Andrei Martyanov: The Timing of Russia’s Ultimatum to NATO

December 20, 2021

New trade corridor connecting Iran and Europe

19 Dec 2021

Net Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen

The Iranian ambassador to Baku says a new trade corridor will be activated this week linking Iran and Europe via Azerbaijan.

The new corridor comes after the revival of the ECO and the INSTC corridor

Iran’s ambassador to Baku, Abbas Mousavi, announced Saturday that the new corridor linking Iran to Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea will be activated this week.

On Twitter, Mousavi said that the new corridor comes after the revival of the ECO Corridor between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and the International North-South Transport Corridor (Finland, Russia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, the Persian Gulf, and India).

The ECO corridor’s objective is to strengthen economic relations between Tehran, Ankara, and Islamabad and to facilitate trade and investment in the region.

On the other hand, the INSTC corridor is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes to link and increase trade between countries of the region including India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe, mentioned Mehr news agency.

It is noteworthy that on December 10th, Moscow witnessed the first meeting between deputy foreign ministers of a new regional cooperation titled 3+3, which consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia from the South Caucasus and three neighboring countries, namely Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

Russian draft documents on legal security guarantees from the United States and NATO

December 17, 2021

This document is in six sections.

  • The first is a preamble.  It is from ColonelCassad and is a machine translation.  This would form a necessary overview and is a description of the current situation.
  • The second is Russian Deputy FM Ryabkov’s special video briefing in Moscow and contains some incisive Q&A
  • The third is a short press release
  • The fourth is a proposed draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on security guarantees
  • The fifth is a cohesive complement to the draft treaty and is an agreement on measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  • The sixth is Jen Psaki’s initial response as reported by RT

We await the Saker’s Analysis in the next few days.

Preamble

The Russian Foreign Ministry presented a draft Russia-NATO agreement, which in fact sets forth in writing the security guarantees desired by Russia, which in fact is what was not done when Gorbachev liquidated the Soviet bloc.
Thus, the following text presents Russia’s vision of the current state of Russian-NATO relations and the vector of their desired correction in a way that would be beneficial for Russia.

Bilateral relations between Russia and foreign countries and regional organizations

Russian-NATO relations are in a protracted crisis. The decisions of the 2018 NATO summit in Brussels confirmed the line of military-political “containment” of Russia. The long-term course of building up NATO’s coalition capabilities to create troop groupings and further improve military infrastructure near our borders has continued.

The military presence and the bloc’s forced development of military infrastructure in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states is consistently increasing. The number and intensity of military exercises of the alliance and its member countries have increased significantly, for which additional contingents of troops and heavy military equipment of NATO countries are being transferred to the regions bordering Russia.

Sweden, Finland and other partner countries are more and more actively involved in the military activities of the alliance. Advanced command and staff units are being formed, the decision was made to create new joint commands of the coalition forces – in Norfolk (USA) to ensure safety of transport corridors in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions, in Ulm (Germany) on the management, planning and logistics for the organization of military transport in Europe. Pentagon plans for forward storage of military equipment in the CEE and Baltic states have been announced. Groups of ships patrolling the waters of the Baltic Sea were strengthened. The number of visits and duration of stay in the Black Sea of naval ships of non-Black Sea alliance countries, primarily of the USA, has increased. NATO Navy continues to patrol the air space of the Baltic Sea with increased strength, and “interception” sorties are carried out even when there have been no violations from the Russian side. The missile defense complex in Romania is deployed. A similar facility is planned to be commissioned in 2020 in Poland. Of particular concern are the plans for permanent deployment of U.S. troops there and the recent agreements to increase the American contingent, which jeopardize the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, one of the few remaining documents meant to ensure military stability in Europe.

Gradually but systematically, the effective European security architecture and the norms of international law are being destroyed. The abandonment of key agreements that ensure military restraint, with the tacit agreement of most members of the alliance – the situation around the New START treaty is a vivid example here – is fraught with the development of a new arms race, a throwback to the principles of the confrontation era.

Of course, such NATO military preparations cannot remain without our adequate response.

The continuing dragging of the Balkan countries into NATO and the desire to “drive” them into the bloc at any cost confirms the invariability of the course taken to recklessly expand its geopolitical space. Disregard of legal norms and opinion of a considerable part of the population in closing the issue of state name of Northern Macedonia, forcing Bosnia and Herzegovina to join NATO, creating “Kosovo army” with connivance of the “Force for Kosovo” only aggravate already existing contradictions and seriously destabilize the situation in the region.

The unilateral decision of NATO to suspend practical cooperation with Russia on military and civilian lines also remains in force. At the same time, NATO countries do not show readiness to discuss Russian proposals on de-escalation of tensions and prevention of military incidents, handed to them at the May 31, 2018 Russia-NATO Council meeting. These proposals include resuming dialogue on the military line (starting with expert consultations) to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern to Russia and our partners; taking measures to reduce military activity along the line of direct contact between Russia and NATO (the Baltics, There has been no reaction from NATO so far.

All these actions are fraught with long-term destabilizing consequences for both regional and entire Euro-Atlantic security.

Despite the unfriendly steps taken against us, Russia has no intention of getting drawn into the senseless confrontation imposed on us.

We continue to firmly believe in the strategic commonality of aims with all the States and organizations of the Euro-Atlantic region to maintain peace and stability and to counter common threats to security – international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking and piracy. We remain convinced that there is no real alternative to mutually beneficial and broad pan-European security co-operation on the solid basis of international law.

Russia’s position remains unchanged – our country is ready to develop relations with NATO on the basis of equal rights in order to strengthen comprehensive security in the Euro-Atlantic region. The depth and content of such relations will depend on the alliance’s reciprocal readiness to take Russia’s legitimate interests into account.


The video is forwarded to start playing at the start point at 21:47


17 December 2021 13:36

Press release on Russian draft documents on legal security guarantees from the United States and NATO

During the December 15, 2021 meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US party received a draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on security guarantees and an agreement on measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The US party was given detailed explanations regarding the logic of the Russian approach, as well as the relevant arguments. We hope that, the United States will enter into serious talks with Russia in the near future regarding this matter, which has critical importance for maintaining peace and stability, using the Russian draft treaty and agreement as a starting point.


17 December 2021 13:30

TREATY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ON SECURITY GUARANTEES

Unofficial translation

Draft

The United States of America and the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the “Parties”, guided by the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as the provisions of the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, the 1999 Charter for European Security, and the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Russian Federation,recalling the inadmissibility of the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations both in their mutual and international relations in general,

supporting the role of the United Nations Security Council that has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security,

recognizing the need for united efforts to effectively respond to modern security challenges and threats in a globalized and interdependent world,

considering the need for strict compliance with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs, including refraining from supporting organizations, groups or individuals calling for an unconstitutional change of power, as well as from undertaking any actions aimed at changing the political or social system of one of the Contracting Parties,

bearing in mind the need to create additional effective and quick-to-launch cooperation mechanisms or improve the existing ones to settle emerging issues and disputes through a constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual respect for and recognition of each other’s security interests and concerns, as well as to elaborate adequate responses to security challenges and threats,

seeking to avoid any military confrontation and armed conflict between the Parties and realizing that direct military clash between them could result in the use of nuclear weapons that would have far-reaching consequences,

reaffirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and recognizing the need to make every effort to prevent the risk of outbreak of such war among States that possess nuclear weapons,

reaffirming their commitments under the Agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War of 30 September 1971, the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas of 25 May 1972, the Agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Establishment of Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers of 15 September 1987, as well as the Agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities of 12 June 1989,

have agreed as follows:

Article 1

The Parties shall cooperate on the basis of principles of indivisible, equal and undiminished security and to these ends:

shall not undertake actions nor participate in or support activities that affect the security of the other Party;

shall not implement security measures adopted by each Party individually or in the framework of an international organization, military alliance or coalition that could undermine core security interests of the other Party.

Article 2

The Parties shall seek to ensure that all international organizations, military alliances and coalitions in which at least one of the Parties is taking part adhere to the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations.

Article 3

The Parties shall not use the territories of other States with a view to preparing or carrying out an armed attack against the other Party or other actions affecting core security interests of the other Party.

Article 4

The United States of America shall undertake to prevent further eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and deny accession to the Alliance to the States of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The United States of America shall not establish military bases in the territory of the States of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, use their infrastructure for any military activities or develop bilateral military cooperation with them.

Article 5

The Parties shall refrain from deploying their armed forces and armaments, including in the framework of international organizations, military alliances or coalitions, in the areas where such deployment could be perceived by the other Party as a threat to its national security, with the exception of such deployment within the national territories of the Parties.

The Parties shall refrain from flying heavy bombers equipped for nuclear or non-nuclear armaments or deploying surface warships of any type, including in the framework of international organizations, military alliances or coalitions, in the areas outside national airspace and national territorial waters respectively, from where they can attack targets in the territory of the other Party.

The Parties shall maintain dialogue and cooperate to improve mechanisms to prevent dangerous military activities on and over the high seas, including agreeing on the maximum approach distance between warships and aircraft.

Article 6

The Parties shall undertake not to deploy ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles outside their national territories, as well as in the areas of their national territories, from which such weapons can attack targets in the national territory of the other Party.

Article 7

The Parties shall refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories and return such weapons already deployed outside their national territories at the time of the entry into force of the Treaty to their national territories. The Parties shall eliminate all existing infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons outside their national territories.

The Parties shall not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons. The Parties shall not conduct exercises or training for general-purpose forces, that include scenarios involving the use of nuclear weapons.

Article 8

The Treaty shall enter into force from the date of receipt of the last written notification on the completion by the Parties of their domestic procedures necessary for its entry into force.

Done in two originals, each in English and Russian languages, both texts being equally authentic.

For the United States of America                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           For the Russian Federation

17 December 2021 13:26

AGREEMENT ON MEASURES TO ENSURE THE SECURITY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION AND MEMBER STATES OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION

Unofficial translation

Draft

The Russian Federation and the member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), hereinafter referred to as the Parties,

reaffirming their aspiration to improve relations and deepen mutual understanding,

acknowledging that an effective response to contemporary challenges and threats to security in our interdependent world requires joint efforts of all the Parties,

determined to prevent dangerous military activity and therefore reduce the possibility of incidents between their armed forces,

noting that the security interests of each Party require better multilateral cooperation, more political and military stability, predictability, and transparency,

reaffirming their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 1994 Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security, the 1999 Charter for European Security, and the Rome Declaration “Russia-NATO Relations: a New Quality” signed by the Heads of State and Government of the Russian Federation and NATO member States in 2002,

have agreed as follows:

Article 1

The Parties shall guide in their relations by the principles of cooperation, equal and indivisible security. They shall not strengthen their security individually, within international organizations, military alliances or coalitions at the expense of the security of other Parties.

The Parties shall settle all international disputes in their mutual relations by peaceful means and refrain from the use or threat of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

The Parties shall not create conditions or situations that pose or could be perceived as a threat to the national security of other Parties.

The Parties shall exercise restraint in military planning and conducting exercises to reduce risks of eventual dangerous situations in accordance with their obligations under international law, including those set out in intergovernmental agreements on the prevention of incidents at sea outside territorial waters and in the airspace above, as well as in intergovernmental agreements on the prevention of dangerous military activities.

Article 2

In order to address issues and settle problems, the Parties shall use the mechanisms of urgent bilateral or multilateral consultations, including the NATO-Russia Council.

The Parties shall regularly and voluntarily exchange assessments of contemporary threats and security challenges, inform each other about military exercises and maneuvers, and main provisions of their military doctrines. All existing mechanisms and tools for confidence-building measures shall be used in order to ensure transparency and predictability of military activities.

Telephone hotlines shall be established to maintain emergency contacts between the Parties.

Article 3

The Parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries.

The Parties shall maintain dialogue and interaction on improving mechanisms to prevent incidents on and over the high seas (primarily in the Baltics and the Black Sea region).

Article 4

The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997. With the consent of all the Parties such deployments can take place in exceptional cases to eliminate a threat to security of one or more Parties.

Article 5

The Parties shall not deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas allowing them to reach the territory of the other Parties.

Article 6

All member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization commit themselves to refrain from any further enlargement of NATO, including the accession of Ukraine as well as other States.

Article 7

The Parties that are member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shall not conduct any military activity on the territory of Ukraine as well as other States in the Eastern Europe, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia.

In order to exclude incidents the Russian Federation and the Parties that are member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shall not conduct military exercises or other military activities above the brigade level in a zone of agreed width and configuration on each side of the border line of the Russian Federation and the states in a military alliance with it, as well as Parties that are member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Article 8

This Agreement shall not affect and shall not be interpreted as affecting the primary responsibility of the Security Council of the United Nations for maintaining international peace and security, nor the rights and obligations
of the Parties under the Charter of the United Nations.

Article 9

This Agreement shall enter into force from the date of deposit of the instruments of ratification, expressing consent to be bound by it, with the Depositary by more than a half of the signatory States. With respect to a State that deposited its instrument of ratification at a later date, this Agreement shall enter into force from the date of its deposit.

Each Party to this Agreement may withdraw from it by giving appropriate notice to the Depositary. This Agreement shall terminate for such Party [30] days after receipt of such notice by the Depositary.

This Agreement has been drawn up in Russian, English and French, all texts being equally authentic, and shall be deposited in the archive of the Depositary, which is the Government of …

Done in [the city of …] this [XX] day of [XX] two thousand and [XX].


White House responds to Russian security proposalsThe US “will not compromise” on NATO expansion, the White House reiterated on Friday, following proposals from Russia outlining how it believes Moscow and the West can deescalate ongoing tensions in the east of Europe.

“We have seen the Russian proposals. We are discussing them with our European allies and partners,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told journalists onboard Air Force One on Friday when asked about the Russian documents.

She added that the US won’t accept the idea of stopping NATO expansion in Europe, despite what Russia wants.

“We will not compromise the key principles on which European security is built, including that all countries have the right to decide their own future and form policy free from outside interference,” she said.

Moscow sees the expansion of NATO towards its border as a critical threat to its national security, based on the bloc’s confrontational stance toward Russia.

A verbal promise not to move the organisation to the east was given to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during negotiations on the reunification of Germany. Those assurances were memory-holed after the dissolution of the USSR. In 2017, declassified US documents backed up Moscow’s version of events.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said that the potential dialog should include the alliance’s concerns and Ukraine’s point of view.


Andrei Martyanov reacts to Senator Wicker idea to bomb Russia. With nukes.

DECEMBER 09, 2021

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أوكرانيا تشعل المواجهات الدولية فهل تجتاح موسكو أوروبا الشرقية؟

روسيا تستنفر قواتها النووية
 محمد صادق الحسيني

الأحداث تتسارع بقوة في موضوع المواجه الروسية الأميركية الأوروبية والأمور تتدحرج بسرعة فائقة على الجبهة الأوكرانية…!

ولكن ثمة اجتياحاً روسياً لأوكرانيا فعلاً كما يروّج الغرب؟

خبراء متابعون يؤكدون بانّ روسيا وقيادتها ليست بحاجة الى اجتياح هناك، في الوقت الذي تستطيع فيه اللجوء الى القيام بانقلاب عسكري وهي التي تملك نفوذاً واسعاً في الجيش الأوكراني، خاصة أنّ باستطاعتها ان تواكب ذلك مع خطوة تحريك الشرق الأوكراني الذي يميل بأكثريته للتعاطف مع موسكو…

الرئيس بوتين في هذه الأثناء أطلق تصريحات في غاية الخطورة قال فيها: ما يجري في شرق أوكرانيا هو إبادة جماعية.

فهل هذا الكلام تهيئة لظروف الانقضاض الروسي على الأطلسي، أم مجرد تعبئه للرأي العام الروسي؟

من جهة إخرى… وبعد فشل قمة بايدن ـ بوتين التلفزيونية

واستمرار الاستفزازات الأطلسية للروس في البحر الأسود، كانت قد خرجت تصريحات هامه جداً لرئيس الأركان الروسي يقول فيها انّ 95% من الصواريخ النووية الروسية في حالة جهوزية قتالية…

كلام رئيس الأركان الروسي، عن جاهزية الصواريخ النووية الاستراتيجية القتالية، جاء خلال لقاء عقده مع الملحقون العسكريون الأجانب في موسكو.

وهذا يعطي الكلام أبعاداً غاية في الأهمية.

فهذا كلام استراتيجي وهو بمثابة تحذير نهائي للغرب بأن يتوقفوا عن اللعب بالنار وإلا… خاصةً انه جاء بعد قمة بوتين ـ بايدن الفاشلة عملياً.

في هذه الأثناء فإنّ إطلاق إعلان جديد لوزارة الدفاع الروسية يقولون فيه: بأن اقتراب سفينه حربية أوكرانية من مضيق كيرتش (يربط البحر الأسود مع بحر آزوف الروسي) يعرّض الأمن للخطر.

واقتراب تشكيل جوي كامل لحلف الأطلسي من القوات الروسية المتوثبة على الحدود القومية للأمن الروسي، فقد يراه البعض بأنه مزيد من الاستفزاز الأميركي لجر الجبهة هناك الى صدام يفتر من عضد الجبهة الداخلية الروسية كما يخطط الأميركيون!

محللون استراتيجيون يعتقدون بانّ ما يجري على هامش القضية الأوكرانية بات أشبه بما حصل في ستينيات القرن الماضي في ما سمّي في حينه بأزمة الكاريبي التي كادت ان تشعل حرباً عالمية عندما اكتشف الأميركان في حينها قواعد نووية في كوبا، وأطلقوا العنان يومها لقواتهم في تركيا ووضعها في الوضعية القتالية في محاولة للانقضاض يومها على الاتحاد السوفياتي السابق.

هذه الأجواء المشتعلة بين واشنطن وموسكو يعتقد كثيرون انّ هدف اميركا من ورائها هو إشغال الروس بأزمة استراتيجية خانقة إما لتوجيه ضربة استباقية لهم لتفجير الوضع الداخلي الروسي او لإبعادهم عن الصين التي تعتبر العدو الأخطر الذي يعرقل واشنطن في كلّ استراتيجياتها.

الخبراء بالشأن الروسي يعتقدون بانّ بوتين وجنرالاته لديهم تخوّف من احتمال تمادي الأطلسي في التصعيد وصولاً الى توجيه ضربة عسكرية في العمق الروسي بحجة منعه من اجتياح روسي لأوكرانيا.

وبالتالي فانّ القيادة الروسية باتت تفكر جدياً بالقيام بضربة استباقية اكبر تتمثل باجتياح كلّ أوروبا الشرقية سابقاً للتخلص بشكل جذري مما بات يُعرف بالمسألة الأوكرانية، وتنهي بذلك أحلام الأطلسي وواشنطن بضربة واحدة بالتوسع شرقاً حتى تخوم الكرملين..!

اخيراً وليس آخراً فانّ هذه الأجواء المتشنّجة والمتوترة على جبهة أوكرانيا ربما كانت بنظر البعض فرصة تاريخية لتضع إيران في أحسن حالاتها لانتزاع تنازل أميركي في الاتفاق النووي، او جرّ الغرب الى مفاوضات استنزافية تخرجه من عنق الزجاجة الى حين اكتمال ترتيباتها الداخلية والخارجية الاقتصادية منها والأمنية والاستراتيجية لتجعلها في غنى كامل عن الاتفاق النووي.

ومثل هذا السيناريو قد يكون قد تمّ التفاهم عليه بين موسكو وبكين وطهران…

بانتظار المزيد من المفاجآت من الآن حتى دخول العام الميلادي الجديد…

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

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Assad, Syria and China’s new Silk Road

Count on Syria becoming an important West Asian hub in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

December 07 2021

By Matthew Ehret

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Xi-assad.jpg
Photo Credit: The Cradle

Ever since Russia and China began challenging the Anglo-American scorched Earth doctrine in 2011 with their first vetoes against US intervention into Syria, the Gordian knots that have tied up the Arab world in chaos, division and ignorance for decades have finally begun to unravel.

Where just one decade ago the unipolar vision of the ‘new American century’ reigned unchallenged, by 2013 the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had sprung into life, and the largest purges of China’s deep state on record were launched under Xi Jinping’s watch. This latter crackdown even earned the ire of the American intelligence community, with war hawk John Bolton complaining that Xi’s authoritarianism has made the CIA job of maintaining its spies inside China nearly impossible.

This new operating system, tied closely to Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, has grown in leaps and bounds. Today, a new multipolar future has emerged; one which plans to actually deliver long-term development for all those who choose to play by its rules.

One of these adherents will be Syria, which is re-emerging onto the world’s stage after having miraculously defended itself from a ten-year military onslaught launched by the old unipolar players.

Of course, the pain and destruction of the war is still deeply felt; illegal US sanctions continue to plague the hungry masses, prevent the reconstruction of basic infrastructure and access to potable water, and cripple schools, hospitals, businesses, and livelihoods.

The BRI and Syria’s new future

On 5 November, China’s President Xi Jinping spoke with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, saying “we welcome the Syrian side’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Development Initiative” and calling for reconstruction, development, and the defense of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The discussion came in the wake of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s whirlwind tour across West Asia and North Africa in July 2021, during which he met the Arab League’s chief to discuss Syria return to the fold.

By the end of this tour – which coincided with Assad’s re-election – China had signed a four-point proposal for solving Syria’s multifaceted crisis with a focus on large scale reconstruction, ending illegal sanctions and respecting Syria’s sovereignty.

Syria, in turn, re-affirmed its support for China’s territorial integrity in the face of western-sponsored separatist movements in Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

China’s interest in West Asian development was first made known in 2017 when Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated:

“Too many people in the Middle East are suffering at the brutal hands of terrorists. We support regional countries in forming synergy, consolidating the momentum of anti-terrorism and striving to restore regional stability and order. We support countries in the region in exploring a development path suited to their national conditions and are ready to share governance experience and jointly build the Belt and Road and promote peace and stability through common development.”

In 2018, China offered $28 billion in development aid to Syria while simultaneously coordinating the integration of Iraq into the BRI, made official in September 2019 when then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi unveiled the China-Iraq oil for reconstruction program and Iraq’s broader integration into the BRI framework.

Events coordinated by foreign interests did not permit this momentum for long. Mass protests soon toppled Abdul Mahdi’s government and, with it, the oil-for-reconstruction initiative. While recent months have seen a revival of this initiative from Iraq in piecemeal form, progress has been slow.

Instead, the 25 year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement struck between China and Iran in March 2021 has become the main gateway for extending Beijing’s infrastructure and connectivity projects into West Asia.

The construction of the Iran–Iraq Shalamcheh-Basra rail line is now underway, bringing the two neighboring states into an equal cooperative footing and opening prospects for greater rail and energy corridors extending from Iran through Iraq and into Syria, as a southern branch of the BRI.

In April 2019, Syria was invited to attend the first official BRI summit in Beijing, where President Assad stated:

“We have proposed around six projects to the Chinese government in line with the Belt and Road methodology and we are waiting to hear which project, or projects, will be in line with their thinking … I think when this infrastructure is developed, with time, the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) passing through Syria becomes a foregone conclusion, because it is not a road you only draw on a map.”

So what, specifically, are those projects?

China and Syria are keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to details for the moment. But it is not impossible to make some educated guesses about Assad’s wish-list by revisiting his earlier strategic vision for Syria.

Specifically, that would be the Five Seas Strategy that Assad had championed from 2004 to 2011, which disappeared from view once Syria was targeted for destruction.

The Five Seas strategy, in brief

The Five Seas strategy involves the construction of rail, roads and energy grids connecting the water systems of the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, Red Sea and Caspian Sea with Syria. The project serves as a logical node uniting the diverse nations of Mackinder’s world island behind a program of harmonization, integration and win-win industrial cooperation.

In a 2009 interview, President Assad described this project passionately:

“Once the economic space between Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran becomes integrated, we would link the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black Sea, and the [Persian] Gulf . . . we aren’t just important in the Middle East . . . Once we link these four seas, we become the unavoidable intersection of the whole world in investment, transport, and more.”

These weren’t empty words. By 2011, Assad had led delegations and signed agreements with Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to begin the Five Seas projects. This was done at a time when Libya’s President Qaddafi was well underway in building the Great Man-Made River, the largest water project in history alongside a coalition of nations that included Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The true reasons for Qaddafi’s killing, the carving up of Sudan in 2009, and the current efforts at US-sponsored regime change in Ethiopia cannot be comprehended without an understanding of this potent, game-changing strategic paradigm that he and others were spearheading.

The need for secrecy

The secrecy of Chinese-West Asian diplomacy in the emerging post-regime change world now emerging should therefore be understood as an obvious necessity.

For the past decade, every time a West Asian or African nation makes a public announcement of a BRI-compatible program, that same nation has been promptly dragged through different degrees of foreign sabotage. Neither Assad nor the Chinese have any intention to replay that trend at this pivotal moment.

Soon after the heads of Syrian and Turkish intelligence agencies met in Baghdad in early September, Assad reportedly told a Lebanese delegation that “many Arab and non-Arab states are communicating with us, but asking us to keep this a secret.”

The nature of this secret diplomacy soon became clear, when the Arab League made its 23 November announcement of Syria’s re-admission into the fold.

Former sworn enemies of Bashar Assad, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have demonstrated their willingness to accept their humiliation, recognize Assad’s legitimacy and adapt to the new powers China and Russia. Unlike decades of Anglo-American promises which treat Arab participants like disposable temporary interests, the China-Russia alliance contains tangible, measurable benefits, like security and development for all participants.

Multipolarity vs the ‘rules-based international order’

While the US wasted the past decade imposing sanctions and punishments on nations, institutions and individuals unaccepting of its global hegemony, China was patiently recruiting West Asian and African states to the BRI: a whopping 17 Arab nations and 46 African nations are taking part today.

NATO member Turkey has also been on the receiving end of Washington’s punishments, and has begun to view China as a potential means to a more independent future – one that comes with the financial resources to mitigate the country’s current economic woes and currency fluctuations.

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had once provided vast support for ISIS and Al Qaeda operations across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, primarily through the purchase of ISIS-controlled oil and the supply of extremist fighters, clandestine funding and arms transfers. Such support has increasingly dried up, leaving ISIS with very little to work outside of what the CIA provides.

Despite US President Joe Biden re-affirming military support in October for the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) occupying north-east Syria, the Kurdish hand has also been overplayed. Many are finally recognizing that the Kurds have been duped into serving as a counter-gang to ISIS, and that promises for a Kurdish state have proved to be as illusory as the dream of Assad’s overthrow.

Erdogan may have tried to walk both worlds for some time, but it has increasingly become clear that Turkey’s only chance for survival rests with Russian military cooperation and China’s BRI (which crosses Turkey in the form of the Middle Corridor), both which demand a defense of Syria’s sovereignty.

As this new reality dawns on West Asia, and as the old unipolar order continues to veer towards a systemic collapse of historic proportions, there is good reason to believe that the region, or an important chunk of it, is already locked in and counting on the development and connectivity boom coming its way.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Sitrep: This morning in Maria’s office …

December 05, 2021

Posted by Amarynth

Maria Zakharova, I mean, or did I mean Maria Z Kalashnikov?

GEOFOR interviews The Saker: Will Kiev decide on an open armed conflict?

December 05, 2021

Note: in late November I was interviewed by the Russian website Geofor.  Here is the English language translation of this interview.

GEOFOR: Mr. Raevsky, no sooner have the American warships left the Black Sea than the British went in there. Apparently, “unscheduled exercises” of NATO ships and Ukrainian watercraft are about to commence, again. Again, near the maritime borders of the Russian Federation. Moreover, a couple of American military boats were delivered to Odessa (although, politely speaking, not quite new). As a military analyst with experience in intelligence, how do you assess the degree of threats from this incessant demonstration of force in terms of the possibility of provoking a military conflict with far-reaching consequences?

Andrei Raevsky: From a military point of view, I assess the degree of direct threat from these forces as zero. Firstly, any ship that enters the waters of the Black Sea can be instantly destroyed by a number of Russian coastal defense systems and/or the Russian Aerospace Forces. So, the degree of threat from them is zero. Secondly, they are equipped with  rather outdated Tomahawk missiles. They have a relatively low flight speed, and they do not pose a great threat to Russian air defense systems.

On the other hand, there is an indirect threat from these NATO ships. And very serious. They are nudging Ukrainians in the same way as in 2008 they nudged Saakashvili in Georgia. They give Kiev a mistaken feeling being under an umbrella, under the protection of the US Navy or, say, NATO bomber planes, which is a complete deception and delusion, but this is the real danger.

GEOFOR: Does Russia have the ability to protect itself if it comes to launching Tomahawks? And how is this perceived in Pentagon and NATO headquarters? In the same context: what, in your opinion, is behind the decision of the Russian president to reject the Ministry of Defense’s offer to hold its unscheduled exercises on the Black Sea simultaneously with the United States and NATO? How will it be perceived in the Washington military-political establishment – as confidence in the capabilities of the Russian military to respond adequately to provocative actions or, as a desire not to take a potentially dangerous situation to the extreme?

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, of course, Russia can defend itself. As I just said, these are relatively slow and outdated cruise missiles, which do not pose a great danger to the multi-layered integrated air defense of the Crimea and the South of Russia and the entire Southern Military District of the Russian Federation. You can remember what the US missile strike on Syria was like, where most of them [Tomahawks] were shot down not by the Russian contingent in Syria – this is very important to emphasize – but by the Syrians with their relatively simpler air defense system.

Thus. I don’t think that all these Tomahawks threaten Russia very much.

I will also add that if the United States and NATO wanted to hit Russia with Tomahawks, it would be better for them to get out of the Black Sea and go to the Mediterranean Sea and move away to the maximum distance – just so as not to be instantly sunk.

Putin’s decision not to conduct simultaneous maneuvers in the Black Sea, in my opinion, is absolutely reasonable.

In Washington, this is likely to make an impression, in a certain sense, of a staged scene: Shoigu says: “I am ready”,  and Putin takes such a peacemaking, pacifying step. This is what in the West is called “Good cop – bad cop.” In fact, they are, of course, united in terms of developing principles and strategies for protecting Russia from possible aggression.

GEOFOR: And now a little more about Ukraine and the situation around it. Russian analysts find many analogies in the situation in Ukraine now and the one that was in Georgia on the eve of August 2008. How would you characterize the factors (internal and external) that could lead to Kiev deciding on an open armed conflict? And what will this lead Ukraine and Europe as a whole to? Who, in the end, may be the beneficiary?

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, the situation is very similar to that. And I would even say that the situation Zelensky is in, is worse than the one Saakashvili was in.

I’m afraid that his rating is such that he really has nothing to lose. The question of whether Kiev will decide on an open armed conflict implies that Kiev has an opportunity to solve something. I doubt it very much. Without getting the “go-ahead” from the “Washington Regional Party Committee” Kiev will not move. Thus, if Kiev moves, it will be, at least, in the presence of a “tacit” – not even consent – order, when the West gives the command “Attack!”. Few people in the West care that Kiev will then “get its ass kicked.”

But the most important thing in this context is to remember that the goal is not to “liberate ORDLO from Muscovites” (Note: “ORLDO” is the current official Ukie legal term for the LDNR) or “restore democracy and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and so on. The goal is to force Russia to openly invade Ukraine and start a war: so that it cannot be denied, in order to totally sink energy projects between Russia and the EU and make the EU completely dependent, first of all, on American shale gas and other energy carriers. And to achieve these goals, Ukraine does not need any victory at all – it’s enough to just say: “Here, these evil Putin’s “green men” have seized even more territory! Oh, how bad they are!”

We can say that from a military point of view, Russia will win very quickly. But from a political point of view, it will be a victory for the United States.

GEOFOR: Do you consider it possible that, with NATO’s symbolic support in the Black Sea, as well as the presence of various American, British and other instructors on land, Kiev will decide on a military provocation not in the Donbas, but in the Black Sea? After all, it is known that everyone is waiting for the Ukrainian military offensive in the east of the country, and why, for example, Zelensky not follow the path of his predecessor Poroshenko, who sent boats to break through the Kerch Strait, and, creating a conflict situation, disrupted the already agreed meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? Moreover, the second meeting of the Russian and American presidents this year is now being prepared…

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, such a provocation in the Black Sea is very likely. It is enough to recall their provocation when Ukrainian boats tried to pass into the Kerch Strait. And it was without any presence of Americans. Of course, this is possible. I think this is not only possible, but it will definitely happen.

And if there really are plans to arrange a meeting between Biden and Putin, then Ukrainians have very little time left. In December, Americans convene their “Democracy Forum”, then there are holidays…

If there is this meeting – and we don’t know if there will be one – there could be a lot of things that could undermine it. For supporters of the war – both in the United States and in Ukraine – this is a very important moment that cannot be missed.

GEOFOR: And in conclusion. If it is likely that the ongoing Russian-American consultations (the arrival of the Deputy Secretary of State and the director of the CIA in Moscow, for example) and the dialogue between the two leaders, which, hopefully, will take place, will lead to at least some stabilization, both around the Ukrainian problem and in bilateral relations. What problems in this regard could you highlight?

Andrei Raevsky: These consultations are very important, and this is a very desirable development of the situation because American officials of this level have not come to Moscow twice to present some kind of ultimatum.

To present an ultimatum, you can simply use a consul.

To do this, there is absolutely no need to send the highest representatives of the American authorities to Moscow.

The conversations that took place – whatever they were – were to the point. And they were serious. As long as both sides are talking, at least they are not shooting. And this is very desirable.

And we can only hope that such consultations will continue in the future.

Of course, the Americans are the most dangerous enemy for Russia. This needs to be understood.

This is not a get-together with a “vodka-herring” menu to just shoot the breeze. Neither is this a friendly meeting.

But this is a direct dialogue of those who can really make decisions in a difficult situation and influence the situation.

And in this regard, it is very important.

Therefore, there is no need to fall into the mistake that Americans very often fall into when they say: “We don’t talk to such and such.” We don’t talk to terrorists, we don’t talk to states and “regimes” that we don’t recognize. This is a very big mistake.

You need to talk to everyone, often including the fiercest enemies.

source: https://geofor.ru/4710-andrej-raevskij-reshitsya-li-kiev-na-otkrytyj-vooruzhennyj-konflikt.html

Theater of Absurd… Pentagon Demands Russia Explain Troops on Russian Soil

November 19, 2021

There is something of the theater of absurd in American and European posturing. But it’s far from funny. It’s menacingly deranged.

The United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week performed impressive, albeit pathetic, mental gymnastics. In a press conference, the Pentagon chief called on Russia to be more transparent about troop movements “on the border with Ukraine”. In others words, on Russian soil.

Meanwhile, the absurd hypocrisy sees U.S. and NATO forces brazenly escalating their offensive presence on Russia’s borders, especially in the Black Sea region.

Here’s an Associated Press clip on the Pentagon press conference: “American officials are unsure why Russian President Vladimir Putin is building up military forces near the border with eastern Ukraine but view it as another example of troubling military moves that demand Moscow’s explanation, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday.”

The report quotes Austin as saying: “We’ll continue to call on Russia to act responsibly and be more transparent on the buildup of the forces around on the border of Ukraine… We’re not sure exactly what Mr Putin is up to.”

This dubious talent for mind-bending mental gymnastics and double-think is shared with other members of the Biden administration. Last week, America’s top diplomat Antony Blinken claimed that Russia was about to invade Ukraine yet at the same time the U.S. Secretary of State confessed similar ignorance about what “Putin is up to”.

How is it possible to engage in meaningful dialogue with such vacuous people who are supposed to be government leaders – and leaders too of the self-declared world’s most powerful, most brilliant nation? No undue offense intended, but it would probably be more productive to engage in a dialogue with the bewildering characters from Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot.

Russia has repeatedly dismissed all claims about it threatening Ukraine or any other country with invasion. Moscow also disputes “unreliable” information touted by the Biden administration and Western media of troop buildup near Ukraine on its western flank. Western media reports have relied on dodgy commercial satellite data purporting to show Russian military maneuvers. It is contemptible that senior U.S. government figures are basing grave allegations against Russia on such ropy sources. That in itself speaks volumes about the deterioration in Washington’s diplomatic professionalism and political intelligence.

Secondly, the salient fact being missed in all the hullabaloo is this: Russian troops and equipment are on Russia’s sovereign territory. It is the height of absurdity for U.S. officials to demand that Russia “explain” and be “more transparent” about its own national defenses. That speaks of a hyper-arrogance among American politicians that are deforming their ability to think reasonably.

There is an analogy here with the outcry this week over Russia’s successful missile test against a Soviet-era satellite in orbit. The Biden administration condemned Russia for creating “space junk” and weaponizing space while ignoring the fact that the U.S. previously carried out the same kind of missile strike and, arguably has been trying to weaponize space since the Reagan administration’s “star wars” program during the 1980s.

In any case, the U.S. charges of Russia’s military buildup on its own territory are made all the more ridiculous when we consider the actual increase in NATO forces in Ukraine and the Black Sea region – right on Russia’s western doorstep.

In a major speech this week delivered at the Russian foreign ministry, President Putin noted again how Western powers have continually failed to register Moscow’s national security concerns over the expansion of NATO forces along Russia’s borders. He described this inability for cognition of what should be an obvious grievance as “very peculiar”.

The Kremlin has suggested that the increasing NATO offensive presence near Russia’s borders is not due to stupidity, but rather is aimed at provoking a conflict. Russia is strenuously resisting the danger of an armed confrontation, and yet the provocations continue.

Nearly two weeks ago, William Burns, the head of the CIA made a high-profile visit to Moscow during which he held discussions with senior Kremlin figures, including President Putin. We can safely assume that Burns was told in no uncertain terms that the buildup of U.S. and NATO forces near Russia’s territory is a red line that will presage a response from Russia.

But these red lines continue to be skirted by Washington and its NATO allies.

More perplexing, too, are the moves by the U.S.-backed Kiev regime to escalate the conflict in Ukraine against the ethnic Russian population in the separatist Donbas region. The ultranationalist regime has been waging a low-intensity war against the Donbas since the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev in 2014. The Americans and other NATO powers are increasing weapon supplies and military trainers to the regime, emboldening it to repudiate any peaceful settlement of the eight-year conflict.

Only last month, Pentagon chief Austin was in Kiev where he recklessly endorsed the joining of the NATO bloc by Ukraine. That is in spite of numerous warnings from Moscow that such a move would be an unacceptable destabilization.

The stepped-up war drills by NATO in the Black Sea region are inevitably leading the Kiev regime to resile from legally binding commitments to the Minsk Peace accord of 2015 – brokered by Russia, Germany and France. The release this week of diplomatic communications by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clearly demonstrates that Germany and France are complicit in turning a blind eye to the Kiev regime’s systematic violation of the Minsk deal.

In this context, Russia is justifiably deeply wary of a confrontation exploding out of the tinderbox conditions in Ukraine and the Black Sea. Given the Russian nation’s tragic history of suffering from past military invasions, it is entirely understandable and indeed vitally prudent that the country’s formidable defenses are on high alert.

It is not for Russia to explain its troops. It is for the United States and its NATO partners to account for their wanton aggression and to desist.

There is something of the theater of absurd in American and European posturing. But it’s far from funny. It’s menacingly deranged.

Note about the current naval operations in the Black Sea

NOVEMBER 14, 2021

Note about the current naval operations in the Black Sea

There is a lot of speculation about the current US/NATO operations in the Black Sea region.  I would like to offer the following bulletpoint comments about what I believe is going on.

  • If we add up all the US+NATO forces involved in this operation, they fall far short of what would be needed for an attack on Russia.  Thus, in purely military terms, this is just a Kabuki theater, not a real threat to Russia.
  • Both the Russians and the US commanders know that.
  • The intended audience is the Ukrainian population whom the following “message” is sent: “we are here, we are invincible, we got your back, and if you happen to get into an open conflict/war with Russia, we will protect you“.  Of course, not such commitment is formally made, only implied.  This is an exact repeat of what happened in 08.08.08.
  • At the same time, the hysterical warmongering in the Ukie media is going absolutely through the roof, these folks are now seriously considering not only “liberating” the Donbass and beating the crap out of the Russian military, some even want to “liberate” some Russian territory.  These idiots actually very much look forward to a war against Russia!

Those interested in the details can check my previous entry on this topic here: http://thesaker.is/why-i-see-a-war-in-the-donbass-as-almost-inevitable/

Next, we have to always keep in mind the following crucial fact: the USA does not have what it takes to attack Russia.  In purely conventional (non nuclear) terms, the US+NATO do not have the numbers needed in Europe to conduct any semi-successful attack against Russia.  For example, if any US destroyer launches its (old and slow) Tomahawks towards Russia or Russian forces, this launch will be instantly detected and hypersonic missiles (or, alternatively, underwater torpedoes) will get to the USN ships even before the Tomahawks get anywhere near their intended targets.  This is especially true for Crimea where Russia deployed a very modern and integrated air defense system capable of firing many more missiles than the USN ships can launch.  If the US wanted to really attack Russia, then it would take them many months to prepare itself for such a huge undertaking.

The US Americans are not stupid, they know that, and they have zero need for such a situation.

In theory, a “thin” forward deployed force can also serve as a “tripwire”, but not in this case: why would the Russians ever feel the need to sink ships which present no military danger and which they can always destroy in minutes?

Likewise, folks at the Pentagon know that even if they launched a massive attack on Russia, especially a nuclear one, the USA would cease to exist in just a few hours.

Again, both the Russians and the US Americans know that.

And, again, the intended audience are the clueless Ukies which now are preparing for a “crushing victory over Russia”.

This is why I don’t see any circumstances under which the US would deliberately attack Russia (though a mistake or a quick escalation is always possible) and that is why I see a Ukie attack/provocation as inevitable (the Ukronazis in Kiev really have nothing at all to lose).

BTW – the EU is also gearing up for such a situation, already demonizing Russia even more than it has for the last decades.  The 3B+PU are in full martial hysteria mode, especially the Poles who realize that triggering a war involving Russia is pretty much their last chance to remain of some relevance to the real Europe.  And since Uncle Shmuel is putting pressure on the Europeans to fall in line, there are really very few European politicians who dare oppose the current verbal escalation against Russian (and Belarus).

Finally, the situation around Belarus is very dangerous indeed, as any local violence could quickly involve both Belarussian and Polish forces (along with a few NATO tripwire units).  In that case, the adults in the room (Russia and the USA) would need to very quickly intervene to contain the situation and de-escalate.  Since I do not believe that the US wants a war with Russia, I think that this is exactly what both sides would do.

So where are we headed?  In my opinion, towards a crushing Russian military victory over whatever the Ukies throw at her followed by a no less crushing US political victory over the EU and Russia.  The Ukies will be used as canon-fodder and they will lose some territory again (thereby getting rid of a population which hates them and which will never vote for the Ukronazis).  The EU will have to fall in line behind Uncle Shmuel and the ruling classes of the Empire will finally get what they wanted all along: a very tense confrontation with Russia which they will then exploit to keep the Europeans nice and subservient.  That is also the last option available to the Empire to shut down NS2.

Putin has announced that he will not order any special Russian military exercises in the Black Sea (which the MoD suggested).  He did that for two very good reasons, one official one not so much:

  • Official reason: we are the good guys, so we will de-escalate as much as possible
  • Real reason: there is not need for any maneuvers at all, every US/NATO ship/aircraft is already tracked and the Russians can sink (or shoot them down) from their current position and state of alert.
The USN task force as seen on the displays of the Admiral Essen frigate

Besides, the US ships are already shadowed by the missile cruiser Moskva and the Admiral Essen frigate anyway, along with several advanced diesel-electric multi-purpose submarines.

The Kremlin is working very hard on trying to de-escalate all this, but it takes two to tango.  The party which has the most to lose from all this would be the EU, but it is run by pliable and incompetent politicians who have no understanding, no vision and no spine.  They won’t make a difference.

As for the people of the Ukraine, who will really lose more than anybody else, they have shown almost no ability to fight the Nazis in power.  If anything, a state of war would make it even EASIER for the Nazis to deal with any and all opposition.

Hope dies last, and maybe some behind the scenes discussions between the USA and Russia can defuse the current standoff, but I am not very hopeful here.  At least we know that the US and Russia are talking to each other on the highest levels, which is by definition preferable to a shooting war.

We have been on the brink in the past, will we cross over this time around?

I honestly don’t know.

Andrei

Russian Defense Ministry issues an emergency statement on the situation in the Black Sea

NOVEMBER 13, 2021

Russian Defense Ministry issues an emergency statement on the situation in the Black Sea

https://smiruss.ru/minoborony-rf-vystupilo-s-eks/

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation issued an emergency statement on the situation in the Black Sea

The United States is creating a multinational group near the Russian borders in the Black Sea, and is also studying the theater of possible hostilities in the region. This is stated in the message of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, the correspondent of “PolitNavigator” reports.

The ministry stressed that we are talking about the entry into the Black Sea of the destroyer Porter, the headquarters ship Mount Whitney and the tanker John Lenthall. In addition, five American F-15E Strike Eagle fighters were deployed to airbases in Bulgaria and Romania. The Russian Ministry of Defense believes that this is not only about exercises – in this way, the US military is developing the territory.

“Taking into account the fact that in addition to the US Navy, it is planned to use tactical, patrol and strategic aviation, as well as contingents of the armed forces of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine, there is a study of the alleged theater of military operations in the event that Kiev prepares a military solution in the south- east, ”the statement said.
According to the military expert of the Institute of CIS Countries, Captain I Rank Sergei Gorbachev, the United States is creating its own mini-flotilla in the Black Sea, capable of delivering missile strikes and threatening not only the south of Russia, but also Moscow:

“The development of the coastal infrastructure of Ukraine is underway – port, logistics components, the use of facilities on land. If we talk about aviation, this is the use of the airspace of Ukraine for their own purposes, the development of the airfield network. NATO aircraft periodically land in Odessa, near Nikolaev, and at other sites in various regions of Ukraine. I think our statement is related to drawing attention to the forces from which the threat to peace comes.

This kind of thing happens periodically – just remember the significant grouping of anti-Russian forces that participated in the Sea Breeze 2021 summer exercises. There, both the number of forces and the number of countries whose representatives were sent to the exercises can even be called a record. That is, this kind of thing happened. But here we see a coincidence both in time and place, and it is worth paying attention to the variety of forces. If we evaluate the three American boats, then this is a command ship, which has equipment of a very different direction, capable of performing functions ranging from monitoring to reconnaissance, providing communications systems, command and control, and so on.

This is a platform that can accommodate a significant number of seconded contingent, the same Marines. On the other hand, there is the possibility of landing helicopters, transferring various weapons systems and personnel. If we are talking about an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, then this ship is a platform for 90 different missiles, including Tomahawks, which can reach Moscow. This includes issues related to the use of the Aegis combat information control systems associated with the same complex in Romania. Plus, a tanker that has the ability to provide not only fuel, but also all sorts of oils, water, supplies, and so on. Such a mini-flotilla, multifunctional, with various possibilities.

A member of the movement “strong Russia”, military expert Mark Bernardini offers Russia in response to the actions of the US to send its warships to American shores:
“Of course, the principle of reciprocity, obviously, the United States is nothing will not be against it, if in the vicinity of Cuba and Florida, and also Alaska, the ships of the Russian Navy will appear: after all, you need to study the theater of possible hostilities in the event of an attack by the States on Liberty Island? Seriously, the Americans are really preparing and will promote the version of the US and its henchmen (Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey) helping Ukraine’s attack on the Donbass people’s republics.

In fact, as you know, the Kiev fascists will never dare to do this without an unspoken order from the overseas Naglo-Saxons. In other words, not the United States and the company will join Ukraine, but exactly the opposite. Alas, the Ukrainian regime has never been very far-sighted: it would be worth reminding them how the Yankees’ assurances to such heads of state as Gorbachev, Hussein, Gaddafi and even Saakashvili have turned out over the past thirty years. ”
Maxim Karpenko

The Ministry of Defense records the unprecedented activity of reconnaissance aircraft in the sky over the Black Sea:

On November 9, over the Black Sea, the US Air Force’s E-8C ground target reconnaissance and strike control aircraft was accompanied by the radio-technical means of the anti-aircraft missile forces of the Russian Aerospace Forces.

Also on the past day, Russian anti-aircraft missile forces over the Black Sea were accompanied by THREE reconnaissance aircraft of NATO member states:

  •  The strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135 of the US Air Force, which took off from the airbase on the island of Crete (Greece), was approaching the state border of the Russian Federation at a distance of 30 km.
  •  The base patrol aircraft P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy, which took off from the airbase on the island of Sicily (Italy), was approaching the state border of the Russian Federation at a distance of 70 km.
  •  The C-160G “Gabriel” reconnaissance aircraft of the French Aerospace Forces that took off from the airbase on the territory of Romania was approaching the state border of Russia by 30 km.
  • Another U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force, which took off from the territory of Great Britain, was detected and accompanied by radar reconnaissance equipment over the territory of Ukraine, approaching the border of the Russian Federation at a distance of about 60 km.
  • This morning at 8.56 Moscow time, the US Navy guided missile destroyer Porter left the Georgian port of Batumi.
  • At 09.20 Moscow time, the US Navy headquarters ship Mount Whitney left Batumi.
  • Tanker “John Lenthall” of the US Navy is located in the southwestern part of the Black Sea.
  • The actions of the American Navy, together with reconnaissance and strategic aviation in the Black Sea, confirm the true goal of the unscheduled multinational exercise: the development of the alleged theater of military operations and, in particular, the territory of Ukraine in case Kiev prepares a military solution in the southeast.

Guns and Butter: The Caucasus Conflict and Global Trends – Guest Andrei Martyanov

OCTOBER 26, 2021

Guns and Butter:   The Caucasus Conflict and Global Trends – Guest Andrei Martyanov

From Bonnie Faulkner at Guns and Butter with Guest Andrei Martyanov

The Transcaucasia region, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea is discussed; Baku, capitol of Azerbaijan, oil region and birthplace of Andrei Martyanov; Nagorno-Karabakh, semi-autonomous region within Azerbaijan; political and ethnic dynamics of the Azeri/Armenian conflict; two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan; Armenia’s Velvet Revolution; Soros sponsored NGOs in Armenia; Turkey’s involvement; Dashnaks; Armenian diaspora; second largest US embassy in Yerevan; Caucasus strategic geopolitical location spanning Europe and Asia; US recognition of WWI Armenian genocide; Russian Federation involvement; largest US export is dollar inflation; Russophobia; MAKS 2021 Russian Air Show, international exhibition of new civilian and military aircraft. Visit Martyanov’s website at: smoothiex12.blogspot.com/.

Guns and Butter · The Caucasus Conflict and Global Trends – Andrei Martyanov, #435

Joint Declaration of the International Crimea Platform participants

August 23, 2021

Joint Declaration of the International Crimea Platform participants

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

Adopted and opened for joining on August 23, 2021, Kyiv, Ukraine

The Participants in the International Crimea Platform,

being guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Paris Charter for a New Europe, as well as rules and principles of international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law, taking into consideration the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” and subsequent resolutions on the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, and on the problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov,

recalling that the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, entitled “Definition of aggression” states, inter alia, that no territorial acquisition or special advantage resulting from aggression is or shall be recognized as lawful,

taking into account the provision of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 75/192 which calls upon Member States to engage constructively in concerted efforts, including within international frameworks on Crimea,

emphasizing the universal and unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and reaffirming that the Convention sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out,

taking into consideration the order, delivered on 19 April 2017 by the International Court of Justice on the request submitted by Ukraine for the indication of provisional measures, while the case is pending, in the case concerning the Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), which imposes on the Russian Federation the obligation to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar people to conserve their representative institutions, including the Mejlis, and to ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language,

taking into consideration the decision, given on 14 January 2021 by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ukraine v. Russia (re Crimea) (application nos. 20958/14 and 38334/18), which concludes that Russia exercised effective control over Crimea as to the period from 27 February to 18 March 2014 and in respect of the period after 18 March 2014,

reaffirming commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters,

reiterating that the Participants in the International Crimea Platform do not recognize and continue to condemn the temporary occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea, which constitutes a direct challenge to international security with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of all States,

The Participants in the International Crimea Platform condemn

the continued violations and abuses and systematic undue restrictions of human rights and fundamental freedoms that residents of Crimea face, such as the right to peaceful assembly, the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, religion or belief, association, restrictions on the ability to seek, receive and impart information, as well as interference and intimidation that journalists, human rights defenders and defence lawyers face in their work,

the ongoing militarization of Crimea that undermines security and stability in the wider Black Sea region,

impediments to navigational rights and freedoms exercised in accordance with international law, including obstructing free passage of ships through the Kerch Strait to and from the Sea of Azov, and underlining that such impediments have negative economic consequences for Ukraine’s ports in the Sea of Azov and international trade flows,

the continued change of the demographic structure in the occupied peninsula by the resettlement of Russian citizens to Crimea,

The Participants in the International Crimea Platform decided 

to establish the International Crimea Platform as a consultative and coordination format with the aim of peacefully ending the Russian Federation’s temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and to restore control of Ukraine over this territory in full accordance with international law,

to continue implementing the policy of  non-recognition of the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation,

to consider further political, diplomatic and restrictive measures towards the Russian Federation, if provided for by the legal jurisdiction of each Participant and in line with respective procedures, when appropriate and should Russia’s actions so require,

to address emerging challenges and evolving hybrid threats resulting from the ongoing militarization of Crimea and to support joint efforts to strengthen resilience to those threats in the context of growing threats to security and stability in the Black Sea region,

to recommit to strongly opposing any unilateral attempts to challenge and change an international order based on the rule of law, and express determination to protect, maintain and strengthen the rules-based international order, including a legal order for seas and oceans, based on respect for the international law of the sea including as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,

to urge the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law and other applicable international law, to urge the Russian Federation to bring an immediate end to all violations and abuses of human rights of residents of Crimea and to provide full and unimpeded access to Crimea for established regional and international monitoring mechanisms, in particular the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, as provided for in their existing mandates, which cover the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, as well as for human rights non-governmental organizations,

to unite efforts aimed at protecting the rights and freedoms of the civilian population living in the occupied Crimea and achieving the immediate and unconditional release of Ukrainian citizens unlawfully detained or convicted for political reasons by Russia and its state agents, both in the territory of the occupied Crimea and in the territory of the Russian Federation,

to urge the Russian Federation to ensure that all persons belonging to ethnic and religious communities in the peninsula, including ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, are fully able to enjoy their human rights and given the possibility to maintain and develop their culture, education, identity and cultural heritage traditions, which are currently severely threatened by the temporary occupation,

to use appropriate mechanisms of the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, other international and regional organizations to address issues related to the temporary occupation, to consider implementation of other mechanisms, as appropriate, and to consult, exchange and coordinate their efforts within international organizations as appropriate, at international conferences, forums and other events where Crimea is discussed,

to consider supporting economic, infrastructure and environmental projects that would contribute to the further development of Ukraine’s regions adjacent to the temporarily occupied Crimean peninsula,

to establish a network of constant and rapid communication between the representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (to set up Crimea focal points),

to recognize the role of national parliaments in addressing the temporary occupation of Crimea and to encourage the coordination of activities on Crimea between national parliaments as well as within inter-parliamentary assemblies,

Participants finally

welcome necessary joint diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,

underline that any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as an integral part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine is not and will not be recognized, and that Russia’s efforts to legitimize the temporary occupation and illegal seizure are unacceptable,

reiterate their commitment to maintaining pressure on Russia to end the temporary occupation by Russia of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and to restore Ukraine’s control over the territory,

welcome the establishment by Ukraine of the national Office of the Crimea Platform,

welcome the establishment of the International Crimea Platform Expert Network with a view to supporting its activities, and invite international and national non-governmental organizations, think-tanks and the expert community to contribute to the network’s activities,

look forward to the eventual return of the temporarily occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Ukraine and restoration of their autonomous status as stipulated in the Constitution of Ukraine, and pledge their support to the residents of this territory with regard to restoring their rights and freedoms, enshrined within the Constitution of Ukraine, and improving the socio-economic situation in the peninsula,

call on the Russian Federation to engage constructively in the activities of the International Crimea Platform aimed at ending the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.


Ed: It is difficult to find a definitive list of participants by name and country.  The following was reported:
Forty-four foreign delegations will take part in the inaugural summit of the Crimea Platform.Fourteen foreign delegations will be led by heads of state and government.

“On August 23, 44 countries and international organizations, including 14 heads of state, government, and the European Union, will become the founders of the Crimea Platform,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said at an online briefing on Thursday, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

In particular, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova, Slovenia, and Finland will be represented at the level of presidents. The President of the European Council will also take part in the Crimea Platform.

Romania, Georgia, Croatia, and Sweden will be represented at the level of prime ministers.

Two countries – Switzerland and the Czech Republic – will be represented by the speakers of parliaments.

Fourteen countries will attend the summit at the level of foreign ministers: Turkey, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

Britain and Portugal will be represented by defense ministers, while the United States will be represented by the transportation secretary, a special envoy of President Joe Biden.

Norway will be represented by the Secretary of State to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, NATO – the Deputy Secretary General, the Council of Europe and GUAM will be represented at the level of the Secretary General.

Seven countries – New Zealand, Malta, Japan, Australia, Cyprus, Canada, and Greece – will be represented by ambassadors.

“So, a total of 44 foreign delegations and 45 participants together with Ukraine. I want to emphasize that these countries become the founders of the Crimea Platform regardless of the level of representation,” the Ukrainian minister emphasized.

He also noted that the Crimea Platform had already surpassed all previous international events hosted by Ukraine in the number of high-level delegations represented at the summit.

“Ukraine has never hosted such an international event before,” Kuleba said.

The Crimea Platform is a new consultative and coordination format initiated by Ukraine to step up the efficiency of international response to the occupation of Crimea, respond to growing security challenges, increase international pressure on Russia, prevent further human rights violations, protect victims of the occupation regime, and achieve the main goal: to de-occupy Crimea and restore Ukraine’s sovereignty over the peninsula.

The Platform is to operate at several levels: heads of state and government, foreign ministers, inter-parliamentary cooperation, expert network.

The activity of the Crimea Platform will be officially launched at the inaugural summit in Kyiv on August 23, 2021.

https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/3300438-fortyfour-countries-and-organizations-full-list-of-crimea-platform-participants-announced.html


Ed: These are the only speeches that can be found at time of writing:By Zelensky: Crimea is Ukraine’: Zelenskyy opens inaugural Crimea summit – https://www.euronews.com/2021/08/23/crimea-is-ukraine-zelenskyy-opens-inaugural-crimea-summit

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Crimea Platform Inaugural Summit – https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_186167.htm?selectedLocale=en

by President Charles Michel, the Office of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe – https://www.coe.int/en/web/secretary-general/-/inaugural-summit-of-the-crimea-platform


Reported from Tass: Kremlin castigates Crimea Platform forum as anti-Russian event – https://tass.com/world/1329101

Moscow views the so-called Crimea Platform summit that opened in Ukraine as an unfriendly act towards Russia, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

“We regard this event as extremely unfriendly towards our country. We absolutely do not accept such assertions relative to the Russian region, to Crimea. In this regard, the attitude is absolutely clear: we view it as an anti-Russian event,” the Kremlin spokesman affirmed.

After the Western-backed state coup that occurred in Ukraine in February 2014, the authorities in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol held a referendum, in which 96.7% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and reunite with Russia.

On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty on the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia, which was ratified by Russia’s Federal Assembly (parliament). Despite the convincing results of the referendum, Kiev refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky who spoke at the UN General Assembly in September 2020 revealed his plan to establish this so-called Crimea Platform. According to Kiev’s intent, the forum must become a platform “for coordinating international efforts aimed at returning Crimea to Ukraine.” As its organizers announced, delegates from about 40 countries and international organizations had agreed to come to the forum.

Commenting on the gathering initiated by Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lambasted it as “a coven where the West will continue to groom neo-Nazi and racist attitudes of the current Ukrainian authorities.”

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated on August 21 that Russia will “take note” of the position of the countries that would take part in the forum and “will make corresponding conclusions.”.

Short news update from the Saker (UPDATED 2x)

Short news update from the Saker (UPDATED 2x)

July 07, 2021

Dear friend,

Today I am starting a new kind of post – a short news update.  This is not an open thread where everybody shares all the latest information during a crisis, nor is it a full analysis.  In this new category, I plan to include several small news which are relevant to what was discussed in the past or factoids/developments which might be discussed in a full analysis in the near future. I will include links to my sources only when I have them readily available, otherwise you will have to wait until my analyses to get the full sources.  Note that this new category will appear under the “Saker Analyses and Interviews” section to give it maximal visibility.  Finally, and just to make this clear, the regular rules of moderation will apply to this new section too.  I hope that you will find this feature useful (by all means, let me know). 

Cheers

The Saker

PS: please feel free to also contribute short news items in the “short news update” section!


  • Amazing!  The US forces in Afghanistan left the (Soviet built) airbase in Bagram at night, not even informing their supposed Afghan “allies”.  The base was looted for several hours as the US Americans left A LOT of stuff, including guitars and plenty of weapons (all of which will now go on sale in the various public markets in Afghanistan.
  • Comparing the Soviet and the US performance in Afghanistan is quite amazing.  To make a long story short, I find the performance of Uncle Shmuel’s forces absolutely appalling and laughable.  Killed lots of people, built nothing, never controlled much of the country, fled in the middle of the night and abandoned its allies.   They literally switched off the electricity in Bagram and then fled.  Absolutely typical “garden variety” for all US interventions.  The Soviets even left with all their dignity safe – but the wannabe world hegemon had to leave in shame, like he always does.
  • The Taliban are now shooting Afghan collaborators in the streets, and floods of terrified refugees are now running for the border in the hope of escaping the Taliban’s wrath.
  • Did you know that since the US invasion of Afghanistan the volume of heroin produced by this country increased FIFTEEN FOLD!
  • Bottom line: the US+NATO+EU were defeated by the Taliban.  Totally and comprehensively.
  • Today Russian Su-30SM has intercepted a US Poseidon aircraft over the Black Sea and forced it to turn away from the Russian border.
  • Three more days left for Sea Breeze 2021.  Never say never, and we can’t be sure, but I don’t believe that NATO will try to breach the Russian maritime border again (these guys lost a long war to the Afghans, I don’t think they have the stomach for Russia!).

This is how the Soviet Forces left Afghanistan:

And this is how the “greatest military force in the Milky Way” left Afghanistan:

  • There are several reports, so far unconfirmed, that US bases in Iraq and Syria have come under attack.  There has also been a huge explosion in the port of Dubai.
  • UK Foreign Minister Raab just repeated in the British Parliament that the British Navy fully intends to repeat the actions of the HMS Defender.

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

THE SAKER • JULY 5, 2021 

I have to admit that before I sat down to write this column I had some misgivings: I thought “not another article warning about a potential explosion in the Ukraine! Not again!”. And yet, events on the ground are what they are and ignoring them under the pretext that I am fed up “crying wolf” again and again is not a wise solution either. I will try to keep it short though. First, let me provide you a quick summary of what has been happening in the Ukraine since my last column about the Ukraine on June 28th.

As most of you know, NATO and the Ukraine have been conducting maneuvers on the Black Sea, air and land called “Sea Breeze”. This is nothing new, but this year these maneuvers attracted more countries than usual, as you can see for yourself.

Officially, 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams are participating in this exercise: Albania, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. Kristina Kvien, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, declared that “USS Ross‘ participation in this year’s Sea Breeze maritime exercise is a tangible demonstration of U.S. support for Ukraine and is necessary now more than ever (…) it is part of the enduring commitment that the United States and our NATO Allied and partner nations have made since 1997 to enhance maritime security in the Black Sea”.

Now here are a few examples of what the Ukies are saying:

  • Let’s see if the accursed Mokal’s will dare to shoot at the Ross which (at least according to the Ukies) can sink the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet with one salvo of its super-dooper Tomahawk missiles.
  • The Ukraine now has missiles which can bring down the bridge over the Kerch Strait.
  • The USA is delivering us fast attack boats while Turkey is giving us Bairaktar drones – with those we will liberate Crimea and the Donbass from the accused Moskal’.
  • The Ukrainian military is now the best in Europe (in fact, it protects the entire EU from assaults by the Russian hordes) and it will make minced meat of the Russians for sure the next time around.
  • In their current format, the Minsk Agreements are dead and we will never implement them. If the Moskal’ refuse to amend them then we also have a plan B: to build a big wall and totally cut all our ties with Russia. Either that, or we will liberate Crimea and the Donbass manu militari!
  • The next time the accursed Moskal’ try to prevent a Ukie vessel from traversing the Kerch Strait we will sink any force trying to stop us.

Keep in mind that all TV channels which are not controlled by Ze have now been banned. The Ukie Rada passed a law declaring that Russians are not native to the Ukraine (makes me wonder where they came from, outer space I suppose). All the main leaders of the rather uninspiring opposition are constantly harassed or even kept under house arrest. All this is to say that the insane examples of what the Ukronazis are saying above is not some minority of hardcore delusional Ukronazis – this is what many of the members of the party of Ze (and others!) are openly saying 24/7.

Now, let’s cut to the chase and see what is really going on!

PartyOfficial position
Official White HouseWe want to contain Russia, maintain a dialog where it is in the interests of the USA and we will defend our friends and values in the region and the whole world
US/NAT/EU officialsWe will resist any Russian provocation or use of force, we have the means to force Russia to renounce her plans to rebuild the Soviet Union.
UkronazisThe world is with us. Russia is weak and isolated. The US, NATO and our invincible military will teach a painful lesson to the Russian bear which really belongs East of the Urals (the latter are the natural border between the EU and China). We are now rehearsing the liberation of Crimea with our allies.
RussiansJust try

Let’s sum this up: while the top US officials have not held the same kind of language as the US, UK and Dutch Navy officers on their ships last week, it is pretty clear that one of two things will happen: either NATO will try to “poke the bear” or they won’t.

  • In the first case, NATO will have looked like it “blinked” and that for all its posturing, NATO is afraid of taking on Russia.
  • In the second case, Russia will sink a NATO ship (or shoot down a NATO aircraft) and if NATO does not repost, it will have blinked, hard and with both eyes.

Both of these outcomes are highly undesirable for the US, NATO or the Empire. These outcomes are also bad news for the EU (which cannot afford to lose NS2 to some silly three letter agency provocation against Russia).

The main problem is that many western officials have declared urbi et orbi that “the civilized world (by that we mean “us” of course) has not recognized the Russian annexation of Crimea and, therefore, we don’t recognize the waters off Crimea as legit Russian waters”. This must have sounded really cool to the first simpletons who declared this, but the Ukies and their UK+3B+PU have immediately, and logically (in their own simple-minded way), declared “okay, great! Prove it by ignoring the Russian warnings and send something across this Russian “red line” to prove to the world that you are not only bark and no bite”. In other words, this is yet another iteration of a favorite challenge amongst US teenagers: “and whatcha gonna do about it?”.

Frankly, this is a legit question. And the US/NATO have until July 10th (this Saturday) to answer it. Okay, I guess they could also answer it after Sea Breeze 2021 is over, but since US Americans (and their clueless NATO counterparts) believe that coalition warfare is the way to victory (in reality, it is a way to defeat, as I have explained it in this article) and the real leaders of the Empire also believe that large coalitions offer a veneer of legitimacy (they don’t, as only a UNSC Resolution can) to their (imperialistic and illegal) actions with lots of small Tabaquis to make it all look kosher.

Furthermore, in the Ukronazi media the SeaBreeze 2021 is presented like this: “hey, Moskal’, it is way easier to threaten a small Ukrainian vessel than to take on NATO!!! Right?! If you just move, we will kick your asses from the Black Sea to Siberia (where you belong!)”; and the conclusion, “we are invincible, NATO is invincible, the US is invincible and the entire civilized world, which is also invincible, is against you”.

As for the clueless (and spineless and brainless) EU leaders, they talk about “containing” Russia by interacting with her “from a position of force”. In other words, this is what is really happening now: NATO encourages the Ukraine to try something, the Ukraine encourages NATO to try something, and both sides take a great deal of (quite misplaced) pride in ignoring not only the Russian warnings, but also the Russian capabilities.

I should also mention that much of the imperial propaganda machine (aka “the free press”) is also hyping the expectations of those who still take them seriously. Their message: “our invincible navies will kick the Russian bear in the ass and teach him a lesson”. Rah! Rah! Rah!

In other words: unless the US/NATO/Ukies trigger some kind of incident, the US/NATO/Ukies will lose face by the 11th of this month.

As for Putin, this is what he had to say recently when asked about the risks of a major war:

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

Pretty clear, no?

Putin will come under a lot of pressure, and even outright anger, if he does not back his words with some real action. This is an election year and the Kremlin simply cannot afford being all bark and no bite.

Last, but not least, from a geostrategic/military point of view, the Russian military cannot afford to ignore NATO’s actions.

Conclusion: alas, only more crying wolf…

Crying wolf is a very unthankless task, and in the case of the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, this is made even worse by the fact that every time the wolf fails to show up, an increasing number of people get used to the idea that the wolf (or bear) turned into a demure and fully tamed koala.

We shall soon find out which side will “blink” and which one won’t.

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Putin holds annual ‘Direct Line’ Q&A in Moscow

June 30, 2021

Putin holds annual ‘Direct Line’ Q&A in Moscow
The transcript will be posted here when it is complete.  http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65973

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Good afternoon.

We are broadcasting Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

The moderators in this studio are Nailya Asker-zade

Nailya Asker-zade: …and Yekaterina Berezovskaya.

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

I suggest moving on to specific questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I hope so.

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

Vladimir Putin: Please do.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I see.

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Just saline?

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

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

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

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

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

Did you get vaccinated?

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

Nailya Asker-zade: There is time to think.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Now things are clear.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Was it mild?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: The anti-vaxers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: This is also normal.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Ok.

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

Vladimir Putin: Please pick the one you like best.

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

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

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

Yevgeny Tsvetkov: Yevgeny Tsvetkov, Moscow.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Yevgeny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We did not have COVID.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, let us do it.

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

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

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

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

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

Remark: From Moscow.

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

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead please.

Yekaterina Kachailova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexander Maksimov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

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

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, certainly.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I see.

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskya: And butter costs 500–600 rubles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Vasilkov. Let us have this call on air.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Vladimir Vasilkov: Hello.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please, Mr Vasilkov.

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

Vladimir Vasilkov: I am not the only one.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: Horned livestock.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Where does he live?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Nazran, Ingushetia.

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, selective sheep breeding.

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

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

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

The first part of your question was…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Which one will we choose?

Vladimir Putin: It does not matter.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us listen to Troitsk.

Vladimir Putin: Troitsk – where is it?

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Hello, you are on the air.

Vladimir Putin: Good day, Svetlana.

Svetlana Mironova: Mr President, good day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Svetlana Mironova: I was happy to see you.

Vladimir Putin: The pleasure is mine.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Thank you, Svetlana.

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

Vladimir Putin: I am 100 percent sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

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

Vladimir Putin: We are listening to you.

Maxim Kharlov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Maxim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: We have that.

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

Good luck.

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

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Lyubov Shendeleva: Hello, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several questions here require special attention.

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: A phishing site imitates the real one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Please.

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We have received questions on this matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I am fine with that, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, of course.

Vladimir Putin: I will issue appropriate instructions.

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

Vladimir Putin: Of course, go ahead please.

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

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

Oksana Pluzhnikova: They have simply lost it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us hope that justice will prevail.

Oksana Pluzhnikova: Ok, thank you.

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

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

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

Thank you, Ms Pluzhnikova.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: It will.

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

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

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

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

Natalya Yuryeva has the floor.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you.

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

She writes as follows: “Hello, Mr President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Right.

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

We have an audio call.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

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

Alexander Ismailov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

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

Thank you.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Correct.

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: And you need to get revaccinated.

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

Vladimir Putin: Not necessarily.

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: You are in good health.

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

Nailya Asker-zade: Absolutely safe.

Vladimir Putin: All we do is absolutely safe.

Nailya Asker-zade: No reaction, correct.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Sorry, not about reducing costs.

Nailya Asker-zade: Free pipeline miles.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, free miles.

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

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

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: Let us see this one.

Svetlana Kultygina: Mr President,

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

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

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

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

I suggest moving to Karachayevo-Circassia.

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: So, Karachayevo-Circassia?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

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

Roza Kappusheva: Hello!

Vladimir Putin: Hello, Roza.

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

Vladimir Putin: Is this a direct link?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes.

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is probably the outstanding amount.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Got it.

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

Roza Kappusheva: But not everywhere.

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

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: Thank you very much.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: So what?

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Alright. Done.

Roza Kappusheva: It will be a miracle.

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: These are everyday issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Please go ahead.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: You are on the air.

Nikita Levinsky: Hello, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello, Nikita.

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

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

Nikita Levinsky: I know what you are talking about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikita Levinsky: Thank you.

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

Let’s go to the Message Processing Centre.

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

Nailya Asker-zade: Ok then.

Message Processing Centre. Tatyana Remezova, go ahead.

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

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

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

Tarlan Tagirov: Hello, Mr President,

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Let’s do this.

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

(Playing a video address.)

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No.

Nailya Asker-zade: We can call him.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please do.

Nailya Asker-zade: We will do this later.

Colleagues, please try to get in touch with Pskov.

In the meantime, I will ask the next question.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Ok.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are now moving on to the Message Processing Centre.

Vladimir Putin: Please, keep trying.

Nailya Asker-zade: I will keep my word.

Tatyana Remezova.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you.

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

Regina, tell us about it, please.

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Tatyana Remezova: We will try and do it.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, let’s do it.

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

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

Yelena Kalinina: Good afternoon.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Phone her right now.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Of course, not.

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Right now we have Pskov.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, give us Pskov.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Andrei Tarasov: Indeed, the problem is very unusual.

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I see.

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

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

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Unfortunately, the connection is very poor.

Yelena Kalinina is standing by for your call again.

Nailya Asker-zade: From Novokuznetsk.

Ms Kalinina, can you hear us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Please, Ms Tolmacheva.

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

Vladimir Putin: Yes, we can hear you well.

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

Please help us build a new modern school.

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

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

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

Natalya Tolmacheva: Yes, that is the main problem.

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

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

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

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

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

Natalya Tolmacheva: Thank you very much.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Is she? Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Ms Kalinina, can you hear us?

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Now I can hear you.

Go ahead.

Yelena Kalinina: Hello.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: We got it.

Ms Kalinina, can you hear us?

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

Vladimir Putin: The problem with the school is clear.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: What is happening to Ms Kalinina herself?

Nailya Asker-zade: She has been receiving threats.

Vladimir Putin: From who?

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: The Department of Education called her.

Vladimir Putin: This is the Kemerovo Region, right?

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Correct.

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

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

Do you have any information on this school?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Svetlana Shtrakhova: Good afternoon, Mr President,

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

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

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

Thank you. Goodbye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nailya Asker-zade: Hackers.

Vladimir Putin: Are you kidding? Seriously?

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Hackers from Kuzbass.

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Who sent this?

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

Vladimir Putin: And she is a teacher?

Nailya Asker-zade: She teaches Russian and literature.

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

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

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

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

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

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, let us open the section Domestic Policy, and the sub-section Federal Power.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I hope nothing will prevent us from airing a call from Krasnodar.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Nikolai Dolzhenko: Mr President,

You came to power after Boris Yeltsin passed it on to you of his own free will. Is such a transfer of power possible today? Do you have a member of your team that you could transfer power to without any doubts?

Vladimir Putin: Mr Dolzhenko, look. Boris Yeltsin did not hand over this power to me. The point is that according to our law, our Fundamental Law, if the President resigns, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation becomes Acting President. I was the Prime Minister.

I will tell you straight, and there are no secrets here, this decision was preceded by other events. At one time, I was the Director of the Federal Security Service (FSS). When Boris Yeltsin offered me the position of Secretary of the Security Council, the organisation that coordinates the work of government agencies on behalf of the President at the political level, I had to choose a successor for the position of FSS Director, on the President’s instructions.

To my surprise, the people I offered this job to refused. Why? The situation in the country was very complicated and not everyone, in fact, very few, wanted to assume this responsibility. In addition, when Boris Yeltsin suggested I present myself in the polls in the future, I said: “Mr Yeltsin, I do not think I am ready for this.” He replied: “We will come back to that. Think it over.”

Eventually, Boris Yeltsin resigned and I became Acting President. However, in the final analysis, the decision of who is to head the Russian state rests with Russian citizens. They exercise this right of choice by direct secret ballot. This is the only way it can go.

As for who could lead the country, on the one hand, nature abhors a vacuum and nobody is irreplaceable. On the other hand, it is my responsibility to recommend people who might be qualified to run for the presidency. This is how it works in most countries in the world. I do not know of any exceptions. Naturally, the time will come when I hope I will be able to say that a certain person deserves to lead such a wonderful country as our Motherland – Russia.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Colleagues, we are handing it over to the Message Processing Centre again. We are aware that the pulse of the live broadcast and our Direct Line is beating literally at your centre. Please, the floor is yours.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you very much.

We have a rather interesting question about foreign, not domestic, policy. Mr President, let us watch a video addressed to you by Andrei Cheremisov from St Petersburg.

Andrei Cheremisov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Andrei. Not long ago, you met with US President Biden. The media told us that the meeting took place in a constructive manner, but almost immediately Russia was again threatened with all sorts of sanctions and restrictions brought about by either the “German patient” or God knows what else. By way of apology, they are saying that little depends on Biden, and supposedly he does not make all the decisions there. I have a question for you: why meet with President Biden if so little depends on him?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Cheremisov, much depends on the President of the United States, although that country has its own political system with checks and balances, but still a lot depends on him. You raised an important issue, but I believe it should be considered somewhat differently. It is not about whether things depend on the US President or not.

The matter is different. You know, there are children in a family that I am rather close with. There is a little child, who does not even talk yet, and he made a mess, so his mother told him firmly: “Never do that again. Switch on your head.” And at that very moment he did that motion with his finger, said “click” and switched on his head. Good job.

Conventional dads and moms in the United States, highly respected analysts, scientists and practical workers, even in the past, give advice to their political leaders and their political class that is in power in the broad sense of the word. What is this advice? They tell them the following: “Listen, the time when we were an absolute hegemon after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the period of the unipolar world is gone, and you must operate on the premise that the world is changing, and doing so rapidly.”

No matter what sanctions are being imposed on Russia, and no matter what they do to frighten us, Russia is nonetheless making progress. Its economic sovereignty is growing, its defence capability has reached a very high level, and, in many important parameters, it has surpassed many countries, in some respects, including the United States.

Asia is growing at a very fast pace. Look, in 1991 China’s GDP was 20 percent of the US GDP, but today, according to US sources –how much is it? – 120 percent. That is, China’s aggregate GDP has become higher in purchasing power parity than that of the United States. Trade between China and Europe exceeded trade between the United States and its main ally, united Europe.

You see, the world is radically changing. Our partners in the US realise that, on the one hand, and therefore there was this meeting in Geneva. On the other hand, they are trying as hard as they can to maintain their dominant position, and hence you get threats and further destructive behaviour with those military exercises, provocations and sanctions.

It does not depend on us; it depends on them. I really hope that an awareness that the world is changing and a rethinking of their own interests and priorities in this changing world will lead to a more attractive world order, and our relations with the United States will get back on track.

Nailya Asker-zade: Are we going to respond now? Will there be any response measures? We got a text message: “The US speaks about sanctions for crossing ‘red lines.’ Which sanction levers does Russia have to respond to US violations of our ‘red lines’?” asks Andrei Syutkin from Omsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: You know, first, we have not just adapted, our economy has adapted to this sanction pressure. It did us good in a way. These import substitution programmes, replacing imported equipment and technologies with domestically produced ones, gave a good boost to the development of high-tech production. It did us good, really. Not to mention agriculture, which saw a surge we could not even imagine before.

There are other positive things, too.

Nailya Asker-zade: The Mir payment system, for instance.

Vladimir Putin: The Mir payment system and the overall strengthening of the financial system. There are plusses in the fact that we are threatened, restrictions are imposed on our bonds and government loans. The overall debt decreased, the aggregate debt – and not just the sovereign debt, which was low anyway – but also the debt of the commercial sector went down. In general, it also has a certain plus, some positive sides.

But we are not going to take and will not take counter measures that would hurt us. For example, the Americans still fly into space using our engines. Our rocket engines are still being widely used to take US spaceships into orbit. We have been delivering them for a dozen years, why should we stop? To harm ourselves?

Or take another example: Boeing builds its planes from our titanium. I am not sure about the exact volumes but probably at least 50 percent of the planes. So what, should we close down titanium production in our country?

If they cross certain lines, we find asymmetrical responses which are pretty sensitive for our partners. Let me repeat: I hope the US will change this attitude not only towards us but also to many of their other partners.

By the way, do you think their traditional partners and even allies are happy that they are being spoken to arrogantly? Nobody likes that.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest moving forward. You mentioned the economy. Let us talk more about that.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us take a look at where we stand regarding salary payments. We have a direct video call from the Trans-Baikal Territory. Shall we?

Vladimir Putin: With pleasure.

Nailya Asker-zade: Mr Perfilyev, you are on the air.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Good afternoon, Mr President.

This appeal comes to you from the employees of…

Nailya Asker-zade: I am sorry, Mr Perfilyev, could you please turn off the television so that we can hear you better? Sorry, there are problems with the signal.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: If it is on and is near you, it can interfere.

Dmitry Perfilyev: No, there is no television here, I am using the app.

Nailya Asker-zade: Please, go ahead.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us call him back.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Perfilyev, we cannot hear you well.

Nailya Asker-zade: While we are restoring communication with Mr Perfilyev and the village of Mangut, let us see what is going on with our colleagues.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Perfilyev, wait, maybe you just need to speak a little slower and less loudly? Because I can hear you when you start talking, and then something happens and we lose the connection.

Nailya Asker-zade: Perhaps you can bring the telephone closer to your mouth?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, perhaps, not so loud, and slower.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Yes, Mr President, understood.

Nailya Asker-zade: Please go ahead; we can hear you well now.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Mr President, contrary to the list in Presidential Instructions No. 1180 dated July 2, 2019, at many regional agencies, including Zabaikalpozhspas, the salaries of firefighters have remained at minimum wage level, regardless of their position. Also, the regional firefighting team… (sound fails) <…> Mr. President, please [help resolve] these issues, low wages, and the lack of benefits. (sound fails) <…>

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, if I can clarify …

Nailya Asker-zade: I understand the problem is that the salaries remain at minimum wage level.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: The fact is these are municipal department firefighters; they are not Emergencies Ministry employees.

Vladimir Putin: Give us a moment, ladies. Mr Perfilyev and I will figure it out.

Mr Perfilyev, this is about increasing salaries, is it not?

Dmitry Perfilyev: It is.

Vladimir Putin: I have a question in this regard. Is your organisation part of the Emergencies Ministry, or is it a regional structure?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Zabaikalpozhspas is a regional structure.

Vladimir Putin: Is it regional? Not the Emergencies Ministry, right?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Not the Emergencies Ministry.

Vladimir Putin: Not the Emergencies Ministry, I see.

Can you hear me well?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Mr President, we hear you very well.

Vladimir Putin: Excellent.

Look, when we talked, and I spoke two years ago or last year about the need to raise salaries for the staff – not officers, but the staff of the Emergencies Ministry fire services, it was done.

They used to get 16, and now they get 32 and more, around 40,000 rubles, and a little more. They also have a problem because they began to fill the vacancies and the money allocated to them began to trickle away. In addition, they had to raise the salaries in the Arctic region. Nevertheless, we are keeping it under our control.

I take it and you have said that you are a regional structure.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Yes, exactly right.

Vladimir Putin: It means that at the regional level, in the majority of regions, when we raised the salaries for the Emergencies Ministry staff, salaries were also raised for their regional staff because otherwise the personnel migrate. I am sorry, what region are you from?

Dmitry Perfilyev: Trans-Baikal Territory.

Vladimir Putin: Clearly it depends on the fiscal capacity. Nevertheless, I will definitely speak to the governor, because, firstly, you have a hard and unsafe job, and it should be properly remunerated and marked. Secondly, there is another problem, which is personnel outflow. Ultimately the governor will not have the workers he needs, especially in the current situation when we, regretfully. are facing wildfire issues. I got it and I repeat: this lies within the governor’s authority, but we will certainly talk about that.

Dmitry Perfilyev: Thank you, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: It is too early to thank me. I hope there will be a response from the governor.

Nailya Asker-zade: Thank you very much, Mr Perfilyev.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Thank you and your colleagues, and as they say in such situations, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is currently putting out wildfires under very complicated conditions. This work is very important, not only economically but also in terms of protecting people’s interests.

Thank you very much. I will be sure to speak to the governor.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I am being told that our colleagues in the call centre have many messages about the trash reform following the environmental topic. Let us give the floor to Natalia Yuryeva.

Natalya Yuryeva: That is correct, colleagues. But I must say that our editorial office has already received almost 2,200,000 messages, and they include plenty of questions about the trash reform. Irina Politova, a volunteer, has been processing all the messages on this topic for almost two weeks.

Irina, how many questions have you studied altogether?

Irina Politova: Probably several thousand.

Natalya Yuryeva: That is, all the messages without exaggeration?

Irina Politova: All of them, but they keep coming up to this day.

Natalya Yuryeva: What worries our people most of all?

Irina Politova: I think the most outrageous problem is unfair fees for trash pickup. The majority of the regions calculate them based on the area of a flat rather than the number of people who live there. As a result, a lonely pensioner from a three-room flat pays more than his neighbours, a family with many children from a small flat.

Natalya Yuryeva: And he has less trash.

Irina Politova: Of course.

Another big problem in the regions is the absence of recycling plants. Landfills are packed; rubbish is flying around, burning, and people are suffocating.

Mr President, there is a collective address to you about this problem from the residents of Selenginsk.

Natalya Yuryeva: And I know that we have photos. Editors, could you please show them on air? It is a pity TV does not transmit smells. Otherwise, it would have been possible to feel the pain of these people.

Irina Politova: Yes, this is a huge problem in the Republic of Buryatia. We received a complaint from 71 people, including veterans of the Great Patriotic War and home-front workers. They are begging you to save their village from an environmental disaster. In the village of Vasilyevskoye, Tver Region, people have to travel three km to get rid of their trash in a neighbouring village because there is simply no dumpster in their own village.

Natalya Yuryeva: Mr President, people are also concerned about why trash is collected separately and then thrown into the same rubbish truck? Also, what can be done to compel the managing companies to stop subverting the trash reform?

Vladimir Putin: The trash reform requires a lot of work throughout the country. It is not the first time that we are addressing this problem, but, as you know, nobody has dealt with it seriously since the Soviet times. True, probably we did not have as much waste in the past as we do now, owing to the transition to a consumer society, as they say.

Now we produce 60 million tonnes of waste every year, and we are only taking the first steps towards resolving this problem. We have received the first investment for the separate collection of 10 million tonnes of trash and for the processing of three million tonnes. As you see, the remainder is huge.

In the years to come, we must build waste incineration plants, although there are certainly problems here, as well. I am aware of the fact that many local residents in the places where these plants are supposed to be built are anxious and have many questions. I want you to be mindful of the fact that no country around the world can do without this kind of waste disposal, and there are types of waste that can be destroyed only by fire. For example, our doctors in the red zones and clinics wear something that is known as a “spacesuit.” It is impossible to dispose of these without incinerating them.

So, in addition to separating trash and the early phases of recycling, we are beginning the practical implementation of these tasks with plans to build five plants. The government is considering the option to expand this programme, it will involve a lot of work, and there are many aspects to it. For example, some packaging manufacturers – and experts are telling us that 50 percent of what we send to the trash can is packaging, for example, cardboard, all kinds of paper – they decided that they could create processing capacity. Glass manufacturers believe that it makes more economic sense to pay a disposal fee, and the Government is now working to build corresponding relations with them in order to collect these funds and use them for recycling this type of waste.

I repeat, this is a major challenge, but we are not going to interrupt these efforts for a second. Of course, the most extreme cases require a prompt response, including the landfills you mentioned. We will try to make note of this for ourselves and respond accordingly in conjunction with the authorities.

But there are things that are absolutely unacceptable. I am talking about what was just said. When – and people are rightfully outraged by this – they make an effort to follow the recommendations of the authorities, separate their trash, and then all of it is dumped and mixed up in a lorry. This is, without a doubt, a lack of proper organisation by the respective operators, who need to be held accountable for their actions. In this case, without doubt, the prompt reaction of residents, public organisations and the Russian Popular Front is of great help.

To put it in a broader perspective, we – I want to return to this subject – will move on to have packaging manufacturers bear expanded responsibility. That is, once you produce the packaging, you will be held responsible for it until it is disposed of properly, either by directly disposing of the packaging, or by paying a certain amount to the state so that it can take care of it itself.

We will try to respond to the most outrageous cases if we have addresses and feedback.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we will continue.

Tatyana Remezova has the floor.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you, Yekaterina.

Ecology is not just trash processing, it also means clean water and clean air, of course. Omsk has become an anti-leader in this respect, an absolute anti-leader.

Here is just one of the messages: “We are forced to check the air outside the window before taking our child out for a walk,” writes Yevgenia Rogozina from Omsk. Nadeshda Kasatova urges the federal government to move to Omsk: “Let them breathe our odours.”

Let us try to connect Omsk to our live feed. We open Ecology, Environmental Pollution. I see we have a direct video call from Omsk.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Tatyana Remezova: Hello, you are on the air. The President can hear you.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Vladimir Lifantyev: Hello, Mr President. My name is Vladimir, I am calling from Omsk. Our question is indeed about ecology. In 2018, Omsk was included in the 12 cities – participants in the Ecology national project, the Clean Air federal project. But we have not seen any changes, and now it is June 30, 2021. Total emissions were to decrease by 20 percent as per your executive order, however, we were being poisoned with coal soot, formaldehyde or hydrogen chloride, and excess levels of these pollutants are still being recorded. We have very bad statistics regarding lung diseases, respiratory tract diseases and oncology. Mr President, we are calling on you for help today so that you can use your influence with the companies that are ignoring the May executive orders, and the overall system so that we can take a full breath and stop living in a gas chamber.

(Shouting together.) We are pleading!

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is a joint address.

Vladimir Putin: I hear you. Mr Lifantyev and all the others next to you – the adults and children – I have the following to say: I heard there was a suggestion to move the federal government to Omsk; you know, that would not resolve the issue. Moreover, I personally think that certain federal organisations should be moved to Siberia, at least our larger companies and their head offices, which operate in Siberia but pay most of their taxes, unfortunately, in Moscow. However, this is a separate issue.

Regarding the environment. Look, the situation became worse objectively over the decades, not as a result of actions by the Government of the Russian Federation or even new Russian authorities in the broad sense of the word. These enterprises, as you are aware yourselves, have been there for decades, and they are the polluters.

The biggest polluters are industrial companies. The second biggest polluter is the utility system, especially during the heating season if the primary fuel sources are coal or heating oil. And the third is transport.

Indeed, regarding Omsk, it was included in the 12 cities in a difficult situation. But a reduction [of emissions] up to 20 percent is to be in place by 2024, and I really hope that despite all the problems it will happen.

I am perfectly aware that living under such conditions is unfortunate; I understand this perfectly, however, this work is ongoing. Now I will tell you what the local and the central authorities have managed to do and in which areas.

There is more to it than just Omsk being included on the list of the 12 cities where this required reduction of 20 percent by 2024 has been scheduled. Specific actions are being taken. For example, as far as I know, there was a report out there recently – I am aware of the developments and I keep handy the information about what is going on in these 12 cities. Omsk, I believe, has four large landfills, correct?

Vladimir Lifantyev: Six large landfills, and five participants in the Clean Country programme. I could be off with my numbers.

Vladimir Putin: My documents show four large landfills.

The corresponding local and regional authorities can submit an application for action regarding these landfills. The Governor signed two applications. Unfortunately, there are still no applications for two landfills, and this is something that local and regional authorities should certainly focus on, and this work needs to be sped up.

The second thing is you have a large oil refinery operated by GazpromNeft, I believe, and there is a fairly large accumulation of sediment and slag. This matter is still being finalised with the company’s management. It is a powerful and good high-tech company, and they promise to recycle 50 percent of this landfill by 2023.

Why only 50? We need to proceed carefully so as not to stir up this landfill in such a way that it creates even more problems than we already have. But this work will be seen to the end.

Finally, public transport is one of the polluters, as I said earlier. There is some progress. It was decided to upgrade transport in the cities with an unfavourable environmental situation, and Omsk is one of those. We must give credit to the leadership of Omsk Region. The Omsk Region Government has prepared and defended this programme, and it was submitted to the Government, and we will start working on updating urban transport with an eye to reducing emissions.

Overall, the situation calls for taking more drastic action. For example, we are now moving to using the best available technology at our companies. But we can go beyond that. First, the number of Roshydromet stations needs to be increased, it is necessary to set up emissions measurement tools in spite of everything, even though industry officials, including regional officials, are telling us it will be expensive, and to respond accordingly to ongoing developments.

Rest assured that we will continue to work on this. I want to tell you, Mr Lifantyev, and everyone who is standing next to you, and all Omsk residents, that we will keep working on it.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Look, everyone is wearing masks.

Vladimir Putin: You are all wearing masks, which is great, yes.

Vladimir Lifantyev: May I have a quick word?

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Vladimir Lifantyev: It would be great if you could give the supervisory authorities a little more push, because there are enterprises in Omsk that have been ignoring Rosprirodnadzor requirements for nine years now. We have two chemical lakes in our municipality.

Vladimir Putin: I will definitely look at that. Let us agree that I have marked these issues. After all, it is not even about them having more authority. Most importantly, they should respond to these events in a timely manner. We will definitely take a look at what is going on there.

Vladimir Lifantyev: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: No, thank you for paying attention to this and keeping an eye on it, and I strongly hope that you will continue to do so, since public control in these matters is of critical importance.

Nailya Asker-zade: The next question. Mr President, we currently have flash flooding in Crimea, a heat wave in Moscow, and now wildfires in Siberia. “What is going on with the climate? Why has nature gone mad?” a TV viewer is asking you, for some reason.

Vladimir Putin: Where from?

Nailya Asker-zade: Unfortunately, it does not say here.

Vladimir Putin: There is much talk about this all over the world. This is one of the most urgent and most debated topics related to climate change and global warming. Many believe, with good reason, that it is connected primarily to human activity, to emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, mostly CO2.

Why is the situation so bad? Not because the climate changes periodically in different parts of the Earth but because some people believe that as the climate is changing in different areas and all over the planet, it will approach a dangerous limit, and if people add more, it will contribute to global warming, then irreversible processes may start which could bring our planet to Venus’s condition, where the surface temperature is around 500 degrees Celsius. This is what environmentalists are concerned about, as well those who warn us about these possible developments that are unfavourable for the entire world.

It may be right or wrong, but we must certainly do our best to minimise our contribution to the developments in the global sphere, including in the Universe in general. Because we are part of the Universe, and although we cannot influence what happens there, if there is something we can influence, we must do it.

Let me repeat, global change, global warming is happening in our country even faster than in many other regions of the world. Actually, not just in our country but along that latitude, including the Scandinavian countries. What consequences does this imply for us? There are apparently some advantages, however, but there are significant disadvantages. First, a part of our territory, about 70 percent, is situated in northern latitudes, and there are large areas of permafrost.

As a reminder, permafrost is frozen ground dozens or even hundreds of metres deep, and maybe even up to 1,000 metres in some places. We have towns and villages there as well as infrastructure, and if the permafrost should start to thaw, this would lead to grave social and economic consequences. Of course, we must be prepared for this. This is the first thing I want to say.

The second. Some areas might be overtaken by deserts, including those which are traditionally seen in Russia as land suitable for farming. This also needs to be considered.

We are carrying out all our obligations under international resolutions, including those under the Paris Agreements. Prior to that there were the Kyoto Agreements, and we were also a party to them. We have assumed serious obligations that, in some respects, are not only not inferior to those of the European Union, but even tougher when it comes to the amount of [carbon] emissions to be reduced. I have no doubt we will be doing all this.

Incidentally, this has an effect on the environment and involves the use of the latest modern technology, as well as efforts to ensure environmental safety. We will be doing this in 12 cities, including Omsk, and in other major localities – we will not tell you now how many there will be, it will depend on what is happening there to the environment.

We also have specific plans. For example, the Government has recently developed a plan for a response to more climate change, should it occur, for the most sensitive activities and industries, including residential development and road construction. Clearly, it is one thing to build a road in Krasnodar Territory and quite another in Yakutia; these are different situations which need different approaches and technology. The Government has just developed a response system for the 10 most important critical industries. We will be responding appropriately and contributing to international efforts; we will be doing more to tap our potential for the absorption of CO2 in the atmosphere. Our potential is huge and we will be boosting it. Incidentally, referring to the firefighters who spoke earlier – their role is great because the absorbing capacity of our forests, seas and our part of the ocean is extremely important and we must preserve it. Of course, in this sense their role is also great and what they are doing is very important. But we will be preparing for what inevitably may happen.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, with regard to the climate in international relations, people are asking about relations with our close neighbours. Let us give the floor to Balashikha.

Yerem Harutyunyan: Mr President,

I am Yerem Harutyunyan, an 11th grade student from Balashikha, outside Moscow.

Before I ask my question, I would like to once again emphasise the crucial role of the Russian Federation and yours personally in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to thank you for this.

Here is my question: can Russia guarantee Nagorno-Karabakh residents’ safety?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, Yerem, Russia has played a specfic role in resolving this very serious crisis.

No one is interested in seeing it continue: neither Azerbaijan, nor Armenia, let alone Nagorno-Karabakh residents, because the other side of the matter is that if we all live in peace and friendship, then we will create proper conditions for improving people’s lives, not only in terms of security, but also in the current circumstances. I mean normal lives for families, for economic and social development, which, of course, the Karabakh people need, because it is impossible to live thinking all the time that an armed conflict can reignite any time. We understand this very well. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan understand this as well.

Yes, there is a backlog of issues. There are issues related to rebuilding the infrastructure. There are issues related to demarcation of the border in order to carry out appropriate work on the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, especially in places where a border has never existed as such and was only an administrative border between the union republics.

We are now in the process of doing this. We have created a special trilateral group with Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. We will do our best to restore normal relations in the region. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh should be the beneficiaries of this work. I would like to think that this will be the case despite the difficulties that have been piling up for decades.

Nailya Asker-Zade: Elections to the State Duma will be held in Russia in September. You addressed the congress of the United Russia party. Why are you supporting the party of power so consistently, and what is your opinion of the outgoing parliament’s performance?

Vladimir Putin: Let us begin with the outgoing parliament, and I will speak about the party of power later.

I believe that the parliament of the seventh convocation did not just work in a satisfactory manner but at the appropriate level. The results of this work were fully in keeping with the circumstances and the requirements set to Russia’s supreme representative and legislative body.

It is clear what I am referring to. I mean that for a long time, this past time, the deputies have been working in conditions of the pandemic. They had to continue working despite the threats and challenges, including to their lives and health. They had to gather in the voting hall and make decisions bearing on the most important spheres of the country’s development. They needed to provide assistance to people, to families, enterprises and entire economic sectors. If this had not been done, the situation in Russia would have been much more complicated. As you are aware, and nearly everyone supports this view, we covered the worst part of the road with losses, but not as dramatical as in many other countries, including thanks to the State Duma deputies from all factions, which I would like to emphasise. About 25 percent of the members of parliament caught the coronavirus, and four passed away. But the deputies continued working and doing their duty. I believe that they deserve respect and gratitude not only from me but also from the voters who will come to polling stations in September.

As for the party of power, everyone knows that life is not all about fun and giving away money. It is very easy and pleasant to throw money around, just like the sower on the famous painting. But the seeds will eventually run out, and it is not a fact that they will germinate. Therefore, decisions must be made with a clear vision, as people say, professionally and with a sense of responsibility for the decisions made.

I would like to say once again that a vast number of decisions were made in the 1990s just to please the public, and these decisions were made by those who knew that they could not be implemented. What is this? This is deceiving the voters, deceiving our citizens so as to present oneself as the defender of the people and later to shift the blame for failure to implement these decisions onto someone else. As I said, they usually knew in advance that their decisions could not be implemented.

This is not how United Russia is acting, even when we adopt unpopular decisions that are necessary for the people and the future of the country. United Russia deputies do so, even if it can damage them. Because it is sometimes impossible to explain some decisions in detail, even though they are necessary. As I said, we need to do this. But all of this, the work of United Russia is creating a solid foundation of the Russian statehood in terms of the guaranteed adoption of the decisions the country needs. This is why, and also because I was the founder, the creator of this party, it is logical that I support it. Ultimately, this conversation and my answer to your question show that I intend to support the party during its election campaign.

Nailya Asker-Zade: Thank you.

Let us go to the Message Processing Centre and ask our colleagues if they are getting bored. How is it going, girls, Tatyana?

Tatyana Remezova: No, Nailya, we are not bored at all. We receive very many questions when the President goes on air. You understand how rapidly the number of requests increases when people see that this is live streaming, real-time communication with the President.

Mr President, the European football championship is underway. You mentioned it at the beginning, but people continue asking questions. Here is one of them: “Mr President, the Russian national team has not gotten out of the group at EURO 2020. Some time ago, our hockey team tumbled out of the world championship in the quarter-finals. What is your personal view of this embarrassment? Russia, which has a population of 147 million, must show different results. Thank you.” This question came from Svetlana Tokareva in Lipetsk.

Vladimir Putin: This is what sport is like. There can be triumphs, and there can be losses and failures. But it is a fact that our hockey team, not to mention the football team, did badly, and this cannot go unnoticed.

I will not go into detail now; we have specialists for that. Although I am a master of two sports, sambo and judo, I do not consider myself a specialist in hockey or football, and so we must trust the specialists. But in such cases, as they say, “nothing personal,” this can happen to anyone.

But we simply need to think about what positive things have been done by those who are responsible for the performance of our national teams, we must put our heads together to think what must be changed when it comes to both hockey and football players, and move on, without crying over spilt milk but hoping for the best.

We certainly have a good potential.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, sport can be recreational for some people. But many others believe that recreation means traveling. Maybe many of those who are watching us now do not want to sit in front of their television sets but would rather go to the seaside or a health resort. Of course, COVID has closed the borders one way or another. On the other hand, many people have discovered their own country, and more than that.

Nailya Asker-Zade: Yes, they have also discovered problems, because prices in Crimea, Sochi and on Lake Baikal are sometimes higher than abroad, while the quality of services is below foreign standards.

I suggest taking up the issue of tourism, in particular, internal tourism. Shall we take a question from Kirov? What does this girl want to ask?

Good afternoon, Alyona. You are on air.

Alyona Maslennikova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Alyona Maslennikova: Mr President, please tell me why is it more expensive to spend a vacation at a Russian resort than abroad? For instance, for 35,000–40,000 rubles, we can fly to Turkey on an all-inclusive tour. It will include a four-star hotel, three meals a day, picturesque views, and the clearest sea. In Sochi, for the same amount of money, you will get a three-star hotel, with only breakfasts included, and the sea will be so unclean that it can give you various infections. Many holidaymakers complain about illnesses after visiting the Black Sea coast. I think this is why Russian tourists do not want to visit the Russian south, especially if they have been abroad and can see the difference for themselves. Even if they cannot visit Turkey, they will stay away from Russia’s overpriced southern resorts.

Vladimir Putin: What can I say, Alyona? The answer is out in the open. Unfortunately, very little money has been invested in the development of our tourist capacities and infrastructure for a very long time. People preferred to travel abroad as soon as this opportunity was available to them.

Tourism export is huge in Russia; in 2019 alone, our tourists spent $36 billion on travelling abroad. It is a huge sum. The state, unfortunately, did not invest.

We have a programme designed to develop domestic tourism, there is a cashback project for tourists, and there is the task of developing the tourist infrastructure. We have recently created a state corporation for domestic tourism. It will be responsible for tourist projects and provide cheap loans with the possibility of later transfering its share to private entrepreneurs at market prices. The first steps have already been taken and domestic tourism is growing.

As for overpriced services, yes, it seems to be relevant. But why is this happening today? Most foreign countries, despite the fact that some of them are opening, are still closed. People are cautious about travelling abroad. In fact, they are right because these countries keep changing their rules every day. Greece yesterday had certain rules and tomorrow they will change. First, they required vaccination certificates, now they want PCR tests, and tomorrow they will want something else because the European Commission also has its own requirements. It is impossible to get to a hospital there. What is this going to lead to? It will lead to an excessive load on our tourist infrastructure, above all, in the south, in Krasnodar Territory and Crimea. As soon as supply cannot keep up with demand, prices tend to rise. It is how market economy works.

I strongly hope that we will increase our capacities, including in the ways I have mentioned; 50 projects are already being considered and we are going to increase this number.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us proceed.

Mr President, a question from Miscellaneous and Personal, one of my favourites.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: It is about recreation again.

“Mr President, do you sing when you are not working? If so, which songs do you sing?”

Vladimir Putin: (Laughs) Yes, it is about recreation again.

First of all, I have little time for recreation, and second, as we say, when people are winding down, they get together, and then they have a drink, and if they do they also sing. I am a Russian, after all, and so I am not much different from the majority of our people in this sense. What songs? I sing Russian, Soviet songs. They are melodic, beautiful and meaningful.

Nailya Asker-Zade: Let us go to the Message Processing Centre.

Natalya, can you hear me?

Natalya Yuryeva: Yes, thank you. I believe that those who have sent us the following questions would definitely sing The Roads. The majority of text messages include photographs of roads, or rather their absence.

For example, if we take a look at the image we received from the village of Alekseyevka in Smolensk Region, we will be unable to see either a bridge or a road. They are there, but they have been flooded.

And this is the road leading to School No. 39 in Taganrog.

The residents of Nizhnekamsk have measured the depth of the potholes in their roads: 25 centimetres.

Let us watch a video address not from Venice, but from Lesosibirsk. Its roads have become canals or even rivers.

Natalya Prokopyeva: Good afternoon.

Mr President,

I am addressing you on behalf of the residents of Borovoi district of Lesosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory. We are asking you to help us resolve this problem.

This is the road running through our area. When the road across the railway line was repaired last year, the water drain pipe was not laid correctly. Now water is not being drained, but is rising with every passing day. This is how vehicles drive on this road, at their own risk and peril.

We have appealed to the city administration several times, but we have not yet received a single reply regarding our problem. We are asking you to help us.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Prokopyeva, we know about the problem with roads; we are constantly hearing about it.

What can I tell you and the other people who come across similar problems, because many people in the country, in various regions are listening to us? Our roads are divided into several categories: federal roads, regional roads and local roads. We have about 60,000 kilometres of federal roads, if memory serves, and over 500,000 kilometres of regional roads. There are about a million kilometres of local roads.

With regard to federal motorways, during the first phase, the state engaged precisely with these, because these are the main motorways that are used for hauling goods and transporting people; they form the backbone of the entire network. About 85 percent of them have been brought up to code. By 2024, 50 percent of the regional motorways must be brought up to code as well, and then up to 80–85 percent of the regional motorways must be brought to code.

Different approaches are being used, including full cycle, where they build and then do the roadworks themselves. In your particular case, you should have done just that, so that, as part of the full cycle project, those who built this road also do the maintenance. Meaning that they built it, so let them get on and do the maintenance at their own expense. Clearly, this is an oversight on behalf of those who built this road.

I will definitely have a word with Governor Alexander Uss and we will see what can be done about it. The funds are available. I am confident the region has funds as well. If needed, we will, of course, tap into the federal funds, but we will resolve your issue.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, the question that came to our website from Natalia Skarynina from Chelyabinsk is also about infrastructure: “Use your influence to improve the mass transit situation in our city. The metro has remained an unfinished construction project since the Soviet times.”

Vladimir Putin: Well, yes.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “So many years have gone by without them doing anything about it, we hear nothing but promises. We are not just a village, but a city with a million-plus residents.”

Vladimir Putin: Well, yes. Is Ms Skarynina listening?

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We received this message on the website.

Vladimir Putin: This is a well-known story. Indeed, this is unfinished construction, a legacy of Soviet times. It is not the only city of this size to face this kind of a problem. Krasnoyarsk, which I just mentioned, has the same problem.

Deputy Prime Minister Khusnullin traveled to Chelyabinsk on my instruction to get acquainted with the situation there. He reported to me that the issue had been worked through. It should be a hybrid transport service, a cross between the metro and the tram. The central parts, where it is more convenient, should be serviced by the underground lines. These should then come to the surface as the transit lines move away from the centre. It will cost over 40 billion rubles. We have the money to cover this construction not only in Chelyabinsk, but other cities facing the same problem as well.

To reiterate, these funds will be allocated for the infrastructure projects. The amount of funds is quite large at 500 billion rubles. Matters of this kind, including the one in Chelyabinsk, have not only been taken into consideration. The approximate scope of work is quite clear, we have the resources, and all we need to do is start this work just like we did in other cities facing the same issues.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we move on to the Economy. You have announced the extension of the easy-term mortgage lending programme. It will continue in a slightly adjusted form. Do you think this programme has increased housing prices and, thus, the investment effort benefitted the construction rather than the buyers?

Let me give you an example. Last year, prices in new blocks of flats rose by 12 percent. In Krasnodar Territory, the price of 1 square metre has increased by 53 percent this year alone. We received a message from Belgorod: a flat cost 1.5 million, now it costs 3.5 million. Of course, there were other reasons that affected the housing prices, but do you not think that the mortgage lending terms also had a role to play in this?

Vladimir Putin: Then, I want to counter: would it be better not to have done this? By the way, I myself drew attention to this at a Government meeting, it can be easily verified. I just said that we must keep in mind that when we introduce these preferential mechanisms, we must ensure that the market, in this case the construction market, takes them in a proper way so that they do not lead to a price rise. Unfortunately, this is to a certain extent unavoidable since it is based on supply and demand.

Still, these are easy-term loans, despite an increase in prices, which is there, indeed, it is true (although the causes may differ and include the rise in metal prices, other things and inflation, in general). Nevertheless, this easy-term mortgage lending programme played its positive role: housing construction rates and the number of loans increased sharply. More than 500,000 people used this programme. Therefore, we decided to extend it. It will now be 7 percent, not 6.5 percent, for the next year until the summer of 2022, I believe.

Nailya Asker-zade: The amount has changed too.

Vladimir Putin: The amount has been changed. In any case, this programme has been preserved, that is what matters most. Again, they raised it a little, by half of a percentage point.

At the same time, we have retained the benefits associated with providing and helping families with children. The initial benefit was for families with two children, and more recently we decided to extend this benefit to families (at 6 percent) where a child was born in the period since January 2018, the first child. Therefore, I hope that expanded benefits will still be beneficial and the people will be able to take advantage of them.

In the Russian Far East, a certain group of our citizens have access to super-easy mortgage loans at 2 percent APR. Therefore, it is necessary, of course, to increase market supply and to monitor the prices of building materials and other products.

There are also problems associated with labour shortages. During the pandemic, we limited access for labour from the former republics of the Soviet Union, including Central Asia, which also affected the cost of housing, no matter how strange it may seem to someone. But we will continue this work.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, what do you think about this, as you put it, counter hit? A text message asks: Who is the President subordinate to?

Vladimir Putin: To the Russian people, to the voters.

When people come to vote, they make their choice at every level – local, regional or national. And in this case, of course, the President, the head of state obeys the people who have given him their special trust.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we choose one question on the wall. For example, the Defence and Security category. Let us see, Fighting Crime.

I can see that we have a direct video call from Moscow. Shall we try it?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Nailya Asker-zade: Hello, please speak up, you are on live.

Rinat Bilyalov: Hello, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Rinat Bilyalov: My question is rather short.

Today, swindlers are offering fake vaccination certificates or vaccination contraindication certificates. How are you planning to deal with these swindlers?

Vladimir Putin: They are swindlers, pure and simple.

There are Criminal Code articles punishing swindling.

It is just that the law enforcers need to work more efficiently.

They know about this, and so does the Interior Minister. I talked to him about this quite recently. They are working, of course, and they are looking for them. Hopefully they will bring them to justice. This is a very dangerous type of crime. In this case it is also linked to people’s health. It is absolutely unacceptable and the law enforcers should use the entire arsenal at their disposal in order to prevent these offences.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: People in Moscow have been using QR codes to visit cafes for several days now. And, of course, these swindlers are in ever growing demand.

Vladimir Putin: Right, right. The Interior Ministry is aware of this and intends to fight it.

Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we go back to the vaccination theme, if in a different context: “Please supply an anti-COVID vaccine to the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic. Thank you very much in advance.” This is a message from Vasily Kuprinenko.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is a matter requiring careful consideration. I think several thousand – some 90 thousand – doses of vaccine have been supplied already. But I hear you. An additional shipment will be made.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we have been working for over three hours now, or maybe even more. Let us move over to the blitz Q&A: short questions and short answers.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Nailya Asker-Zade: “Do you keep up your foreign language skills? If so, what mistakes do you make most often in German?”

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No mistakes?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, I make mistakes; after all, it is not my native tongue. But the main problem is that I am gradually forgetting words. You see, language is like a musical instrument: you must practice every day to keep up a certain level. Regrettably, I do not have this opportunity now. And my vocabulary is gradually decreasing.

Nailya Asker-Zade: What about English?

Vladimir Putin: The same, only worse.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Mr President, which of your school teachers do you remember best?”

Vladimir Putin: Tamara Chizhova; I still remember her. She was my teacher from first to fourth grade. She was very kind. I remember her to this day. Vera Gurevich, my teacher from fifth to eighth grade. I still keep in touch with her.

Nailya Asker-Zade: “What was the best period in the history of our country?”

Vladimir Putin: There were many glorious periods in the history of Russia, even back before Peter the Great, who implemented major reforms, which changed the country. The reign of Catherine the Great was a period of our largest territorial acquisitions. And during the reign of Alexander I Russia became a superpower, as we say now. It is an obvious fact. Therefore, we can and must study all these eras and also many other periods. We must remember this, revere the memory of those who achieved these outstanding results, and try to measure up to their examples.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Mr President, who starches up your shirt collars and irons your shirts?” A question from Moscow.

Vladimir Putin: You see, there is a dry cleaners’ where I live, in Ogaryovo, and it really is…

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: …the best? By the way, this is paid promotion. (Laughter)

Vladimir Putin: I do not know how to describe it. But the people who work there, women… Thank you for this question. Why? Because you have given me an opportunity to thank them, express my gratitude to them. I see them very rarely, but I always admire the results of their work. I am not being ironic. When I put these shirts on, they look brand new to me, right off the shelf. Thank you very much. Of course, you must look your best, just like our moderators, at such events as we are having today, when millions of people are watching us.

Nailya Asker-zade: “Mr President, how do you cope with adversity?”

Vladimir Putin: Do you know what I am used to and how I feel about it? First, any adversity should be taken as something inevitable, because people in my position should operate on the premise that this is an absolutely natural part of what I do. Most importantly, one should believe in the correctness of the course that one is following. In that case, like an icebreaker, one can go through ice of any thickness, fully aware of what is going on around you, but not paying much attention to it and striving to achieve the goal that one has set for oneself.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Is your main achievement as President of Russia still ahead or already behind?”

Vladimir Putin: I hope it lies ahead.

Nailya Asker-zade: “You have quoted Mowgli and Twelve Chairs more than once. What are the three works of art that impressed you and influenced you the most?”

Vladimir Putin: Let us say it is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto for piano and orchestra, and Kolobok [Russian fairy tale].

Why? I want all my colleagues in high offices to pay attention to this story. Why? Because as soon as you, my dear colleagues, begin to take flattery for the truth and sink into this atmosphere under the influence of what they are telling you, you risk being eaten.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Mr. President, what does one need to be happy?”

Vladimir Putin: First … Right, I will try to be brief.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No, this is a serious question, we still have time.

Nailya Asker-zade: This is a philosophical question.

Vladimir Putin: It is. I think that to be happy, you need to feel needed and to be able to fulfill your potential.

Nailya Asker-zade: “Where will you work after you retire?”

Vladimir Putin: Why work after retirement? I will sit near a woodstove and relax.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: ”How do you feel about diets?“

Vladimir Putin: Diets? You know, I have a rule of thumb – you can call it a diet, if you like: everything is good in moderation.

Nailya Asker-zade: Not only in eating.

“What games did you like to play when you were little?”

Vladimir Putin: I am tempted to say chess, but, unfortunately, it was not chess.

Nailya Asker-zade: The game, Cops and Robbers?

Vladimir Putin: Just like everyone else did, probably, in the then Leningrad backyards: hide-and-seek and tag.

Nailya Asker-zade: Here comes the last question: what kind of Russia do you dream about to pass on to the next generation?

Vladimir Putin: A question that I would like to answer with beautiful and colourful catchwords, and I do have them. But in this particular case I would like to give a more detailed answer, if I may. May I?

Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, of course, we still have time.

Vladimir Putin: You know, I will begin with something sad, namely, once upon a time our common homeland, the Soviet Union, disintegrated. The nucleus of that common state, of that historical Russia, namely the Russian Federation itself, is known to have lost almost half of its industrial potential, half of its economy – nearly 50 percent – approximately the same percentage of its population and a considerable part of its territory, a part that was important in the industrial and economic respects, a territory with a well-developed infrastructure, in which historical Russia had invested its resources not only for decades, but also for centuries.

And what has to be done about all this? I have already commented on that: it makes no sense to restore the Soviet Union. It is impossible and senseless for a number of reasons, and is also inexpedient, if we keep in mind, say, the demographic processes in certain republics of the former Soviet Union. Otherwise we may face insoluble social problems and even the erosion of the state-forming ethnic nucleus.

So, what should we do in Russia proper? How should we approach the geopolitical realities and domestic development? Look, despite the losses I have mentioned, Russia is still the biggest country in the world in terms of territory. And even though much of its territory lies in the northern latitudes, nevertheless, this is also important, keeping in mind the Northern Sea Route and much else. This is my first point.

Second, Russia is, without any doubt, a world treasure trove of various mineral resources, and this can and must be used cleverly. This too is a huge competitive advantage for us.

But our chief gold reserve is not even the $600-odd billion that has been accumulated by our Gobsecks at the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. Russia’s chief gold reserve is its people. This is not mere rhetoric, nor a statement intended to ingratiate myself with others. I am sincerely convinced that this is really so.

After all, our people, the multiethnic population of Russia, are, firstly, highly spiritual and possess deep historical and cultural roots. This is always important, but in the modern world – I will explain why right away – this is important doubly and triply so. This is emerging as some almost tangible and even economic substance. And the following is the reason why. The world of today is based on high technologies that constitute the future of the entire world, including this country. If so, this deep-down principle, the innate spirituality of the Russians and other ethnic groups of the Russian Federation is highly important because at heart we nurture a considerable respectful attitude towards science and education. This has to do with our culture.

Today, 60 percent of parents in our country would like their children to take up science, even though you cannot earn as much in this sphere as in business, but they nevertheless want their children to become scientists. It is very telling.

The future of humankind is connected with this: with genetics, biology in the broad sense of the word, information technology, artificial intelligence and everything else at the junction of these disciplines. And we have huge competitive advantages there. If we ensure internal stability, which external forces have always been trying to disrupt, if we attain this internal stability our success will be inevitable. And we will be able to say proudly and with good reason that we live in a state that is domestically an attractive place to live in, and we will have reason to say that we live in a country which we consider great. In my opinion, this is very important. This inner feeling of our citizens and inner attitude to Russia is important and, in itself, is a vital guarantee that Russia will definitely attain all the goals it sets for itself.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, thank you very much for this long and substantive conversation.

Nailya Asker-Zade: Let us believe that this is how it will be in our country.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: I would like to thank our colleagues, Natalya Yuryeva and Tatyana Remezova, who worked with the volunteers. Our special thanks go to the volunteers, who received a huge number of questions. We would not have succeeded without you.

Vladimir Putin: For my part, I would like to thank our listeners and viewers, and the participants of our discussion and meeting today.

I would like to assure you once again and say what I said at the beginning: we will try to make sure that not a single question goes unnoticed, even if we could not discuss it during this conversation.

I would like once again to thank the moderators for their coordinated work today. Thank you.

Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Thank you.

Nailya Asker-Zade: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Video of Russian Aerospace Forces intercepting the Dutch frigate Eversten

Video of Russian Aerospace Forces intercepting the Dutch frigate Eversten

June 29, 2021

(Machine translation): Review the Ministry of defence to the statement of the military Department of the Netherlands about the alleged threat of action last Thursday, June 24, the Russian aircraft near the Dutch frigate “Evertsen” in the Black sea:

“24 Jun 2021 by means of objective control of the black sea fleet is monitoring the actions of NATO ships in the Black sea was established, which was in international waters frigate “Evertsen” Netherlands Navy, changed course and began to move in the direction of the Kerch Strait.

To prevent violations of the border of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation, Su-30 fighters and Su-24 bombers were lifted into the air from the duty forces, which flew at a safe distance near the Dutch Navy ship.

After the flights of Russian aircraft, the Evertsen frigate immediately changed course from the border of the Russian Federation and continued following the same route.

Here is the footage:

Will the Russians sink a British ship the next time around?

June 28, 2021

To begin, let’s recap what just happened in the Crimean waters. First, the HMS Defender deliberately entered the Russian waters under the pretext that the Brits don’t recognize what they call the “annexation” of Crimea. The Brits deny it, but after seeing 4 bombs explode ahead of the HMS Defender, they altered their course as the Russians demanded.

Next, before looking into this deeper, let’s also keep in mind the following fact: the entire Black Sea is a de facto “Russian lake” meaning that Russia has the full military control of the Black Sea. For those alternatively gifted, let me explain what this means:

  • The Bal and Bastion coastal defense missiles can sink any ship in the Black Sea in minutes.
  • The Black Sea Fleet has seven advanced diesel-electric attack submarines, arguably the most advanced on the planet.
  • The HMS Defender was operating without any air cover but detected over 20 Russian military aircraft overflying it.

For a more detailed discussion of this reality, please see these four (hereherehere and here) articles by Andrei Martyanov. For a more detailed discussion of the laws of the sea, please see this discussion by Nat South.

In other words, the HMS Defender was a sitting duck with no chance of survival had the Russians decided to fire in anger. General Konashenkov, who is in charge of contacts with the media, had this to say about the outcome of the British provocation: (emphasis added)

“The epic fiasco of the provocation of the British destroyer Defender in the Black Sea, which abruptly changed course from Russian territorial waters after the warning shots of the patrol ship, will remain a fragrant stain on the reputation of the Royal Navy for a long time”

(-: Thereby suggesting that the Brits soiled their pants and ran for their lives 

Speaking of anger: I have been parsing the Russian media over the past couple of days and I will only say that there are A LOT of commentators who are mad at the Kremlin for NOT opening fire in earnest and sinking the Defender.

Furthermore, several Russian officials have now indicated that the next time around, the intruders would be destroyed.

Did I mention that the British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice declared in an interview that the Brits plan to repeat such operations in the future?

This now begs the question: would the Kremlin really risk WWIII by sinking a British Navy Ship trying to, to use a British expression, “poke the Russian bear”?

Interestingly, the Brits deny that the Russians fired any munitions ahead of the Defender. Why would they do that? My personal explanation is that the British government does not want to freak out the British and European public opinion. But if they are hiding the truth, it means that this is a truth which makes them uncomfortable. What do you think they might be hiding?

Still, the two UK reporters who were on the Defender (by total coincidence, I am sure), both reported hearing explosions and seeing Russian combat aircraft. The Russian FSB also released video footage taken from the Russian border patrol ships which were shadowing the HMS Defender. You can clearly see the Russian firing their guns ahead of the HMS Defender:

The Russians also have radar footage from many sources and it has been really easy for them to prove that the Defender changed course and left after four bombs exploded ahead on its course.

The reason for all this? “We don’t recognize the annexation of Crimea”. Which makes no sense because EVEN if the UK does not recognize the Russian “annexation” of Crimea (and, along with that, the democratic will of the people of Crimea), they should still recognize the indisputable fact that Russia is the “occupying power” which, therefore, has the legal right to deny any ship “innocent passage” if it believes that this ship is a threat, collecting intelligence or used for propaganda purposes (again, read Nat South’s superb discussion on the applicability of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to this situation). As usual, the Brits are lying about everything, including what the UNCLOS really says…

Now let’s look at this from the Russian point of view.

First, the Russians remember how the Brits declared a 200 miles zone around the Malvinas Islands (“Falklands” in UK parlance) and immediately sunk the cruiser General Belgrano as soon as it entered this zone. The Russians also remember how the Turks shot down a Russian SU-24 over Syria because it had penetrated in Turkish air space for exactly 6 seconds. The HMS Defender spent about 30 minutes in Russian waters.

Can you really blame them for feeling that “some are more equal than others”?

The Brits, being the superior race which only they think they are, declared that they only changed course because a slower Russian vessel was ahead of them and they decided to pass it from the open waters side. In fact, the Brits are so superior to the mongoloid Russian hordes and their dictator that they refused to even reply to the Russian coast guard vessel when it threatened to open fire if the Brits did not change course.

NOT talking to Russia, ever, seems to be the latest fad with NATOThe same goes for the EU which is now hostage to the 3B+PU nutcases.

(I wonder, does anybody still believe this crap? Does anybody still believe that Great Britain is, well, great? In Russia the expression “мелкобритания” is increasingly used. Translated into English this would be something like “Tiny Britain”)

Anyways, all of the above clearly shows one of two things:

  • The Brits do not believe that Russia could sink a UK warship
  • The Brits are willing to risk a major military incident possibly leading to war in order to maintain tensions between Russia and the collective West (aka the AngloZionist Empire).

This begs the question: are the Brits correct, or are they delusional?

First, we need to understand the purpose of this provocation: to disrupt the planned summit between the EU and Russia which France and Germany seemed to support, and which the 3B+PU and the Netherlands and the Czech Republic (iirc) categorically opposed (the Ukraine is not member of the EU, but they sure acted as if they had some kind of moral veto power over EU decisions). Sure, the UK has Brexited and should therefore not have any say in EU decisions, but the Anglosphere has enough power over the EU to make this completely irrelevant. We also know that Boris Johnson personally gave the order to the HMS Defender to enter Russian waters. Obviously, that kind of high level decision could not have been taken without Uncle Shmuel’s approval, thus we are dealing with a very deliberately calculated action. If this was the goal, it has been a total success and the Brits just screwed over Macron and Merkel.

Second, this is really largely irrelevant for Russia. If the EU cannot muster enough political courage to talk to Russia, then Russia will directly talk with those countries which want to talk to Russia. To put it bluntly, Russia does not give a damn about the 3B+PU. As for the Netherlands, they are a big investor in the Russian economy and Russians don’t care about what the Dutch might or might not say, as long as they keep investing (in Euros, by the way!), which, so far, they still are. Besides, considering the economic size of Holland, even if they stopped investing this would only be a minor nuisance for Russia. In fact, Merkel has even declared that if the EU cannot agree to have a dialog with Russia, Germany would seek other venues for this purpose.

Third, what just happened is yet another clear sign that the EU is profoundly dysfunctional. After the end of the USSR in 1991, russophobic Neocons in the West decided to make the Russians “pay” by incorporating ex WTO and ex Soviet Republics into NATO. At first, it looked great, but now it has become clear that the blowback from this truly idiotic policy has many unexpected benefits for Russia and major problems for the Empire. They include:

  • Russia got rid of all the Soviet periphery which was bleeding the Soviet Union dry.
  • None of the newly created states has become a viable, successful state.
  • The Empire spent many billions trying to prop up these newly independent states (ex USSR and eastern Europe) and tried to turn them into some anti-Russia showcase. They totally and comprehensively failed.
  • Now the UK and, even more so, the 3B+PU have taken the EU hostage and are preventing the countries which matter from, well, mattering anymore.
  • Countries bordering Russia are now all demanding NATO troops, which puts the latter in the worst possible position, right across the Russian border and, therefore, within range of too many Russian weapons to list here.
  • Last, but not least, the stupid and, frankly, totally irresponsible actions of countries like the UK and the Ukraine risk involving all of Europe in a most dangerous and devastating war.

Bottom line is this: the leaders of the AngloZionist thought they had scored big with the expansion of the EU and NATO. Now they are screwed in a major way and with no solution in sight.

This all is hardly big news, but yet another confirmation of the advanced state of collapse of both NATO and the EU. Conversely, the more EU countries decide to hold bilateral talks with Russia, the better for the future of the European continent.

As for the Brits, they are clearly suffering from phantom pains for their lost empire. Think of it, in less than one century the British Empire went from being the empire upon which the sun never sets, (Britannia rules the waves, etc.) to being the USA’s poodle which nobody respects or takes seriously. Bojo is desperate to prove that he is a “new Churchill” which will teach the damn Russians (and Chinese!) to kowtow to the UK or, failing that, at least kowtow to the Anglosphere. And, as a typical western politician, Bojo is both too ignorant and too narcissistic to understand the risks he is taking.

The Brits seemed to be combining imperialist arrogance (and delusion!) with a truly shocking lack of PR skills. Not only did they deny that the Russians opened warning fire ahead of them, only to have the FSB prove this denial false by publishing the video of the Russian coast guard vessel firing ahead of the Defender, but now they came up with a truly clumsy piece of nonsense about how a “super dooper secret” dossier on the British plans was somehow apparently found by a passer-by in a heap of trash behind a bus stop in Kent (you think I am joking, then see here). Needless to say, the Russians openly made fun of the Brits saying that “007 agents agents aren’t what they used to be”. Furthermore, it now appears that some top UK officials were very much opposed to this move which was demanded by Johnson personally (see here and here).

What about the British military?

We know that their actual capabilities are laughable. But what about their understanding of the situation?

I am not a mind reader and I don’t know what the British sailors (and their bosses) were thinking, but there is one thing which I am sure of: the next time around (and, there will be a next time according to UK ministers), the Russians will use force. If possible, they will try to ram the intruding vessel; if not, they might strike at the intruding vessel’s engines/props to disable it and, possibly, tow it. Should the intruding vessel try to fire back, the Russians would probably fire a torpedo and disable it. That is my best guess. I also decided to ask Andrei Martyanov (a former Soviet Navy officer) what he thinks will happen the next time around. Here is his reply:

“Most likely, they will open fire, but first only with small-caliber naval artillery (30-mm from the Russian border patrol ship or even 76-mm), and that fire will be aimed at the propeller-steering group (i.e. at the stern) to begin with. At the same time, the coastal defense batteries will actively track the intruder with their targeting radar, plus the Russian will “hang” 15-20 Su-24 and SU-30SM in immediate readiness to use more serious means – for example, the supersonic (M = 3.5) anti-radiation X-31 and take out the mast with its radar. That is just for starters. Next, the Russians will gage the reaction of the intruder: if they try to shoot at any Russian target, they will be sunk. But this would only happen inside Russian territorial waters. Outside Russian waters the Russians will only monitor their moves. Lastly, do not forget – there are anywhere between 4 and 7 Project 636 submarines at any one time patrolling the Black Sea, each capable of firing 6 3M54 anti-ship missiles in one salvo.”

The British paratroopers also recently engaged in a major airdrop in Jordan. The Brits see that as, quote “as show of force to ISIS and Russia”. Russia’s reaction? The Russian Aerospace Forces dispatched two MiG-31K carrying the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to the Russian Aerospace base in Khmeimim, thus showing the Brits that their ships in the Mediterranean and Black Sea sail at the pleasure of Russia. Again, this won’t be reported by the western legacy ziomedia in order to keep the public opinion totally unaware of the risks Bojo and his gang are taking in the name of their phantom pains about empire. Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-22M3M were also recently deployed to Khmeimim.

Here is a short video of the Russian MoD Zvezda channel to give you an idea of how this all looks (in Russian, but no translation needed) and which quite openly shows whom the Russians consider their likely target.

Here is a Zerohedge article discussing some of this.

Does anybody still remember what happened when the “invincible” British Navy tried to participate in Trump’s (totally failed) cruise missile attack on Syria? The British subs in the Mediterranean were shadowed by not one, but apparently two Russian submarines. That convinced the British sub commander that firing its missiles would be suicidal. The Brits gave up and left the area.

There is a pattern here: western politicians make a lot of very loud statements; the Russians simply take whatever actions they deem necessary, which frees them from the need to make threats of roaring statements in the first place.

This approach has a problem: only highly specialized people in the West are fully aware of what the Russians are doing and even less people fully understand the implications of the Russian actions. Add to this a western media which lies for a living, and this results in a population in Europe which is almost totally unaware of the very real risks the reckless actions of their (supposed) representative governments engage in. How many Brits will realize that a grinning and apparently happy Boris Johnson has almost stumbled into a war with Russia? Very few I bet. If anything, the common folk in the West are told that (a) their military is the best and (b) that the Russian military is much weaker and the Russians understand that. Ergo: there is no risk.

Then there is the fact that while the general population is kept in total ignorance, western political elites are mostly composed of folks with very strong narcissistic tendencies combined with a total inability to learn from mistakes (both theirs and those of others). Needless to say, history does not inform these people either. Finally, since these folks can never admit a mistake, however minor or serious, they cannot change course; doubling down over and over is pretty much all they are capable of.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that the Biden Administration has taken a very different course towards Russia (and Iran, by the way!) than the one favored by the Trump administration. I attribute this change of policy to the likely realization by top Pentagon officials that the US desperately needs to “catch its breath” and that the US military is in no condition to take on any other halfway competent military. Even if this is a ploy to win time for reorganizing, I welcome this as, by definition, anything is preferable to war, especially a full-scale war. However, there are clearly interests in both the US and Europe which are desperately opposed to any form of detente with Russia and who want to maintain an atmosphere of crisis and tensions just short of war. Of course, I don’t believe in any meaningful differences between the various factions competing for power on a strategic level: they all want to destroy, submit, break up and otherwise devastate Russia. This 1000 year old dream of the western ruling elites (pretty much all of them) still remains the strategic target of the West. But on a tactical level there appear to be two factions, one which understands that the Empire desperately needs a break to regroup and refine its strategy and another one which still seems to believe that the Empire is invincible and appears to be hell-bent on triggering as many conflicts/wars as it deems necessary to restore Uncle Shmuel’s worldwide hegemony.

That second group, clearly strong, has ties with the UK and the 3B+PU gang who are desperate to remain relevant and who understands that should there ever be any type detente (or even a tense modus vivendi) agreed upon between Russia and the West, that group would become comprehensively irrelevant to the future of our planet. While we can disagree with this logic, we have to remain aware that for countries like the UK or the 3B+PU this is truly an existential issue and that they see a continuation of tensions as the only path to political survival. On this specific point, I happen to agree with them.

I mentioned that ever since Dubya, all the US Presidents who came to the White House were extremely weak, which resulted in the breakup of any single US foreign policy into many different, and often contradictory, “mini foreign policies” by various branches of the government (Congress vs White House, plus a Pentagon foreign policy, a CIA foreign policy, a Foggy Bottom policy, a DoE policy, etc. etc. etc.). Hence, for example, the recent seizure by Uncle Shmuel of the PressTV domain name. (BTW – the domain name https://www.presstv.ir/ still works!).

This all makes for a very dangerous brew. Especially since the Russians clearly and sincerely believe that they cannot back down any further.

I therefore conclude that a future military incident, with the use of fire in anger, and possibly resulting in a real war, remains not only possible, but even likely, unless the factions in the West which want a time-out to regroup manage to get the russophobic nutcases under control.

Will that happen? I doubt it very much. Biden is not only weak and senile, his Administration has been organized with wokeness and (pseudo) “diversity” as opposed to competence or expertise. Thus, the collective Biden (which I designate as “Biden” as opposed to the real Biden) is probably too weak to get the crazies under control, even for a short time.

And here is the really scary thing: from the Russian point of view (and Russians all understand all of the above), sinking a British ship might well be the best solution. Why? Because once this happens, it will be impossible to conceal from the western public opinion that its so-called “leaders” are reckless, incompetant, delusional and simply dangerous narcissists who are now willing to risk a continental war (possibly nuclear!) just in order to keep denying the reality of their irrelevance. If Russia wanted to invade the UK, I believe that most Brits would be willing to risk it all to defend their motherland. But I very much doubt that a majority/plurality of Brits would support the notion of dying for Crimea even if they believe that Russia “annexed” the peninsula and is now “oppressing the Ukrainian people of Crimea”. Nor would they want to die over MH17, Skripal, Syria, Navalnyi or the oppressed homos in Chechnia.

There is one more thing I think Putin could do: make a solemn speech and directly address the people of the West telling them the truth about what the western political leaders are doing. He could honestly tell the people in the West that Russia has retreated as far as she could. He can tell the people of the West that Russia did what she so often did in history, she traded space for time and that the four years break of the Trump Administration has allowed Russia to fully rearm, retrain and reorganize her armed forces which are now quite capable of taking on both the US and NATO and prevail.

Yes, I know, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi tried to appeal to the people of the West and, in both cases, the democratic and free western media completely obfuscated these admittedly naive and clumsy attempts. But if Putin speaks directly to the people of the West, and explains to them what a war (even a conventional one) would mean for Europe, they would have to listen. Putin could clearly indicate to the people of the West which actions of the Empire Russia could never and would never tolerate. Finally, he could clearly spell out why the Russian people would prefer war to any surrender to the Empire. And, just to make sure that the message gets through, the Russian Navy might want to have one of its Yasen-M class SSGN surface somewhere in the Channel or the Tu-160 practice a cruise missile release on London (only electronically, of course). Hussein and Gaddafi did not have such capabilities. Russia does, and she should make use of them.

Fear, especially existential fear, might well be the only thing which could break through the wall of silence and disinformation which the western media has been feeding the people for decades.

How much hope do I place in the Biden Administration taking control of the nutcases or for Putin to directly address the people of the West? Not much at all. And the next best outcome is for Russia to sink a US/UK warship (or shoot down an aircraft) without triggering a continental war. Is that even possible? Yes, I think so. Very dangerous, but possible.

Does Russia have any other choice? If so, I don’t see it. Do you?

Post scriptum: this just in – the USS Ross (DDG-71), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in the United States Navy, has just entered to Black Sea on her way to Odessa where the Ukies are preparing monoevers if their “mosquito fleet” in the latest “Sea Breeze” NATO maneuvers (the biggest ones to date – 30 countries participate!). The Ukies have also declared that the Ross plans to follow the exact same course as the Defender did. The Russians? They announced that the USS Ross is now a “fat target” on their coastal defense missiles Bal and Bastion. As for Foreign Minister Lavrov, he just authored a seminal article entitled “The Law, the Rights and the Rules” which, still using diplomatic language, shows the utter disgust even Russian diplomats feel for the incompetence and hypocrisy of the West.

“More of the same” seems to be the trend of the day…

Sailing into Black Sea trouble: the right of innocent passage (with some caveats of course)

Sailing into Black Sea trouble:   the right of innocent passage  (with some caveats of course)

June 25, 2021

by Nat South for the Saker Blog

HMS Defender’s highly visible transit past the Crimea coastline, off Cape Fiolent, is the latest bout of heated tensions in the Black Sea and in this article, I’d like to present some aspects relating to UNCLOS and consider some interesting issues that have been revealed following the incident.

The UK sailed a warship, HMS Defender, inside 12nm territorial waters near to the main Russian naval base of Sevastopol. The location of the event was subsequently corroborated by satellite imagery and AIS data. Also nearby was the Dutch warship HHLMS ‘Evertsen’, (not in territorial waters apparently), according to radio communications. Still in the Black Sea at the was the US Navy destroyer, ‘USS Laboon’, (which has now since left the Black Sea).

The incident was quickly escalated via the media and on social media. Interestingly, a BBC journalist crew and a Daily Mail reporter were on board the vessel and the BCC showed footage and gave accounts of the events, (more on this later).

The Russian MoD was VERY quick in releasing information, its version of events, which ultimately caused a flurry of lurid headlines, given the reported spectacular nature of actions, including the firing of warning shots, taken to get the Royal Navy destroyer to leave territorial waters. Although the journalist onboard reported that the shots were out of range, the UK MoD denied that this happened, (see tweet below).

Graphical user interface, text, application, email Description automatically generated

The whole package of information needs to be treated with a pinch of salt and to emphasise that there some kernels of truth are hidden away in the mass of posts, articles and reports.

Part 2 — dates and events

Some more context with regards to the political dynamics at play, needs to be added as well, given that:

  1. Self-declared adversarial state, (part of current state policy) and NATO member, who consider Russia as a near-peer adversary.
  2. 22 June: The Nazi operation to invade the USSR started in 1941.
  3. 22 June:   Signing of joint UK-Ukrainian military agreement onboard HMS Defender in Odessa on military.
  4. Ongoing NATO activities and exercises in the region, (Sea Defender 21 just finished.
  5.  Large-scale ‘Sea Breeze 21’ soon to happen, (28 June — 10 July). The U.S. lead annual will be headed by Ukraine will lead 32 countries in a naval exercise including Israel, Brasil, Japan and South Korea, (personnel, aircraft or ships);
  6.  Annual MCIS— ongoing in Moscow.
  7. Signing end of May of a Russia and UK protocol updating the bilateral IncSea agreement.

Durable and worthwhile, (long-game) diplomacy got kicked into touch, several times over, considering some of the events and dates listed above, (22 June in particular, as it is a highly significant day, so the timing could be viewed in a jaundiced manner by Russia).

A very poorly thought-out stunt pulled by the UK government, that could have easily backfired, just over a pretext of demonstrating the UK’s policy on non-recognition of Crimea as Russian territory, via several nautical miles. The Russian Navy head called the incident: ” a crude, ops-ended provocation”.

Back to the past and present, one of naval gunboat ‘diplomacy’ to score futile points in the “rule-based international order”. This one incident has temporarily but very visibly overshadowed diplomat events such as MSC or the post work after the Biden-Putin Summit, as it once more shows the disparity between rhetoric and actions on the grounds.  Certainly, Washington would have known of the UK intentions relating to the passage of HMS Defender, (see later).

Part 2 – UNCLOS aspects

It isn’t quite an open and shut cases of innocent passage transit, as some would like to portray and leave like that.  The transit was vigorously challenged by the Russian authorities, more intensely than the last time that a British destroyer, HMS Dragon tried in the same area back in autumn 2020, (but without the attendant intense media storm). There are some factors to consider that are different to HMS Dragon’s voyage, (more later), which have a bearing on how this incident developed in the way it did.

There are several provisions in UNCLOS that are specific to innocent passage, (Article 17 outlines the right and Article 18 defines it). In a nutshell, naval ships as well as commercial ships may be permitted “innocent passage”, as a key right under UNCLOS, but there is a list of caveats attached.  As always with UNCLOS, there’s more than what first meets the eye.

On the face of it, HMS Defender was proceeding as per the right and definition under UNCLOS. Western experts, media outlets and politicians leave like that. The consensus generally is on ‘innocent passage” as a right enshrined in UNCLOS, as long it genuinely innocent. Of course, a coastal state can respond or resort to this if innocent passage is deemed not to fully meet the criteria of innocent passage.  Zooming in on Article 19 (2), which outlines the situations when a coastal state can act:

  • (a) any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;
  • (b) any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;
  • (c) any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State;  (x)
  • (d) any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State; (x)
  • (e) the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft;
  • (f) the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device;
  •  (g) the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State;
  • (h) any act of willful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention;
  • (i) any fishing activities;
  • (j) the carrying out of research or survey activities;
  • (k)  any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any other facilities or installations of the coastal State; (x)
  • (l) any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage. (x)

(x) is my denotation — possibility of where the coastal state could deem the passage of HMS Defender as being non-innocent). Explanations for this are given later on.

It has to be noted that Russia took the steps as contained in Article 25, to prevent and force the warship to leave territorial waters. Additionally, a number of examples are outlined later on in this article that highlight the potential categories that fall under a non-innocent passage, as also noted under Article 30 of UNCLOS.

Bearing in mind that a combination of Russian Coastguard and naval ships were shadowing the two NATO warships that had left Odessa in Ukraine, movements and activities would have been duly logged by the escorting ships.

Part 3 — Certain aspects

Quick run through of some of the issues to consider:

a. Gunnery exercises (as initially mentioned in the radio comms) taking place in nearby area, (seen as an exclusive pretext some Western Think Tank experts and pundits), but the publication and the radio comms between the Russian coastguard and HMS Defender, indicate the application of Article 24 (2)

Taking note of this part of Article 25: “suspend temporarily in specified areas of its territorial sea the innocent passage of foreign ships if such suspension is essential for the protection of its security, including weapons exercises. Such suspension shall take effect only after having been duly published.”

Article 25(3)

(Yet the referred published  NAVAREA expired on 21 June).

The closed areas were mentioned in many articles when they were first published back in April 2021, the Kommersant published an article including a map of these areas:

Source Kommersant

Back in April 2021, a coastal warning No 152/21 was issued “on the temporary suspension of the right of innocent passage for foreign warships and state-owned vessels” for the Black Sea near the entrance to the Kerchenska Strait and around the southern coast of the Crimean Peninsula during the period from April 24 to 31 October 2021.  This was followed by another warning No 0392/21.

Effectively, Russia created an obstacle and limitations on only navigation of warships and government-owned vessels. (The aspect that the think tank experts and pundits miss completely). To note, that this is situation of suspending the right to innocent passage is provided under international law, not you would hear much about it, under the status of “occupying power”, irrespective of whether Russia is the ‘coastal state’ or not. This status is confirmed by the UN Assembly Resolution 68/292, (For further details – legal opinion provided by Stefan Tamlon on Russia’s restrictions of warships in the Black Sea). This maritime precedent was set by the U.S. in 2004 in Iraq. Thus, the current administration of a territory is a distinct element as to the question whether Russia has lawfully gained Crimea or not.

b. No prior notification or authorisation for transit. — Contentious  and thorny issue all round. Not going down any of those rabbit holes now.

c. Initial disregard of multiple radio requests to change course, followed by refusal to comply with directions. (Radio comms) (Just that alone would suffice getting an Article 30 situation requirement to “leave the territorial sea immediately’).

The catch-all for the coastal state to use: “any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage. “.

One thing is for sure, Russia has not stated publicly the reasons why it took issue to the transit of HMS Defender, under UNCLOS.

d. The UK stated that HMS Defender was passing through Ukrainian waters in a commonly used and internationally recognised transit route.  (see image).

There is a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in area, (internationally recognised by the IMO), so this is what is being referred to and referred to in Article 25 of UNCLOS.  This is also mentioned in the BBC report:

However, the use of a TSS as part of an innocent passage is somewhat made irrelevant given the BBC report that consider the ship making a “deliberate move to make a point to Russia.” Not exactly innocent passage in the cited context given.  (See also point 2 on mode of operation below to see how the concept of using an internationally or legally (as the BBC reported) recognised transit route got mangled and made a farce of. This is not the same as transits through the Dover Straits, (straits is the keyword here and there is a huge difference in re UNCLOS rules).

A TSS is used to regulate the traffic at busy, confined waterways or around capes, notably for commercial ships, and the one off Folient Cape partly runs just inside the 12 NM. Yet, via the Coastal Warnings, the TSS from Cape Khersones to Cape Aitodor was out of bounds to NATO and other foreign warships.  HMS Defender duly ignored these yet deliberately chose to voluntarily comply with an IMO-approved routing for a short period of time that happens to skirt inside the 12NM, to validate its ‘innocent passage” claim under Article 22 of UNCLOS. Warships can voluntarily comply with a TSS in the same way as they can comply with AIS requirements.

According to the Russian coastguard video screenshot of the radar screen, the two ships’ tracks and projected course are clearly visible.

Close up of screen

Strange indeed, that HNMS Evertsen managed not to need to pass through the TSS in the same way as HMS Defender, in order to sail from Ukraine to Georgia.

Part 4 -Things of interest to note

  1. Media

The presence of a BBC and Daily Mail journalist ought not be ignored, one it reaffirms that the BBC  is the state broadcaster, any information, reporting would be deliberate slanted. As such, the Russian military provocation will be recorded and reported.  It does make me wonder if the ‘innocent passage’ wasn’t that innocent, if the BBC gets a spectacular scoop, which could be seen as being as an “act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State” under UNCLOS. (The box has now been ticked for the next incursion by a British warship) — handy to note response by journalist that it is common to have journalists on ships when in the Black Sea. Nice for the UK MoD to have handily arranged press coverage but also at the same time, clumsily bolstered a number of legal implications for any future FONOP challenge.

“Our correspondent, who had been invited on board the ship before the incident happened, saw more than 20 aircraft overhead and two Russian coastguard boats which at times were just 100m (328ft) away.”

The BBC reporter outlines the events in an article:

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57583363

Cringeworthy headline from the Daily Mail

Text Description automatically generated

(Notice the cannon shots, those warning shots fired at a very safe distance & elevation by the Russian Coastguard, which the UK MoD and Pentagon spokesman claim as Russian lies).

2. Mode of operation

The first thing to stand out is this part mentioned by the BBC journalist:

“The crew were already at action stations as they approached the southern tip of Russian-occupied Crimea. Weapons systems on board the Royal Navy destroyer had already been loaded.”

“Already at Action Stations”, not a normal mode of operations for a naval ship on an ‘innocent-passage, add in the fact that weapons systems had been loaded, (something more than likely to have been noticed by the Russian ships shadowing the destroyer). Double ‘no’ normal mode of operating a warship, jeopardizing and likely voiding its ‘innocent passage” by having carried out these actions alone.

Normal mode of operation is the basis for an innocent passage, otherwise it is likely fall under one of the categories listed in Article 19(2).

“As they approached the southern tip”, meaning as they entered the TSS parallel  to the coast, (see note about TSS above) on a “routine transit” at action stations, (explanation). (See 0:13s in BBC report, “hands to action stations”).

Passage can only be declared to be innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State.  Is it peaceful, is it in good order for a warship to transit with weapons loaded and at action stations? No, not in my book and if an incident like this happened with another non-US or non-NATO vessel, the would be absolute howling from the rafters on the negative behaviour and activities.

Another important aspect to consider re Article 19 is: “any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State;”.  There is no information in open sources or media to suggest that this was being done.  However, if the crew were already at ‘action stations’, then part of this is collect information on military activities in the area, at sea and in the air, so it could be construed that this was indeed happening.  Certainly not “normal mode of operation” either.

Whether it was prejudicial to the coastal State, that’s open to debate, but the timing and location do not do anything to reduce tensions or improve security conditions. Another element to consider is the deployment of an US intelligence gathering military aircraft in the area, certainly collecting information on the Russian activities and response at the same time.   If HMS Defender was really on an innocent passage, then it is just coincidental that the US military is flying in the area? Not to mention what HNLMS ‘Evertsen’ could provide in support on the other side of the 12NM limit if in area, (judging by Russian radio comms, the ship was in the area and the wording used by the RN watchkeeper, “ both of our vessels” 0:55s radio comms on video).

I’m not going to discuss the maritime security aspect as viewed by Russia to the incursion of an UK warship, or the relationship of the UK and Ukraine, as I presume the reader will be aware of the hostile nature and geopolitical environment anyway.

The mission planners and commanding officer of HMS Defender knew what they were doing,  by carrying out a mission, of a nature as to affect the security or welfare of the coastal state, to activate a military response, by carrying actions coming from a country that has Russia as adversarial state in its military doctrine, sailing under 12nm, from the main Russian Black Sea Fleet base.

Hubris and provocation.

Part 5 — Conclusion

There has been numerous controversial debate and international disputes relates to the innocent passage of warships since the early days of UNCLOS, the incident will be just one in the latest of events, fondly termed as a FONOPs by Washington.

The bottom line that the right of “innocent passage” will be invariably subject to the interpretation and application relevant to the national law adopted by the coastal state.  The issue that blurs this is the recognition of sovereignty as a coastal state, (Ukrainian rather than Russian in this area). However, since there are so many nuances involved, it is too complex to outline it all here.

Proving a point based on selected application of international law norms, that suit the narrative and agenda, rather than to maintain or defuse overall tensions, was the objective of the Royal Navy ship, sabre-rattling and hubris well demonstrated. HMS Defender stated “mission confidence and not provocative”.  No attempt to keep tensions at bay or to keep the door ajar for security detente. But the shots to do this were called from Whitehall.

To say that the British warship had international law on its side is ridiculous, by stating that it was in recognised international seaway but also at action stations, and while US and Dutch military units are operating in the area, is stretching the understanding of the concept of ‘innocent passage”. That’s just from the glimpse of information available in the public domain, but the story of the moral superiority of a ship on ‘innocent passage” is in tatters. This particular incident will undoubtedly set the baseline for any future challenges of this kind in the Black Sea. More trouble on the horizon is forecast for the next NATO warship.

US/UK Planned Black Sea Incident?

June 25, 2021

By Stephen Lendman

Source

Colonized Britain partners with US wars by hot and/or other means against invented enemies like Russia — a nation complying fully with international law, threatening no one.

Wednesday’s provocative UK warship’s incursion into Russian territorial waters near its Republic of Crimea and Federal City of Sevastopol mostly likely was jointly planned by Biden and Boris Johnson regime hardliners.

US/UK/EU actions toward Russia are implacably hostile over its freedom from Western control.

Wednesday’s incident followed earlier US/UK provocations against Russia — in flagrant violation of international law their ruling regimes long ago abandoned.

What happened Wednesday — and numerous times earlier — suggests more of the same ahead in various forms.

It shows that the notion of improved Western relations with Moscow is clealy off-the-table, what the incident — like earlier ones — made crystal clear.

Commenting on what happened, UK war secretary Ben Wallace defied reality by claiming that the HMS Defender (sic) carried out “a routine transit from Odessa towards Georgia across the Black Sea (sic).”

A UK war ministry statement falsely said no warning shots across the bow were fired at Britain’s warship by a Russian patrol boat (sic).

A war ministry tweet defied reality by claiming that HMS Defender “conduct(ed) innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters (sic) in accordance with international law (sic),” adding:

“(T)he Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea (sic) and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity (sic).” 

“No shots were directed at HMS Defender (sic), and we do not recognize the claim that (high-explosive fragmentation bombs) bombs were dropped in her path” to obstruct its Black Sea passage (sic).

Reporter from state owned and controlled BBC Jonathan Beale onboard HMS Defender falsely said the following:

“We heard shots fired…well out of range (sic).”

“The crew were already at action stations as they approached the southern tip of Russian-occupied Crimea (sic).” 

“Weapons systems on board the Royal Navy destroyer had already been loaded.”

“(C)aptain (Vincent Owen) insisted he was only seeking safe passage through an internationally recognized shipping lane (sic)…(that) his mission was…non-confrontational (sic).”

“The warship was in the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa earlier this week, according to the British embassy in Ukraine.” 

“It said the UK and Ukraine had signed an agreement to jointly build warships and construct two naval bases.”

The US, UK and EU falsely claim that Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. There’s no ambiguity about the Big Lie.

Western regimes falsely consider Russian waters off the peninsula Ukrainian territory (sic).

According to another BBC fake news report, HMS Defender wasn’t off Crimea’s coast “to pick a fight (sic) but to make a point (sic) — to assert its right to freedom of navigation in international waters (sic).”

Britain’s provocation was a “dangerous action” and “gross violation” of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Russia’s Defense Ministry stressed, adding:

Its patrol boat fired warning shots after the UK warship illegally entered Russian territorial waters.

A Russian Su-24 dropped four bombs in HMS Defender’s path as a warning to change course.

On Thursday, Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Navy Adm. Nikolay Yevmenov said the following:

Britain’s provocation was “an audacious challenge.”

“The UK side must give an appraisal of the crew’s actions, and conduct an investigation.” 

“We, in turn, comply with all standards of the international maritime law.”

Russia’s UK embassy tweeted the following:

“HMS Defender turn(ed) HMS Provocateur and violate(d) Russia’s border. Not exactly a ‘routine’ transit, (was) it?”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called Wednesday’s Black Sea incident a “dangerous(ly) crude provocation (in breach of) international and Russian law,” adding:

It could not have happened without US approval.

HMS Defender was in northwest Black Sea waters “in preparation for” the US Sixth Fleet’s annual Exercise Sea Breeze drills from June 28 — July 10.

Co-hosted by the Pentagon and Ukraine, numerous other countries are involved — including Britain.

Zakharova explained that “special ops unit of the US, UK and Ukraine were engaged in trainings aboard (HMS Defender) at the time of the incident.” 

“In these conditions, it is impossible that the ‘peaceful passage’ of the British destroyer was not agreed with the ‘big brother’ ” in Washington.

Separately in response to White House press secretary Psaki saying the Biden regime will not “warn about cyberattacks” on Russia ahead, Zakharova said the following:

The US “is still trying to reserve the right to deliver cyberattacks on the basis of groundless fabricated accusations…which they so often level against Russia.” 

If the Biden regime cyberattacks Russian targets, “it will not be a (US) response…but an undeclared and perfidious attack they will be the first to carry out,” adding:

“We want these words to be treated by Washington as seriously as possible.” 

“Our country, which just marked the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War remembers and knows well what perfidy is.” 

“Even hints at the possibility of behavior like this are totally unacceptable.”

Since Biden replaced Trump by brazen election fraud, US relations with Russia plunged to their most dangerous level post-WW II.

No-summit/summit talks between Vladimir Putin and Biden’s double on June 16 achieved nothing toward improving bilateral relations.

Looking ahead, they’re much more likely to worsen, not improve.

A Final Comment

Moscow released a video of HMS Defender’s Black Sea provocation in Russian territorial waters — exposing the Boris Johnson regime’s Big Lie about the incident.

The video clearly showed warning shots fired at the UK warship.

As it approached Russian waters,  its coast guard vessel captain said the following:

“If you don’t change course to starboard, I will fire.”

“You must immediately leave the territorial sea of the Russian Federation.”

When the warning was ignored, the clearly audible order to Britain’s warship said the following:

Fire warning shots. Do not, repeat (do) not hit the Defender. Confirm, over.” 

Britain’s claim about no warning shots fired was exposed as a bald-faced Big Lie.

The same goes for its fabricated claim of “innocent passage (sic) through Ukrainian territorial waters (sic) in accordance with international law (sic).”

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