeltsin, I do not think I am ready for this.” He replied: “We will come back to that. Think it over.”

Eventually, Boris Yeltsin resigned and I became Acting President. However, in the final analysis, the decision of who is to head the Russian state rests with Russian citizens. They exercise this right of choice by direct secret ballot. This is the only way it can go.

As for who could lead the country, on the one hand, nature abhors a vacuum and nobody is irreplaceable. On the other hand, it is my responsibility to recommend people who might be qualified to run for the presidency. This is how it works in most countries in the world. I do not know of any exceptions. Naturally, the time will come when I hope I will be able to say that a certain person deserves to lead such a wonderful country as our Motherland – Russia.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Colleagues, we are handing it over to the Message Processing Centre again. We are aware that the pulse of the live broadcast and our Direct Line is beating literally at your centre. Please, the floor is yours.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you very much.

We have a rather interesting question about foreign, not domestic, policy. Mr President, let us watch a video addressed to you by Andrei Cheremisov from St Petersburg.

Andrei Cheremisov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Andrei. Not long ago, you met with US President Biden. The media told us that the meeting took place in a constructive manner, but almost immediately Russia was again threatened with all sorts of sanctions and restrictions brought about by either the “German patient” or God knows what else. By way of apology, they are saying that little depends on Biden, and supposedly he does not make all the decisions there. I have a question for you: why meet with President Biden if so little depends on him?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Cheremisov, much depends on the President of the United States, although that country has its own political system with checks and balances, but still a lot depends on him. You raised an important issue, but I believe it should be considered somewhat differently. It is not about whether things depend on the US President or not.

The matter is different. You know, there are children in a family that I am rather close with. There is a little child, who does not even talk yet, and he made a mess, so his mother told him firmly: “Never do that again. Switch on your head.” And at that very moment he did that motion with his finger, said “click” and switched on his head. Good job.

Conventional dads and moms in the United States, highly respected analysts, scientists and practical workers, even in the past, give advice to their political leaders and their political class that is in power in the broad sense of the word. What is this advice? They tell them the following: “Listen, the time when we were an absolute hegemon after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the period of the unipolar world is gone, and you must operate on the premise that the world is changing, and doing so rapidly.”

No matter what sanctions are being imposed on Russia, and no matter what they do to frighten us, Russia is nonetheless making progress. Its economic sovereignty is growing, its defence capability has reached a very high level, and, in many important parameters, it has surpassed many countries, in some respects, including the United States.

Asia is growing at a very fast pace. Look, in 1991 China’s GDP was 20 percent of the US GDP, but today, according to US sources –how much is it? – 120 percent. That is, China’s aggregate GDP has become higher in purchasing power parity than that of the United States. Trade between China and Europe exceeded trade between the United States and its main ally, united Europe.

You see, the world is radically changing. Our partners in the US realise that, on the one hand, and therefore there was this meeting in Geneva. On the other hand, they are trying as hard as they can to maintain their dominant position, and hence you get threats and further destructive behaviour with those military exercises, provocations and sanctions.

It does not depend on us; it depends on them. I really hope that an awareness that the world is changing and a rethinking of their own interests and priorities in this changing world will lead to a more attractive world order, and our relations with the United States will get back on track.

Nailya Asker-zade: Are we going to respond now? Will there be any response measures? We got a text message: “The US speaks about sanctions for crossing ‘red lines.’ Which sanction levers does Russia have to respond to US violations of our ‘red lines’?” asks Andrei Syutkin from Omsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: You know, first, we have not just adapted, our economy has adapted to this sanction pressure. It did us good in a way. These import substitution programmes, replacing imported equipment and technologies with domestically produced ones, gave a good boost to the development of high-tech production. It did us good, really. Not to mention agriculture, which saw a surge we could not even imagine before.

There are other positive things, too.

Nailya Asker-zade: The Mir payment system, for instance.

Vladimir Putin: The Mir payment system and the overall strengthening of the financial system. There are plusses in the fact that we are threatened, restrictions are imposed on our bonds and government loans. The overall debt decreased, the aggregate debt – and not just the sovereign debt, which was low anyway – but also the debt of the commercial sector went down. In general, it also has a certain plus, some positive sides.

But we are not going to take and will not take counter measures that would hurt us. For example, the Americans still fly into space using our engines. Our rocket engines are still being widely used to take US spaceships into orbit. We have been delivering them for a dozen years, why should we stop? To harm ourselves?

Or take another example: Boeing builds its planes from our titanium. I am not sure about the exact volumes but probably at least 50 percent of the planes. So what, should we close down titanium production in our country?

If they cross certain lines, we find asymmetrical responses which are pretty sensitive for our partners. Let me repeat: I hope the US will change this attitude not only towards us but also to many of their other partners.

By the way, do you think their traditional partners and even allies are happy that they are being spoken to arrogantly? Nobody likes that.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest moving forward. You mentioned the economy. Let us talk more about that.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us take a look at where we stand regarding salary payments. We have a direct video call from the Trans-Baikal Territory. Shall we?

Vladimir Putin: With pleasure.

Nailya Asker-zade: Mr Perfilyev, you are on the air.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Good afternoon, Mr President.

This appeal comes to you from the employees of…

Nailya Asker-zade: I am sorry, Mr Perfilyev, could you please turn off the television so that we can hear you better? Sorry, there are problems with the signal.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: If it is on and is near you, it can interfere.

Dmitry Perfilyev: No, there is no television here, I am using the app.

Nailya Asker-zade: Please, go ahead.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us call him back.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Perfilyev, we cannot hear you well.

Nailya Asker-zade: While we are restoring communication with Mr Perfilyev and the village of Mangut, let us see what is going on with our colleagues.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Perfilyev, wait, maybe you just need to speak a little slower and less loudly? Because I can hear you when you start talking, and then something happens and we lose the connection.

Nailya Asker-zade: Perhaps you can bring the telephone closer to your mouth?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, perhaps, not so loud, and slower.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Yes, Mr President, understood.

Nailya Asker-zade: Please go ahead; we can hear you well now.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Mr President, contrary to the list in Presidential Instructions No. 1180 dated July 2, 2019, at many regional agencies, including Zabaikalpozhspas, the salaries of firefighters have remained at minimum wage level, regardless of their position. Also, the regional firefighting team… (sound fails) <…> Mr. President, please [help resolve] these issues, low wages, and the lack of benefits. (sound fails) <…>

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, if I can clarify …

Nailya Asker-zade: I understand the problem is that the salaries remain at minimum wage level.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: The fact is these are municipal department firefighters; they are not Emergencies Ministry employees.

Vladimir Putin: Give us a moment, ladies. Mr Perfilyev and I will figure it out.

Mr Perfilyev, this is about increasing salaries, is it not?

Dmitry Perfilyev: It is.

Vladimir Putin: I have a question in this regard. Is your organisation part of the Emergencies Ministry, or is it a regional structure?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Zabaikalpozhspas is a regional structure.

Vladimir Putin: Is it regional? Not the Emergencies Ministry, right?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Not the Emergencies Ministry.

Vladimir Putin: Not the Emergencies Ministry, I see.

Can you hear me well?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Mr President, we hear you very well.

Vladimir Putin: Excellent.

Look, when we talked, and I spoke two years ago or last year about the need to raise salaries for the staff – not officers, but the staff of the Emergencies Ministry fire services, it was done.

They used to get 16, and now they get 32 and more, around 40,000 rubles, and a little more. They also have a problem because they began to fill the vacancies and the money allocated to them began to trickle away. In addition, they had to raise the salaries in the Arctic region. Nevertheless, we are keeping it under our control.

I take it and you have said that you are a regional structure.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Yes, exactly right.

Vladimir Putin: It means that at the regional level, in the majority of regions, when we raised the salaries for the Emergencies Ministry staff, salaries were also raised for their regional staff because otherwise the personnel migrate. I am sorry, what region are you from?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Trans-Baikal Territory.

Vladimir Putin: Clearly it depends on the fiscal capacity. Nevertheless, I will definitely speak to the governor, because, firstly, you have a hard and unsafe job, and it should be properly remunerated and marked. Secondly, there is another problem, which is personnel outflow. Ultimately the governor will not have the workers he needs, especially in the current situation when we, regretfully. are facing wildfire issues. I got it and I repeat: this lies within the governor’s authority, but we will certainly talk about that.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Thank you, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: It is too early to thank me. I hope there will be a response from the governor.

Nailya Asker-zade: Thank you very much, Mr Perfilyev.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Thank you and your colleagues, and as they say in such situations, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is currently putting out wildfires under very complicated conditions. This work is very important, not only economically but also in terms of protecting people’s interests.

Thank you very much. I will be sure to speak to the governor.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I am being told that our colleagues in the call centre have many messages about the trash reform following the environmental topic. Let us give the floor to Natalia Yuryeva.

Natalya Yuryeva: That is correct, colleagues. But I must say that our editorial office has already received almost 2,200,000 messages, and they include plenty of questions about the trash reform. Irina Politova, a volunteer, has been processing all the messages on this topic for almost two weeks.

Irina, how many questions have you studied altogether?

Irina Politova: Probably several thousand.

Natalya Yuryeva: That is, all the messages without exaggeration?

Irina Politova: All of them, but they keep coming up to this day.

Natalya Yuryeva: What worries our people most of all?

Irina Politova: I think the most outrageous problem is unfair fees for trash pickup. The majority of the regions calculate them based on the area of a flat rather than the number of people who live there. As a result, a lonely pensioner from a three-room flat pays more than his neighbours, a family with many children from a small flat.

Natalya Yuryeva: And he has less trash.

Irina Politova: Of course.

Another big problem in the regions is the absence of recycling plants. Landfills are packed; rubbish is flying around, burning, and people are suffocating.

Mr President, there is a collective address to you about this problem from the residents of Selenginsk.

Natalya Yuryeva: And I know that we have photos. Editors, could you please show them on air? It is a pity TV does not transmit smells. Otherwise, it would have been possible to feel the pain of these people.

Irina Politova: Yes, this is a huge problem in the Republic of Buryatia. We received a complaint from 71 people, including veterans of the Great Patriotic War and home-front workers. They are begging you to save their village from an environmental disaster. In the village of Vasilyevskoye, Tver Region, people have to travel three km to get rid of their trash in a neighbouring village because there is simply no dumpster in their own village.

Natalya Yuryeva: Mr President, people are also concerned about why trash is collected separately and then thrown into the same rubbish truck? Also, what can be done to compel the managing companies to stop subverting the trash reform?

Vladimir Putin: The trash reform requires a lot of work throughout the country. It is not the first time that we are addressing this problem, but, as you know, nobody has dealt with it seriously since the Soviet times. True, probably we did not have as much waste in the past as we do now, owing to the transition to a consumer society, as they say.

Now we produce 60 million tonnes of waste every year, and we are only taking the first steps towards resolving this problem. We have received the first investment for the separate collection of 10 million tonnes of trash and for the processing of three million tonnes. As you see, the remainder is huge.

In the years to come, we must build waste incineration plants, although there are certainly problems here, as well. I am aware of the fact that many local residents in the places where these plants are supposed to be built are anxious and have many questions. I want you to be mindful of the fact that no country around the world can do without this kind of waste disposal, and there are types of waste that can be destroyed only by fire. For example, our doctors in the red zones and clinics wear something that is known as a “spacesuit.” It is impossible to dispose of these without incinerating them.

So, in addition to separating trash and the early phases of recycling, we are beginning the practical implementation of these tasks with plans to build five plants. The government is considering the option to expand this programme, it will involve a lot of work, and there are many aspects to it. For example, some packaging manufacturers – and experts are telling us that 50 percent of what we send to the trash can is packaging, for example, cardboard, all kinds of paper – they decided that they could create processing capacity. Glass manufacturers believe that it makes more economic sense to pay a disposal fee, and the Government is now working to build corresponding relations with them in order to collect these funds and use them for recycling this type of waste.

I repeat, this is a major challenge, but we are not going to interrupt these efforts for a second. Of course, the most extreme cases require a prompt response, including the landfills you mentioned. We will try to make note of this for ourselves and respond accordingly in conjunction with the authorities.

But there are things that are absolutely unacceptable. I am talking about what was just said. When – and people are rightfully outraged by this – they make an effort to follow the recommendations of the authorities, separate their trash, and then all of it is dumped and mixed up in a lorry. This is, without a doubt, a lack of proper organisation by the respective operators, who need to be held accountable for their actions. In this case, without doubt, the prompt reaction of residents, public organisations and the Russian Popular Front is of great help.

To put it in a broader perspective, we – I want to return to this subject – will move on to have packaging manufacturers bear expanded responsibility. That is, once you produce the packaging, you will be held responsible for it until it is disposed of properly, either by directly disposing of the packaging, or by paying a certain amount to the state so that it can take care of it itself.

We will try to respond to the most outrageous cases if we have addresses and feedback.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we will continue.

Tatyana Remezova has the floor.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you, Yekaterina.

Ecology is not just trash processing, it also means clean water and clean air, of course. Omsk has become an anti-leader in this respect, an absolute anti-leader.

Here is just one of the messages: “We are forced to check the air outside the window before taking our child out for a walk,” writes Yevgenia Rogozina from Omsk. Nadeshda Kasatova urges the federal government to move to Omsk: “Let them breathe our odours.”

Let us try to connect Omsk to our live feed. We open Ecology, Environmental Pollution. I see we have a direct video call from Omsk.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Tatyana Remezova: Hello, you are on the air. The President can hear you.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Vladimir Lifantyev: Hello, Mr President. My name is Vladimir, I am calling from Omsk. Our question is indeed about ecology. In 2018, Omsk was included in the 12 cities – participants in the Ecology national project, the Clean Air federal project. But we have not seen any changes, and now it is June 30, 2021. Total emissions were to decrease by 20 percent as per your executive order, however, we were being poisoned with coal soot, formaldehyde or hydrogen chloride, and excess levels of these pollutants are still being recorded. We have very bad statistics regarding lung diseases, respiratory tract diseases and oncology. Mr President, we are calling on you for help today so that you can use your influence with the companies that are ignoring the May executive orders, and the overall system so that we can take a full breath and stop living in a gas chamber.

(Shouting together.) We are pleading!

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is a joint address.

Vladimir Putin: I hear you. Mr Lifantyev and all the others next to you – the adults and children – I have the following to say: I heard there was a suggestion to move the federal government to Omsk; you know, that would not resolve the issue. Moreover, I personally think that certain federal organisations should be moved to Siberia, at least our larger companies and their head offices, which operate in Siberia but pay most of their taxes, unfortunately, in Moscow. However, this is a separate issue.

Regarding the environment. Look, the situation became worse objectively over the decades, not as a result of actions by the Government of the Russian Federation or even new Russian authorities in the broad sense of the word. These enterprises, as you are aware yourselves, have been there for decades, and they are the polluters.

The biggest polluters are industrial companies. The second biggest polluter is the utility system, especially during the heating season if the primary fuel sources are coal or heating oil. And the third is transport.

Indeed, regarding Omsk, it was included in the 12 cities in a difficult situation. But a reduction [of emissions] up to 20 percent is to be in place by 2024, and I really hope that despite all the problems it will happen.

I am perfectly aware that living under such conditions is unfortunate; I understand this perfectly, however, this work is ongoing. Now I will tell you what the local and the central authorities have managed to do and in which areas.

There is more to it than just Omsk being included on the list of the 12 cities where this required reduction of 20 percent by 2024 has been scheduled. Specific actions are being taken. For example, as far as I know, there was a report out there recently – I am aware of the developments and I keep handy the information about what is going on in these 12 cities. Omsk, I believe, has four large landfills, correct?

Vladimir Lifantyev: Six large landfills, and five participants in the Clean Country programme. I could be off with my numbers.

Vladimir Putin: My documents show four large landfills.

The corresponding local and regional authorities can submit an application for action regarding these landfills. The Governor signed two applications. Unfortunately, there are still no applications for two landfills, and this is something that local and regional authorities should certainly focus on, and this work needs to be sped up.

The second thing is you have a large oil refinery operated by GazpromNeft, I believe, and there is a fairly large accumulation of sediment and slag. This matter is still being finalised with the company’s management. It is a powerful and good high-tech company, and they promise to recycle 50 percent of this landfill by 2023.

Why only 50? We need to proceed carefully so as not to stir up this landfill in such a way that it creates even more problems than we already have. But this work will be seen to the end.

Finally, public transport is one of the polluters, as I said earlier. There is some progress. It was decided to upgrade transport in the cities with an unfavourable environmental situation, and Omsk is one of those. We must give credit to the leadership of Omsk Region. The Omsk Region Government has prepared and defended this programme, and it was submitted to the Government, and we will start working on updating urban transport with an eye to reducing emissions.

Overall, the situation calls for taking more drastic action. For example, we are now moving to using the best available technology at our companies. But we can go beyond that. First, the number of Roshydromet stations needs to be increased, it is necessary to set up emissions measurement tools in spite of everything, even though industry officials, including regional officials, are telling us it will be expensive, and to respond accordingly to ongoing developments.

Rest assured that we will continue to work on this. I want to tell you, Mr Lifantyev, and everyone who is standing next to you, and all Omsk residents, that we will keep working on it.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Look, everyone is wearing masks.

Vladimir Putin: You are all wearing masks, which is great, yes.

Vladimir Lifantyev: May I have a quick word?

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Vladimir Lifantyev: It would be great if you could give the supervisory authorities a little more push, because there are enterprises in Omsk that have been ignoring Rosprirodnadzor requirements for nine years now. We have two chemical lakes in our municipality.

Vladimir Putin: I will definitely look at that. Let us agree that I have marked these issues. After all, it is not even about them having more authority. Most importantly, they should respond to these events in a timely manner. We will definitely take a look at what is going on there.

Vladimir Lifantyev: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: No, thank you for paying attention to this and keeping an eye on it, and I strongly hope that you will continue to do so, since public control in these matters is of critical importance.

Nailya Asker-zade: The next question. Mr President, we currently have flash flooding in Crimea, a heat wave in Moscow, and now wildfires in Siberia. “What is going on with the climate? Why has nature gone mad?” a TV viewer is asking you, for some reason.

Vladimir Putin: Where from?

Nailya Asker-zade: Unfortunately, it does not say here.

Vladimir Putin: There is much talk about this all over the world. This is one of the most urgent and most debated topics related to climate change and global warming. Many believe, with good reason, that it is connected primarily to human activity, to emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, mostly CO2.

Why is the situation so bad? Not because the climate changes periodically in different parts of the Earth but because some people believe that as the climate is changing in different areas and all over the planet, it will approach a dangerous limit, and if people add more, it will contribute to global warming, then irreversible processes may start which could bring our planet to Venus’s condition, where the surface temperature is around 500 degrees Celsius. This is what environmentalists are concerned about, as well those who warn us about these possible developments that are unfavourable for the entire world.

It may be right or wrong, but we must certainly do our best to minimise our contribution to the developments in the global sphere, including in the Universe in general. Because we are part of the Universe, and although we cannot influence what happens there, if there is something we can influence, we must do it.

Let me repeat, global change, global warming is happening in our country even faster than in many other regions of the world. Actually, not just in our country but along that latitude, including the Scandinavian countries. What consequences does this imply for us? There are apparently some advantages, however, but there are significant disadvantages. First, a part of our territory, about 70 percent, is situated in northern latitudes, and there are large areas of permafrost.

As a reminder, permafrost is frozen ground dozens or even hundreds of metres deep, and maybe even up to 1,000 metres in some places. We have towns and villages there as well as infrastructure, and if the permafrost should start to thaw, this would lead to grave social and economic consequences. Of course, we must be prepared for this. This is the first thing I want to say.

The second. Some areas might be overtaken by deserts, including those which are traditionally seen in Russia as land suitable for farming. This also needs to be considered.

We are carrying out all our obligations under international resolutions, including those under the Paris Agreements. Prior to that there were the Kyoto Agreements, and we were also a party to them. We have assumed serious obligations that, in some respects, are not only not inferior to those of the European Union, but even tougher when it comes to the amount of [carbon] emissions to be reduced. I have no doubt we will be doing all this.

Incidentally, this has an effect on the environment and involves the use of the latest modern technology, as well as efforts to ensure environmental safety. We will be doing this in 12 cities, including Omsk, and in other major localities – we will not tell you now how many there will be, it will depend on what is happening there to the environment.

We also have specific plans. For example, the Government has recently developed a plan for a response to more climate change, should it occur, for the most sensitive activities and industries, including residential development and road construction. Clearly, it is one thing to build a road in Krasnodar Territory and quite another in Yakutia; these are different situations which need different approaches and technology. The Government has just developed a response system for the 10 most important critical industries. We will be responding appropriately and contributing to international efforts; we will be doing more to tap our potential for the absorption of CO2 in the atmosphere. Our potential is huge and we will be boosting it. Incidentally, referring to the firefighters who spoke earlier – their role is great because the absorbing capacity of our forests, seas and our part of the ocean is extremely important and we must preserve it. Of course, in this sense their role is also great and what they are doing is very important. But we will be preparing for what inevitably may happen.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, with regard to the climate in international relations, people are asking about relations with our close neighbours. Let us give the floor to Balashikha.

Yerem Harutyunyan: Mr President,

I am Yerem Harutyunyan, an 11th grade student from Balashikha, outside Moscow.

Before I ask my question, I would like to once again emphasise the crucial role of the Russian Federation and yours personally in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to thank you for this.

Here is my question: can Russia guarantee Nagorno-Karabakh residents’ safety?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, Yerem, Russia has played a specfic role in resolving this very serious crisis.

No one is interested in seeing it continue: neither Azerbaijan, nor Armenia, let alone Nagorno-Karabakh residents, because the other side of the matter is that if we all live in peace and friendship, then we will create proper conditions for improving people’s lives, not only in terms of security, but also in the current circumstances. I mean normal lives for families, for economic and social development, which, of course, the Karabakh people need, because it is impossible to live thinking all the time that an armed conflict can reignite any time. We understand this very well. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan understand this as well.

Yes, there is a backlog of issues. There are issues related to rebuilding the infrastructure. There are issues related to demarcation of the border in order to carry out appropriate work on the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, especially in places where a border has never existed as such and was only an administrative border between the union republics.

We are now in the process of doing this. We have created a special trilateral group with Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. We will do our best to restore normal relations in the region. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh should be the beneficiaries of this work. I would like to think that this will be the case despite the difficulties that have been piling up for decades.

Nailya Asker-zade: Elections to the State Duma will be held in Russia in September. You addressed the congress of the United Russia party. Why are you supporting the party of power so consistently, and what is your opinion of the outgoing parliament’s performance?

Vladimir Putin: Let us begin with the outgoing parliament, and I will speak about the party of power later.

I believe that the parliament of the seventh convocation did not just work in a satisfactory manner but at the appropriate level. The results of this work were fully in keeping with the circumstances and the requirements set to Russia’s supreme representative and legislative body.

It is clear what I am referring to. I mean that for a long time, this past time, the deputies have been working in conditions of the pandemic. They had to continue working despite the threats and challenges, including to their lives and health. They had to gather in the voting hall and make decisions bearing on the most important spheres of the country’s development. They needed to provide assistance to people, to families, enterprises and entire economic sectors. If this had not been done, the situation in Russia would have been much more complicated. As you are aware, and nearly everyone supports this view, we covered the worst part of the road with losses, but not as dramatical as in many other countries, including thanks to the State Duma deputies from all factions, which I would like to emphasise. About 25 percent of the members of parliament caught the coronavirus, and four passed away. But the deputies continued working and doing their duty. I believe that they deserve respect and gratitude not only from me but also from the voters who will come to polling stations in September.

As for the party of power, everyone knows that life is not all about fun and giving away money. It is very easy and pleasant to throw money around, just like the sower on the famous painting. But the seeds will eventually run out, and it is not a fact that they will germinate. Therefore, decisions must be made with a clear vision, as people say, professionally and with a sense of responsibility for the decisions made.

I would like to say once again that a vast number of decisions were made in the 1990s just to please the public, and these decisions were made by those who knew that they could not be implemented. What is this? This is deceiving the voters, deceiving our citizens so as to present oneself as the defender of the people and later to shift the blame for failure to implement these decisions onto someone else. As I said, they usually knew in advance that their decisions could not be implemented.

This is not how United Russia is acting, even when we adopt unpopular decisions that are necessary for the people and the future of the country. United Russia deputies do so, even if it can damage them. Because it is sometimes impossible to explain some decisions in detail, even though they are necessary. As I said, we need to do this. But all of this, the work of United Russia is creating a solid foundation of the Russian statehood in terms of the guaranteed adoption of the decisions the country needs. This is why, and also because I was the founder, the creator of this party, it is logical that I support it. Ultimately, this conversation and my answer to your question show that I intend to support the party during its election campaign.

Nailya Asker-zade: Thank you.

Let us go to the Message Processing Centre and ask our colleagues if they are getting bored. How is it going, girls, Tatyana?

Tatyana Remezova: No, Nailya, we are not bored at all. We receive very many questions when the President goes on air. You understand how rapidly the number of requests increases when people see that this is live streaming, real-time communication with the President.

Mr President, the European football championship is underway. You mentioned it at the beginning, but people continue asking questions. Here is one of them: “Mr President, the Russian national team has not gotten out of the group at EURO 2020. Some time ago, our hockey team tumbled out of the world championship in the quarter-finals. What is your personal view of this embarrassment? Russia, which has a population of 147 million, must show different results. Thank you.” This question came from Svetlana Tokareva in Lipetsk.

Vladimir Putin: This is what sport is like. There can be triumphs, and there can be losses and failures. But it is a fact that our hockey team, not to mention the football team, did badly, and this cannot go unnoticed.

I will not go into detail now; we have specialists for that. Although I am a master of two sports, sambo and judo, I do not consider myself a specialist in hockey or football, and so we must trust the specialists. But in such cases, as they say, “nothing personal,” this can happen to anyone.

But we simply need to think about what positive things have been done by those who are responsible for the performance of our national teams, we must put our heads together to think what must be changed when it comes to both hockey and football players, and move on, without crying over spilt milk but hoping for the best.

We certainly have a good potential.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, sport can be recreational for some people. But many others believe that recreation means traveling. Maybe many of those who are watching us now do not want to sit in front of their television sets but would rather go to the seaside or a health resort. Of course, COVID has closed the borders one way or another. On the other hand, many people have discovered their own country, and more than that.

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, they have also discovered problems, because prices in Crimea, Sochi and on Lake Baikal are sometimes higher than abroad, while the quality of services is below foreign standards.

I suggest taking up the issue of tourism, in particular, internal tourism. Shall we take a question from Kirov? What does this girl want to ask?

Good afternoon, Alyona. You are on air.

Alyona Maslennikova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Alyona Maslennikova: Mr President, please tell me why is it more expensive to spend a vacation at a Russian resort than abroad? For instance, for 35,000–40,000 rubles, we can fly to Turkey on an all-inclusive tour. It will include a four-star hotel, three meals a day, picturesque views, and the clearest sea. In Sochi, for the same amount of money, you will get a three-star hotel, with only breakfasts included, and the sea will be so unclean that it can give you various infections. Many holidaymakers complain about illnesses after visiting the Black Sea coast. I think this is why Russian tourists do not want to visit the Russian south, especially if they have been abroad and can see the difference for themselves. Even if they cannot visit Turkey, they will stay away from Russia’s overpriced southern resorts.

Vladimir Putin: What can I say, Alyona? The answer is out in the open. Unfortunately, very little money has been invested in the development of our tourist capacities and infrastructure for a very long time. People preferred to travel abroad as soon as this opportunity was available to them.

Tourism export is huge in Russia; in 2019 alone, our tourists spent $36 billion on travelling abroad. It is a huge sum. The state, unfortunately, did not invest.

We have a programme designed to develop domestic tourism, there is a cashback project for tourists, and there is the task of developing the tourist infrastructure. We have recently created a state corporation for domestic tourism. It will be responsible for tourist projects and provide cheap loans with the possibility of later transfering its share to private entrepreneurs at market prices. The first steps have already been taken and domestic tourism is growing.

As for overpriced services, yes, it seems to be relevant. But why is this happening today? Most foreign countries, despite the fact that some of them are opening, are still closed. People are cautious about travelling abroad. In fact, they are right because these countries keep changing their rules every day. Greece yesterday had certain rules and tomorrow they will change. First, they required vaccination certificates, now they want PCR tests, and tomorrow they will want something else because the European Commission also has its own requirements. It is impossible to get to a hospital there. What is this going to lead to? It will lead to an excessive load on our tourist infrastructure, above all, in the south, in Krasnodar Territory and Crimea. As soon as supply cannot keep up with demand, prices tend to rise. It is how market economy works.

I strongly hope that we will increase our capacities, including in the ways I have mentioned; 50 projects are already being considered and we are going to increase this number.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us proceed.

Mr President, a question from Miscellaneous and Personal, one of my favourites.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is about recreation again.

“Mr President, do you sing when you are not working? If so, which songs do you sing?”

Vladimir Putin: (Laughs) Yes, it is about recreation again.

First of all, I have little time for recreation, and second, as we say, when people are winding down, they get together, and then they have a drink, and if they do they also sing. I am a Russian, after all, and so I am not much different from the majority of our people in this sense. What songs? I sing Russian, Soviet songs. They are melodic, beautiful and meaningful.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us go to the Message Processing Centre.

Natalya, can you hear me?

Natalya Yuryeva: Yes, thank you. I believe that those who have sent us the following questions would definitely sing The Roads. The majority of text messages include photographs of roads, or rather their absence.

For example, if we take a look at the image we received from the village of Alekseyevka in Smolensk Region, we will be unable to see either a bridge or a road. They are there, but they have been flooded.

And this is the road leading to School No. 39 in Taganrog.

The residents of Nizhnekamsk have measured the depth of the potholes in their roads: 25 centimetres.

Let us watch a video address not from Venice, but from Lesosibirsk. Its roads have become canals or even rivers.

Natalya Prokopyeva: Good afternoon.

Mr President,

I am addressing you on behalf of the residents of Borovoi district of Lesosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory. We are asking you to help us resolve this problem.

This is the road running through our area. When the road across the railway line was repaired last year, the water drain pipe was not laid correctly. Now water is not being drained, but is rising with every passing day. This is how vehicles drive on this road, at their own risk and peril.

We have appealed to the city administration several times, but we have not yet received a single reply regarding our problem. We are asking you to help us.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Prokopyeva, we know about the problem with roads; we are constantly hearing about it.

What can I tell you and the other people who come across similar problems, because many people in the country, in various regions are listening to us? Our roads are divided into several categories: federal roads, regional roads and local roads. We have about 60,000 kilometres of federal roads, if memory serves, and over 500,000 kilometres of regional roads. There are about a million kilometres of local roads.

With regard to federal motorways, during the first phase, the state engaged precisely with these, because these are the main motorways that are used for hauling goods and transporting people; they form the backbone of the entire network. About 85 percent of them have been brought up to code. By 2024, 50 percent of the regional motorways must be brought up to code as well, and then up to 80–85 percent of the regional motorways must be brought to code.

Different approaches are being used, including full cycle, where they build and then do the roadworks themselves. In your particular case, you should have done just that, so that, as part of the full cycle project, those who built this road also do the maintenance. Meaning that they built it, so let them get on and do the maintenance at their own expense. Clearly, this is an oversight on behalf of those who built this road.

I will definitely have a word with Governor Alexander Uss and we will see what can be done about it. The funds are available. I am confident the region has funds as well. If needed, we will, of course, tap into the federal funds, but we will resolve your issue.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, the question that came to our website from Natalia Skarynina from Chelyabinsk is also about infrastructure: “Use your influence to improve the mass transit situation in our city. The metro has remained an unfinished construction project since the Soviet times.”

Vladimir Putin: Well, yes.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “So many years have gone by without them doing anything about it, we hear nothing but promises. We are not just a village, but a city with a million-plus residents.”

Vladimir Putin: Well, yes. Is Ms Skarynina listening?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We received this message on the website.

Vladimir Putin: This is a well-known story. Indeed, this is unfinished construction, a legacy of Soviet times. It is not the only city of this size to face this kind of a problem. Krasnoyarsk, which I just mentioned, has the same problem.

Deputy Prime Minister Khusnullin traveled to Chelyabinsk on my instruction to get acquainted with the situation there. He reported to me that the issue had been worked through. It should be a hybrid transport service, a cross between the metro and the tram. The central parts, where it is more convenient, should be serviced by the underground lines. These should then come to the surface as the transit lines move away from the centre. It will cost over 40 billion rubles. We have the money to cover this construction not only in Chelyabinsk, but other cities facing the same problem as well.

To reiterate, these funds will be allocated for the infrastructure projects. The amount of funds is quite large at 500 billion rubles. Matters of this kind, including the one in Chelyabinsk, have not only been taken into consideration. The approximate scope of work is quite clear, we have the resources, and all we need to do is start this work just like we did in other cities facing the same issues.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we move on to the Economy. You have announced the extension of the easy-term mortgage lending programme. It will continue in a slightly adjusted form. Do you think this programme has increased housing prices and, thus, the investment effort benefitted the construction rather than the buyers?

Let me give you an example. Last year, prices in new blocks of flats rose by 12 percent. In Krasnodar Territory, the price of 1 square metre has increased by 53 percent this year alone. We received a message from Belgorod: a flat cost 1.5 million, now it costs 3.5 million. Of course, there were other reasons that affected the housing prices, but do you not think that the mortgage lending terms also had a role to play in this?

Vladimir Putin: Then, I want to counter: would it be better not to have done this? By the way, I myself drew attention to this at a Government meeting, it can be easily verified. I just said that we must keep in mind that when we introduce these preferential mechanisms, we must ensure that the market, in this case the construction market, takes them in a proper way so that they do not lead to a price rise. Unfortunately, this is to a certain extent unavoidable since it is based on supply and demand.

Still, these are easy-term loans, despite an increase in prices, which is there, indeed, it is true (although the causes may differ and include the rise in metal prices, other things and inflation, in general). Nevertheless, this easy-term mortgage lending programme played its positive role: housing construction rates and the number of loans increased sharply. More than 500,000 people used this programme. Therefore, we decided to extend it. It will now be 7 percent, not 6.5 percent, for the next year until the summer of 2022, I believe.

Nailya Asker-zade: The amount has changed too.

Vladimir Putin: The amount has been changed. In any case, this programme has been preserved, that is what matters most. Again, they raised it a little, by half of a percentage point.

At the same time, we have retained the benefits associated with providing and helping families with children. The initial benefit was for families with two children, and more recently we decided to extend this benefit to families (at 6 percent) where a child was born in the period since January 2018, the first child. Therefore, I hope that expanded benefits will still be beneficial and the people will be able to take advantage of them.

In the Russian Far East, a certain group of our citizens have access to super-easy mortgage loans at 2 percent APR. Therefore, it is necessary, of course, to increase market supply and to monitor the prices of building materials and other products.

There are also problems associated with labour shortages. During the pandemic, we limited access for labour from the former republics of the Soviet Union, including Central Asia, which also affected the cost of housing, no matter how strange it may seem to someone. But we will continue this work.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, what do you think about this, as you put it, counter hit? A text message asks: Who is the President subordinate to?

Vladimir Putin: To the Russian people, to the voters.

When people come to vote, they make their choice at every level – local, regional or national. And in this case, of course, the President, the head of state obeys the people who have given him their special trust.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we choose one question on the wall. For example, the Defence and Security category. Let us see, Fighting Crime.

I can see that we have a direct video call from Moscow. Shall we try it?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Nailya Asker-zade: Hello, please speak up, you are on live.

Rinat Bilyalov: Hello, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Rinat Bilyalov: My question is rather short.

Today, swindlers are offering fake vaccination certificates or vaccination contraindication certificates. How are you planning to deal with these swindlers?

Vladimir Putin: They are swindlers, pure and simple.

There are Criminal Code articles punishing swindling.

It is just that the law enforcers need to work more efficiently.

They know about this, and so does the Interior Minister. I talked to him about this quite recently. They are working, of course, and they are looking for them. Hopefully they will bring them to justice. This is a very dangerous type of crime. In this case it is also linked to people’s health. It is absolutely unacceptable and the law enforcers should use the entire arsenal at their disposal in order to prevent these offences.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: People in Moscow have been using QR codes to visit cafes for several days now. And, of course, these swindlers are in ever growing demand.

Vladimir Putin: Right, right. The Interior Ministry is aware of this and intends to fight it.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we go back to the vaccination theme, if in a different context: “Please supply an anti-COVID vaccine to the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic. Thank you very much in advance.” This is a message from Vasily Kuprinenko.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is a matter requiring careful consideration. I think several thousand – some 90 thousand – doses of vaccine have been supplied already. But I hear you. An additional shipment will be made.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we have been working for over three hours now, or maybe even more. Let us move over to the blitz Q&A: short questions and short answers.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Nailya Asker-zade: “Do you keep up your foreign language skills? If so, what mistakes do you make most often in German?”

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No mistakes?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, I make mistakes; after all, it is not my native tongue. But the main problem is that I am gradually forgetting words. You see, language is like a musical instrument: you must practice every day to keep up a certain level. Regrettably, I do not have this opportunity now. And my vocabulary is gradually decreasing.

Nailya Asker-zade: What about English?

Vladimir Putin: The same, only worse.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Mr President, which of your school teachers do you remember best?”

Vladimir Putin: Tamara Chizhova; I still remember her. She was my teacher from first to fourth grade. She was very kind. I remember her to this day. Vera Gurevich, my teacher from fifth to eighth grade. I still keep in touch with her.

Nailya Asker-zade: “What was the best period in the history of our country?”

Vladimir Putin: There were many glorious periods in the history of Russia, even back before Peter the Great, who implemented major reforms, which changed the country. The reign of Catherine the Great was a period of our largest territorial acquisitions. And during the reign of Alexander I Russia became a superpower, as we say now. It is an obvious fact. Therefore, we can and must study all these eras and also many other periods. We must remember this, revere the memory of those who achieved these outstanding results, and try to measure up to their examples.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Mr President, who starches up your shirt collars and irons your shirts?” A question from Moscow.

Vladimir Putin: You see, there is a dry cleaners’ where I live, in Ogaryovo, and it really is…

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: …the best? By the way, this is paid promotion. (Laughter)

Vladimir Putin: I do not know how to describe it. But the people who work there, women… Thank you for this question. Why? Because you have given me an opportunity to thank them, express my gratitude to them. I see them very rarely, but I always admire the results of their work. I am not being ironic. When I put these shirts on, they look brand new to me, right off the shelf. Thank you very much. Of course, you must look your best, just like our moderators, at such events as we are having today, when millions of people are watching us.

Nailya Asker-zade: “Mr President, how do you cope with adversity?”

Vladimir Putin: Do you know what I am used to and how I feel about it? First, any adversity should be taken as something inevitable, because people in my position should operate on the premise that this is an absolutely natural part of what I do. Most importantly, one should believe in the correctness of the course that one is following. In that case, like an icebreaker, one can go through ice of any thickness, fully aware of what is going on around you, but not paying much attention to it and striving to achieve the goal that one has set for oneself.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Is your main achievement as President of Russia still ahead or already behind?”

Vladimir Putin: I hope it lies ahead.

Nailya Asker-zade: “You have quoted Mowgli and Twelve Chairs more than once. What are the three works of art that impressed you and influenced you the most?”

Vladimir Putin: Let us say it is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto for piano and orchestra, and Kolobok [Russian fairy tale].

Why? I want all my colleagues in high offices to pay attention to this story. Why? Because as soon as you, my dear colleagues, begin to take flattery for the truth and sink into this atmosphere under the influence of what they are telling you, you risk being eaten.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Mr. President, what does one need to be happy?”

Vladimir Putin: First … Right, I will try to be brief.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No, this is a serious question, we still have time.

Nailya Asker-zade: This is a philosophical question.

Vladimir Putin: It is. I think that to be happy, you need to feel needed and to be able to fulfill your potential.

Nailya Asker-zade: “Where will you work after you retire?”

Vladimir Putin: Why work after retirement? I will sit near a woodstove and relax.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: ”How do you feel about diets?“

Vladimir Putin: Diets? You know, I have a rule of thumb – you can call it a diet, if you like: everything is good in moderation.

Nailya Asker-zade: Not only in eating.

“What games did you like to play when you were little?”

Vladimir Putin: I am tempted to say chess, but, unfortunately, it was not chess.

Nailya Asker-zade: The game, Cops and Robbers?

Vladimir Putin: Just like everyone else did, probably, in the then Leningrad backyards: hide-and-seek and tag.

Nailya Asker-zade: Here comes the last question: what kind of Russia do you dream about to pass on to the next generation?

Vladimir Putin: A question that I would like to answer with beautiful and colourful catchwords, and I do have them. But in this particular case I would like to give a more detailed answer, if I may. May I?

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, of course, we still have time.

Vladimir Putin: You know, I will begin with something sad, namely, once upon a time our common homeland, the Soviet Union, disintegrated. The nucleus of that common state, of that historical Russia, namely the Russian Federation itself, is known to have lost almost half of its industrial potential, half of its economy – nearly 50 percent – approximately the same percentage of its population and a considerable part of its territory, a part that was important in the industrial and economic respects, a territory with a well-developed infrastructure, in which historical Russia had invested its resources not only for decades, but also for centuries.

And what has to be done about all this? I have already commented on that: it makes no sense to restore the Soviet Union. It is impossible and senseless for a number of reasons, and is also inexpedient, if we keep in mind, say, the demographic processes in certain republics of the former Soviet Union. Otherwise we may face insoluble social problems and even the erosion of the state-forming ethnic nucleus.

So, what should we do in Russia proper? How should we approach the geopolitical realities and domestic development? Look, despite the losses I have mentioned, Russia is still the biggest country in the world in terms of territory. And even though much of its territory lies in the northern latitudes, nevertheless, this is also important, keeping in mind the Northern Sea Route and much else. This is my first point.

Second, Russia is, without any doubt, a world treasure trove of various mineral resources, and this can and must be used cleverly. This too is a huge competitive advantage for us.

But our chief gold reserve is not even the $600-odd billion that has been accumulated by our Gobsecks at the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. Russia’s chief gold reserve is its people. This is not mere rhetoric, nor a statement intended to ingratiate myself with others. I am sincerely convinced that this is really so.

After all, our people, the multiethnic population of Russia, are, firstly, highly spiritual and possess deep historical and cultural roots. This is always important, but in the modern world – I will explain why right away – this is important doubly and triply so. This is emerging as some almost tangible and even economic substance. And the following is the reason why. The world of today is based on high technologies that constitute the future of the entire world, including this country. If so, this deep-down principle, the innate spirituality of the Russians and other ethnic groups of the Russian Federation is highly important because at heart we nurture a considerable respectful attitude towards science and education. This has to do with our culture.

Today, 60 percent of parents in our country would like their children to take up science, even though you cannot earn as much in this sphere as in business, but they nevertheless want their children to become scientists. It is very telling.

The future of humankind is connected with this: with genetics, biology in the broad sense of the word, information technology, artificial intelligence and everything else at the junction of these disciplines. And we have huge competitive advantages there. If we ensure internal stability, which external forces have always been trying to disrupt, if we attain this internal stability our success will be inevitable. And we will be able to say proudly and with good reason that we live in a state that is domestically an attractive place to live in, and we will have reason to say that we live in a country which we consider great. In my opinion, this is very important. This inner feeling of our citizens and inner attitude to Russia is important and, in itself, is a vital guarantee that Russia will definitely attain all the goals it sets for itself.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, thank you very much for this long and substantive conversation.

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us believe that this is how it will be in our country.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I would like to thank our colleagues, Natalya Yuryeva and Tatyana Remezova, who worked with the volunteers. Our special thanks go to the volunteers, who received a huge number of questions. We would not have succeeded without you.

Vladimir Putin: For my part, I would like to thank our listeners and viewers, and the participants of our discussion and meeting today.

I would like to assure you once again and say what I said at the beginning: we will try to make sure that not a single question goes unnoticed, even if we could not discuss it during this conversation.

I would like once again to thank the moderators for their coordinated work today. Thank you.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Thank you.

Nailya Asker-zade: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

 

Read more:

https://www.voltairenet.org/article213578.html

 

 

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NSA vs carlson...

Fox News host Tucker Carlson says NSA spies tried to paint him as ‘traitor’ for seeking interview with PUTIN

 

The story of NSA spying on cable host Tucker Carlson may have turned a shade of Russiagate, as the Fox pundit said the alleged surveillance followed efforts to set up an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Carlson took to his show on Wednesday night to confirm an Axios report published hours earlier, which stated that he had reached out to “US-based Kremlin intermediaries” about an interview with the Russian leader. While the story stopped short of substantiating Carlson’s charges of NSA spying, it claimed that “US government officials” had learned of his plans for the interview, citing anonymous “sources familiar with the conversations.”

“Late this spring I contacted a couple of people I thought could help get us an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I told nobody I was doing this other than my executive producer,” Carlson said.

 

Read more:

https://www.rt.com/usa/528650-nsa-spied-tucker-putin-interview/

 

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