Dec 17, 2020

Vladimir Putin Annual Press Conference Transcript 2020

Vladimir Putin Annual News Conference in Moscow 2020
RevBlogTranscriptsVladimir Putin Annual Press Conference Transcript 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual news conference from Moscow on December 17, 2020. Read the full transcript of the press conference here (English translated version).

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Dmitry Peskov: (09:51)
Well, since there’s no one around, I’ll take off the mask, but I urge everyone to keep their mask on. So, let’s do a roll call in a way just to make sure that everything looks fine. Vladivostok. Do we have Vladivostok online?

Speaker 1: (10:08)
Yes. We are ready. As you can see, reporters are here. It’s late afternoon here, but we are upbeat. We hope to be able to ask our question to the country’s president.

Dmitry Peskov: (10:29)
Yeah. It’s a long event. Thank you for staying so late. Novosibirsk?

Speaker 2: (10:36)
Indeed, we have Novosibirsk here. I am at a distance from my colleague, so will take my mask off. We are four hours away from Moscow in terms of the time zone. So just want you to give us a chance to ask a question more often.

Dmitry Peskov: (11:00)
Yekaterinburg, are you online?

Speaker 3: (11:05)
Yes. I’ll show you around. It’s a light room. Here are the media professionals ready to ask any question, so don’t forget about us.

Dmitry Peskov: (11:17)
Okay. Nizhny Novgorod?

Speaker 4: (11:21)
Yes, Mr. Peskov. We are online. We are all at a safe distance. We are ready to ask questions.

Dmitry Peskov: (11:31)
So just waiting for the press conference to begin. Rostov-on-Don on Russia South?

Speaker 5: (11:40)
Yes. Masks are off. Welcome to the Southern federal district. It’s called the breadbasket of the country. We haven’t got a chance to rest. We’ve been waiting for this conference for a long time, done without water.

Dmitry Peskov: (12:02)
Okay. We’ll look into that. St. Petersburg, what about you?

Speaker 6: (12:06)
Well, we had an incident actually. I wanted to know every journalist by the face, but everyone came in a masks, so I wouldn’t be able to recognize them, but we will definitely keep all the hygiene rules. We have vast room, as you can see, and so many journalists here.

Dmitry Peskov: (12:30)
Yeah. So just to remind everyone, those who wear thin masks, one time masks, you need to change them every two hours. Yes, Stavropol?

Speaker 7: (12:50)
I’ll take my mask off too. We can hear you well. Unlike most of colleagues, we are not the capitol of the federal district. Pyatigorsk is the capitol of our federal district. We have a big room. Media professionals are ready.

Dmitry Peskov: (13:21)
What about Tula, the central federal district?

Speaker 8: (13:26)
Moscow colleagues, that’s the gingerbread mask. We’re in the heart of this historical city. We have quite a lot of media professionals. We are ready to ask questions. We have a lot of them. We hope you can invite us to ask questions.

Dmitry Peskov: (13:56)
And Novo-Ogaryovo, are you there? Are you ready? Okay. Waiting for the president to join this press conference. Once again, we’re all happy to see you. It’s quite unpredictable. It could be between three to four hours. It’s more difficult to work via video conference link. Could you show us the call center please? It’s a very important place. It’s the call center that receives the calls and text messages from our people.

Speaker 9: (15:04)
We are extremely busy. Busy like a beehive. We have the volunteers of the All-Russian National Front working on these messages.

Dmitry Peskov: (15:16)
Okay. And we will now sit quietly and wait for the president to join this video press conference. We have generals from the Kremlin pool at Novo-Ogaryovo. They will have the privilege to ask questions directly. They’ll be sitting in the same room as the president. ( silence).

Speaker 10: (18:43)
Which way should we look when we ask a question?

Dmitry Peskov: (18:45)
Just look at the president. Welcome to the annual Q&A with Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin: (19:28)
Good afternoon and welcome, everyone, all those who are present in this room at Novo-Ogaryovo at the call center, and out there in Russian regions in Moscow, St. Petersburg. It’s the traditional wrap up press conference of the year, but we’re in a COVID-19 era. We can’t have it in person. This is why this time it’s a hybrid event. We have both in-person, offline and online. We need to listen to the journalists, to the people out there in the country to figure out what needs to be done to address the issues that we’re still facing, so that we can improve on decision-making to make this process more efficient. Last year, we received hundreds of thousands of questions, and every question will looked into, and there will be feedback to every question.

Vladimir Putin: (20:52)
I’d like to thank my colleagues in the governments and the executive office, public chamber and the All-Russian National Front, the volunteers, other civic institutions. They established direct contact with those who asked questions, discuss the issues were raised, and very often they help to bring out about a solution, and I really hope that this year we will do the same thing. We will ask volunteers and All-Russian National Front to keep it up. It’s a very important practice. I treat events like this not in a formal way. It’s not just a technical meeting for me. I do get information about the country coming from different sources, but definitely I appreciate this opportunity to talk directly to people, to the citizens of Russia. I will voice the pressing issues they’re facing, and we need to figure out what we can do to make our lives better. That’s it. I think we can go to the questions straight away. I’d like to move forward to Dmitry Peskov, who’s out there. He will moderate our press conference today.

Dmitry Peskov: (22:43)
Good afternoon, Mr. Putin. We have a wide geography. Let’s start out from out there from Vladivostok’ Russia’s far east. Please, be as brief as possible so that we can have as many questions as possible. Vladivostok, over to you.

Speaker 1: (23:03)
Well, it’s really late afternoon here in Vladivostok. It’s the capitol of the biggest federal districts, the far eastern one. We have a lot of media professionals here. They have their own audience and their own questions. So as you can see, we have a lot of people. Mr. Peskov, Who’s the first? Can you show me the room, entire room so they can see everyone? Magadan. Did we have Magadan?

Lyudmila: (23:56)
My name is Lyudmila [inaudible 00:00:24:00]. I’d like to welcome you, Mr. President, and everyone present on this conference. We know it’s been a challenging year. It’s even hard to describe this year and give it a definition. So what is a good year, or was there something bad? Was there any silver lining?

Vladimir Putin: (24:24)
Well, it’s like the weather. Do we have bad or good weather? It’s just the way it is. It’s like in life. We’ll always have something good, something bad. Definitely this year is associated within issue which is really pressing, which you’re all aware of. This is the COVID-19 pandemic. That is true for all the countries, and more than 60 million people have been affected, and it’s definitely had an impact on every aspect of our lives. It means lockdowns, output decline, decline in transportation, jobs are cut, incomes are down.

Vladimir Putin: (25:26)
At the same time, first of all, I’ll try to back up my ideas with figures. There definitely was a wave of issues, a tsunami of problems. We’ll talk about that. That’s why we’ve gathered it. Nevertheless, this tsunami of issues has hit the entire world, not just Russia, but we can safely say we were up to scratch. We rose to the challenge and in many ways, better than any other country in the world, than many other countries in the world that seem to be proud of the sustainability of their economy, healthcare and social security systems. They’re proud of those systems, but we’ve been than better than many of those countries, so here are some of the figures.

Vladimir Putin: (26:33)
Our GDP is at 3.6%. This is lower than across all European EU nations. Some of the EU countries’ GDP was -9%. Industrial output was down 3% as of today, largely due to oil. OPEC Plus deal pushed for a decline in extraction. This is where this had an impact on industrial output. But on the positive side, just yesterday our government reported that November to November refinery is 1.1% higher, so we’re in the positive ground and refining, so we hope that this trend will continue going forward. Agriculture traditionally in the past years is in good shape right now. Plus 1.8%, and the minister told me that we could see two plus 2%. The banking sector has been in satisfactory condition. Banks’ revenue this year is 1 trillion, 300 billion rubles, and this means that our system’s quite sustainable. It’s quite stable, the financial system.

Vladimir Putin: (28:26)
As for our wages, please don’t get angry at me. It might not be in line with your sentiment, with your observations, but these are average figures. They’re real, and I hope will grow by the end of the year by 1.5%, unfortunately, but real disposable income is down. Why do we see this discrepancy? What does it signal? Some proprietors saw their incomes down. That was the main reason, so real disposable income will be minus 3%. As for unemployment, it was 4.7% at the beginning of the year. Right now, it’s %6.3%, but we will talk about that. That’s true. But whatever we do to support the economy, support the affected industries is supposed to keep jobs. Right now, it’s 6.3%. That’s the unemployment rate, but we hope we’ll be able to move it back to the previous rates later on.

Vladimir Putin: (29:40)
But we are in trade surplus. It’s pretty good, and our public debt was just 70 billion Us dollars. It’s now 10 billion less. We don’t need to borrow that much, and we service our debt regularly. [inaudible 00:30:09] and gold reserves are up from 545 billion to 587.7 billion. As for the national wealth funds, it was 7.7 trillion. Now, it’s 13 trillion. Now, what’s been good for the economy? 70% of the Russian budget comes not from oil and gas. Not from oil and gas. It means that we’ve been getting off from the oil needle, as they say, and if someone continues to call us the filling station, the gas station, well, we have figures to prove that it’s no longer the case. Although we’re not fully off that needle.

Vladimir Putin: (31:13)
In the outgoing year, definitely saw some major events, nationwide events. I mean, the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II. Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, we celebrated this event. We had the parade in Red Square, and we had the Immortal Regiment marching down our online streets. I would like to thank our people, because despite the challenges, they really delivered that it’s unity under any threat that’s at the heart of our identity. Unity is our DNA. We saw the medic professionals working 24/7. The entire society supported each other, supported their families, supported those who are struggling, those who are needy, and we all saw that “we’re all together” movement, and that coming together moment, I believe, is really decisive. It’s part of our identity, part of our DNA. I really appreciate everyone’s efforts. Thank you so much for taking part in these large-scale activities.

Dmitry Peskov: (32:46)
I would like to remind everyone we need to replace the phone part of the microphone. We need to keep up with the hygiene rules. Novo-Ogaryovo? Who’s out there at Novo-Ogaryovo? So our biggest TV network, [Russian 00:00:33:24].

Aleksei Petrov: (33:24)
Thank you so much. Aleksei Petrov. Indeed, masks are the symbol of our times. Not a pleasant one. We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest event of this year, but what about the Russian healthcare system? How prepared is it? Do you think it’s coping with the challenges that are out there, and do you do any analysis into the failures, like the deficits of medications and the labeling of the pharmaceuticals? And the second issue is the reform of the primary care unit. There’s big funding for it. How will this reform go? Take into account the pandemic lessons.

Vladimir Putin: (34:21)
Now, on how prepared the system is, that’s my answer. Definitely. No system in the world was ready for this. We’ve been analyzing what’s happening around the world. We can see and say that no healthcare system in any country was prepared for it, but let’s look at what we had. Again, we need to do some benchmarking, and we have a tsunami of issues, as I said earlier. But again, let’s do some benchmarking. Compared to what we saw in other parts of the world, our …

Vladimir Putin: (35:03)
… compared to what we saw in other parts of the world, RS Healthcare system, proved to be more or less efficient. With talk about deficit, and shortages of medication, we are aware of this. We are screening, we’ve seen the questions, and we understand that there are some issues still outstanding. When we got the first signals of the pandemic from our friends in China, the [inaudible 00:35:29] issue, we responded immediately, and close the borders. We had time to start our preparations for the big wave that would inevitably come. So, we had some time, and we started to deploy all the necessary measures, and anti pandemic measures, preventive measures, and we didn’t waste that time. As for the need for new hospital beds, it was 95 million, right, and only 50% was ready right now.

Vladimir Putin: (36:16)
We have 125,000, sorry, not millions. No, sorry, 177,000. No, sorry, 277 hospital beds have been deployed. 40 centers were built over the time, 30 by the defense ministry, really quickly, and 10 by the regions themselves, by the regional authorities. So, the 40th is supposed to be commissioned in the final days of 2020. Well, that speaks volumes. It means we can respond to any issue in a prompt way. As I was reviewing the technical equipment yesterday here in the room, I was talking to one volunteer. When the pandemic, we didn’t have enough specialists.

Vladimir Putin: (37:09)
8,300 specialists. Right now, in terms of the doctors, we have 150,000, and a total of 530,000 medical professionals. We were able to repurpose some of the medical colleges to fight COVID 19, and to build a advanced training program where we did some retraining for the medical professionals. Definitely introduced some premiums, and bonus payments for those who worked in the red zone. And, also for the senior students in the colleges. We rolled out production of PPEs. Gear, and outfits, and the necessary equipment to sanitize the rooms, and even masks. We increased the production of masks by 20 times. Our healthcare system, and the governance in this area, have proven that they’re ready to mobilize the resources in an efficient, and fast way.

Vladimir Putin: (38:49)
The necessary amount of medications is up two times. Definitely, some of the regions are facing some issues, and I can see this folder in front of me. I’ve got some information from the call center, there are messages from our people. Pharmacies are seeing a shortage, and free medications are also not issued because of the deficit. But definitely, this is not the huge scale of issues that we faced initially. All we’re seeing right now is a logistics issues. But overall, our industry was up to scratch at the beginning of the pandemic. We didn’t know how to test, how to identify, how to treat patients, and whether we will ever have the antidote, I mean the vaccine.

Vladimir Putin: (39:43)
So, you can see the huge progress. Russia is top three around the world, in terms of testing, and according to the WHO. One of the ways to overcome the pandemic spread is mass testing. As for medications, we started to produce Russian made pharmaceuticals in the amount that’s necessary. Vaccination, that’s next. Russia was the first country in the world that came up with its own vaccine, that started producing that vaccine. Thanks to the [inaudible 00:40:22] Research Center, and the Vectura Center from [inaudible 00:40:27]. It’s a good vaccine. Safe, efficient. 95% efficacy rate, and some specialists say it’s up to 97. No major incidents related to side effects. Some of the foreign counterparts are ready to cooperate in this area. The English-Swedish company AstraZeneca is ready to work with us, and we’re now signing agreements.

Vladimir Putin: (41:04)
I’m really happy that specialists at this level, at the top level, in the [inaudible 00:41:09] area. This is a major company, a world brand, AstraZeneca, now combines its efforts with the Russian partners. I’m sure the outcome will be a really good one for Russian people, and for people around the world. So, what I said means that there are a lot of issues outstanding, but overall the healthcare system did respond appropriately to the threats that our country was facing. Now, in the primary care units in the healthcare system, indeed, we had to concentrate the resources on what I mentioned earlier. To fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to engage volunteers and senior students from the medical colleges to ramp up production.

Vladimir Putin: (42:12)
So, we definitely delayed this reform of the primary care unit, but we have not forgotten about it. So, instead of launching this reform on July the first, we will launch it starting from the first of January, and we’ll definitely use all the funding that’s been allocated for it. 500 billion rubles from the federal budget, and 50 billion, five-zero billion, from the regional budgets. In the coming year, 300 billion would need to be allocated, would need to be withdrawn.

Vladimir Putin: (42:58)
In terms of the car fleet, we started doing it already. These cars, these vehicles are in demand right now. That’s what we’re doing right now. That’s part of the reform that we’re talking about, that’s part of this big, major campaign. I believe the most important thing in developing primary care unit, is to make sure there is 100% coverage. I can see there are a lot of issues, and you need to respond to them quickly. That’s what we’ll be working on. We definitely need to train our people, we need to have the right equipment.

Vladimir Putin: (43:54)
Now, how do we resolve the issues that are still out there? We definitely analyze this. Today’s event is extremely important today. It would give us so much information coming from the regions, we will get those signals, process them, and respond in an appropriate way, and adjust our activities. So, the simplest conclusion, but it’s easy, we definitely need to streamline, or a [inaudible 00:44:38] service. We definitely need to reform it. We need to look at how many specialized hospital beds we need, how many doctors we need, how many specialized doctors we need.

Speaker 11: (44:56)
Okay. Let’s roll on. Okay, [inaudible 00: 10:03], your turn now.

Speaker 12: (45:08)
Good afternoon, Mr. Putin. My name is [inaudible 00:10:12], and this is [inaudible 00:45:14]. My question is as follows. We have this pandemic on our hands, but the life goes on. My question is quite a comprehensive one. It has to do with the rest of our activities. We know that next year there will be elections, and there will be a huge campaign. In your opinion, how’s it going to be different from the previous campaign, and what will be the political landscape, given the circumstances? The second part of my question has to do with the systemic opposition. So, I would like to know, maybe it’s time for the older position to give place to young parties, and do young parties have a chance? Given the fact that at the municipal level, they have already proved themselves to be quite capable, and the last part of my question has to do with foreign interference. It is quite evident that it’s possible that we will see interference. This is a major campaign. So, how are you going to fight this possible future interference?

Vladimir Putin: (46:17)
Okay, regarding the elections to the parliament of the country in year 2021, there will be differences. First and foremost, these differences will have to do with the fact that our constitution has been updated, and that means that the parliament has received more powers across a number of issues. One of them being forming the government. I’d like to say it again, that they stayed union now makes the final decision, not only regarding the prime minister, but also regarding the vice prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, and ministers. So, the president signs off on these decisions. These decisions are for the state union. Maybe not everyone is aware of that, but this certainly increases the importance of our MPs, and they now bear a lot more responsibility.

Vladimir Putin: (47:25)
There is now that perfect coupling between the government and the MPs. That’s one thing. Second, you asked me about new parties. Maybe the old ones should step down and give place to new parties. It’s not up to political heavyweights decide. It’s up to the people to decide who they want to see on top. It’s the people who vote for this, or that party. Our political system is developing, it’s changing and evolving. It is actively engaged in more and more parties in the national campaigns. That’s true. This year, I’m sure there’ll be more parties joining the process. Up to 16 parties will be able to take part in the campaign without collecting the signatures. Why? Well, the reason is simple. Following the existing legislation, they have been given representation in a number of regions, and that entitles them to this very right to take a shot at participating in the all-national campaign. I wish them best of luck in this endeavor. Again, these are people who decide whom to vote for.

Vladimir Putin: (48:49)
I want to say that traditional parties, established parties, and we all know them, they all have been represented in the parliament for years now, and I think we should give them some credit, because there are sometimes completely opposite opinions. Sometimes, the debates in the department are quite heated. They discuss lots of problems that we face, that the whole country faces. But, each and every of these parties, they are absolutely patriotic. They do their best to solve the tasks that we are now set for ourselves. The methods, and approaches my bit different, but the ultimate goal is the same. To add to the wellbeing of the country, and help it prosper.

Speaker 11: (49:40)
Okay, let’s go somewhere else. Let’s go to Siberia, Novosibirsk. I think it’s time to give us an opportunity to ask you a question.

Speaker 13: (49:52)
You already mentioned, Mr. Putin, that Novosibirsk is a center where one of the COVID-19 vaccines has been developed. So, let me, act as Mr. [inaudible 00:50:04] for a moment, I’ll moderate this.

Speaker 11: (50:05)
Of course you can.

Speaker 13: (50:07)
I see there is a banner say, “Vaccine.” Could you please introduce yourself?

Speaker 14: (50:12)
[inaudible 00:00:50:13], the Altai Region. Mr. Putin, I would like to know, have you already received a job against the COVID-19 virus, and what do you think about obligatory, or all Russian obligation? Because, well, there’s not enough vaccines. In the Altai Region, situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is quite difficult. There’s one more question. Do you think that we will have enough vaccines across Russia? Given the fact that Russia is now going to help other countries? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: (50:47)
Look, I call upon every one of you to be very attentive, to everything that the professionals that the medical professionals say. You just put a mask on, good. You have gloves on, great. So, our healthcare professionals say that the vaccines, which are now publicly available, are meant for people of certain ages, you see?

Vladimir Putin: (51:16)
People like me, we’re not yet allowed to take vaccines. You see, I am a law abiding citizen, and I always listened to what our healthcare professionals say. Therefore, I haven’t yet inoculated myself. But, I will surely do that, as soon as it will be permitted. That’s the one thing. Second, again, professionals say that we need to have such a gap between different vaccines. You take your flu shot, then you do the shot against the COVID-19 virus. Some say it should be two weeks, some say it should be a four week gap between the shots. That’s another thing for you to know. Actually, there is something more. Mass inoculation, mass vaccination. I think it should be done. By the way, our professionals say the same, and their foreign colleagues share this opinion. Doctors across the world agree that one of the ways to overcome this pandemic, is to inoculate ourselves massively.

Vladimir Putin: (52:40)
This is the gateway to a new future. That’s how we will get that herd immunity. Our vaccine is effective, and it’s safe. So, I see no reason why we should be afraid of getting a shot. Let me add something else to that. You mentioned helping other countries. First and foremost, and I’ve said it multiple times, and I’ll say it again. I want everyone to hear me. Our primary task is to give the vaccines to our people here in Russia. There’s a number of issues. The components of these vaccine are safe. What we are lacking is the equipment, the hardware, to produce the necessary amount of vaccines. I think 70 million people already got flu shots. That’s just one example of how the whole country could get vaccinated, and the same which should be done to protect ourselves against the COVID-19 pandemic. To produce a vaccine, we need equipment, we need facilities. We will be building up our capacities as we go, and I believe all the plans will be implemented. We will deliver on what we have planned for that, we will have millions of doses next year. Now, concerning the cooperation with other countries. We need more time to build up the capacities, to have more equipment in place to produce vaccines. So, nothing really stands in the way of giving the components, and we have enough of components of this vaccine to produce them abroad, outside of Russia. So, they will be investing their own money into expanding the capacity for the vaccine production.

Vladimir Putin: (54:38)
That’s what we meant by saying we will help others, but it doesn’t stand in the way of having vaccination taking place as it is needed here in Russia. The quality will be high, but this will be just growing in numbers, this vaccination.

Speaker 13: (54:56)
Okay, I think we can go on and follow the tradition Mr. [inaudible 00:55:02] started, and as a present, we would like to give you a mic piece, because you didn’t use your mask speaking to the mic. Now you have it, that’s our little gift for you.

Speaker 11: (55:17)
Okay, let’s reach out to the call center now. You’re quite particular.

Speaker 15: (55:23)
Yes, call center. We have received a lot of questions concerning the pandemic and the work of the health care professionals. We have here a volunteer. [inaudible 00:20:34], she’s a volunteer, and she’s a medical professional. She spent five weeks working at local hospitals, giving consultations to COVID-19 patients.

Speaker 16: (55:46)
Hello. Working with requests, we have found a lot of problems that people have. These problems are connected to testing, people cannot book a visit of a doctor at home visits, not enough medical supplies, and sometimes they have to wait for medical care for over a week. Also, I looked at what the doctors from the red zones are concerned about, and I would like to pinpoint the fact that doctors in the city of [inaudible 00:56:21] didn’t get any bonuses for working with COVID-19 patients. Same happened in the city of [inaudible 00:56:27] Region. In the military hospital of [inaudible 00:21:31], the previous payment came in only in September.

Speaker 16: (56:36)
Same is true for the Infectious Diseases Hospital in [inaudible 00:56:40]. We have received a lot of complaints from people who risked their lives, just like doctors do, but they do not get anything for that. These are technical specialists. They clean the premises, they cook the food, and they are also part of the risk zone. Without them, no red zone can function properly. So, it’s really gutting to see that these people are working on the forefront, and yet they are treated unfairly. Mr. Putin, we have a lot of requests, a lot of complaints on this issue. We’re here to give it to you, so that you could give the necessary instructions to solve this problems. Mr. Putin, is it possible to solve all these problems?

Vladimir Putin: (57:28)
Thank you so much, [inaudible 00:00:57:29]. I think I talked with you yesterday.

Speaker 16: (57:32)
Yes, yes. That’s true, yesterday. We talked with you yesterday.

Vladimir Putin: (57:38)
Okay. Here, I have some papers from the call center, probably your papers. Someone wrote, “We live in a small town. We don’t have the medicine. We have to buy them, if they are available. Why do COVID-19 patients have to get treatment, paying for it themselves? Even those who have confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, they were told to be treated for free. But, all the people I know, they are paying their own money. Where’s the money? That’s the Region of [inaudible 00:23:14], Vladimir. Okay, [inaudible 00:58:18], I would like to say to you, and to all those who reached out to you, and to Mr. [inaudible 00:58:22], I want to say the following. We have [inaudible 00:58:28] of 10 billion rubles so that the regions of Russia could respond proactively to all these issues. Buying the PPE, preparing the healthcare institutions to face this challenge. Five billion, actually a bit more than that.

Vladimir Putin: (58:54)
That’s how much we allocated for the free medicine to be handed over to people who get treatment at home. Now, the Region of [inaudible 00:59:03]. I know for a fact that all the money has already been transferred for the state budget, to the budget of the Region of [inaudible 00:24:10]. Why do people still don’t have the medicine they need? I don’t know, but we will sort this out. As for the procedure, first you file a request to the local hospital, they confirm your diagnosis, and after that, they will give you the medicine you need. [inaudible 00:24:32], I will surely follow through on all the requests that you have received. We will do that in a systematic matter, and we will collect all other requests and complaints, in order to respond to them.

Vladimir Putin: (59:46)
Again, we gave these 10 billion, so that all the equipment, all the medicine was there, and we also spent five billion more to help people. Most of the money has already been transferred to the regions. We did that already, some governance, and by the way, I’m keeping close contact with them. They report, and they do that quite recently, that everything is okay in the regions where they govern. Of course, some separate isolated cases may be there. But, given the fact that we have a lot of complaints, probably this is not an isolated issue. This is a comprehensive problem, and it requires a comprehensive solution. We will take a look and work this one out.

Speaker 11: (01:00:35)
Okay, let’s come back to the Center of International Trade here in Moscow, and let’s pass over to this sector. Okay, could you please introduce yourself?

Speaker 17: (01:00:45)
Mister Putin, good afternoon. [inaudible 00:25:48]. Thank you for the vaccine. I would like to thank our researchers and doctors for it. But you see, amid the background of the pandemic, some questions have turned out to be overlooked. What is the origin of this threat? The U.S. blames China, China blames the U.S.. Some say it’s artificially created, some say it was a natural virus. Maybe you have instructed these specialist services to know, where did this virus come from?

Vladimir Putin: (01:01:17)
Well, there is a lot of rumors regarding the origin of this virus, and I don’t want to say it out here, public, because we see no evidence to support any such claims that you’ve mentioned. I think we should be doing something else. We shouldn’t be looking for someone to pin the blame on. We should unite our efforts to fight this pandemic. That would be right thing to do. That’s one thing. Now, some western partners are saying that they are very humanistic in their policies inside and outside of their countries. Well, I think they should think of how to help others. Those who find themselves in dire straights, help them with the burden that they care, so that restrictions could be lifted.

Vladimir Putin: (01:02:13)
Sanctions could be lifted against those countries who experience problems these days, especially those strikes of cooperation, which are necessary to fight the pandemic. And, I mean restrictions on equipment, and pharmaceuticals, and doctor training. They should be lifted. I think others should think more about that, not about trying to find the culprit. We have good cooperation with many countries, China included. We work at the level of professionals, heads of regions, state level across the board.

Vladimir Putin: (01:02:51)
As for instructing the special services. Well, I give them some instructions, but certainly this is no place to discuss these tasks and objectives set for the special services. Your colleague asked whether there could be interference. Sorry, I overlooked that. It’s not because I don’t want to say anything about this issue, I just thought there are some more pressing issues to focus on. Interference is a general question, and they will try to interfere in our election. Across the world, we see a lot of interference. Some countries have bases across the world and they interfere across the world as well. We are aware that this is coming our way, and we are prepared. We will be fighting this off successfully, but this will be made possible only if the majority of our people will understand that this is indeed interference, and that we need to fight it off.

Vladimir Putin: (01:03:55)
Also, that this is unacceptable, that we need to have this right to determine our own future that comes from within. So, if you have bloggers online, influencers online, and media, we can use this potential in order to help people understand their rights, and respect our sovereignty. We are open for cooperation, as always. We’d like to operate on this issue with our partners. We are always open for observers. I don’t think any other country is as open as we are. In some states in the U.S., over 10 states in the U.S., prohibit, by law, to have any observers at the election.

Vladimir Putin: (01:04:43)
Well, nothing of that kind here in Russia, we are open. We have observers here. By the way, there is a number of organizations, the Civic Chamber, for instance, they will be acting as observers as well, because they have this mandate, they have this right to observe political processes in the country. Political parties and media are entitled to that, too. So, this check of our corporation, and this check of our work, will receive a lot of attention on our part. The goal is that our people will be sure that the election is open, transparent, and the results are legitimate and should be respected.

Speaker 11: (01:05:33)
Okay. Now, let’s stay here for one caution. Mr. [inaudible 00:30:43], please. You’re one of the most respected members of the presidential pool of journalists.

Speaker 18: (01:05:48)
Mr. Putin, thank you for this meeting, or this conference, it’s good to know that you found time for us to have a conference, so that we could tell you the truth. I know that the COVID- 19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the lives of many people. I’m from the provinces, people call me up and say, “It’s hard to live, it’s hard to survive.” It has never been that hard in Russia. Poverty is rising, poor people are getting poorer. Unemployment is soaring, purchasing power going down. Our currency, the ruble is going down. Prices are soaring. Mortality is on the rise. Here is something I want to tell you. The prices are going slowly up, and they’ve been doing that since September or August. Why has it become issue only now, in December?

Speaker 18: (01:06:44)
Well, only after the president becomes angry, the ministry has started working as they should be. You say that in a week, there will be caps on prices, but maybe there might be a program that would help Russia to get through the next weeks. I’m here representing a website, and the radio, [inaudible 01:07:10] Moscow [inaudible 01:07:14].

Vladimir Putin: (01:07:10)
The situation is difficult, I said it at the beginning. The pandemic entails closing some of the facilities, and manufacturing sites. The unemployment has been going up, and incomes, unfortunately, have been contracting. This is not just empty talk, this is a fact, and we know that this is indeed happening. You said that, it has never been that difficult. Well, actually that’s is not true. In the year 2000, we had 29% of the population living below the poverty line. Almost one in three people here lived, having income lower than the minimal wage. In the year 2017, we reached the level of 12.3% of the population living with minimum wages or lower.

Vladimir Putin: (01:08:26)
Now, it’s 13%, it went up. It’s 20 million people. It’s a lot, and we know of that. We have a plan. We know how to make it better. We are laser focused, in order to help people get above the poverty line. By the year 2030, we plan to have not 13.5% that we have now, but reduce it to 6.5%. Only 6.5% will be living below the poverty line, with the income less than the minimum wage. 6.5, is still not good enough, but let’s be real, this is very ambitious. Yet, this is a perfectly realistic goal.

Vladimir Putin: (01:09:16)
As for prices, it’s true that sometimes, they go up objectively, due to objective reasons. Because, for instance, the parts for hardware and equipment is becoming more expensive, because the exchange rates, they might be different. There is a variation. So, we buy the equipment, we pay for it in our currency, the ruble. Sometimes, this equipment might become more expensive because of the currency change rate. But, sometimes there is no objective reason. Of course, that deserves swift and decisive response. I was really taken aback to know that there is a lot-

Vladimir Putin: (01:10:03)
We didn’t take it back to know that there was a lot going on without objective reasons to it. We have harvested a record high amount of crops. Maybe we will have up to 130 million tons. That’s the harvest we have. Yet, the bread price is going up faster, becoming more and more expensive. Why? What’s the reason?

Vladimir Putin: (01:10:31)
Sugar. I was once store that we need to fight off the brown sugar coming to our market. We need to support our white sugar producers. We need that. Now we almost have deficit. The minister said we have enough white sugar for internal consumption. The same time, we see that there’s not enough. The prices went up by almost 75%. or sunflower oil, 17%. We have enough of sunflowers. The reason is that the prices in international markets went up. That os why Russian companies started exporting more, and the prices here in Russia have been adjusted to a level of the prices abroad, but that’s not acceptable. We had quite a tough talk over this, and the government has been responding actively.

Vladimir Putin: (01:11:27)
What is important is that they would not be overdoing this. We should be working based on the market mechanisms. We should have adjusted the tariffs, exporting/importing tariffs. These mechanisms, we’re not inventing a bicycle here. We’re not inventing a wheel here. I think the agreement has already been signed, the agreement between the retail chains and the producers. So the producers are lowering the prices, and the retailers would reflect that on the most essential goods. Of course prices, this thing, it should be kept under close supervision. And I hope that in the next couple of days or weeks, the situation will change to the better.

Vladimir Putin: (01:12:21)
What should be done? And what are we doing to help people out in these very difficult times? First and foremost, the unemployment went up. We had 4.7%, now we have 6.3%. We responded to that by increasing substantially the unemployment benefits. And you all know that. Of course, we know that the families with children suffer the most, and we have a whole program to help families with children. If a family has a child from zero to 1.5 years, from 1.5 to three, and from three to seven years, those who have children with the age of zero to 1.5, we give them benefit for every child.

Vladimir Putin: (01:13:16)
If the income is less than two minimum wages, we would give 1.5 benefit. Then we enrolled more people in this program. So if they have many less than two minimum wages, then we give that family the right to give a benefit of one minimum wage per child, per average child polluter earlier. If a family has a child from 1.5 year old to three years of age, then we look at the income. If the income is also low, then we gave that family the same amount, but that has been deducted from the maternity capital. And those families who have children between three and seven, they’re entitled to the following benefits. If the income of the family is less than the minimum wage, then we are paid to them 0.5 of the minimum wage per child. That decision has already been made.

Vladimir Putin: (01:14:25)
We analyze the situation. We’ll look at how the incomes have been responding to the situation. And if all the families will experience the same problem, very low income, then starting next year, January the first, just in two weeks, we’ll be paying one minimum wage per every child to families who need that help.

Vladimir Putin: (01:14:49)
These are the measures, swift and decisive measures that we’ve been adopting. And of course, there’ll be one time payments to families with children covering all children below 16. We’ll be supporting the labor market, and we will talk about that later, I think. This is one of the focal points of our work. And I think I can treat myself to a little bit more time discussing this.

Vladimir Putin: (01:15:22)
The main focus is to move the economy forward, realize potential, achieve national development goals and the national projects. We are creating new jobs. We are working hard to make Russia prosper. In order to rise to the challenges, we are working hard to develop our own AI technologies, to create search production facilities and manufacturing companies that put people decent income. And we have a whole gamut of programs to make that happen. And what we are working hard to do that.

Speaker 19: (01:16:04)
Okay. Let’s not forget about the regions. [inaudible 01:16:07] work, we haven’t been there yet today.

Speaker 19: (01:16:10)
Yes. The capital of the Urals. We see journalists from the federal district of the Urals. We have 69 journalists with us today, and we have news that I have to tell you. The thing is, a colleague of ours from here recently gave birth to her son. That’s why she is missing today. As for the rest, as you can see, they’re eager to ask the questions.

Speaker 19: (01:16:47)
So Mr. Peskov, are you going to choose yourself? Can you show this to the audience? Can you show us the audience? The journalists?

Speaker 19: (01:16:57)
Yes. First row, it says garbage. Waste. Yes. Please take your mask off and ask your question.

Speaker 19: (01:17:08)
Good afternoon, Mr. President, the town of Magnitogorsk. My name is [foreign language 01:17:15]. My question is about the environment and the waste disposal reform. We know it started January last year, but it all started actually five years ago in 2015. And for our town, when the concession agreement was signed and the project was developed, but unfortunately, then it stalled for some time. Now it’s finally proceeding, but why is the waste disposal, waste management reform stalling across the country?

Speaker 19: (01:17:49)
Well, I wouldn’t say it’s as stalled that much. There are a lot of issues regarding the organization of this program, but the reform is in progress. We have a couple of important tasks ahead of us, creating an entire new industry, closed circuit of an industry where waste goes… It’s not just going to sites, garbage sites, but is actually repurposed or recycled. Before 2015, we had special segments of waste and recycled accordingly. Currently, one of the goals for us, for those who are responsible for this work, is to make it a shared responsibility between those who produce products and those who create the packaging and package products. So that the load itself, the load, the responsibility for recycling, is actually moved on from the consumers to the producers and those responsible for that packaging. And this is a practice that is used worldwide. And this is something that we are going to adopt as well.

Speaker 19: (01:19:25)
In the car industry, for example, we have the disposal, some that producers have to pay, and this should be adopted across other industries. And let me tell you, the government, the federal government and the regions, are doing that. We are rising to the task. We have special resources allocated, some money allocated for this specific purpose, and it’s all going according to plan. Since you’re from Magnitogorsk, actually I have a question related to Magnitogorsk and different ways that your air is being polluted. So I had a question about that, and I know that Magnitogorsk over recent years has changed a lot to reduce the emissions it has been suffering. But according to the data that I have, the emissions were actually being decreased. But could you tell us what’s happening with the emissions up there in Magnitogorsk?

Speaker 19: (01:20:50)
Well, as a Patriot, I work at a newspaper with one of the factories. We have special facilities used to clean and to prevent harmful emissions. But I think many people may not like what I’m going to say, but a lot of people in our countries, in our region, see the fog near some of the factories, because there’s a lot a fog there, there’s a lot of water there. People see the fog, and they believe that this is the smog, the emissions, the polluted air. Well, it’s not really that bad. And the smell that some people are talking about, is not also something that’s coming from the factories. So people in social media are exaggerating things.

Speaker 19: (01:21:47)
Well, it’s not just social media. I had actually a message from one of the people living in Magnitogorsk.

Speaker 19: (01:21:54)
Well, I mean, there are people that have something to say.

Speaker 19: (01:21:58)
Well, yes, that’s why I asked that. I know that the factory you’re working in actually contributed a lot and invested a lot, much more than in other regions and other producers of metal products, much more to reduce the emissions, the amount of emissions, and it has been reduced. It has fallen. So I was really surprised to see this letter, this message from a person complaining. So actually we’re doing a lot to create a system of what you would call a sensory [inaudible 01:22:44] that word, pick up where the air is polluted or not, and this is going to be paid for by the producers. And I think that the same will be done in Magnitogorsk and the region around it. So we’ll be paying more attention to that as well. Thank you.

Speaker 19: (01:23:03)
Actually, we had a question before. There was a question about payment to teachers in agricultural regions. So they have a workload of… [Foreign language 00:13:26] writing us. So with a workload of a 15 hours a day almost, a teacher gets as much money as a janitor in the same school, at the same school. So this question is from a collection of messages, of letters that I received, of the same character, of the same nature. Why is this happening?

Speaker 19: (01:23:56)
Well, we actually decided that the minimum wage cannot be lower than the subsistence wage. This is something that we changed, and this threshold has been moved. So this is why what you wrote about actually happened. So minimum wage cannot be lower than the subsistence wage. So basically, the payment, the wages received by the janitor were actually increased to reach the minimum wage, but the same should be done… To reach the subsistence wage. But the same wasn’t done for the teachers. It has to be done. And I’d like to point out to the government that this is unacceptable. This is not normal. This should be changed.

Speaker 19: (01:24:52)
Okay. Let’s go to the Center of International Trade, and we give the floor to the most prominent journalist here, but let’s give a word to the rookie here. [foreign language 00:15:06]. Can he get the mic?

Speaker 19: (01:25:12)
Good afternoon, Mr. President. I’m [foreign language 01:25:15] RTVI channel. So I’m not going to ask you the question about Navalny. I’m going to leave that to my colleagues. So I’m going to go light on you. Since my channel deals with international matters, my question is about the Russian hackers. Why were the Russian hackers unable to help Trump get reelected this time? Have they all moved to the Silicon Valley? Have they left Russia? Did you say Russian people never betray their own? So, how can we support Trump? Are you going to give Trump political asylum if he asks for it, like Mr. [Snowden 01:25:58] before him? Now a question from me personally, how can an ordinary Russian person, an ordinary Russian citizen like most of us, how can he describe his life without using offensive words, as they say.

Speaker 19: (01:26:19)
Wow, let me first address the latter part of your question. Please address classical Russian movies. When something heavy falls on your leg, you should just say, “shucks” or something like that. The Russian language is something that can provide words and phrases for any situation. And thank you for not using any slurs or offensive words when asking your question. Thanks for that. Thank you for being polite.

Speaker 19: (01:27:04)
As for the Russian hackers and why this time they haven’t helped Trump to get reelected, I don’t think this is a question. This is a provocation on your part. Russian hackers have never helped any American President gets elected. Never. Have never interfered in the domestic affairs of this great nation that is the USA. These allegations are all used to make relations between our two nations worse, to de-legitimize the presidency of the outgoing President of the US. And in this way, US/Russian relations are now hostage to American domestic affairs.

Speaker 19: (01:27:58)
I think this is worse for American themselves. We believe that the current elected President, President-Elect, actually, of the United States, will realize what’s happening. He is an experienced politician. He is experienced in both domestic and foreign affairs, and I hope that the new administration will help us resolve some of the issues that still persist between our two countries. I don’t think that there is any need for Mr. Trump to come seek asylum with Russia, because he has support of 50% of American population. He has a huge base of support, and he’s not going to exit America’s political life.

Speaker 19: (01:28:50)
Okay. Let’s go back to the Kremlin pool, to [foreign language 00:18:54]. Can you show us the presidential pool? Okay, live. Live TV. You have the floor.

Speaker 19: (01:29:09)
Good afternoon, Mr. President. I’d like to take the advice of this rookie journalist, as you said. Several days ago, we’ve seen a number of interesting investigation, for example, about your alleged daughter, about Mr. Shamala, about other people allegedly close to you. This week, there was this investigation about Mr. Navalny. Why is there still no criminal case initiated with respect about his poisoning?

Speaker 19: (01:29:41)
Well, speaking about all these allegations on these weird investigations, we will always see them. This is information warfare. We’ve seen this information warfare before. Remember the events and the caucuses, the fight against international terrorism, and how yours truly used to be presented and the way I was talked about in the press back during those years. And I remember very well the way they depicted me, but I always do what I think is best for our country. I’m not doing it to look good for anyone. I’m doing it for the betterment of our country. Now, the second part of your question, about those close to me. I couldn’t even bring myself to read this. I just skimmed through the pages. I couldn’t even finish it because, well, one thing that I saw there, it says all the time, they used to say that there was my son-in-law. They spoke about my son-in-law. Then at the very end, they said, alleged son-in-law. Well, now they also said that Putin prohibited the elites from having property abroad. Well, I never actually did that. What I did was what I prohibited state servants and politicians, et cetera, from having property or something else abroad.

Speaker 19: (01:31:33)
Now, about people allegedly receiving stock of some company. Well, there were programs to give bonuses to high management. And the person you spoke about actually received this bonus, according to the rules that are in place. And there were other people who received these different bonuses.

Speaker 19: (01:32:08)
Most importantly, we heard a question from Mr. [foreign language 01:32:14] about Russian hackers. Remember what they told us, what they wrote at the very start. This was an anonymous person pursuing some anonymous goals. And then we see, this person actually was because it says that it was the same as in 2016 when criminal Russian hackers associated with Russian military intelligence leaked something, hacked the American Democratic party emails and leaked the information. Remember, who called these hackers criminals associated with Russian military intelligence? It was the Americans. It was something that they commissioned. So they’re behind this again, the state department, et cetera. And you know what the goal is of this publication, the goal is revenge, an attempt to influence public opinion in our country, in order to, in a way, interfere in our domestic life. It’s very evident to me. And I think it is evident to most of the readers, especially if you take into account everything that I’ve just said and explained to you.

Speaker 19: (01:33:47)
Another thing I’d like to say with respect to that, I’d like to address those who commissioned these publications, not those who wrote it. They’re just those who make stuff, but those who commission it, those who order it, they’re not guided by revenge or some other dark feelings, but they should be actually guided by principles of mutual trust and respect and international law. Only if we do that, only if we all respect these principles, then we will have progress across many different areas.

Speaker 19: (01:34:33)
Now answering your question about the patient in the Berlin clinic. Now I’ve commented on that multiple occasions, and I can only say that again, actually, Mr. [foreign language 00:24:49] just reported to me yesterday about his thought on what our intelligence has to say about that. We understand very well what’s going on, both the previous time and this time. This is not an investigation. This is an attempt to legitimize the materials provided by American intelligence services. Everyone knows this very well. All intelligence officers know that. All intelligence officials, intelligence officers use their phones without concealing their identity, actually. The patient at the Berlin clinic is actually supported by American intelligence. He receives support from them. And if so, then, well, of course he is followed by other intelligence services, but even if he is followed by Russian services or other services, it doesn’t mean that he should be poisoned. When they asked to get him out of Russia to Germany to get treated, we gave the permission immediately.

Speaker 19: (01:36:10)
Another thing that the public doesn’t notice, the idea this people follow is to attack those who are prominent, who are famous. And these people actually like to criticize those who are above them and accuse those far above them of, well, in this case, poisoning them. This is a technique used by these people to try to raise their profile. This is just a technique, a way for them to gain approval of the people, to tell them, well, I’m just as important as this person who tried to attack me.

Speaker 19: (01:36:58)
But you can only achieve any respect by having actual results or having an actual program for change, if you’re a politician. So I call on all the political powers in the country to be guided, not by their ambition, not by their personal desires, but by the interests of the citizens. They should always provide a positive agenda for change, to resolve issues that we have, and we have a lot of them.

Speaker 19: (01:37:37)
Now let’s move on to [foreign language 01:37:39].

Speaker 19: (01:37:42)
Good afternoon, Mr. President, colleagues. We are the [foreign language 00:27:50] Federal Technical University. It’s prepared specialists for the leading factories and industries of the region. But today we have all kinds of specialists here. Let’s give the floor to the person in the fourth row in a jacket. You have the floor.

Speaker 19: (01:38:16)
Good afternoon. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to ask the question. Mr. Putin, my question is very traditional about the [Donbass 00:28:27]. It’s an ever relevant question. My name [foreign language 01:38:34] 24 news agency. So the question is, what are the prospects for reaching a peaceful settlement in the Republic of Donbass? What are the prospects for the relations and further development of the relations between Russia and Ukraine?

Speaker 19: (01:38:55)
Well, speaking about prospects for relations between Russia and Ukraine, that’s up to the Ukrainian leadership, not just Ukraine, or Ukrainian people, but specifically Ukrainian leadership. All the previous heads of state and the current president, Mr. Zelenskiy, all came to power, holding a banner that they want to end conflict, want to end violence in Donbass, and reunite the country. Also, they wanted to restore relations with Russia, but they never succeeded in that. Because the majority of the electorate, majority of the people who come to vote, actually for that, they are for peace, for relations with their neighbors.

Speaker 19: (01:39:53)
But when these brand new presidents come to power, they see people around them, and they don’t have the will, the political will, or maybe the courage, to actually carry out what they’ve promised. When I met my counterparts during the meetings of the Normandy format, we’ve reached quite a lot. We were able to exchange prisoners and agree on some things, but nothing has been done to remove the obstacles towards the development of the social and economic spheres of social relations. And officials in Kiev, on many occasions, have publicly stated they do not want, they are not intent to carry out the Minsk agreements, and they want to change the key principles of the Minsk agreements.

Speaker 19: (01:40:51)
I’d like to note to you that these Minsk agreements are actually supported by the UN. They are actually the same. They have the status of international law. So unfortunately, they cannot expect anything to be changed unilaterally.

Speaker 19: (01:41:08)
I believe that a peaceful settlement is inevitable. The question is when? Again, this very much depends on the current Ukrainian leadership. Russia has always supported the Donbass people, and we will continue to do so. We will expand our support for them, in fact, and the same goes for supporting their industries, resolving their infrastructure issues, social issues, et cetera. We will work steadily along these lines.

Speaker 19: (01:41:54)
And you can rest assured that the situation that we currently see in the Donbass, again, not just in terms of humanitarian matters, but in terms of direct cooperation, this is something that we are very much interested in, and this is our priority.

Speaker 19: (01:42:12)
Okay. Let’s now go to [foreign language 00:32:14].

Speaker 19: (01:42:15)
Good afternoon, Mr. President. Mr. Peskov, [foreign language 01:42:21] we have over 70 journalists in the studio with us today. As a moderator, let me choose one of these people, as if Mr. Peskov allows me to do so.

Speaker 19: (01:42:38)
Yes, yes, of course.

Speaker 19: (01:42:39)
Okay. Let’s go to our colleague who has a banner saying online, since this is an online conference. Please introduce yourself.

Speaker 19: (01:42:49)
Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is [foreign language 01:42:53] Maldovia newspaper. My question is about online education. This is a question that is discussed a lot. In spring this year, our universities and our schools started online teaching. So my question is, did our school and university systems manage that, how successful was that? And another question, is it something that is with us to stay, here to stay, this new online system of education? And could this lead to some problems with the education?

Speaker 19: (01:43:42)
Now we have to separate online education in schools and online education at universities and other higher education institutions. Across the country. We have 39,900 schools. Only 2% of them are actually operating completely online. Part of them has both online and offline education, and most of the schools actually have only offline education.

Speaker 19: (01:44:16)
Well, as for the higher schools, high education institutions, they are recommended to have online education. As for schools, now I have some data about the technological issues and preparedness of our institutions. And I’m going to go into detail about that later, but of course, we have issues. It has to do with the basical hardware because not everyone has computers, internet access. Yes, yes, we do have problems with that in small towns and villages.

Speaker 19: (01:44:56)
Now, what are we going to do about that? In 2021, all schools and the Russian Federation we’ll receive high-speed internet-

Vladimir Putin: (01:45:03)
…. in the Russian Federation will receive high speed internet connection by 2021. Yes. In 2021. Some of the schools are already equipped with that. In 2021, by the end of the year, it’s going to be all of the schools. Now, speaking about high schools. Two times in July and in autumn, we supported our educational institutions providing them with certain financial tools to help them continue their services. Now, will expand the scope of the services they can provide online.

Vladimir Putin: (01:45:55)
Now, about the quality of education. Of course, online education will never ever replace direct face-to-face contact between the student and the teacher. Well, we won’t see that happening for a lot of time, I guess. We all understand why I don’t want to get into detail. However, the system where we have online education both in schools and in higher education, college and universities, will definitely continue to develop a system. I talked to some of the professionals yesterday.

Vladimir Putin: (01:46:41)
Now, going forward, a high class professional can always be present in multiple places at the same time. Sometimes they’re busy doing their research. They can’t do it in person, but they can do it if it’s online and we have to use that opportunity. You know that the SIRIUS school in Sochi has used that opportunity. That’s being used increasingly more often in other schools and colleges and universities. We shouldn’t be afraid of it, but we shouldn’t exaggerate these opportunities too. It’s not for life, so mass online education will not remain the only option.

Vladimir Putin: (01:47:40)
Well, you definitely would like to hint that the quality is not the same. Now as I said, in-person education can never be replaced by online education. It’s really great to be able to hear some famous scientists, but in day to day activities, definitely online education could have some negative sides too. So it’s best to deliver hybrid education.

Vladimir Putin: (01:48:12)
There is another area and students pay attention to this particular aspect, some even filed a lawsuit. They said that, “We paid for in-person education and the quality of online education is not the best.” I can relate to what they’re saying and I kind of share their attitude. There is the other side of the coin. You have a lecturer reading lectures for an hour. It’s the same reading that amount of lectures offline or online. Should we pay that person less? Now, if you take the breakdown of costs, up to 70% of the costs, is the wage bill. that’s the salaries. They don’t really have any leeway, any space to cut the costs. Otherwise, we would have to shut down some of the colleges.

Vladimir Putin: (01:49:36)
Some specialists believe there are too many universities; particularly in big cities or consolidate them. You know, education specialists have raised that issue several times. We would like to be very cautious. If there’s an opportunity, if there is an option for some of the universities to lower the price, then basically they should do it if education is mainly done online. As I said, the government allocated funds twice to support universities. We are ready to provide further support if necessary.

Speaker 20: (01:50:31)
Tula, we have our cameraman in Tula showing a woman saying, “I’m pregnant.” Over to you.

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:50:40)
Alexandra Besaquadva. I’m from Ryazan. We hear a lot of reports about poor officials, corrupt officials. But there are really great examples when officials are ready to sacrifice their time and effort to do whatever they can for the interest of the people. On your birthday we had a fire outside a military depot. 46,000 tons of ammunition caught on fire and people were panicky. They were like in hell. Everything was on fire, debris were flying around, pieces of shells were everywhere.

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:51:36)
And many people could not leave their homes on their own. And one of the officials rescued seven people. He first rescued two elderly. He got one but then he came back to take a woman and her two children, eight years and five months old. And then two elderly people under shelling. And we signed a petition to the war team with a title of, A Hero of Russia. His name is [inaudible 00:07:19].

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:52:25)
The Emergencies Ministry, Mr. [inaudible 01:52:28] was on site and he saw everything with his owns eyes. Do you think [inaudible 01:52:34] deserve to be awarded with a title? If it’s just civilian lives that he saved, not in time of war.

Vladimir Putin: (01:52:48)
Well, how is it related to the fact that you’re pregnant?

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:52:53)
Well, some background info for you. I visited your press conference last time and it was two weeks before I gave birth and I didn’t have a chance to ask a question. But this time I was lucky. I thought if I have that sign, somehow, you would notice us.

Vladimir Putin: (01:53:17)
Okay. You fooled us. Okay. Don’t worry. Mr. [inaudible 01:53:24] indeed made a courageous effort, he risked his life. Definitely, he deserves a State award. We will think which award in particular, but thank you for pointing it out. Thank you for raising this issue, Alexandra. It means that you were a kindhearted person. I’m sure that your children will grow up in a very good kind hearted and friendly environment. We’ll definitely look into this case. Thank you.

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:54:02)
Thank you, Mr. Putin. And we’re supposed to have the national front conference. My colleague was supposed to send a video to that forum. But somehow that feature was leaked and he’s now being attacked and persecuted online. So maybe you could think of somehow protecting our job as journalists.

Vladimir Putin: (01:54:38)
Why is he being harassed? Why is he bullied online?

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:54:46)
Well, he raised an issue with the Novo-Ryazan thermal power plant. There is a monopoly, you know, and someone leaks that video, it was only my colleague and the executive committee of the national France who had that video. But then it was leaked and then Mr. [inaudible 01:55:14] and other journalist started accusing my colleague and we had other media reports.

Speaker 20: (01:55:26)
We have a volunteer. Right, right now I’m sure.

Vladimir Putin: (01:55:30)
I’m sorry Mr. [inaudible 01:55:31] please don’t interfere.

Vladimir Putin: (01:55:33)
So it’s the Novo-Ryazan combined heat and power plant.

Speaker 20: (01:55:46)
He’s right here. Please give him the floor.

Anton: (01:55:53)
[inaudible 01:55:53] Chief Editor of the 62 media. I was putting together a video reports related to the Novo-Ryazan combined heat power plant. And it was leaked to social media. And as my colleague said, I’m now being bullied, accused saying that I’m corrupt and so on.

Vladimir Putin: (01:56:28)
Corrupt, why? I Don’t really understand. I’m really… Are you fighting for the interests of the people, who accuses you of being corrupt? You didn’t kill anyone. You didn’t poison anyone. You didn’t kill or poisonous anyone. Why are you corrupt, why are you called corrupt?

Anton: (01:56:54)
Well, they believe that this criticism is unfair.

Vladimir Putin: (01:57:02)
Well, Anton, you should understand that your job involves certain risks. On the contrary, the fact that you have such an uproar. An uproar that’s being paid by someone. It should convince you that’s you’re on the right track. As for the [inaudible 01:57:21] power plant, I’ll ask my colleagues to look into it. Is it a private firm?

Anton: (01:57:40)
It’s a private company that leases capacity from the city of Ryazan.

Vladimir Putin: (01:57:48)
Okay. I’ll ask competent authorities to look into it. Thank you so much for raising this issue. You just need to hold the fort. Nothing particular, you know, nothing strange going on that’s life. You know, people are writing stuff about me too. And you have to carry on.

Vladimir Putin: (01:58:13)
As for Igor [inaudible 00:13:16], who is he by profession? What kind of job does he have? What kind of position? Alexander, can we get Alexander back online?

Alexandra Besaquadva: (01:58:29)
He’s vice governor of the [inaudible 01:58:34] region.

Vladimir Putin: (01:58:35)
Well, I have another paper… Alexandra thank you. I have another paper from the Leningrad region. The village of [inaudible 01:58:46]. [inaudible 01:58:43] so that’s the kind of conversation he had with some of the officials. So he came with an issue and the official asked him, “Did Putin promise you that?” And so here’s the question from that guy from [inaudible 01:59:14]

Vladimir Putin: (01:59:14)
Why do we have such officials? Why do they behave that way? Well [inaudible 00:14:25], I’d just like to point out to you that we have different officials. Like [inaudible 01:59:26] and we have bad guys, the ones you are referring to. You have good and bad people everywhere.

Vladimir Putin: (01:59:42)
Definitely, there’s a black sheep in every flock. And I will definitely I’ll ask the governor to a sort it this last issue in [inaudible 00:14:53].

Speaker 21: (02:00:00)
Welcome to St. Petersburg. We have the entire Northwestern Federal District. And as you can see, we have calm and quiet. No one’s having brash and flashy signs. St. Petersburg Diary, “When will the borders open, finally?” Is that a question? I’m sorry.

Speaker 22: (02:00:32)
[inaudible 02:00:32] St. Petersburg Diary. Indeed, when will we see the borders being opened? As you know, St. Petersburg was recognized as the best world class destination leaving behind Paris, New York, Rome, and other strong competitors. So getting the borders open is really important for the top-line of St. Petersburg. We know that air communication could be open soon. We have some surprise countries. And countries where few Russians ever been, and we have air communication with them. But, the tourist industry is really struggling.

Speaker 22: (02:01:25)
They don’t bring enough taxes to the city budget. We understand the pandemic plays a major role. Is there still a chance that the borders will be open soon? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: (02:01:41)
[inaudible 02:01:41] We both love St. Petersburg. I’m sure everyone loves St. Petersburg. I’m sure that the vast majority of all people loves this city too. It’s one of the best world capitals and that’s been a magnet for tourists. We’ve been helping St. Petersburg in every possible way. In terms of Visas, those who come to St. Petersburg via fairies. We try to create favorable conditions for the tourist industry and elsewhere across Russia.

Vladimir Putin: (02:02:26)
I’d like to congratulate St. Petersburg for scooping that award, and that city deserves that award. It boasts world-class architecture, with Trezzini and other top-notch architects. And contemporary St. Petersburg architecture is growing in every way. We have newer urban environment. Your infrastructure is cropping up. New Facilities, sports facilities, Gazprom Arena, cultural facilities. So St. Petersburg hosts top class events, world competitions, and it definitely attracts a lot of attention to St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: (02:03:29)
The borders are closed not because someone wants to do something to St. Petersburg. Do you know what’s the incidence rate since COVID-19 in St. Petersburg?

Speaker 22: (02:03:42)
Yes it’s high, even given the average nationwide figures. This is why we definitely have the restriction including for New Year holidays.

Vladimir Putin: (02:03:52)
Yes. You’re right. So hospitals are really busy. So in terms of the occupancy rate of hospital beds, it’s 85% across the country. And in St. Petersburg, the occupancy rate for hospital beds is even higher than 85%. This is why we have so much concern. If the doctors give the green light, we open the borders. We definitely want our people to use the chance to travel to St. Petersburg, to use domestic tourist opportunities. Definitely, everyone is welcome to St. Petersburg and we don’t need to open the borders for that. But once that’s possible, we’ll do that.

Vladimir Putin: (02:04:48)
Definitely, air flights is one of the worst industries. We definitely need to allow flights in and out, to support that industry. 32 million Russians, that’s the flow that we have, that fly abroad. 35 billion US dollars, that’s how much they spend abroad. If we re-divert some of that funding, some of those funds to our cities, to our villages, that’ll be great. St. Petersburg deserves that. And I’m sure it will rise to the challenge. Once we can open the borders, we’ll do that.

Vladimir Putin: (02:05:41)
Can he show the journalists to eat at [inaudible 00:20:44]?

Speaker 20: (02:05:49)
Channel One. It’s dictatorship [inaudible 02:17:49] you know?

Speaker 23: (02:06:05)
[inaudible 02:06:05] Channel One. Let’s go back to January and February before the pandemic, when you were not forced into a manual micromanagement. You were the government and you were speaking about the breakthrough saying that the [inaudible 02:06:24] lead government was supposed to spearhead that breakthrough. And as we know that even the national goals were put off until 2030. So [inaudible 02:06:37] that the national projects were not able to help in achieving the national goals by 2024, or is it the pandemic?

Speaker 23: (02:06:46)
And my second question is what about the government? Is it coping? And third, there’ve been reshuffle in the government. Are we supposed to expect new ones? And what about the breakthrough? That’s my fourth question.

Vladimir Putin: (02:07:02)
Our strategic long-term goals will remain in place. We have to adjust to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, as I said. Some of the reforms had to be rescheduled for six months, like in the primary care unit, because we needed funding, emergency funding, to fight COVID-19. To support our people, support the worst hit industries. We spent 838 billion rubles for direct support of our people. We had to find those funds, just like the funding we used to support our worst hit industries.

Vladimir Putin: (02:07:59)
But the strategic goals are still there. The government has been working quite efficiently. As for the prices, and your Channel showed our discussion with the government officials. I believe that some government officials indeed did not respond in a promptly manner. They overlooked that situation. But overall, given the challenges of the pandemic, the government worked really efficiently, day and night, in a very intense way. And we need to thank them for it. And we will.

Vladimir Putin: (02:08:48)
As for the changes, the re-shuffle, it’s up to the head of the government. I agreed with those changes as for other changes for any other reshuffle. Well, we don’t have any other initiatives from the chairman of the government. I think that the existing composition of the governance needs to work like a clock. We need some stability. We need to give everyone time. That’s a response to part of your question. So, no other changes are expected.

Vladimir Putin: (02:09:24)
As for the strategic goals. Indeed, we picked the right people for the government to pursue those national development goals. And I believe that governance is still on track to do that. It is fit for a purpose. We have identified the goals. Indeed, we had some initial criticism, whether we can achieve those goals using the tools that we’re supposed to use. The ones we call the national projects or the national programs. Overall, I believe they’re fit for purpose. There are some issues we need to look into.

Vladimir Putin: (02:10:06)
But we’ve been in close contact with the regional authorities. We’ve consulted with them. Despite the pandemic, we’ll continue to develop, like the reform of the primary care unit. You know, we’ll continue to spend everything that’s been planned to 500 billion plus, 50 billion from the regions.

Vladimir Putin: (02:10:29)
I’m sorry, Mr. [inaudible 02:17:49] to interfere. I promised to give the floor to one woman.

Speaker 24: (02:10:40)
Thank you. [inaudible 02:10:43] Gazeta Newspaper. The change of the constitution, this year. Why?

Vladimir Putin: (02:10:52)
Well, you have to do everything right on time. Fighting prices that has to be done in a timely way, and changes to the constitution had to be done in a timely way. We can’t do it earlier. Let’s look at it. The fundamental part of our constitution remains the same. The previous constitution was adopted when people were dying here. Fire was on the streets and tanks were shooting at the parliament. We had shootouts here in Moscow. So that’s still on our memory and it wasn’t happening elsewhere, it was here right in front of of these buildings, right on the streets. And the constitution was adopted amidst that situation. I mean, those hostilities.

Vladimir Putin: (02:12:02)
The constitution indeed had a stabilizing role to play, helped to create the certain political base to help the country move forward. But, we’re in a different situation now. And in line with this situation, we had to change the main law as we call it, to introduce amendments to the constitution. We were not able to do certain things earlier. Take these social guarantees, social securities guarantees that perpetuates that the adjustment of pensions. Would it have been possible to do that in 1993? People didn’t get retirement benefits or salaries or allowances for six months.

Vladimir Putin: (02:12:54)
It’s a different situation now. Current heads of companies and future heads of companies would have to do those adjustments. They have to adjust the pension benefits to inflation. We now have the fundamental economic conditions that help us to do that.

Vladimir Putin: (02:13:20)
Some of The colleagues raised the issue of how difficult and how struggling our people are. But definitely our salaries need to be higher than the minimum wage set in the law. So these adjustments are set forth in the constitution. There could be other issues. We adjusted salaries for some of the workers, but some of the other professions are underpaid right now. But the government would have to do it. The minimum wage cannot be lower than the minimum subsistence level. And definitely they would have to take action and the amendments also asserted priority of Russia’s legal system over international ones. Or the inviability of our territory.

Vladimir Putin: (02:14:33)
Well, take the state of the Russian Army it was in, in 1993. Where we were able to do that? No, you won’t use a nuclear bomb forever incident. And the conventional forces were all in disarray. The army was in tatters. We needed an army of 50,000 to fight the terrorists in the Caucasus. And we weren’t able to do that, since the army back then was one million. But we couldn’t find 50 thousands of capable soldiers.

Vladimir Putin: (02:15:10)
Right now our army is smaller, but it’s one of the most efficient armies around the world. It’s smaller, but it’s more efficient. So, okay, we’re strong. We can now put it on paper and make it as part of the constitution. We did it on time.

Vladimir Putin: (02:15:27)
And by the way, you know how many of the suggestions we had to update the constitution, thousands of them came in. So I’d like to thank our people for what they did. It was an all Russian vote and many people came to cast their ballots and choose what they wanted to see in the constitution. That was basically a referendum. So the people are the office of these amendments to the constitution. It was necessary. It was timely. And I would like to thank the people of Russia for doing that, for supporting these amendments. Thank you.

Speaker 20: (02:16:07)
Okay. We haven’t yet heard anything from the region of [inaudible 00:31:13].

Speaker 25: (02:16:14)
Okay. This is [inaudible 02:16:17] the South of Russia. I think we are even more to the South than [inaudible 02:16:23] because [inaudible 02:16:27] might be the south region but geographically speaking Caucuses, easily most southern point [inaudible 02:16:35] Here we have a lot of journalists, and they are willing to ask you a question. If you don’t mind, let’s start right ahead.

Speaker 20: (02:16:44)
Sebasco if you don’t mind, I would be the moderator here.

Speaker 25: (02:16:47)
Yes, of course.

Speaker 20: (02:16:49)
So let’s ask someone from the region of Caucuses and it should be a lady I think. Ladies first, you know? Someone in the center, one, two, three… You please. Could you please stand up? Thank you.

Speaker 26: (02:17:07)
[inaudible 02:17:07] this is [inaudible 02:17:12] I cannot say that we all are living through this pandemic. COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to our lives. The healthcare system has been undermined. Even prior to the pandemic the salaries were pretty low. Optimization, as we call it, was not a positive factor. Now we are changing our priorities. One of the key priorities for us today is to help our tourism within the country thrive. And [inaudible 02:17:48] is one place where tourism is of special note.

Speaker 26: (02:17:53)
So could you please share your plans as to how to support tourism in Russia. In many countries, as we know, tourism is a huge contributor to the state budget. For instance, Turkey has a lot of resorts and tourism industry is given a lot of benefits. [inaudible 02:18:12] has always been famous for its resorts and certainly today we are still a perfect place for tourists. We have ski resorts, gastronomically we are very rich. There is one, but. We need infrastructure. Without federal help this region cannot prosper and thrive.

Vladimir Putin: (02:18:39)
Well we already mentioned tourism because St. Petersburg is waiting for the borders to open. So their foreign tourists would come in. And you probably heard some of the things I said, answering that question. I think it’s very important to let the tourism industry to prosper. And I know that people in Russia are quite familiar, quite accustomed to going abroad for vacations. 52 million people tend to travel abroad when they have a chance to have a vacation.

Vladimir Putin: (02:19:12)
Tourism inside Russia is also important. And this year we’ve been doing our best to help people spend their vacations here in Russia. You know, we have that cash back system, where we gave some of the money that people spent on vacations back to them. Here is something I want to point out, this cash back system. We earmarked 15 billion people only 1.2 billion rubels have been used already. We agree that this money will not be allocated and we will use this money and we will add the same amount next year. We will be doing our best to build up the speed and efficiency or our work. So I would like to reach out to you-

Vladimir Putin: (02:20:03)
So I’d like to reach out to you and your colleagues, all the media out there, those who work online and offline, we need to support internal tourism, domestic tourism. And I think we should be doing better in terms of informing the population about the regions and the resorts that we have here in Russia, rather than abroad. I know and I understand that people say, “Well, it’s beautiful,” but there is no water closet, there’s nowhere to wash your hands, restaurants, roads, all this infrastructure is insufficient and we need to pour colossal amount of money to change the situation, change the tide. I hope that businesses will chip in because the state is meant to provide support and we are doing that. We are providing the infrastructure and we will be allocating the money. It has already been envisaged by our recent plans, and we will be supporting regional businesses.

Vladimir Putin: (02:21:10)
We’re currently working to establish an institution that would work solely on domestic tourism issues. I talked with Mr. Chernyshenko. He is spearheading this effort. He’s very active. Mr. Chernyshenko is fighting tooth and nail for you. And we are aware that this is a very important sector for us. You mentioned Turkey, and Turkey is quite close to us, and they’re building up their tourism capacities for decades now. And the government of Turkey supported massively the tourism industry in Turkey.

Vladimir Putin: (02:21:58)
It’s not an exception to the rule when it comes to ship building. We know that South Korea set up a whole state system to help facilitate the growth of that particular business area and they’re building the biggest ships these days. Turkey did the same helping its tourism sector and we should follow suit. As for the money, 15 billion rubles, we’ll just put them for the next year.

Vladimir Putin: (02:22:35)
Okay, we’ve been up and running for over two years. Those who have single use masks, don’t forget to change them. Okay. If we don’t have one, we have people here who can share one with you. And NTV.

Vladimir Putin: (02:22:48)
Mr. Peskov, sorry to interrupt. Just let’s do something else now for a moment. There was a question about the internet and whether online education is possible. I have a lot of questions here. Some of them have to do with the bandwidth or the quality of the internet connection. I think that is very important for those who are currently studying online for schools in the year 2021, we will introduce better access to the internet for schools across Russia.

Vladimir Putin: (02:23:25)
And if we take cities and towns of Russia, each and every one should have a universal system, which would bind together telephones and other devices using the internet. That should be done by the year 2021. I won’t be giving you all the nitty-gritty of this issue, but the cities and towns like people say, “Should we be climbing up the trees to get access to the internet?” Because there is no connection. Well, by the end of the year 2021, these problems will be solved. We have allocated 12.6 billion rubles and this money will be used and I hope it will be used in such a ways to let people see the difference. I hope people will see the difference. So the settlements between 100 and 500 people will also be entitled to these new program benefits.

Vladimir Putin: (02:24:25)
That’s just on a separate note. Okay, NTV, back to you now. Could you please pass the mic to you?

Vladimir Putin: (02:24:35)
A journalist representing NTV. Good afternoon. My name is Sergei Halashevsky NTV. Let me ask you about our foreign policy and about the foreign policy of our Western partners, as we call them. Over the last four years, who among the global leaders become the… Well, the difficult negotiator, and the most comfortable negotiator. I remember you say at one of the G20 meetings, giving some geography lessons to Macron and Merkel over the issue of the Kerch Strait. What about Mr. Erdogan? What about Mr. Trump? They are quite interesting people and also Lukashenko. I think he’s a rather interesting interlocutor as well. And another question, if I may. It has to do with the Nord Stream 2 project. The United States is putting unprecedented pressure on the EU and surprisingly so, Europe, Germany in particular, are pushing back against this pressure. So in your opinion, what are the prospects? Will we build, will we complete the construction or not?

Vladimir Putin: (02:25:43)
Well, comfortable, not comfortable partners in negotiations. I’m not passing the judgment on anyone here. All these people are highly professional and exceptionally well-prepared for any talks, for any negotiations, they are laser focused to achieve the tasks which they have set for themselves for their country. The means of achieving these goals might be different. So there are no bad or good politicians. There are only interests of your country. It’s the same with me. I don’t say that this politician is good and this one is bad. I work with everyone because my goal is to get as much as I can for my country, for Russia. Sometimes you have to reach compromise. Sometimes you have to insist that our interest should take priority, but that’s how it works. All the rest is counterproductive.

Vladimir Putin: (02:26:46)
You mentioned some of the countries, well actually you forgot China. With China, our interests are quite similar on many issues. Maybe they saw maybe some chemistry at the personal level has helped us to build very good business relations and also personal relationship with the head of China, Xi Jinping. And that helps a lot, actually. Right now our views might be different on some issues with President Erdogan. Sometimes we are worlds apart, but he’s a person who always delivers. He’s a real gentleman. He never does anything. He never walks back from a promise. He does everything to do good for his country, and it’s easy to forecast what his next step will be.

Vladimir Putin: (02:27:53)
And being predictable is a very good quality. It’s good for me because I know what to expect from him or other such people. He mentioned the Nordstrom 2 project. This project is undoubtedly, absolutely clear that it is a win-win for everyone. It’s a huge, huge win for the EU and for Germany in particular. There’s a different option for them. They can buy a more expensive energy resource. Liquefied gas from the United States, it’s priced 20% higher than the pipeline gas that we supplied with. That will make the economy of Germany less competitive and the prices for households would skyrocket. That’s all pretty simple. It’s cut and dry. You don’t need to be a professional to know things.

Vladimir Putin: (02:28:46)
And, of course, this project reflects national interests of Germany and the EU. By the way, we have a lot of people who we deem friends in Germany. I’m not exaggerating anything. So the leadership of Germany does not interfere in this because this is a purely business project, economic project, and they are quite open about their position. They support the project wholeheartedly.

Vladimir Putin: (02:29:19)
I think what is needed is to complete the construction of 160 kilometers. That’s for both the pipelines. It’s 165 maybe if I remember it right. So it’s almost finished. I think it will be completed and I hope the new administration of the United States would treat it’s partners, it’s allies with respect. Not be trying to force them into neglecting their own national interests. Now, I hope that the administration will work following the principle of fair competition. I hope this project will be completed.

Vladimir Putin: (02:30:09)
I think we should go back to the call center.

Vladimir Putin: (02:30:15)
We thought you’d forgotten about us. We have lots of question and they’re growing in number. Let me remind you that you can ask your question through our website, moscow2putin or via the application. You can record a video or send a text message. Now, let’s see what our volunteers have. Sasha Pechenyegin. He processed over 19,000 requests from Russians. Some of them had to do with delivering the medicine to people. Could you please share what have you been doing?

Vladimir Putin: (02:30:48)
It’s still a lot of questions that I’ve received have to do with the benefits, social benefits, support, especially so. We receive a lot of questions from mothers. People want to know whether there will be additional benefits, because right now, in some of the regions, like the region of Arkhangelsk and Ulyanovsk, Tambov region, in many regions, people still don’t know what they are entitled to and where to go to get the benefits in Moscow. People say that the multifunctional centers do not work as they should. They are closed and they can’t get the money. This service doesn’t work automatically through the website of the state services and people are worried and concerned. They didn’t know whom to ask for this benefits. So the main question, Mr. Putin, the main question is as follows: Next year, will you be giving additional benefits for children? Because most often this help it’s very much needed. And the help which is being given right now is the only kind of help people can get.

Vladimir Putin: (02:31:49)
Okay. Benefits for families with children. I already described that we started doing that. Families with children between zero and 1.5 years, between 1.5 and three, between three and seven. These are three categories. People are saying that they don’t understand where to go to get this benefits. It seems that there are some problems with information support. I think prior to thinking of what to do in addition to what we have already done, we need to complete what we’ve been doing already. We have a lot of target support measures for regions, especially for regions with a different kind of demographical situation.

Vladimir Putin: (02:32:41)
So before making any steps further, we need to achieve maximum performance on what we have been doing already. I will discuss this issue with the governors and the presidential envoys. So we will look into this issue. Usually this issue can be solved through the pension fund or the multifunctional center, if they are closed due to COVID-19 pandemic, okay, we’ll start this one out. Thank you for pointing my attention in that direction and it’s good to know that people know where to go to issue, to voice their concerns.

Vladimir Putin: (02:33:16)
Thank you so much. Well, volunteers have been doing a lot of work and it’s important because we talk personally or on the phone with people who have these concerns. So thank you for giving us this opportunity.

Vladimir Putin: (02:33:29)
I’m really surprised to hear that. I’m actually quite alarmed now to know that people cannot get the benefits which they are entitled to. I can assure you, I can assure those who need this help, who wrote or called up that we will look into this case. And let me say something else. A lot of questions have to do with the healthcare system. For example, the region of Altai, the [inaudible 02:34:05] Central Hospital has been closed. And the person who wrote about this Natalia [Duboyukova 02:34:14] if I got the surname right. People are panicking that the hospital was closed.

Vladimir Putin: (02:34:21)
Well, I will take a look. I’m saying this so that the governor of the region and the envoy of he region could hear that. Sometimes it happens that healthcare facilities or educational facilities close down in small settlements because, well, it’s not profitable, but if people have nowhere to go except this one hospital or school then we should keep it open. The territory of Russia is huge and we shouldn’t be doing any such things.

Vladimir Putin: (02:34:55)
Okay. Let’s stay here for a moment. Andrei Kolesnikov, please. Good afternoon. This is Kommersant newspaper. Mr. Putin, Valentina Tereshkova put forward an initiative to say that the presidential terms can be zeroed. As we say, it means that when 2024 comes, you might become president again. What does that really mean? Are you ready to become president again? Or you don’t want to be a lame duck before time and that’s the reason why that happened such a way. What did you think about the situation which happened when many people started to express their solidarity? Actually, that was quite tough on the constitution. That’s what I think, and many other people agree with me. So Mr. Putin, I want to ask you, did really worth it?

Vladimir Putin: (02:35:57)
And if I may, let me ask another question. Well, this aspiring journalist said that we should ask two questions and I can also say that well, he’s not an aspiring one. He’s a pro already asking two questions. So you mentioned the Safronov case. If he took information from open sources then he can not be charged with high treason. You said it. And you believe in that. Over the last couple of days, did you get any details? You promised to do that. So what were the sources that the prosecution used to know, to establish, that he got the information. And don’t you think that this particular article is being used for charges left and right, far too often.

Vladimir Putin: (02:36:51)
And if I may just say that yesterday, some information surfaced in a couple of media sources that he got information from non-open sources. If that is the assumption then, well, perhaps he might have made a mistake. That’s an ideal case when he did something, but he wasn’t aware of what he was doing. Maybe this means that he could be pardoned. I know Ivan personally, and I knew his father. He was crystally honest. So I’m ready to vouch for Ivan Safronov right now, right here, and well, that’s how it is. If it happens, we are ready to go with him. We’re ready to support him.

Vladimir Putin: (02:37:53)
Okay, whether it was worth putting forward that amendment to the constitution or not. I have one universal rule, answering that question, you should understand one thing. Will what we do help the country or not? If it is not going to help our country, we shouldn’t do it. If it will help, we should do it. For me, I haven’t decided yet. I don’t know whether I will be running again in 2024. As for stable growth and development of Russia, that’s the ultimate goal. Formally speaking, the people supported this amendment. I will consider the options. Now, Safronov, open sources or non-open sources, it’s up for the prosecution to establish the truth. He’s not being tried for his journalist activities. Andrei, that’s the whole point. It’s not because of his professional activities. He’s not a dissident journalist fighting the authorities and he is being punished for that, in prison for that. It’s not like that. These charges are in no way connected to his professional work as a journalist. This has to do with something else. He been working as a advisor or deputy to regarding when he was part of the [inaudible 02:39:31] and he already moved to the Russian Space Agency and he had nothing to do with journalism. You say he might have made a mistake. Well, mistake happens.

Vladimir Putin: (02:39:44)
We can pardon him? Well, yes, we can. We should take a look at how dangerous his activities might be, could have been. Did he do any damage? He’s charged with espionage actually not high treason, but the biggest thing that we can commit is treason. Giving information, sensitive information, to foreign secret services is treason. And I know, and I understand this doesn’t really sound good to those who trust him, trusted him, or trust him now. And I really feel for you. And I can say that I actually feel for him if he made that mistake. He’d been collecting the information for days and weeks and feeding this information to foreign secret services for a premium, for some money. That shows that he’s that kind of person. Let me say it again. It’s for the court to decide whether he is dangerous to the society, to the country, or not. Can we pardon him afterwards? Well, that’s stage two. We are at stage one. It’s too early to say.

Vladimir Putin: (02:41:04)
Okay. Let’s continue here. Maybe we should have a question about sport. Match TV.

Vladimir Putin: (02:41:15)
Thank you so much, Mr. Putin. My name is Olga Bogoslovskaya, Match TV. First and foremost, I would like to thank you. To thank you for celebrating our fifth anniversary. So sending your greetings was a great pleasure to us. Thank you for your very high opinion about our work and our team. So my question, it has to do with sports to some degree, actually, this issue is broader than that. The situation I’m referring to is something that happened to Artem Dzyuba.

Vladimir Putin: (02:41:51)
I know that his personal, intimate video was leaked and there was a huge uproar online. Almost every media platform covered this problem, the scandal, some expressed solidarity, some did the opposite thing, but let’s remember that he didn’t do that on his own. Those were hackers, I think. They will help this video to go online. So those were some very undecent people who did that. This question is not really related to sports only. Now we see a [inaudible 00:22: 30]. Maybe it will be someone else after that who will face the same kind of scandal. So don’t you think that this situation shouldn’t be actually affecting professional activities of a person [inaudible 02:42:42] or any other professional?

Vladimir Putin: (02:42:44)
Well, I think the answer is quite clear. It shouldn’t be affecting your work. It’s up to him personally, to decide with whom and what he was doing. There should be no interference in personal matters. It’s dishonest for someone, or for the whole of society to discuss such issues publicly. He’s a public person, and sooner or later it was coming, and what she got well, he got that. Because for public people, it’s always a problem to keep it your internal, personal affairs, close to you. So don’t forget that there are some rules you have to abide by. Really should. Should that affect your professional activities? The answer is of course not. In that context, I’d like to say that… Did you see that video? Did you watch it?

Vladimir Putin: (02:43:50)
Actually, Mr. Putin, I think the whole country saw it. I didn’t watch it until the end, but the first few shots, first few frames, they were pretty self-explanatory. I didn’t, I didn’t watch it myself, but I’ve been reading through some of the materials, the letters that I get and the call center has been sending a lot to me. And here is something.

Vladimir Putin: (02:44:21)
Yuri [Krasnanski 02:44:23] from the Murmansk region. So his question is about ambulances. From Yakutia. The village of Yakutia. He says we have one ambulance and one doctor. You can go to the clinic on your own if you have a car, but we just have one GP at the clinic. She as a woman and she’s 86. And she can hardly distinguish between different diseases.

Vladimir Putin: (02:45:10)
So many issues in one question. Well, Yuri a woman GP, 86. Well, she must be a veteran of the labor and you need to treat her with respect and that’s the way it should be. She’s still working, and I’m sure that she’s got great skills. We had quite a good level of medical education in the Soviet Union, and even in Czarist Russia, and you should help her. Well, she needs assistance, basically. So we will help you too. If it’s a disease like [inaudible 02:46:36] or any other disease. You should be able to help her to distinguish between different diseases. Well, as for ambulances, as for funding, we will definitely help to buy more ambulances for you.

Vladimir Putin: (02:46:59)
Vladivostok, it’s late afternoon, and we should give the floor back to you.

Vladimir Putin: (02:47:06)
Indeed, it’s almost midnight, but out journalists are still passionate. You have the best professionals here. It’s really hard to pick the right one. The lemon coated woman, please. Politics and people. That’s your question. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: (02:47:40)
Prima Media. [Oxana Kisilova 00:27:43]. Well, the Far East will be forever remembered, here in the Far East, not just because of the pandemic, but also because of the change of the governors in the Jewish Autonomous District and in the Khabarovsk region. Many Khabarovsk people spoke in favor of the former governor Furgal, we also had protesting in the Magadan region, Sakhalin, Kamchatka. Your envoy, Mr. Trutnev, said recently in an interview to Prima Media, to our news agency, that despite the fact that many people liked Furgal, it was really difficult for him personally to work with Mr. Furgal, and many projects were undermined.

Vladimir Putin: (02:48:46)
Do you have the latest information from the law enforcement that supports the charges against Mr. Furgal? As for the protests, can you really hear the dissenting voices in the environment to culture and not just in politics. Can you hear those opposing voices?

Vladimir Putin: (02:49:13)
Oxana, now, Mr. Furgal, he represents a well-known policy. The party supported him and continues to support him. I had good ties with him. [inaudible 02:49:28] He was loyal to the federal authorities. I didn’t have any issues with him. We were on good terms with him. I’m not aware of Mr. Trutnev’s judgment, but overall, his job was okay. He tried to do his job as the head of a region. But the charges against him are really grave.

Vladimir Putin: (02:50:03)
As a member of the organized crime group that involved the killing of competitors. So we’re talking about the murders not robberies or not about abuse of power. No, we’re in the murder terrain. Listen, these are serious charges. You asked me where there is any additional evidence. Well, the law, the investigation is working. I don’t call them up every day. They just need to finalize their activities and pass it over to the court. I can understand there were a lot of people who voted for Mr. Frugal, but what about the charges? It’s not political persecution. This is a criminal case. The same applies to other parties. What about United Party representatives? We know that there were some heads of regions that belong to the United Russia party and they were convicted to long sentences and some of them are still in jail. We are aware of such cases. Should we make exceptions for one party over another? Representatives of all political parties could end up in such situation. The law enforcement system of Russia should treat everyone equally. And the same applies to Frugal regardless of party affiliation.

Vladimir Putin: (02:52:09)
Novosibirsk, please.

Vladimir Putin: (02:52:12)
Well, someone started shouting here. I know people who replaced some of the masks and those now have other signs and there are signs without. And there are people with those signs. We’ve got a person without any sign. The lady with the dark mask, who replaced it, please introduce.

Vladimir Putin: (02:52:40)
[Ilena Mashka 00:32:43] I’m from the Irkutsk region, Baikal, I’ll talk about environment. Mr. Putin, here’s my question. We’ve had several major environmental disasters in the past year. And you had to intervene personally. The Norilsk, Usoliekhimprom incidents, what kind of punishments do they deserve? And do you support the following idea? Maximum penalties for those who inflict this environmental damage. Well, let’s split this issue into two. First, yeah, you could sit down. First is the so-called accumulated damage related to industrial plants starting from the Soviet times, something which is not related to any specific commercial or government institutions. It’s the government that is in charge of this. It’s federal, regional authorities. They’re all in charge of it. They’re all responsible, and we need to respond to these incidents. That’s the Krasny Bor, [inaudible 02:54:15] St. Petersburg, Usolye-Sibirskoye.

Vladimir Putin: (02:54:23)
The sooner we start dealing with it, the better. There are current issues, and manmade disasters, which take place right now. Definitely we need the law enforcement to audit institutions that need to look into it and ascertain their level of responsibility and definitely those polluters need to be held to account, held to accountability, and the penalty needs to be…

Vladimir Putin: (02:55:02)
… and it needs to. The penalty needs to be in line with the damage to the environment and to the people who reside in that place. As for Norilsk Nickel, I just don’t interfere. I know that the penalty is really high.

Vladimir Putin: (02:55:17)
Well, you have to take ownership. Take the city of Norilsk itself. The company needs to work more on environmental issues. Take a closer look at the healthcare sector, the emissions. I’m sure the company could take a certain load for these areas.

Speaker 28: (02:55:49)
[inaudible 02:55:49] Mr. Putin. The CIS will be marking the 30 year anniversary. The CIS seems to be going through a phase. We saw the president and the government stepping down in Kyrgyzstan, the protest in Belarus and the statement by the newly elected president in Moldova about the need to withdraw the Russian peacekeepers from the Transnistria region. Here’s my question. Can Russia lose some of their allies in the CIS?

Vladimir Putin: (02:56:46)
Nadia, you said it’s a phase. You say it’s… Take Kyrgyzstan. Well, it’s not the first time that they have this. They have these kind of a mess all the time.

Vladimir Putin: (02:57:09)
They want to follow some of the political patterns of other countries. But the level of maturity is not the same as in France. Take France, the political system… Or take Germany. Their political system has evolved over decades and even centuries and the parliamentary forum was built over time for centuries. The political parties with resilient political platform which is clear to everyone, which has a certain base.

Vladimir Putin: (02:57:44)
What about the CIS countries? Do we have these traditions? No. So this is the results not of what we see today. We have to treat everyone with respect? They are looking, they’re searching for their own identity, for their own path. It’s not that we are in a phase.

Vladimir Putin: (02:58:09)
And the president of Moldova, I wish all the best and wish her success. But, she represents a political force. Her statement is not something new to us. The representatives of different western countries have called on the withdrawal of our peacekeepers. And Maia Sandu is the President of Moldova, but she’s also a citizen of Romania. Okay. We heard the calls from foreign countries to withdraw our peacekeepers. Yes, we are in favor of that once we have the right to environment. Once we have normal dialogue between the Transnistria Region and Moldova. Once we are in the reconciliation and peace phase, we are in favor of that. And we were close to that with the previous president [inaudible 02:59:05] the representatives of Western countries pushed him and the last minute we said, “Okay, we won’t do it.” He made a step back and the resolution and the settlement of the Transnistria conflict was put off for an uncertain time.

Vladimir Putin: (02:59:23)
“Why?” I asked counterparts, “Why did you do that?” They said, “Well, you know, we did that.” And that’s the way it turned out. I don’t want to go into detail, but this issue has to be resolved at a certain point.

Vladimir Putin: (02:59:37)
Now, take Belarus. I made multiple statements on that matter. The people themselves need to sort out those issues in a calm way. The President made a statement about that, he spoke multiple times. I agree with him that it needs to be done in a calm environment and in a safe environment, initiate amendments to the constitution. Well, let’s wait and see.

Vladimir Putin: (03:00:10)
The only thing we really wanted to achieve here is that there’s no interference from the outside in the domestic affairs of Belarus. Because there is interference at this point, there’s information support from abroad, there’s financial support for certain parties coming from abroad. And this never leads to anything good. I can see through the mask that you’re smiling, but this is critically important.

Vladimir Putin: (03:00:41)
You know why? Because it is difficult… When there should be change within a society, it has to be grounded in something that has been developing for a long time within then the country. Not thrown in from the outside, like a grenade blowing up. All you have to do is actually be patient, wait for all the domestic political forces, not to start conflict, but to engage in dialogue towards protecting people’s interests. That’s how it should go.

Vladimir Putin: (03:01:28)
Actually soon, we’re going to have a CIS event. And I think this is going to be a timely thing to do by the end of the year, we’re going to discuss with our colleagues the top priorities for us to address.

Speaker 27: (03:01:44)
Now, let’s go to Yekaterinburg. You know of the people in the Urals are very serious. They’re not shouting, but we have many signs, many more signs actually than during the start of the press conference. Now let’s give the floor to the young woman in this second row.

Speaker 29: (03:02:09)
Okay. Channel four and the name is [inaudible 03:02:15] my sign, read the word “Lockdown” which is a staple of all our languages at this point. And unfortunately the Coronavirus epidemic hit our region very hard, like indeed, many other regions and countries. Our region didn’t receive 10 million rubles that it should have received. Many jobs are lost. Many companies have to fire their staff. And the federal and regional budget has been trying to help these companies as well as families with children, interpreters, etc. But the situation is still very difficult.

Speaker 29: (03:03:03)
So my question is what are your prospects for our economy to get out of this crisis period? How soon can it happen? And the pace at which we can do this have something to do with the fact that you did introduce new lockdowns in September and in autumn?

Vladimir Putin: (03:03:26)
Well, yes. Thank you. This is a very timely question and very appropriate question, especially coming from Yekaterinburg, which the Ural’s are in fact a very important, a critical industrial center of our country and anything that has the… The COVID pandemic, of course, had a very serious effect on the region and on its output and the lives of people there.

Vladimir Putin: (03:03:56)
But let me get into detail with respect to this specific question. So the industries which are most, let’s say affected, of course transportation, especially air transportation, railroad transportation, especially passenger traffic. And of course that’s sales and services. And of course that’s the fitness center, that’s retail, that’s restaurants, cafes, etc.

Vladimir Putin: (03:04:37)
So what have we done? What has the government done? And I’ve said that over the year, the government has been worrying, working very intensively to support both the citizens and the economy. So on the whole… I have just named outlined Ural industries, so what has been done?

Vladimir Putin: (03:05:03)
So we have postponed all the payments except for the value added tax. We have provided special financial grants and subsidies. We have provided 0% loans. We have provided some companies with 2% loans with the guarantee that the loan will be written off if the company pledges to maintain 90% of their personnel or writing off 80%, if they actually managed to keep 80% of their personnel.

Vladimir Putin: (03:05:53)
Now, we also decreased payments for rent of state property and for small and medium enterprises, we have reduced social payments from 30% to 15%. And this is something that is here to stay. This is permanent.

Vladimir Putin: (03:06:13)
So this is the package of measures that have generally supported the affected areas and industries. Apart from that, we have also worked with representatives of systemic industries, such as the car industry, aircraft construction, ship building industry, agriculture, and of course construction.

Vladimir Putin: (03:06:48)
Speaking about the car industry, we’ve a very active program. For example, yesterday, we had PD-14 Russian engines used in MC-21 new products. And this is also an achievement of our car engineers, of our aircraft engineers. We’ve had new modifications of new cars. Civil ship building has seen a 30% increase despite all the problems associated with the pandemic.

Vladimir Putin: (03:07:38)
As for construction, yes, this year fewer buildings have been built, but we have maintained the industry at a very good level. Especially, in part, thanks to the subsidies in mortgage. For example, we have a 6% mortgage provided to a lot of people and a lot of other subsidies and measures tasked with helping the people. They have been worth 4.3 trillion rubles, which is over 4% of the Russian GDP allocated to support Russian people and Russian companies. So this is an entire package of measures developed and initiated specifically and formalized to effectively help our population.

Vladimir Putin: (03:08:48)
Now we’re thinking about further steps. Of course, once the crisis is over, what happens? How do we get out of this crisis? Now that depends on how fast we can deal with the virus? How fast we can proceed to mass vaccinations? How soon we can lift all the restrictions? And I expect that over the next six months, I think the situation will improve to the better generally.

Vladimir Putin: (03:09:26)
As for our economy, according to different estimates, by the end of 2021, or maybe first quarter of 2022, we’ll have overcome all of these issues. And over the next year we expect to see a positive GDP growth. But to do that, to achieve that we have to contribute to that. All of us. We all have to work to resolve these problems.

Vladimir Putin: (03:10:02)
Now let’s go back to the call center. Oh, we cannot hear you. [inaudible 00:15:13], we cannot hear you right now. [inaudible 03:10:15] could you please say your question again?

Speaker 30: (03:10:32)
Sure. Many parents ask are there going to be new payments for children in the next year?

Vladimir Putin: (03:10:37)
Please? Could you repeat your question?

Speaker 30: (03:10:40)
We have received a message from [inaudible 03:10:44] from Bashkurdistan. In November and December, she didn’t receive payments for her nine-months-old child. And this is actually her only lifeline to help her family survive. Are there going to be new payments, further payments, in the next year?

Vladimir Putin: (03:11:05)
Yes. Like I said before, regarding these payments and subsidies, we have been thinking about the possibility for further payments. November and December this year, this woman did not receive the payments. It means that the system itself is not working at this moment. The existing system is failing. So we have to improve it. Could you please specify where this woman lives, where she lives? Her address in Bashkurdistan? We need to address this issue specifically.

Speaker 30: (03:12:04)
So it’s Bashkurdistan, Yes.

Vladimir Putin: (03:12:10)
Where specifically in Bashkurdistan?

Speaker 30: (03:12:14)
Well, we can find her in a couple of minutes.

Vladimir Putin: (03:12:18)
We need to know the specific place. I’m sure that in Bashkurdistan the leadership there is very young and must be very productive. So they will have to resolve this problem. We’ll go back there later.

Speaker 31: (03:12:38)
Now let’s go to [inaudible 03:12:40] with the Kremlin journalist pool. Okay. Let’s go back to [inaudible 00:17:43]. I can see Russia Today in the back rows.

Speaker 32: (03:12:58)
[inaudible 03:12:58] My question is about safety and security and the terrorist threat. Russia has always condemned all terrorists acts and continues to do so. Specifically, terrorist acts taking place in Europe, for example, this year. Which were a reaction to the publication of Prophet Muhammad in one of the newspapers, of one of the publications.

Speaker 32: (03:13:24)
Russia does not support these publications. Where do you believe is the threshold between human rights and material offensive to believers? And what can Russia do to prevent this European type of scenario? So where’s the border? Where’s the threshold?

Vladimir Putin: (03:13:49)
Well, there’s nothing new I can tell you about that. What do you mean a border between a threshold between one right and one right? One freedom and other freedom? Where does one person’s freedom and another person’s freedom begin? I mean, it’s some very general things we’re talking about here.

Vladimir Putin: (03:14:12)
Those people who brazenly try to offend people’s religious views, people’s religious feelings, they must understand that this will have a negative reaction a blow back. But on the other hand, this kind of reaction should not be an aggressive one, a violent one. And in all global religions, in Christianity, in Islam… I’ve just quoted some lines from the Bible, from the Qur’an and etc. In all global religions, in all world religions, there is nothing about aggression. There’s nothing that asks you to be aggressive or infringe on people’s rights. So the reaction should never be to murder people. It always goes against the idea of all world religions.

Vladimir Putin: (03:15:20)
God gave you your life and He’s the only one who can take it away. And so how do we treat this problem in Russia? What can we do to prevent that from happening, this European scenario? What you see from the very start, Russia has been a nation of multiple religions and multiple views. We have different ethnicities, different peoples, this is a legacy given to us by our ancestors. During our history we’ve had multiple very dark and violent pages. For example, the deportation of peoples after the Great Patriotic War. We try not to raise this part of our history. I’m not going to make my personal assessment of what happened, but the representatives of the people who were affected, who suffered during those times… On the other hand, there were people among those who suffered that were actual traitors to the motherland who actually welcomed the Nazi forces coming to Russia. On the other hand, there were other people among these ethnicities who actually fought to their last breath to protect their Homeland.

Vladimir Putin: (03:16:57)
So, the thing I’m coming to is that there were no repressions based on religious belief. Of course, there was certain persecution of Christians, but this was the overall idea that Christian belief was unacceptable at some point in the Soviet State. But there was no specific persecution based on specific beliefs. And so we’ve had this tolerance forged in Russia over hundreds of years. So we do not accept when people are offensive towards other people’s beliefs. I ask you to never do that. This is something that could destroy our country from the inside. We cannot allow that.

Vladimir Putin: (03:17:54)
As for what’s happening in certain European nations. Well you see, the problem is, in some European nations representatives of say Islam are say 10% of the population. But these are usually immigrants or second, third generation immigrants. But in Russia, representatives of different beliefs and faiths have been living here for hundreds of years. And this is a very critical difference that we have between us and Europe. And this is what define the way we talk to each other.

Vladimir Putin: (03:18:47)
As you know, the project of multiculturalism in Europe failed. And many people who called for this project, for carrying out this project, had to actually admit that they failed. But in Russia [inaudible 03:19:06] happened organically over hundreds of years, and we value that.

Vladimir Putin: (03:19:10)
I think we overlooked the larger media. I think we should give them the floor now.

Speaker 33: (03:19:22)
[inaudible 03:19:22] We have been really discussing international relations. So I would like to ask you about one such issue. I will break it down in three questions. First, in your opinion of why the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh went up in flames now, and it did it quite quickly. Was it some objective reason? Or maybe there is one side, or one party to blame? Maybe someone inside of this conflict?

Speaker 33: (03:19:54)
My second question, how did Turkey acted… We know now that Ankara supported heavily Azerbaijan. And the monitoring center is another issue here. Ankara says that it has a lot of interest vested in this region. What are Russia’s interest in this region? Do these interests overlap, maybe they collide?

Speaker 33: (03:20:24)
And the last, but not the least aspect is the situation over [inaudible 00:25: 30]. In your opinion, how high is the risk that the situation might happen that the ceasefire would be violated again and again? And what will Russia do if such violations persist? Is it possible that the number of the peacekeeping forces will be increased? Thinking about [inaudible 03:20:56] Given the ongoing discussions, there are some tensions remaining because of the fact that the warring parties have different interpretations of this fourth clause in the agreement. Which says that Russian peacekeepers deployed in parallel to the withdrawal of the Armenia forces. Baku sees it, interprets that, as the Armenian forces leaving Nagorno-Karabakh in full while Erdogan insists that it says that they should be leaving the territories which will be given to Azerbaijan as per the agreement.

Speaker 33: (03:21:33)
The Armenians think that they should leave the territories, which now will be given to Azerbaijan. And the Azerbaijani think that Armenian forces should withdraw completely from Nagorno-Karabakh. So the question is, as a co-sponsor of this agreement signed by three parties, could you explain to us, what do you mean by that particular clause in the agreement?

Vladimir Putin: (03:22:15)
That’s been a very long question, we’ll be sitting here burning midnight oil. Okay. Let’s cut to the chase. Why did it happen? The situation spiraled out of control. Tensions have been around for many years. I don’t think it happened because someone interfered and incited this conflict. Many times it happens so that there were certain friction and hostilities. Now, it all erupted into a conflict. Russia has been consistent in its position, without any bloodshed we should reach an agreement on this issue. That’s how we structured our work within the Minsk group, co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France. And, for many years… Let me again say it, for many years our position has been that Azerbaijan should be returned seven of the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh region. And the very status of Nagorno-Karabakh should remain unchanged. It should be fixed later, status-quo. That’s what we were seeking.

Vladimir Putin: (03:23:53)
And of course the people should be given the opportunity to maintain connections. So Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia should be connected. And in order to achieve that, the so-called Lachin Corridor was in the works. The reason is that the region where this corridor runs, this road, it connects the two territories. It’s all pretty simple. Turkey maintains, and by the way, it was said publicly that Turkey defended Azerbaijan and its right to the territories, which were occupied during the hostilities, which took place in the 90s.

Vladimir Putin: (03:24:40)
In terms of international law. I said that too, that these territories are an integral part of Azerbaijan. And let me say this again, Armenia did not recognize independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and given that fact and Nagorno-Karabakh, in terms of international law, is a part of Azerbaijan.

Vladimir Putin: (03:25:09)
For my opinion, situation is way more complicated then these things that I just told you. It’s more complicated than the international law factors. These conflicts started in Sumgait and it went on to Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides are right, to a certain degree. Because, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh they rose up with arms in their hand to protect themselves. Now we see what happened this year.

Vladimir Putin: (03:25:49)
As is known, we agreed and signed a trilateral agreement to seize the hostilities. And, here is what is important, we agreed that the sides would stop at the positions which they currently were at the moment of signing of the agreement. That’s what’s the line for everyone to stand still.

Vladimir Putin: (03:26:10)
In that connection there is quite a number of technicalities and modalities involved, which have to do with the infrastructure. And by the way, this agreement to cease the hostilities, it’s very important. Because it stopped bloodshed. People no longer get killed, that’s the ultimate goal. All the other things are secondary. The lives of people take priority.

Vladimir Putin: (03:26:42)
We solved this problem. Now people are not dying. The forces stood still. But still, there are problems related to infrastructure. These problems are there for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. This issue should be settled through negotiations. Calmly. This joint statement is a platform for such negotiations.

Vladimir Putin: (03:27:11)
It says that after the ceasefire is installed, the next stage should be normalizing the relations in the region. Opening up the infrastructure and economic potential of all sides. That also covers railroad and vehicle road transportation. Nakhichevan, south and north of Armenia it covers everything. And these sporadic violations… And by the way, there was only one violation. I hope it will remain an isolated case and the sides will sit at a negotiating table and reach agreement.

Vladimir Putin: (03:27:55)
We will be mediating this and the Minsk Group will be mediating this, too. We need to start this process. And this process needs to end successfully. And we do hope that the international mediators will start delivering. Because they’ve been saying all the things, but they haven’t been doing enough. We need to help people to come back, the refugees and the displaced people.

Vladimir Putin: (03:28:26)
So far it’s only Russia who is helping sending humanitarian convoys. It’s time for the humanitarian organizations, UNICEF UNESCO, and the [inaudible 03:28:35] to chip in and do their part. Bilaterally, those who want to support people in the conflict zone they should do that. So it’s time to start doing things, not just saying them.

Vladimir Putin: (03:28:55)
Now, turning to the possibility of increasing the number of peacekeepers. It’s possible, but only if all agree. If we get the consent of everyone, including Azerbaijan, that may happen. We established the number of peacekeepers, we coordinated and harmonized this figure.

Vladimir Putin: (03:29:17)
And by the way, everyone was pretty sober-minded about this agreement. It’s a technicality. If everyone agrees that we need more peacekeepers, we will send more. If not, we will not increase the number. It’s not only about peacekeepers. You see, our emergency response teams are also there and the FSB Border Protection Units, they are also standing guard.

Vladimir Putin: (03:29:47)
Okay. [inaudible 03:29:48] now.

Speaker 34: (03:29:51)
We’ve been working for over three hours. That colors of the banners have changed. The changes have been in the questions themselves. People have been doing their best to attract your attention-

Speaker 35: (03:30:03)
… the questions themselves. People have been doing their best to attract your attention. Mr. [inaudible 00:00:05], I have a suggestion to make. I’m a journalist, and I want to give the floor to everyone, but we are limited. We are pressed for time. Therefore, I think, you can probably take a look at these banners, all there, and you can choose question. You can pick question on your own. Could you? Pensions. Pensions in [inaudible 03:30:35].

Speaker 36: (03:30:42)
Could you please introduce yourself?

Speaker 37: (03:30:45)
Good afternoon, my name is [inaudible 03:30:47], editor in chief of [inaudible 03:30:50] newspaper. Mr. Putin, indexation of pensions was abolished five years ago. It was suspended, that’s what was sad, but now we still see that happening every year. So, will, add how will, indexation happen again for those retirement benefit receivers who still work?

Vladimir Putin: (03:31:14)
The condition is simple. Budget efficiency. We need to have enough money in the budget. In the Soviet times, some of you don’t remember it, but it’s good to see that you care about the elderly. And, in the Soviet Union, those who continued working, they didn’t get any pension, any retirement benefit. That’s how it was in the Soviet Union. In today’s condition, especially so when we have the pandemic [inaudible 03:31:41], and the incomes are going down, it’s important to upgrade retirement benefits, to increase them. We need to know how to make that happen. We need to do our best so that the retirement benefits would be increasing.

Vladimir Putin: (03:32:01)
I think we should think about establishing some specific categories of retirement benefits, receivers who need additional support. I think we can do that. It won’t require too much money, because oftentimes, retirees take up the jobs which are not really in demand on the part of other people. And, for the state, it’s good that the retirees are taking these jobs. Next year, we will be increasing pension at a level higher than inflation. We expect the inflation will be 4.1%. We will be indexing pensions at the rate of 6%, even more than that. We will do everything to deliver on this promise. We of course think of how to start indexing pensions again, because our retirees, they deserve that.

Speaker 36: (03:33:01)
Okay, call center, have you sorted this one out?

Speaker 38: (03:33:06)
Yes, we can hear you very well. We found this request. [inaudible 03:33:12] took [inaudible 03:33:13] from [inaudible 03:33:13]. [inaudible 03:33:15], the name of the city is. She asked, “When will the new benefits will be paid for children up to three years of age?”

Vladimir Putin: (03:33:24)
Okay, I put that down. We’ll look into this. Another question from a volunteer, if we may?

Speaker 38: (03:33:30)
This is Dmitri [inaudible 00:03:31]. Dmitri became a volunteer when he was studying at school. Throughout the pandemic, he was working at the [inaudible 03:33:40] hospital. So Dmitri, what do you have to share?

Dmitri: (03:33:43)
One of the most moving issues is the water supply. We received a lot of requests from across Russia, but of course, Crimea is the pain point here. [inaudible 03:33:57] cities are challenged severely, because the authorities are saying that they might not have enough water to last until the end of the year. Not only Crimea is experiencing these problems, but the black sea coast cities are also going through a rough patch.

Dmitri: (03:34:16)
Sometimes, they have only several hours per day, and Mr. [inaudible 03:34:21] writes, and asking, “Why? It is an emergency in Crimea to have water only for several hours, while for [inaudible 00:04:28], it’s a new norm.” Well, Russians want to know, will there be enough water, when?

Vladimir Putin: (03:34:36)
We have a plan, yes. To everyone experiencing these problems, writing to you about them, I want to say that we know about the situation, we’re working hard to change it. Concerning Crimea, we are doing geological works in order to find more water, [inaudible 03:35:00]. I think it will be fully supplied, and there will be no restrictions, but this problem is big. It concerns the whole of Crimea. It seems that Crimea has enough of potable water, but the problem is that during the Soviet times, and especially when Crimea was part of Ukraine, no one really bothered about this issue. Now we do, we are working hard.

Vladimir Putin: (03:35:24)
De-saltification, de-salination of water, was one of the ways to do that, and we are doing that. This problem requires targeted solutions, because to pull the salt out of the water is quite an expensive process, and some of that money will be added to the tariffs. The authorities believed that it’s not going to be a viable solution. There is another way to do that, another innovation. Some professionals say that the waters close to Crimea, the Sea of Azov, and under that sea, that may be huge pots of potable water. Cavities filled with such water. That’s one way to solve the problem.

Vladimir Putin: (03:36:16)
We’ve been [inaudible 03:36:17] marking money for that, we’ve been working hard to solve this problem, and without any doubt, we will not try to save anything. We will spend all that is needed to solve this problem. I know that Crimea is only one part of Russia which faces that problem, even though this problem is the most acute one. I understand the concerns of the people. I know that it happens now in [inaudible 00:06:40], and [inaudible 00:06:41]. One of the questions is right here among these papers. They have problems with water supply, and water discharge as well. [inaudible 00:06:52].

Vladimir Putin: (03:36:57)
They used to have a unified system for water discharge. Unfortunately, there was no separation designed for sewage, water, and rainwater. So, first these two lines of water discharge should be separated, then both systems should be modernized and upgraded. That’s all part of the plans, it takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, we see this problems persist in [inaudible 03:37:24], and [inaudible 03:37:25], and some other cities as well, but it’s all in the plans, and we will do that right.

Speaker 36: (03:37:31)
Okay, I think we have forgotten about foreign media. Let’s go to BBC. Steve, we haven’t heard from you in a while.

Steve: (03:37:46)
Thank you. Steve Rosenberg, BBC news. Mr. President, more and more often, we hear the phrase, “Cold war,” used to describe relations between Russia and the west, and we hear a lot Russia blaming foreign powers, America, Britain, NATO, for being responsible, and making these relations seem like a cold war. But, don’t you think that over these years, over the last years. You also have born part of the responsibility for making these relations seem like a cold war. For example, the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury. Or, are you going to say that Russia’s authorities are nothing to blame for? Or, for example, have you read the Bellingcat report, the investigation, saying it is Russia’s State that is responsible for the poisoning of Alexei Navalny?

Vladimir Putin: (03:39:04)
Well, speaking about the attempt to take the life of a famous blogger of ours, like I said before, we are ready to investigate anything. If you have specific data about the use of specific chemical weapons, like the Novichok everyone’s talking about, please, do provide us with information. We are ready to send our specialists to Germany, to France, wherever. And there, with our colleagues, we can address the problem. Or, please come to us, bring us the biological material, and at least provide us with the official statement, the official results. Why is it, Steven, that despite the multiple times that our investigative committee has addressed European nations to provide us with this data, nothing has been given to us? For example, citing Germany, the opposite [inaudible 03:40:13] did not give us any information citing Germany that prohibited them from disclosing anything. Why is it happening? Can you specify that?

Steve: (03:40:22)
So, you’re asking me?

Vladimir Putin: (03:40:23)
Yes. I’m asking you.

Steve: (03:40:26)
I’m a journalist, I’m asking you a question.

Vladimir Putin: (03:40:30)
I apologize. I will continue to answer your question, it just seemed that this question that I asked also requires answering. Now, saying that Russia is all good, and there’s nothing that we are to blame for. Well, let me say that I believe that I’m personally responsible for the wellbeing of the Russian people, and I will do everything, and anything in my power, to protect the interests and well-being of my people. For example, look at what happened and Crimea. I did what I did because the Russian people decided this through democratic means. Let’s see what happened in [inaudible 00:11:20], before that. I remember that nobody in the west opposed that decision, despite it not being very democratic. So, should we accept these types of activities, or not? There should be no double standards. Now, the sanctions you imposed against the Crimeans, the Crimean people, is it because of the annexation? Then, well, how are these people responsible for that? If it is because of the annexation, then what have other people to blame for? You should leave them alone, and not impose sanctions on them. As for Russia being all peaceful, and all good, yes, exactly that. We are peaceful, and we are all good.

Vladimir Putin: (03:42:12)
Indeed, we heard statements from NATO that it’s not going to move eastwards, it’s not going to expand eastwards. Yes, those were oral statements, not written statements, but we were betrayed. There was a wave of expansion, and NATO military infrastructure is getting closer to our borders. Aren’t we supposed to react to that? Was it us who withdrew from the missile defense treaties? So, as a result, we have to create systems to defend ourselves. Of the INF Treaty, for example, was it us who withdrew from the INF treaty? No, it wasn’t us. It was the U.S.

Vladimir Putin: (03:43:05)
Okay, then we said, “We’re not going to produce, or place such weaponry in Russia, as long as the U.S. doesn’t do that as well.” We received no response. Then, the Open Skies Treaty, what can we say about that? The U.S. withdrew from the treaty, and what can we do about it? Are we just supposed to allow you to send your planes, and American planes flying in our skies, and not react to that in any way? You know, you do realize that we are smart people. We’re not idiots. We understand these basic things, we understand the basic things that’s happening in the world. There are certain other issues that raise our concerns, and we have to react to them.

Vladimir Putin: (03:44:09)
That said, for example, the New Start Treaty is going to expire soon. When it expires, there’s going to be nothing left of the infrastructure that used to prevent the world from engaging into a new arms race. Will you propose to the Americans to expand, to prolong, the New Start Treaty for at least one year? Because, we understand that this is important, and we know that now Russia has a supersonic weapon systems that are something that no other nation has. They are unique, and still, we see no reaction. We see no other country talking to us about that. We know that similar systems are being developed in Europe, in the U.S., in the UK, and nobody’s trying even to talk to us about that.

Vladimir Putin: (03:45:15)
So, the question is, who really is peaceful and good, and who is aggressive? We have two military bases in [inaudible 03:45:31], and [inaudible 03:45:35], and in Syria. These are important areas, and military bases there are used to protect us from the terrorist threat. But, look at the U.S. They have a huge network of military bases.

Vladimir Putin: (03:45:54)
You know, our military budget, how big it is? 46 billion. Look at the UK. It’s much bigger than that. In the U.S., it’s 770 billion. Russia is sixth country in the world in terms of how much money was spent on our military. France, Germany, Japan, UK, the U.S., everyone else is ahead of us. So, who is the violent one here? Who’s the peaceful one here. I think we can clearly say that Russia is certainly very good mannered and polite, and we want to work towards diplomatic resolution of conflicts. So, quoting one of the famous Russian cartoon characters, let’s all be friendly here.

Speaker 36: (03:46:56)
Okay. Let’s go to [inaudible 03:46:57].

Vladimir Putin: (03:46:57)
But, before that, there’s an important question. I have been waiting for it to be announced, but there was a question from [inaudible 00:17:08]. She’s asking about gasification, on behalf of the village of [inaudible 00:17:19], and [inaudible 03:47:21] region. They are writing to us about the high pressure pipelines. They have been installed back in 2015, but there’s still no gas. So, [inaudible 00:17:42], first of all, this issue can and should be resolved. The level of gasification in Russia is 71.1%, and this year, we spent 22 billion more additional rubles. The baseline is 50 billion rubles. The gasification efforts for villages, for agricultural regions, is much higher, much faster than in cities and smaller towns.

Vladimir Putin: (03:48:33)
So, by the end of 2021, we would like to reach 90% gasification of the country, because we understand that there are certain regions where gasification is very difficult, or outright impossible. But, overall in Russia, by 2025, it should be 90%. Now, speaking about your specific village, I assure you we’re going to solve that very quickly.

Speaker 36: (03:49:13)
Now, [inaudible 03:49:11].

Speaker 39: (03:49:14)
I want you to look at the signs made by my colleagues here. Various topics presented here. I was surprised to see a famous photo by Mr. Holiday, the Soviet banner of [inaudible 03:49:34] in Berlin.

Speaker 40: (03:49:36)
Yes, good afternoon. An important, grand photo, and pivotal moment in the history of Russia, and the world. We marked the 75th anniversary of our victory in World War II, in the great patriotic war, and a [inaudible 03:49:57] is one of the cities where the parade also took place. Once, I have been to this parade, and it was great, but it is all the moreso discouraging to see what our foreign partners are trying to do, with respect to world history, when it comes to World War II. They’re trying to revise history. When we hear from our German counterparts saying that Russia can only be talked to through the language of aggression, or violence, what can Russia do to prevent history from being rewritten to maintain and preserve historical memory?

Vladimir Putin: (03:50:44)
So, well, we want to prevent people from rewriting history, then we have to be self sufficient, and strong in all respects. Powerful in all respects, and primarily powerful in terms of our economy. We have to develop our political system, so that we feel comfortable at home in our own country, so that our people, our citizens know where the country’s going. We have to develop relations with our partners, based on our interests. And, of course, taking into account their interests as well.

Vladimir Putin: (03:51:20)
Surely, we must remember the great feat by our great-grandfathers, and grandfathers, who protected our country in the past century. As for specific historical information, we have been opening up archives, and collecting information. We have special bodies entrusted with preserving historical data for rewriting history. As I’ve told, on numerous occasions, it is done by people who are pursuing their own political goals, and they will eventually, ultimately be worse off because of that. As you know, there was a decision made just days ago by the UN, that condemned the glorification of Nazi-ism. There were only two countries that opposed the decision. That was the U.S., and Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin: (03:52:33)
This certainly doesn’t help these countries’ reputation. These are fundamental things that everyone understands. This has nothing to do with specific political circumstances of the present moment, but we are very proud of our forefathers, of our grandfathers, of our great grandfathers, and great grandmothers, who helped us. We will do everything to protect this legacy, and pass it on to further generations.

Speaker 36: (03:53:10)
Okay, there was this sign saying, “War with Chechnya.” Can you say something?

Madina: (03:53:20)
My name is Madina [inaudible 00:03:53:21]. Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. President. First of all, I would like to pass on my words of thanks and gratitude from the people [inaudible 00:23:37], and the Chechen Republic. As we all know, the Chechen Republic is one of the most developed regions in the country, and one of the most safe regions in the country. It was in part thanks to the Mr. [inaudible 03:53:57], the father of the current leader of the region, and your collective efforts. Unfortunately, we are facing some collective threats, coming from the west, from the U.S., for example. Mr. [inaudible 03:54:18] himself has been a subject of foreign sanctions, as well as his relatives. So, Mr. Putin, what is the goal that the west is trying to achieve? Why are they coming up with sanctions against Mr. [inaudible 00:24:36]?

Vladimir Putin: (03:54:41)
Madina, I don’t think that [inaudible 03:54:44] is the only one who faces sanctions, and all sorts of things. I think Russia is the main target. [inaudible 00:24:55], he is defending the interests of Chechnya, Chechen people, and Russia as a whole. So, he is one of the targets for our so-called opponents. There’s nothing special about that, nothing unusual. I know that. Mr. [inaudible 03:55:28] is quite philosophical about that. He isn’t troubled. I have friends, I have colleagues, who are offended, because they have no sanctions imposed on them. They say, “How come? It’s humiliating. It makes me think that I might have done not enough to have sanctions put on me.” That’s what they say regarding our partners.

Vladimir Putin: (03:56:07)
So, there’s nothing to worry about. We are a self-sufficient country. The Chechen people are self-sufficient, too. Chechnya is growing, the scars are there, we all remember what happened in the ’90s. The country is growing fast, thanks to the new, and young, vibrant team. I know Mr. [inaudible 03:56:33] personally, I know him very well. His whole life, he dedicates himself to the Chechen people, and to Chechnya, so I wish all of you only the best. I’m sure that Chechnya will soon look like Grozny does.

Madina: (03:56:53)
I’m afraid I won’t have another opportunity, that’s why I would like to ask you another question.

Speaker 36: (03:56:59)
Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that.

Madina: (03:57:01)
You quoted Qur’an, and you always support the Muslims. So, in your opinion, is it important to be closer to the Arab world, and maybe [inaudible 03:57:14] has a role to play here?

Vladimir Putin: (03:57:16)
Well, the Arab world, and Mr. [inaudible 00:27:19], I think Mr. [inaudible 03:57:21] plays just the same role as the other heads of regions have. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of foreign policies, but of course, Chechnya contributes a lot to the work of the foreign ministry on this track. As for the Arab world, the Islamic world, traditionally, our relations have been very good with countries of the Arab world, and the organizations. By the way, we observe certain number of international, reputable organizations, traditionally relations with the Arab world, for Russia, and for the Soviet Union, have always been very important. We have ties which go deep into history, and these ties are strong, and vibrant. Today, I think we are expanding our relations. In the Soviet times, there was ideology.

Vladimir Putin: (03:58:24)
Now, we have such a scope, and magnitude of cooperation with the Arab world, with the Islamic world. We can say it’s way more than what we had during the Soviet time. So, we will continue working hard to make it better. Russian Direct Investment Fund cooperates with almost every sovereign investment fund in the world. With every one of them. With some of the Arabic funds, we have a unique relationship. They trust our Direct Investment Fund so much that they automatically, I stress this, automatically co-finance all the projects that the Russia’s Direct Investment Fund carries out. That shows how much trust is there.

Speaker 36: (03:59:16)
Okay, let’s go back to the venue where we are right now, the Center for Global Trade.

Yolanda: (03:59:27)
Good afternoon, Yolanda [inaudible 00:29:28], Interfax. Let me start with a question about the economy. I guess the background of the ongoing pandemic, Russia hasn’t tapped into the Russian Welfare Fund, almost. Because we’ve been mostly doing borings to top off our budget, does it mean that we are preparing for some more sharks? Maybe in the commodity market, and those who wanted to get investments from the welfare fund, should forget about getting any? And, another clarification, if I may. Lately, we’ve been hearing from some people that made me the outcomes of the privatization might be canceled. So, may I ask, is the government content with our economy as it is now, or maybe there should be some more control over the assets which have gone out of the reach of the government. Okay, and again, the pandemic is everywhere, so I would like to know you opinion about international certificates for those people who decide to get the vaccine against COVID-19.

Vladimir Putin: (04:00:43)
Can you please say it again?

Yolanda: (04:00:44)
People who will get the shots. I mean, some say that there should be some international IDs, or passports, for those who get the vaccine.

Vladimir Putin: (04:00:54)
Could you elaborate?

Yolanda: (04:00:55)
Well, it’s supposed to let people travel freely so that these people who get the vaccine can go anywhere. Maybe Russia can initiate this process, and help to establish that special ID that will boost the sales of our vaccine. That would help people to start traveling. People won’t have to quarantine themselves when going anywhere, like the United States.

Vladimir Putin: (04:01:23)
Okay. These international certificates, IDs for those who got the vaccine. Maybe it’s an option, maybe it’s a good idea. But, we know very well, and it’s no secret, people who get the vaccine, they can be the carriers of the virus. Don’t forget about that. I think it has already been established that there is some particular type of antibodies which shows that a person does not carry this disease for long. The immune system responds so fiercely that this virus is dealt with quickly. It deserves more research. As for any such certificate, well, we need to discuss it. The idea is to care about your health, personally. Of course, that is a barrier of sorts. We need to get herd immunity. Now, to the National Welfare Fund proposal. I think we can discuss it.

Vladimir Putin: (04:02:42)
It’s true that the amount of the fund has gone up. It went up by 70%, and the ruble equivalent. It has to do with the exchange rates, to some extent. That’s our safety net. It’s not that we’re preparing for something, for some sharks going forward. It’s a safety net, and we must have one. At the same time, we have a law which says that we can spend money from this pot, if it exceeds the threshold of 7% GDP. We are now reaching the level of 7.1% of the GDP. That’s how big our welfare fund is. As for liquidity, it’s 8 trillion rubles. What do I mean by that? That’s how much we have. That’s the budget, in this year alone.

Vladimir Putin: (04:03:50)
We’ve been investing in the development of the Trans-Siberian and [inaudible 04:03:57] highways and road networks heavily. Some of the money comes from the welfare fund. Also, we use it to give social benefits to people, families, both children, doctors, and students. Those who study to become doctors, and nurses. We also use that money to support the sectors of economy which suffered the most. We use that money to help larger companies. So, the overall amount of money that we are taking from the fund, is going to be 350 billion rubles. 250 has already been used up. This year is flying, and it’s so quick, it’s so speedy today. I think that we will do it spend the rest 100 billion quite soon. So, we do use the welfare fund.

Vladimir Putin: (04:05:03)
… quite soon. So, we do use the welfare fund, but we do that carefully. I already said that next year, we’ll have over seven trillion rubles, which is good, but the Ministry of Finance always looks ahead for three years. Given the exchange rates and everything, the economy is growing, and there are some events happening outside of country. All those things are taken into account. We do everything that we can to allow the budget to be stable. We of course take the money, at the same time, we use the welfare fund when needed.

Speaker 41: (04:05:50)
Okay, let’s reach out to St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: (04:05:52)
I can’t hear you.

Speaker 42: (04:05:54)
Thank you for coming back to us. Mr. [inaudible 04:05:57], from up above, we look like a chess board. The interior is great, it’s Yeltsin’s library, and who’s going to do the next move? There is a lady over there. She’s been sitting very modestly, waiting for an opportunity to ask a question, so I think she deserves such an opportunity.

Speaker 43: (04:06:18)
Good afternoon. It’s Novgarodska Regional TV channel, and my question is about education. We are small regions, and we really want to see more younger people coming to us to get their education. We’ve be doing a lot to make that happen. We’ve invested over 1 billion rubles into our colleges, and vocational institutions. People come to us from 24 regions of Russia to study, but there is a new problem. Now we don’t have enough dormitories to house all these students. Maybe you can think of a federal program to help us upgrade the existing premises, and maybe construct new dormitories for students?

Vladimir Putin: (04:07:02)
That’s a common problem for high institutions, and colleges, and education institutions. We are doing our best to provide targeted help. Usually, we use the budget money, but mostly this problem should be solved by the institutions themselves. So, this problem is a recurrent one. This is something that everyone shares. Every institution have a problem like that. Of course, after we introduced the unified state exam, this problem became more acute, because people from across Russia are now all well-trained, well-performing, and they have the right to go to any institution, to any university. And, they do that. They travel across Russia to get education in other regions.

Vladimir Putin: (04:07:52)
There are small towns and institutions and villages who see their students go into larger cities, and these people of course need a bed. They need dormitories. There is a number of ways to solve this problem. Some rent flats, some live in the dormitories. Sometimes, subsidies can be given to students to help them rent a home. Some help with giving the opportunity to work. We know this problem, we are doing our best.

Speaker 41: (04:08:31)
Okay, let’s continue. Let’s continue here, this pavilion, the Kaltura Channel.

Speaker 44: (04:08:38)
Good afternoon, my name is [inaudible 00:04:08:46], it’s Kaltura, my question has to do with promoting the Russian language, and Russian culture. There are examples of how business approaches can get a lot of audience, a lot of sway inside country, outside of country. We all know about [foreign language 04:09:04], and bears, another very famous cartoon. So, they have been widely liked by many, and our colleagues sometimes say that these cartoons have been a hit job, paid for by [inaudible 00:04:22]. Maybe we don’t know something, and it really is like that. But now, [inaudible 00:04:27], let me ask you this. [ inaudible 04:09:31], do you believe in private initiatives, and can we couple our official efforts of the government, which are aimed at promoting our language and culture, how can we help them become just as strong, and vibrant, and well-known by everyone?

Vladimir Putin: (04:09:50)
Okay. Self power. It has to do with culture, education, Unitarian ties. In that context, I can tell you that these instruments are the most universal. They are all meant for cooperation. You can’t sanction them. Of course, some try to put sanctions on such ties. But it’s counter-productive, especially for those who impose these sanctions themselves. Some things are fundamental. They [inaudible 04:10:29] the culture of Russia, of the Russian peoples. The Russian people, and other ethnic groups. The fact is, we are a highly cultured country, a civilized country. We support every culture in Russia at the state level. Classical music, ballet, theater.

Vladimir Putin: (04:10:57)
Our schools here the best across the board. We have lots of theaters in Russia supported by the government. It’s unparalleled, in terms of scope of magnitude of the support. Yes, there are problems, many problems, and yet, I can tell you that the government here does a lot to support arts and culture. Private initiatives, you mentioned it. These are cartoons for children, and actually these cartoons are now very famous, and I can tell you that, those truly are talented people who produce such works. I think we need more support here. We are proud that we have such teams giving birth to such great characters, great cartoons who are so popular across the world.

Vladimir Putin: (04:12:01)
I think we can do more. I think the state should support the cartoon business, the whole industry more than it does. I won’t be going into all the details, but discussed it with my colleagues quite recently, actually. We spoke a lot about the [inaudible 04:12:18] studio, because some problems remain unsolved. I think we need to double down on that. Especially so, in relation to cartoons. Why? Well, cartoons are the material on which we bring up our children, and we should be raising our children using some very good material. Give them the best we have. We should teach them solidarity, love, love towards motherland, and their relatives, and nature. All the crazy shooters, they might attract your attention. They might attract the attention of the younger ones, but I think they’re more damaging rather than they give anything good to our younger population. So, we need to create more positive content, and any such endeavor should deserve more attention than it does. It’s self power. It cannot be a hit job. It can’t be ordered by anyone. No, the only thing we can do as a state is to support such efforts. We shouldn’t be ordering anything. We should be just giving support and that’s it.

Speaker 41: (04:13:44)
Okay, it’s been four hours Mr. Putin, and I think we should now go to the call center. After that, we will hear from you, I hope. You decide how many more questions you want to take up. Now, call center.

Speaker 45: (04:14:02)
The call center has received questions from adults and children. Children before sent us some videos with poems and songs, now they have very serious questions. [inaudible 04:14:14] is here with some of the questions.

Speaker 46: (04:14:17)
Mister Putin, good afternoon. Mikhail wrote us, he’s 10 years old, and he says he really loves watching the news. He understood that Russia is not really loved by other countries, and he wants to know why, because we haven’t done anything wrong to them.

Vladimir Putin: (04:14:34)
Well, to start off, people in many countries love Russia a lot. If we have some disagreements with certain people, these are grownups deciding their own disagreements. This is what happens between grownups. This is what happens between these specific people. But, relations between nations of the world, between peoples, are always really good, and based on mutual respect.

Speaker 46: (04:15:22)
More questions. Gabriel [inaudible 04:15:23] wants justice to be restored, and asked why his brother [inaudible 04:15:31] has been studying online for three months while he has to go to school, actually, physically, and study offline. So, he says, “It’s not fair. I want to study online as well.”

Vladimir Putin: (04:15:48)
Well, what I can say is, this isn’t fair, indeed, but it is something that’s that has to be done. Of course, it would be better if your family were reunited. Unfortunately, according to medical professionals, younger people, when they get infected with the coronavirus infection, they have it very easy, and they usually don’t have any complications. While older children sometimes can have complications, and that’s why they have to study online. I expect this will end at some point. What I noticed, and something that I would like to say, I’m happy for you, and for your brother, and for your parents, I’m happy that you and your brother treat each other this way.

Speaker 45: (04:16:56)
Another question. [inaudible 00:11: 58]. She asks, what books do you read to your grandchildren? By what authors?

Vladimir Putin: (04:17:05)
Well, I read them [inaudible 00:12:08], for example. 12 months, that’s the name of the book, and stories by other Russian authors, and fairytales too.

Speaker 41: (04:17:24)
Okay, now let’s give the floor to [inaudible 00:12:28]. Can we give her the mic?

Speaker 47: (04:17:36)
Mr. President, good afternoon. [inaudible 00:12:40]. Speaking about arms control, and the Open Sky Treaty, the INF Treaty, and the future of all these treaties. As far as I understand, even with the new American administration, the prospect of reanimating the [inaudible 04:18:02] is still very dim. But, could it be that if these treaties are not extended, there will be a new arms race, and Russia will not be strong enough to participate in that, and to keep up with other countries?

Speaker 47: (04:18:25)
Now, another question is about supersonic weapons. Could it really change the geopolitical balance on the world? Also, all the statements you made about these weapons during your previous statements, were all of these statements true? Everything is completed. Are all these new types of weapons ready to use?

Vladimir Putin: (04:18:53)
Yes. Now, speaking first about the arms control treaties. Speaking first about the New Start Treaty, like I said, we wanted America to accept and agree with us that we should extend the treaty. From what I understand, Mr. Biden himself, President-Elect Biden has said that he is willing to extend this treaty. We are ready for that, but we need first to get an official reaction from the U.S. Now, you said, if it’s not extended, is there going to be an arms race? Well, there already is an arms race. Once the U.S. withdrew from the Missile Defense Treaty, that’s what happened.

Vladimir Putin: (04:19:56)
What we were forced to do, is to prevent nuclear capacity from being nullified, and we had to create a missile defense system, and we had to introduce new weapons systems. Such as the Supersonic Avant-garde System. Its speed is over mach 20, and no missile defense system can stop such a missile. Now, has the creation of these new supersonic weapons, such as Circon, [inaudible 00:15:37], and Avant-garde, has it in any way affected the balance of power? Actually, we’ve had tests of Circon not long ago, and the most of the testing, most of the work is complete. Its speed is over mach eight, and the missile can be mounted on stationary launch systems, on ships, on submarines. It can also be brought to neutral waters. Does this in any way change the situation? Yes, it does. Of course, it does. Our American partners have been developing what they call, “Theory of swift disarming attack,” which implies using high precision weaponry to attack command centers. Yes, this high-precision weaponry is something they do have already. What they don’t have, as of yet, is supersonic weapons. But, they will, ultimately, at some point have that, and we have to address this problem. So, we need to work on a counter-arguments, so-to-speak, to other armies of the world having supersonic weapons. And, I believe that we will have that counter argument. We’re working on all other weapon systems that have been announced during one of my addresses. Yes, all of these systems are underway. Ken Shaw is already there. [inaudible 04:22:42] laser weapons is already deployed. We’re actively working [inaudible 00:04:22:51], the heavy missile is in its final stages. The production is in final stages. Poseidon is also being developed successfully, and [inaudible 04:23:07] as well.

Vladimir Putin: (04:23:15)
There are some technical issues arising, of course, but I do not see any problem that would be insurmountable, or saying that we will not be able to achieve everything that we’ve planned. We will, we’ll achieve everything. Like I said, Russia is sixth in terms of its military budget. 46-something billion dollars, and the U.S. is 707 billion dollars. And still, we are able to make advances, and create things that even the U.S. with its incredible military budget is unable to do. This is all thanks to the great minds of Russia, to our amazing scientists, and researchers, and designers. One of the army officials in the U.S., not long ago, said, “Yes, the Russian army has become smaller, but it’s more dedicated. It’s actually working faster, and achieving greater progress, and we will continue to do so.”

Speaker 41: (04:24:43)
So, Mr. President, two or three more questions, right? Then we’ll conclude.

Vladimir Putin: (04:24:47)

Speaker 41: (04:24:48)
Okay, [inaudible 00:19:50]. Let’s go there.

Speaker 48: (04:24:53)
Yes. Thank you for coming back to us. We have a lot of signs here, but we have a colleague on the first row saying it’s very important for her. Please, do not sit down yet. Yes, thank you.

Speaker 49: (04:25:13)
My name is [inaudible 00:20:16], our Time newspaper. Mr. President, I have visited all of your press conferences, but I was never able to ask a question to you. So, I have a two-parter, so to speak. Now, the first part is something that you’ve already talked about, the harvest, and the prices. The [inaudible 04:25:45] region had amazing harvest this year, but later, people started complaining because the prices are, well, to say the least, underwhelming.

Speaker 49: (04:25:59)
So, the question is, why is it happening? Why do we have such high prices? Yes, I know you said your word to the government, asking them to change stuff, but why is it happening? Are exporting too much, or importing too much? Are we exporting the grain? But, we are importing technologies. We are importing foreign cultures, or technologies for breeding cattle, et cetera. The second question has to do with the more spiritual matters.

Vladimir Putin: (04:26:39)
Okay, answering your first question. We do have to improve our self-sufficiency, and independency, when it comes to certain grains and cultures, when it comes to cattle breeding, but it’s has nothing to do with prices. Prices have to do with the current economic situation, in the global market. That’s why it comes to sugar, and butter. And so, because of that. But, in the global markets, the prices for sugar increased, while in Russia, there was a great harvest, but since we started to export more sugar, it led to prices rising in Russia as well.

Vladimir Putin: (04:27:36)
Exporters domestically believe that they don’t want to lose money by keeping prices low. They are counting the profits they could make if they increase the prices. That’s why they increase the prices. But, agriculture on the whole is developing. We have invested a lot. The federal budget has invested a lot into agriculture. And also, we are providing subsidies to Russian exporting companies that export agricultural products abroad. Maybe, what happened in your specific case was a mistake, because your specific authorities in your region made a mistake by keeping the prices high, and we will deal with that very quickly.

Vladimir Putin: (04:28:40)
The same goes for breads and other related goods. The kind of increases in prices that you’re seeing are unacceptable, and it will be changed, but these are not fundamental things. And yet, they affect people’s lives, and this is very disheartening. This can be resolved. The problem can be solved. While we do have market mechanisms, we can you use government tools to regulate them. Yes, but we do still need to stimulate the industry, the agriculture. Well, let’s now go to the second part of your question.

Speaker 49: (04:29:37)
Now, there’s a question about the town of [inaudible 00:24:40], a small town. It has a newspaper, one of the best newspapers in Russia, according to some polls. We all know the editor in chief. She’s a very famous person, a very good person. In early November, the owner of the newspaper fired the editor in chief. Now, we’re all wondering why. She’s a good person, she does great work. Then, the people who made this decision started coming up with reasons why they fired her. They reported her to the authorities, then there were law enforcement coming, and looking through her things.

Speaker 49: (04:30:35)
Then, we have the media also. We have special, what I would call media, that can be bought, and they were media that were tasked by someone to denigrate her, and say that she is a corrupt individual, and she is a bad person, et cetera, et cetera, demonizing her. So, we now see how these editor-in-chief is being attacked by everyone. Now, seeing that, what we expect is that all other newspapers, in other regions, in other small towns, will react. We want to stay low, we will not report on important things, because if we do so, then we will be attacked by the authorities, by local heads of authorities, et cetera, and that we will never create a civil society.

Vladimir Putin: (04:31:37)
Yes, I agree with you that civil society is important, and press that’s alive, and media that’s alive and active is very important for that. I do not know your specific editor in chief, personally, of course, but I believe you. You said that she was fired by the committee that deals with the property issues, right? This body, they own property on behalf of the state, right? But, it’s very obvious that it is a body that should not get involved in the content, into what’s being produced, or reported by the newspapers. What they should do, is make sure that nothing is stolen from the government. Like, tables, and chairs, and all other equipment, if you have any. That’s their area of work. Of course, I will ask the governor of the region to address this issue, if he has. And, if he cannot, I will get personally involved.

Speaker 49: (04:33:06)
Mr. Putin, I will of course deal with that, yes.

Speaker 41: (04:33:11)
Okay, [foreign language 00:28:15]. C&T.

Speaker 50: (04:33:23)
Good afternoon, [inaudible 00:28:24], Federal News Agency. Mr. President, this year because of the pandemic, a lot has been done to support Russian businesses. But, small businesses still feel bad. Next year, can sole entrepreneurs expect to receive federal support? Also, on behalf of my newspaper, I’d like to thank you personally for helping [inaudible 00:28:57]. He and his interpreter spent almost a year in the Libyan prison. This was a very difficult story for us to witness, and I’m so thankful to you for helping get them back to Russia.

Vladimir Putin: (04:34:16)
Yes, this brings me back to the issues of our cooperation with the Arab world. We’ve had good relations with our Arab friends who helped us to solve this problem. Now, about the support for small, and medium-sized businesses. I think I don’t need to go back to measures that we’ve formulated and implemented to help the areas affected. Of course, the top priority is small and medium businesses. Over 300 million rubles have been given, allocated to these entrepreneurs. We also had measures regarding returning taxes already paid to some of the sole entrepreneurs. We are still monitoring the situation as it develops, and we will look at what’s happen in the upcoming months. If there is a need to introduce some additional measures, then we will certainly do so to help self-employed people.

Speaker 41: (04:35:48)
I think we’ve said a lot of very warm words towards the Arabic world. Here is a journalist from Iceland, and I think that would be the first time ever that a journalist from Iceland would have an opportunity to ask a question.

Speaker 51: (04:36:09)
Thank you very much for this opportunity. Mister Paskov, thank you for giving me the floor, and I’d like to thank you all for the opportunity to ask the question live. It happens twice, because well, that’s just how it is. You can rarely ask the president a question, this is a unique event. And by the way, it’s nowhere to be seen, a situation like that, when people, and journalists, can ask the president a question. It’s good to see, that here we have it. Maybe other countries could follow suit. Maybe it should be a round table, like presidents of the Scandinavian countries can join in, sit at the round table, and they will be answering the questions.

Speaker 51: (04:37:02)
So, it would be good to see that all people can ask questions. It’s democracy. It helps lead us to be in touch with the people. That would be a good idea, I think. It helps to promote democracy. What do you think about that idea, so that there would be a round table bringing together world leaders? Not only you would be on that table, because that technically would be easy, but others as well. My second question. Well, first and foremost, Happy New Year, it’s around the corner. You once said that you will [inaudible 04:37:39] to give a secret to happiness, to family happiness. You said it once. Maybe now is the time.

Speaker 51: (04:37:48)
And, the last thing. A boy from [inaudible 04:37:54] said that western countries don’t like Russia. It’s not true, actually. We love Russia wholeheartedly, but there is the government, and the press, like CNN, and BBC. They are blaming Russia for all sorts of things. In Iceland, media do the same thing. That’s basically a warfare against you, because they are afraid of you. People in the west, I don’t think they don’t like Russia. No, I would like to think everyone, engineers, translators, everyone. Best of luck to you. Keep up the good work.

Vladimir Putin: (04:38:43)
It’s a rarity to hear something like that, thank you for your kind words. I think you will probably suffer from your colleagues, but that comes with the profession. You sometimes have to make it through. The idea you share is a good one, but here is another suggestion. I think leaders, the permanent members of the UN security council, should come together to discuss the problems which are shared by the whole of the population of the world. Pandemic, Mr. Macron, President of France, pointed out that we need to discuss pandemic disarmament. And other problems which bring us all together, we need to discuss environmental protection. It’s one of the biggest problems we, as humanity, face. Terrorism, intolerance. Lots of questions might be discussed. All of these questions are important for everyone. The idea itself to hold such a round table is a good one, especially so we can do that easily online. But, I hope this suggestion would be supported by other-

Vladimir Putin: (04:40:03)
But I hope this suggestion would be supported by other colleagues, other leaders. By the way, we have very good relations with Iceland. Not only at the level of the government, but also people to people relations are quite close and we do value these ties with Iceland. We have a lot to learn from Iceland. Your energy sector, especially hydro power plants. Well, that’s something to marvel at. We’ve been trying to reach that level. And by the way, all the incoming charts, we are currently introducing some of the practices that you have. Now being happy. To be happy you need to be in love. Love is key. Everyone knows that. That’s no secret. Love is universal. Love should underpin your relations within the family. And since you’ve been talking about international relations, love should underpin international relations as well.

Vladimir Putin: (04:41:15)
Okay, the last question from [Nova Olgariva 00:01:19]. Put it on the screen, please. I think everyone here has already asked the question that there is another side of the room. Could you show it as well? Is this there? Yes, please.

Vladimir Putin: (04:41:46)
We’ve heard a lot of questions. Mine is a little bit different. Over this year, we really felt it that the year might be difficult for everyone. Emotionally, it’s been a rough year, couple of years ago during your big conference, you said that you collect emotions. What about the last years? What emotions did you collect more? What are the emotions can you highlight of something you felt over the last years? Maybe you could share what kind of toast you will give when the new year comes.

Vladimir Putin: (04:42:35)
Take your seat, please. The good and the bad, every year is special. Every year we face problems. Every year brings a lot to be happy about within your family or maybe something good that happens at the national level. Achievements come, there are many accomplishments that we are proud of, we should be proud of. And we are. This year has been a difficult one, however, there is something I would like to point your attention to. Here is something I want to say. Before we had difficulties as well. In the history of Russia, we’ve seen a lot. The 90s, for instance, the early 2000s, back then we thought that there was no hope. We lost every piece of hope. There was no army, no social welfare, unemployment was skyrocketing. One in three people lived below the poverty line. And now look at what we have today. Of course, problems remain. Many people still struggle. And yet the foundation of the Russian statehood is here. It’s firm.

Vladimir Putin: (04:44:14)
The pillars of the Russian economy are standing strong. We have a lot more today than we used to. It’s incomparable to what we had in the 90s, in the early 2000s. And this instrument gives us the instruments that we could only dream of before. Now we can focus on the priority areas, on the most pressing issues. And we shouldn’t forget about our strategic goals. Now, you asked me about the toast, the things I will be saying when raising my glass. Well, just any person, we have a lot to say when new year comes, we would like to wish a lot of things. But let’s just be careful, careful with the amount of champagne and other spirits that you take. It doesn’t matter how many times you wish something. I will be wishing the best things to my relatives, to my family, my friends and colleagues. They are dear to me, my friends and I, my family, we always wish one thing.

Vladimir Putin: (04:45:47)
We wish each other to have happy Russia. It’s all Russia. So we drink to Russia every time. And now to wrap up with something less high convoluted, with something not as loud, let me say something else. During this meeting, some asked about our plans and whether we have any plans to support families with children. And here is what I want to tell you. Volunteers, they actually said to me that they have lots of interesting ideas and initiatives, how to support children at the time of the new year. Today, we have a pandemic on our hand and many events have been canceled. So all these concerts, they have been canceled. Theaters, children clubs, they’re not going to be open. And yet this day, this holiday is a special one. It brings a lot of hopes. We have so many anticipations. We hope that the future will be bright and happy. Yes, today we see a lot of bad things happening, and yet we have hope.

Vladimir Putin: (04:47:12)
Before I came here, I talked to the government, to the administration, to my office, and we agreed that this state will give our children a present, a small one, a modest one. It will be given to all families with children below seven. So each family with a child less than seven years old will be given 5,000 rubles for every child. So if your family has a child between zero and seven, you will get 5,000 per child. Now I want to thank all of you. I wish you all the best. I sincerely hope that you are not too tired. And I also hope that people who have been working with us for these four and a half hours, listening to us for all this time, found this conversation interesting and useful. For me, it was very useful and we will do everything within our power to deliver on our promises and to respond to all your questions, concerns, and requests. All these problems, which we face as a country, which every family faces. So thank you very much and best of luck to you.

Vladimir Putin: (04:48:44)
Mr. Putin, thank you so much. And goodbye. Aren’t you tired of self isolating?

Vladimir Putin: (04:49:09)
Well, it’s not fully isolation for me. From time to time, I have offline meetings with my colleagues and after all, there is another way to cope with it. We are not keeping that much a distance, but still I work with many people from the government, from the presidential office. We just sit at a distance of like three to five meters.

Vladimir Putin: (04:49:43)
And yet it does not preclude you from working together offline? We are celebrating the 20th anniversary.

Vladimir Putin: (04:49:51)
You know what we used to say when someone would cough or sneeze?

Vladimir Putin: (04:50:02)
Yes, I do. Okay. Let me say something. 20 years ago, when your son was chosen, your hem was chosen for Russia. Now it’s something which unites us, brings us all together.

Vladimir Putin: (04:50:14)
It’s true. It was like that, entities like that. I always say that we shouldn’t be throwing the baby with bath water. We are people. We have our history and we have our old legacy. We should take the best from our past, something which unites us. And this [inaudible 04:50:45] which music, it really unites us because the whole country knew it. We all know it. Why should we put it aside? Yes. The situation changes, we change the text. So it all happened quite naturally, seamlessly. And that is something which unites people.

Vladimir Putin: (04:51:05)
I work at Archie and I’m about to ask you about something which we do. We have a lot of projects affiliated with Archie. And the thing is that on some international platforms, we face lots of obstacles. Sometimes that is even called censorship. We might see that our access is restricted like Archie documentary sometimes faces such restrictions. So what is going the state do to protect us, to protect all Russian media, which are today using these platforms, YouTube, Facebook, and yet we experience problems?

Vladimir Putin: (04:51:40)
We should be creating platform platforms like that. That’s the best way to be independent in the information domain. It’s impossible to be independent. If we are dependent on these platforms, which are not ours, they can click on the button and restrict access to you. That’s already happened. Can we do that at the state level? Yes we can. I know that the ministry of foreign affairs is doing that. It hasn’t been efficient, I know that. We will be tuning the attention of our partners to this issue, especially those who say that they want to protect the free flow of information and the human rights. The best way to ensure sovereignty and independence here is to have our own platforms, our own technologies. And that’s what we are going to do.

Vladimir Putin: (04:52:41)
Answering the question about the value, you said that the billing data stolen, is it normal thing now?

Vladimir Putin: (04:52:50)
Yes. The national security agency of the United States, they do it routinely.

Vladimir Putin: (04:52:56)
But private data was stolen as well. Photos were published.

Vladimir Putin: (04:53:04)
Listen, that happens all the time. And that will happen again. They make no secret of it. Some former officers of US security intelligence, they say that this happens. They do that to us, our people, towards their on people. That’s how they operate. Nothing special here. It is a compilation dumpster where they put all the information in hoping that it will turn into a scandal, hoping that it was sow distrust among the people towards the leadership of the country. There’s just one way to do information warfare.

Vladimir Putin: (04:53:49)
I think you mentioned the 75th anniversary of the vitrine, World War Two. Did you hear that Germany’s minister of defense said that you should be talking with Russia in such a way as to dictate it. Do you think okay to say something like that?

Vladimir Putin: (04:54:07)
Well, of course not. Of course it’s not okay. I know that lady became the minister of defense only recently. Now she wants to show how tough she is. She just repeated this cliche that the native countries are known for, for quite some time already. That is counterproductive. That’s how I see. It is not good for our relations in terms of the defense policies. It’s just pointless to say something like that because… It is this simple. Just look at our army these days. I think you will know why. Frankly, I don’t think this deserves too much attention. Let’s not make a scandal out of it. I’m sure that she is not happy about what she said because I think she’s a responsible politician and just like many other politicians, she’d probably now regress these words. She just said it, it’s a cliche, nothing special.

Vladimir Putin: (04:55:23)
What are the events that you expect the most in 2021?

Vladimir Putin: (04:55:27)
Well, let’s first wait for the New Years that raise the cups.

Vladimir Putin: (04:55:39)
When are we going to overcome the COVID crisis, the COVID pandemic?

Vladimir Putin: (04:55:44)
Well, that depends on the effectiveness of the vaccine and how fast it can be introduced to the population. Some of the Western partners have been doing very well in that regard. Professionals have the will to go beyond certain political obstacles and restrictions. But on the professional level, of course I would like for this work to go on as fast as it can. One of our goals is to create, what specialists call light, the vaccine light. So that there’s only one shot. The span of time that protects the person is shorter and maybe its effectiveness is not as high. Maybe it’s just 85 to 90%, but it can be done to vaccinate millions in a very short time span. But no one can give you direct answers as to when this pandemic is going to be over. Some producers have openly and directly said, “Yes, we have some problems with producing the vaccine with developing the vaccine. It’s not as effective as with salt, et cetera.” But it doesn’t mean that we should point fingers at people and be happy about someone else’s failures.

Vladimir Putin: (04:57:26)
How was it we’re able to defeat the pandemic so quickly? How did China defeat the pandemic so quickly? Well they had very strict restrictions and the authorities were able to carry out the restrictions totally across the country. I do not think that closing down cafes and restaurants for visitors is a critical matter we should address, speaking terms of the interests of the businesses and how much they lose. That’s the thing that we should take care about, because some businesses, many actually businesses had very big expectations about the month before the new year, as it’s usually is more profitable than other months and they’ll have to take this into account. Where the people are seeing what’s happening, many people don’t believe in COVID, don’t believe in COVID until they catch it themselves.

Vladimir Putin: (04:58:40)
Are you planning any lock downs?

Vladimir Putin: (04:58:41)
No, we’re not planning a lockdown.

Vladimir Putin: (04:58:43)
Actually, I participated in the tests of the Gamaleya, Sputnik, the vaccine. And unfortunately I was met with certain people who were not very understanding of why I did that.

Vladimir Putin: (04:59:03)
Well you have to explain it to them.

Vladimir Putin: (04:59:07)
But how can we motivate and encourage people to vaccinate themselves deliberately? Because if they don’t, this will take a lot of time.

Vladimir Putin: (04:59:17)
I can only say that this is what has to be voluntary. This can only be voluntary. And that’s for encouraging people to take the short. This is your work. You as a journalist, as a responsible individual, need to bring to the people this information so that they are… They trust you and trusts the fact that the vaccine is important and having a shot is important.

Vladimir Putin: (04:59:44)
What is it that you’re writing in your notebooks all the time?

Vladimir Putin: (04:59:48)
No, these are just some scribbles about who’s asking what, the names, the specific topics. Okay. See this, new start, treaty, the name, [inaudible 00:19:58], parts of the questions I’m asked, just to remember them.

Vladimir Putin: (05:00:05)
Are you going to address certain issues of where the specific governors?

Vladimir Putin: (05:00:13)
Yes. After all of this is recorded, we will deal with everything that has been talked about.

Vladimir Putin: (05:00:20)
Is this tea?

Vladimir Putin: (05:00:21)
No, this is a brew of a Siberian herbs. Yes, it’s from Siberia. Herbs from Siberia, yes. Nothing much.

Vladimir Putin: (05:00:32)
Are you going to miss Ms. Merkel?

Vladimir Putin: (05:00:36)
Well, she’s not going anywhere yet. She’s still working. I don’t think it would be correct of me to speak about her in the past tense. Germany is a parliamentary democracy and I understand what’s happening domestically in Germany, the internal politics. Myself and Ms. Merkel have rather warm relations and our two countries also have very good relations. Germany is one of our largest economic partners, trade partners. I think it’s second of China in terms of trade. But it’s certain that German entrepreneurs are one of the largest investors into Russian economists. Unlike many other investors, German entrepreneurs invest into the real physical sector, into real production industry in Russia.

Vladimir Putin: (05:01:49)
What do you expect of your relations with the new US administration, with Mr. Biden?

Vladimir Putin: (05:01:56)
Well, that depends on the administration itself. Mr. Biden as an experienced person, but like they say, it is the king’s surrounding that makes the king. So we need to know all the people that are going to work with us, all the people in the administration. Although most of them we have met before, we have worked with them before so we don’t expect any surprises. You must have heard the statement by Mr. Biden about it’s been reasonable to extend the new start treaty, which expires in February, which is a good thing.

Vladimir Putin: (05:02:36)
Mr. President, can you guarantee that?

Vladimir Putin: (05:02:40)
Well, let’s not formulate it with such words.

Vladimir Putin: (05:02:49)
We’ve had certain strict restrictions last spring. Are we going to expect any more similar restrictions coming next year? No, not at all. Yes, the rate of infection is quite high, but it’s certainly reached a plateau and it’s not going up by much. We have enough hospital beds, we have enough medicine and equipment and PPEs to help people and we will continue to monitor the situation so that everyone receives the medicine they need so people are hospitalized when it has to be done. But like you said, some people don’t believe in anything and don’t want to receive the shot against the coronavirus while others are complaining that they’re not taking care of, not taken to the hospital. So I believe that we need to continue to work steadily and observe the rules and continue to do what the doctors is asking all of us, that we won’t ever need a lockdown anymore.

Vladimir Putin: (05:04:16)
You spoke about my colleague that he has been working, that he’s been blamed for the charges against him are because he has been working in the Russian Space Agency.

Vladimir Putin: (05:04:33)
No, I wasn’t talking about that. The charges against him have nothing to do with his work in the commerce newspaper, but it has to do with the long period of time when he worked with Mr. Rogozin, who’s the head of the Russian Space Agency. That’s what I meant. He’s worked in many other places. We need the investigators to tackle, to handle this issue in a reasonable, steady manner. He wasn’t a journalist who accused some high ranking personnel or anything and that’s why someone put a bounty on his head, so to speak. Of course not, it’s not like that. The issue is what he’s charged with.

Vladimir Putin: (05:05:34)
True. Did he indeed commit any crimes, specifically providing western intelligence agencies with classified Russian information?

Vladimir Putin: (05:05:48)
That’s the charge. I cannot go into more details because this is a very delicate matter. The investigators will deal with that. But this person, he doesn’t have any enemies. He’s been working in the media sphere and the information sphere, and he deliberately gave some classified, sensitive information to western intelligence as a journalist. He made some agreements with the western media but that has nothing to do with the fact that he gave classified information to someone else. He was collecting this information deliberately. That’s very different from him just interacting with western media. That’s it, there’s no conspiracy there.

Vladimir Putin: (05:06:57)
Maybe it’s Rogozin doing something else.

Vladimir Putin: (05:07:01)
That’s nonsense. Rogozin is not pressuring anyone. He’s just a civil servant. If he’s doing his work properly, he’ll stay. If he’s not, we’ll replace him with someone. There are no conspiracies here. It’s nonsense. Don’t think about it.

Vladimir Putin: (05:07:28)
I understand that many of your colleagues knew him personally.

Vladimir Putin: (05:07:34)
But what can I do about it? He deliberately, knowingly gave classified information to the western intelligence and that’s what he is being accused of. And it’s the prosecutors who have to prove that. If they do then, well, he will be punished. If not, he’ll free. So you spoke about the benefits to the children, to the parents, with children. That’ll all be done before the end of the year?

Vladimir Putin: (05:08:10)
Yes. Before the end of the year, like before. Happy new year. Yes. Happy new year. Thank you. Thank you so much.

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