Quick news update from the Saker (July 15th, 2021)

Quick news update from the Saker (July 15th, 2021)

July 15, 2021

Crazy times!

It turns out that the Colombian thugs which killed the President of Haiti were linked to both the DEA and the FBI.  The former agency confirmed that the killer were, indeed, part of a DEA team , but they never got the order to kill anybody.  Right.

[Sidebar for the alternatively gifted: if you are thinking “oh no!  The DEA is a respected branch of the US government, they would never do that“, I remind you that this latest assassination was in many ways very similar to the (failed) coup against Maduro (when they tried to blow him up with a drone) and the (also failed) “invasion from the sea”, again against Maduro (whom they wanted to kidnap and bring to the USA) which was also executed by thugs close to US three letter agencies.]

In the meantime, the Mayor of Miami wants the US military to bomb Cuba.  His logic?  Both Republicans and Democrats bombed sovereign nations in full illegality (no UNSC Resolution).  Does that mean that he wants Russia to bomb the USA for all the truly innumerable cases of human rights and civil right violations committed in the US?

By the way, the riots in Cuba were very limited and short lived, especially if compared to the numerous violent protests in Colombia.

It is also funny to see how Cuban rioters are freedom fighters whereas the protesters of Jan 6th are “terrorists”.

Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi I suppose…

Putin has just authored a seminal article on the history of Russia and the Ukraine.  See here for the article itself, and for a follow-up interview here.  I won’t write a detailed reaction/analysis of this text for the two following reasons:

  • The facts listed by Putin are uncontroversial, you can find them in any decent history book.  The way the Ukronazis deal with this is to invent a totally new “history” of the Ukraine, but without contributing any facts to substantiate their imaginary reality.
  • As for Putin’s analysis and conclusions, I agree with them.

Finally, there is a lot of things going on in the Ukraine, “Ze” seems to be in real trouble as the Biden Admin seems to be preparing a “post-Ze” period.  Very interestingly, the Ukronazi strongman cum (now ex-) Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, either was resigned or resigned voluntarily.  Most observers agree that the reason for this was to decouple Avakov (which the Empire still needs) from “Ze” (which is totally useless) before “Ze” sinks to the bottom of the ocean.   It is too early to pick a version, but knowing the Ukraine, the info about what just happens will definitely leak and will be made public by the Ukrainian opposition leaders and analysts (Elena Bondarenko, Anatolii Sharii, Rostislav Ishchenko, Mikhail Pogrebinskii, etc.).

Very bad news from France: Macron clearly wants to make anti-Covid vaccines mandatory, first for healthcare workers and, this fall, apparently for everybody.  Knowing the French, there will be violent resistance to this kind of freedom-crushing measures.  A military coup is also always a possibility.  The “great silent one” as the French military is often called might not remain silent, especially not after many French generals warned that France is at the edge of a major collapse.

Yesterday was the National Holiday of France and the cops beat the living crap of the many rioters which took to the streets to protest the policies of the French government.  That is “democracy” at work I suppose 🙂

In Russia, the Moscow Patriarchate, always the obedient mouthpiece for whoever happens to be sitting in the Kremlin, has gone as far as to declare that those who refuse the vaccination are committing a sin!  Here is the original article (in German) about this: https://de.rt.com/russland/120250-russisch-orthodoxe-kirche-impfverweigerer-begehen/ and here is a machine translation into English: https://translate.yandex.com/translate?lang=de-en&url=https%3A%2F%2Fde.rt.com%2Frussland%2F120250-russisch-orthodoxe-kirche-impfverweigerer-begehen%2F.

Keep in mind that Putin himself said that there would never be mandatory vaccinations in Russia, so in this case the Moscow Patriarchate tried to over-please the Kremlin a little too much and, as as result, we have this weird situation of Putin saying that each Russian can decide for himself/herself whether to take a vaccine or not, and the MP adds that “yes, you a free, but say “no” and you are sinning before God”.  Truth be told, these folks are selected for their total obedience, not for their brains…

Of course, there is absolutely NO theological excuse for such a crazy statement, none!  Keep in mind that the person who made that statement is not just some lone, crazy, bishop but the Chairman of the Department for external Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion.  It don’t get more official than that.  Also, “Patriarch” Kirill used to occupy that function in the past (the Dep of External Relation of the Moscow Patriarchate was simply a franchise of the bad old Soviet KGB) and that is a function which only the most trusted candidates are allowed to ever reach.  You can think of the MP as a combination of Peskov and Zakharova, only dressed up in clerical vestments.

In conclusion, I have a dilemma and I would ask for your opinion: as many of you know, I have a very bad opinion of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) and I don’t even recognize it as a legitimate part of the Russian Orthodox Church.  I could write up an article explaining it all, but I ALSO am aware that the MP is under attack by all the russophobic factions in the West and under attack by western religious sects (including the woke-home-lobby in both the US and EU).  Last, but certainly not least, there are a lot of people who simply don’t know the history of the MP and who sincerely take it to be a Russian Orthodox Church.  If I break the truth to them, they will be hurt and deeply offended.

I think my latest “cage rattling” exercise about the COVID-deniers proves that I do not shy away from writing deeply unpopular things (writing has never been a popularity contest for me, and since I have no ads and, therefore, no ad-money, I don’t have to worry about my controversial positions affecting my revenue.  But while I have no respect for the attitude, behavior and intolerance of the COVID-deniers, I have a great deal of respect for the Russian Orthodox faithful who know very little about the history of the MP and who very sincerely love their parish priest, possibly even their ruling bishop.  And I do not want to offend these “little ones” (in faith).

So what do I do?  Do I break this abscess and let all the pus out, or shall I wait for better times?

Please let me know.

I will end on a funny note: a US “diplomat” was caught on CCTV stealing a sign along a train track near the city of Tver in Russia.  It was not the FSB or the FSO which caught him, but the local police department.  The “diplomat” was quickly and quietly removed from Russia by the US Embassy.  This happened earlier this Spring, but the Russians released the video (see here) only now.  I knew that US diplomats nowadays were crap, but that kind of kleptocracy really reaches a new low 🙂  Next, the Russians will catch a US “diplomat” exhibiting himself in front of schoolchildren or eating his own feces.  Should that happen, Uncle Shmuel will blame the “KGB” (sic) for using an super dooper and super secret “energy weapon” against the coprophagic “diplomat” (especially if “diversity” in hiring continues to be the #1 criteria for the US government).

Hugs and cheers

The Saker

PS: about the US fleeing from Afghanistan, there is an interesting question which all should ask ourselves.  The question has two parts.  Part one: how many countries has the US invaded, or bombed, or overthrown or otherwise subverted since the end of WWII? and part two: to how many of those countries did the US bring freedom, democracy and progress?

A Catastrophe Unveils Itself

BY GILAD ATZMON

Pfizer.jpg

 By Gilad Atzmon

On July 9, we learned that Pfizer planned to ask U.S. and European regulators to authorize an urgent booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, “based on evidence of greater risk of infection six months after inoculation and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.” 

On the same day we also learned that the FDA and CDC weren’t very enthusiastic about the idea. In a joint statement both institutions announced that “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster COVID-19 shot at this time.” 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also said that “it was too early to determine whether more than the two shots that are currently required would be called for, saying it was confident for now that the established regimen was sufficient.” 

 It was revealed later that day that Pfizer’s emergency booster request was initiated following some catastrophic data from Israel.  

Searching for a clue in Hebrew media sources, I came across a spectacular revelation dated 6 July that showed around 85% of new COVID Delta infections in Israel are fully vaccinated.   

israeli hm's numbers.jpg

 

The above data suggests that while in the youngest age group (20-29) the vaccinated were about 2.3 over-represented amongst COVID infection cases. In some of the older age group (50-59 for instance), the vaccinated were overrepresented by even more than 15-fold. We should take into consideration that in Israel most senior citizens are fully vaccinated. And yet, since in Israel only 57% of the population is fully vaccinated, one would expect the balance between Delta cases in Israel to be shared by a rate that doesn’t exceed beyond a 6:4 ratio between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  Clearly this is not the case. On average, according to the data above the vaccinated are more likely to catch delta by a ratio of 5:1 on average.  

 Being slightly suspicious of the above data and its origin, I asked my Israeli partners to trace an official government document that could confirm the above numbers. Within a few minutes the Israeli Health Ministry announcement for July 6  surfaced in my email inbox and it validates the above finding. 

 

The most significant information is produced by the following table. 

health minestry _edited-1.jpg

 The above study reveals that while in February 2021 (31/1-27/2) the unvaccinated dominated the COVID cases by a ratio of 20:1, six months later in June 2021 (6/6-3/7) it is actually the vaccinated who are prone to be infected by a ratio of 5:1. It is the vaccinated who  happen to develop symptoms by a ratio of 5:1. It is the vaccinated who are more likely to be hospitalized and develop critical illness. If Israel was a ‘world experiment,’ as Benjamin Netanyahu presented it at one stage, this experiment is now turning into a disaster (at least for the vaccinated). In Israel, the vaccinated are becoming infected at a growing rate and as such are spreading the virus rather than stopping it. We also have a good reason to believe that the rest of the Western world will witness a similar pattern as it has followed the Israeli vaccine doctrine. 

People like to fiddle with statistics and draw the conclusions that suit them. If only 11 out of the 1271 vaccinated cases develop critical illness, we are dealing with slightly less than 1% of the vaccinated developing critical illness. At the same time more than 2% of the unvaccinated develop critical illness. Yet, since Delta cases are 5 times more common amongst the vaccinated as time passes by, I may suggest that we are facing a possible emerging disaster as far as the Pfizer-vaccinated are concerned.  

I guess that Pfizer scientists understand all of this very well and this is why they asked for an immediate booster approval. 

Update 14.7.2021 15:40. Minutes after publishing the this article this new data came in from Israel. It suggests that when it comes to Delta cases, the Vaccine has no impact whatsoever as the percentage of vaccinated Delta cases is pretty much identical with their representation in society.

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Moderna and Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccines Linked to Mild Heart Inflammation

Today 08:42

The cases were most commonly found in men under 40

Source: Al Mayadeen

After the second dosage, both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccinations have been related to cases of myocarditis and pericarditis (swelling of or near the heart) in a small number of people, mostly men under 40.

  • The cases were most commonly found in men under 40

Although the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been linked to incidents of mild heart inflammation, European and UK health organizations believe the benefits exceed the dangers.

In a tiny percentage of persons who received the immunizations, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) have been reported.

Both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) say that younger men were most likely to see the complication, especially after their second jab.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are advising healthcare professionals and the general public to watch for signs of heart inflammation in patients who have received the two vaccines.

Chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and an irregular heartbeat are all symptoms.

Anyone who has been vaccinated and is experiencing these symptoms should seek “urgent medical assistance,” according to the MHRA.

The instances were most common in men under the age of 40, and they occurred within 10 days following a second dose.

The majority of patients who had myocarditis and pericarditis healed fast with standard myocarditis and pericarditis therapies as well as rest.

Myocarditis and pericarditis are now listed as side effects of the vaccines by the EMA.

Question for COVID-dissidents and anti-vaxxers

July 02, 2021

Question for COVID-dissidents and anti-vaxxers

Introductory note: I saw the aphorism above spray-painted by some unknown person on one of the walls of my high-school.  Of course, it was written in French (“l’éclat des certitudes m’amène à tuer“).  Only years later did I understand that it refers to the dangers of certitudes which we often elevate into dogmas and into a valid cause for both physical and spiritual fratricide (this is the sin we commit every time we kill, either physically or spiritually a fellow human being).  I think that aphorism is very fitting whenever discussing the issues below.

First, let me begin by an excerpt from the recent 4 hours long Q&A with Putin (emphasis added)


The Russian journalist, Nailya Asker-zade, mentions the topic of the 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.


Now that I set the context, I have a simple question for all COVID-dissidents and anti-vaxxers (all restrictions on discussing the medical aspects of COVID (cf moderation rules numbers #19 and #20 are suspended, but ONLY for this comments section, under this post only!!!).

Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Maduro, Arce (and Morales!) and new leader of Cuba, Díaz-Canel – all agree with Putin.  Fully.

Six very different countries, six very different leaders, six very different political and social systems and six totally different economies.  Yet they very much all agree with each other.

(Truth be told, all of Latin America – except maybe Bolsanaro – agrees with these six countries!)

So here is my question.  There are four logical explanations of this for COVID-dissidents/anti-vaxxers:

  1. Putin, Xi, Khamenei, Maduro, Arce (and Morales!) and Diaz-Canel are all less well informed that we (COVID-dissidents/anti-vaxxers) are.
  2. Putin, Xi, Khamenei, Maduro, Arce (and Morales!) and Diaz-Canel all know the truth, but they are all lying.
  3. Putin, Xi, Khamenei, Maduro, Arce (and Morales!) and Diaz-Canel all working with the Great-Replacers and “chippers” from Davos, with the Bohemian grovers, with Bill Gates and CFR, etc. etc. etc.  They all want to create a single world government, kill a few billion people and usher in the Times of the Antichrist.
  4. Don’t confuse me with facts, I got my opinion and, dammit, I am right!!!

Which one do *you* pick?

Personally, it is my choice to trust the best political leaders on the planet, especially when their conclusions are supported by the best (both in quality and honesty!) scientific community on the planet.  That will remain my choice until somebody points out to me either evidence that all these leaders are “in cahoots with the Empire” or, alternatively, that the COVID-dissidents/anti-vaxxers know more about microbiology, virology or epidemiology than the very best Russian (and Chinese, and Iranian, and Cuban, and etc. etc. etc.) scientists.

Furthermore a truism, really, but this logical/common sense rule of thumb seems to be often forgotten today: as Carl Sagan correctly pointed out, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“.  So before you post some absolute nonsense such as “Putin and Biden are in cahoots” (“Putin and Bennett are in cahoots” also qualifies!) or “I know so much more about this virus that the folks at the Gamaleia institute and Vektor virology centers!” I ask you to please keep Sagan’s truism in mind and stop the crazy nonsense! (unless you are a diagnosed narcissist and you absolutely and sincerely believe that you know more than everybody else, including Russian professors and academicians; for you I will make an exception and allow you to post such a claim).

Finally, please don’t waste your (and my) time by insulting me, calling me a “gatekeeper” or an “uncritical Putin fanboy” (oh, I am VERY MUCH a Putin-fanboy, that is true, but I am a very critical one, my articles prove this).  Your fellow COVID-dissidents have already called me lots of names, many times, and I already heard it all.  Of course, if you sincerely believe that your opinion if single most important thing in the universe (vide supra), by all means, insult me some more (this makes Pareto-optimal-sense I suppose).

However, please don’t send me what I call “divorce letters” à la “since you don’t agree with my views, I will stop reading your blog, posting on your blog or sending you donations“.  Not that I mind them, I just find them a waste of everybody’s time.  Why?  Because this blog is about REAL diversity and REAL pluralism.  This is not an “ideologically pure” blog which tries to raise advertisement revenue by catering to a specific population.  First, I don’t have advertisements (I *entirely* depend on the kindness of others, all donations I get are 100% voluntary, there is not quid pro quo here!).  And if you are such an intolerant bigot that you absolutely DEMAND that the entire human race agrees with you, then I really don’t want you anywhere near this blog.

Just leave quietly and lock yourself in your ideological prison:  it may be small and ugly, but all your fellow inmates will be just as “pure” and “right” as you are (yeah!!!).  As for donations, I noticed that for every “divorce letter” I get, I also get more people understanding what I am trying to do and offering me their support.  And let me also add here that there is no sum of money out there which would convince me to lie or care more about how much money comes in than my personal integrity.  Besides, my “trick” is simple:  I simply count on God to provide the blog, my family and myself everything we need: my help shall come from the Lord, who made the heaven and the earth (Ps 121:2 LXX).

The Saker

PS: I will add one more thing: I have spoken, at length, to many COVID-dissidents/anti-vaxxers.  I also read a lot of the stuff they sent me (and, believe me, nobody spams you like fanatics, because they really REALLY want/need to convert you to their beliefs!).  And while I still am mostly agnostic about most COVID medical aspects (the only thing I am sure of is that it was not a leaked bio-weapon) I can say with absolute certainty: the level of ideological fantasization of COVID-dissidents/anti-vaxxers is at least as high as it must have been in the Soviet Komsomol or the Hitlerjugend.  And yes, it is also at least as intolerant and bigoted as the Homopride/BLM/Antifa crowds.  Far from being a triumph for critical thinking and free investigations, the mental world of these folks in straight out of Orwell’s 1984.  It is a sad irony that these folks sincerely think of themselves as both “well informed” and “free thinkers”.

PPS: I fully expect this to turn into the usual hate-fest when dealing fanatics.  I ask all of you, my friends, not to defend me in any way shape or form.  I really don’t care anymore and I expect nothing less 🙂  cheers

PPPS: I leave you all with a cute image I saw in some Russian outlet (forgot which one)

Translation: Kübler-Ross model five stages of grief for COVID-dissidents: 1. Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargainin 4. Depression 5. Certificate of vaccination

Expired Vaccines! “Israel” Planned to Extend Expiration Date of Pfizer Doses

03/07/2021

Expired Vaccines! “Israel” Planned to Extend Expiration Date of Pfizer Doses

By Staff, Agencies

Swapping soon-to-expire COVID vaccines is one thing, but extending the expiry date is a whole new level!

The “Israeli” had previously tried to swap its expired stockpiled coronavirus shots with the United Kingdom, and before that with the Palestinian authority.

Under the exchange, the “Israeli” entity, which currently has an excess of doses, would swap around 1 million of its Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that are due to expire on July 30 with fresh vaccines.

The PA announced it had cancelled the agreement with the “Israelis” on Friday, 18 June 2021, saying the doses are set to expire soon.

Relatedly, an “Israeli” Channel 12 report said on Wednesday, 30 June 2021, that the entity is holding negotiations with the UK to broker a COVID vaccine swap deal.   

But the most recent “Israeli” action regarding COVID inoculation is planning to extend the expiration date of the Pfizer vaccines.

The “Israeli” entity has been encouraging “Israelis” to get vaccinated before the July 9 deadline with a focus on inoculating adolescents.

The entity’s so-called Ministry of Health said Friday morning that 295 cases of coronavirus have been identified in the past 24 hours.

The percentage of positive tests decreased slightly from the previous day and stands at 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has rejected the entity’s request to extend the expiration date on over a million of its vaccines that are due to expire on July 30, Channel 12 reported Thursday night.

The biotech company told the entity that it does not currently have enough information to ensure that the doses will still be safe beyond the current expiration date.

Without the go ahead from Pfizer, the entity may be unable to offer the first COVID-19 shot to “Israelis” after July 9 as there will be no vaccines for the second dose three weeks later.

Channel 13 reported Thursday that “Israel” has a stockpile of unused Moderna vaccines that it can use if the Pfizer vaccine extension is not given.

Pfizer and Moderna are both “messenger” RNA, or mRNA, vaccines, marking the first mRNA vaccines available to the public.

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.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the Primakov Readings International Forum, via videoconference, Moscow, June 9, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the Primakov Readings International Forum, via videoconference, Moscow, June 9, 2021

June 10, 2021

Mr Dynkin,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

I am grateful for the invitation to speak again at the Primakov Readings International Forum. It is one of the most highly respected international venues for a committed professional dialogue, although probably the youngest. I would like to thank the leadership of Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) for suggesting the idea of this forum and for the commendable organisation of this year’s event amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

I would like to welcome all the forum’s participants, who represent the Russian and international community of experts and political analysts. A dialogue on all aspects of the current international order is especially important at this stage.

These readings are integrally connected with the intellectual heritage of Yevgeny Primakov, an outstanding statesman. It was during his term as the Foreign Minister of Russia that the principles of Russia’s current foreign policy were formulated. These principles are independence, pragmatism, a multi-vector approach, respect for international law and openness to cooperation with anyone who is willing to interact on the basis of equality and mutual respect.These principles have been incorporated in the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, which was approved in 2000 after Vladimir Putin’s election as President of Russia and subsequently modified. The current wording of the Concept was adopted in 2016. But the principles I have mentioned, which Academician Primakov formulated, remain effective to this day.

Russia’s major advantage is that these principles allow us to ensure the predictability and sustainability of our foreign policy. This is especially important now that the world order is at an extremely contradictory stage of its development marked by increased turbulence. But as a Chinese saying goes, such periods also offer enormous opportunities, which we must make use of to boost cooperation in the interests of all nations. We can see that positive trends are gaining momentum. I would like to mention in this context primarily the strengthening of the new centres of economic and political influence and the promotion of democracy in interstate relations in general. Incidentally, Yevgeny Primakov predicted this process back in the middle of the 1990s in his concept of a multipolar world.

Russia will energetically promote the continuation of the peaceful movement towards a polycentric world based on the leading states’ collective guidance of efforts to resolve global problems. But we are also realists and hence cannot disregard the stubborn, and I would even say aggressive unwillingness of our Western colleagues to accept this objective reality. We cannot disregard the striving of the collective West to ensure itself a privileged international position at all costs. The results of the upcoming G7, NATO and US-EU summits will be a gauge of the current mentality in the leading Western countries.

Not only Russia but also many others face the situation where the West’s representatives are unprepared for an honest, facts-based dialogue, preferring to act in the “highly likely” spirit. There are many instances of this approach. This is certain to undermine trust in the very idea of dialogue as a method of settling differences and to erode the capabilities of diplomacy as a crucial foreign policy tool.

The zeal, with which our Western colleagues started promoting the notorious “rules-based world order” concept, looks even more irrational and devoid of prospects.  Rules are always needed. Let me remind you that the UN Charter is also a body of rules, but these rules have been universally accepted and coordinated by all members of the international community, and they are not called into question by anyone. This is called international law. The UN Charter is the main part of international law and its foundation. While dodging the term “international law” and using instead the expression “rules-based world order,” our Western colleagues have in mind a totally different thing: they want to develop certain West-centric concepts and approaches to be later palmed off as an ideal of multilateralism and the ultimate truth. These actions are undertaken in areas such as chemical weapons, journalism, cyber security, and international humanitarian law.  There are universal organisations dealing with all these issues, but our colleagues, primarily in the EU as well as in the United States, are eager to promote their own concept in each of these areas.  If asked why this is not being done at the top organisation of multilateralism, the UN, they give no clear answer. We understand that it is, of course, more difficult to advance some initiatives of theirs and reach agreements in a universal format, where there are not only the “docile” members of the Western club but also Russia, China, India, Brazil and African countries. We will see how this “rules-based world order” concept will be reflected in the outcomes of the events that have already been announced, including the so-called Summit for Democracy announced by US President Joe Biden, or in the initiatives in the area of multilateralism announced by President of France Emmanuel Macron and a number of other leaders.

I am confident that we cannot ignore the incontrovertible fact that the present world order is a sum of agreements between the countries that won World War II. Russia will object to those wishing to cast doubt on the outcome of that war. We cannot and will not play up to those who would like to reverse the natural course of history. We, incidentally, have no superpower ambitions, no matter how hard some people try to convince themselves and everyone else of the opposite. Nor do we have the messianic zeal, with which our Western colleagues are attempting to spread their axiological “democratising” agenda to the rest of the world.It has long been clear to us that the outside imposition of development models will do no good. Look at the Middle East, Northern Africa, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan.

A specific feature of the current situation is that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated the events, helping to settle existing problems and at the same time creating new ones.  I am referring to the global economic decline, destroyed industrial and marketing chains, growing isolationism and geopolitical opportunism. This common trouble is also reminding us, through growing problems, about the unprecedented connection between all members of the international community. Nobody can weather it out in a safe haven. This is probably one of the main lessons we must draw from what is happening.

Russia calls for cooperation with everyone, as I have already mentioned, on the basis of mutual respect, equality and a balance of interests. We are aware of the value of each international partner, both in bilateral relations and in the multilateral format. We value our friendship with everyone who reciprocates this feeling and is willing to look for honest agreements, without ultimatums and unilateral demands.

The issues we are ready to discuss cover nearly all important spheres of life: security, trade, environmental protection, climate change, digital transformation, artificial intelligence and plenty more.

Russia is promoting its ideas in Eurasia. The principles I have mentioned underlie the operation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). These associations are based exclusively on the principle of voluntary participation, equality and the common good. There are no “bosses” and “subordinates” in them. These organisations have creative goals and are not spearheaded against anyone, and neither do they claim to spread their narrow values throughout the world, demanding that absolutely all states without exception comply with them, as some other integration structures are doing.

Our unconditional priorities include the strengthening of our comprehensive interaction with China. This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between Russia and China. Another similar goal is to promote our privileged strategic partnership with India. This is how it is defined in the documents that were adopted at the top level. We are expanding our cooperation with ASEAN nations and other Asian-Pacific countries. We are doing this within the framework of the unification philosophy, which constitutes the basis of President Vladimir Putin’s initiative of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. It is open to absolutely all countries of our common Eurasian continent, and the membership of this association will dramatically increase the comparative advantages of all Eurasian countries in this highly competitive world upon the assumption that they will make good use of their natural, God-given advantages and will not try to create new or deepen the existing dividing lines on our continent.

Both China and India support, in principle, the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which I have already mentioned. Its merits have been highly assessed at the SCO. We are discussing it with ASEAN nations. We are also open for discussions with the EU as our natural neighbour on this huge continent.

I believe that forums such as the Primakov Readings provide ideal venues for discussing any related ideas. There can be alternative approaches by all means, but we would like our discussions to be focused on the future in the interests of all countries of this vast region.

Russia will actively continue to facilitate the settlement of international conflicts. We are working in Syria and helping the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to restore peaceful life after we stopped the bloodshed there. We are taking a vigorous part in international efforts to achieve a settlement in Afghanistan, Libya, around Iran, the Korean Peninsula and many other hot spots.

I am referring to this not to attract attention to our achievements. We do not have an inferiority complex (just as we do not have a superiority complex in global politics) but we are always ready to help those who need assistance. This is our historical mission that is rooted in the centuries of our ancient history. Therefore, we will continue working to this end even on those problems that seem insoluble at first sight like a settlement in the Middle East. We are actively trying to restore the work of the Quartet of International Mediators and promoting the concept of ensuring collective security in the area of the Persian Gulf. We are willing to host a meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Moscow as soon as possible. Now it is necessary to wait for the results of the internal political processes in Israel. It is very unfortunate that no attention was paid to our repeated reminders over many years that the concept of normalising Israeli-Arab relations cannot be carried out at the expense of the Palestinian problem. I believe that this is a very serious problem that will only continue to get worse.

We are actively working to coordinate the rules of responsible conduct in the information space now in the UN’s multilateral format. We are promoting cooperation in countering the coronavirus. I would like to emphasise that contrary to the Western allegations, we are invariably interested in pragmatic, mutually beneficial relations with all parties, including the West, be it the United States, its NATO allies or the EU. We are promoting a package of initiatives to prevent the complete collapse of the agreements and understanding in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation after the Americans destroyed many treaties, for instance, START-3. We suggested a voluntary moratorium on the deployment of the missiles covered by it at least in Europe. Despite our proposals on verifying the moratorium, the West continues avoiding any honest discussion. In much the same manner, NATO has been literally talking our ear off for over two years in response to our very specific proposals aimed at reducing tension and military threat along the entire Russia-NATO contact line.

We are willing to work with any partner but there will be no one-sided game. Neither sanctions nor ultimatums will help anyone talk with us and reach any agreements.

In conclusion, I will quote these words by Yevgeny Primakov: “A strong Russia should not be seen as a threat to world stability. Only the inertia of thinking may suggest the conclusion about a threat emanating from Russia…”

Russia will never give up its fundamental values and will be true to its spiritual sources and its stabilising role in world politics.Therefore, we will continue doing everything for the firm, non-confrontational promotion of our national interests and developing cooperation with as many countries as possible.

I would like to emphasise only one idea: do not interpret our willingness for dialogue with any partner as a weakness. President of Russia Vladimir Putin stressed recently in his response to Western ultimatums that we will determine ourselves the red lines in relations with our Western partners and will primarily uphold our views on the world arrangement, on how to develop international relations in full conformity with the principles fixed in the UN Charter rather than some agreements between a narrow circle of parties.

Question: A question from Wolfgang Schussel, head of the Dialog-Europe-Russia forum and Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria in 2000-2007. The leaders’ summit for Russia and the United States is invariably a major international event that introduces new vectors into the work of the diplomats, the military and business on specific issues. The meetings are not always successful like, for example, the most recent summit in Helsinki with the 45th US President Donald Trump. We hope this time everything will be different. President Biden is interested in arms control and resuming the Iranian nuclear deal.

What are your expectations for a possible new agenda after the meeting of the two leaders in any area, in particular, cyberspace, autonomous weapons, or the regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and North Korea?

Sergey Lavrov: I am happy to greet my good friend Wolfgang Schussel. I thank him for the question.

We have repeatedly made our position known in connection with the upcoming summit in Geneva on June 16. We do not set our expectations high, nor do we entertain any illusions about potential “breakthroughs.” But there is an objective need for an exchange of views at the highest level on what threats Russia and the United States, as the two largest nuclear powers, see in the international arena. The fact that a conversation is happening between the leaders of the two leading nuclear powers is, of course, important. We strongly support this approach by our US colleagues.

Clearly, normalisation of Russian-US relations, I’ll stress this again, can only be possible if the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs are observed. This is a prerequisite not only for maintaining a normal, predictable and steady dialogue (which the Americans claim they want), but it is also important for removing the accumulated issues of confrontation between our countries. We are ready for a candid conversation like this.

I hope that in preparation for the summit, those who are now dealing with Russia in the Biden administration (they used to say “Sovietology,” which would now be called “Russology, I would guess,” though it would be nice if it was “Russophilia”), will finally appreciate the actions, interests and position of the Russian Federation, and our red lines, and will be willing to correct the mistakes in recent years and will not conduct a dialogue solely from a position that claims hegemony in global affairs.

Clearly, any dialogue is better than no dialogue.But if a hegemonic mindset continues to determine the US’s position, if our colleagues from the United States continue to follow in the footsteps of their own propaganda, which deafens the US elite as well, then there’s not much we can expect from this summit. In any case, I think it is important to have a candid exchange of views at the highest level, even if there are differences that many believe are insurmountable.

We share an interest in strategic stability. We have fairly strong contacts on how to approach this area of ​​international politics at this point. Frankly, we advocate a comprehensive approach and taking into account all, without exception, factors influencing strategic stability in our dialogue with the United States. I mean nuclear and non-nuclear, and offensive and defensive weapons. Anything that affects strategic stability must be discussed during a dialogue.

The Americans have a much narrower approach. They are only interested in certain aspects of our nuclear triad and are not inclined, at least at this point, to agree on a comprehensive concept that would include everything without exception.

I hope that, based on the preliminary work and consultations in preparation for this summit, President Vladimir Putin and President Joseph Biden will be able to determine a strategic policy for future work in these areas.

Mr Schussel mentioned cyber security as well. We have no shortage of goodwill here. Ever since 2016, when the Obama administration began accusing us of “meddling” in their elections, we have suggested dozens of times sitting down and laying out specific facts and concerns that both sides have in a professional and trust-based manner. What we received was a strong refusal to do so. Now, I hope, we will discuss this matter and see to what extent the Biden administration is ready to do sincere work in this area.

You mentioned Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and North Korea. We maintain communication on all these matters, especially Afghanistan, North Korea and certain aspects of the Syria crisis and the situation in Libya. Together with the Americans, we are participating in internationally recognised multilateral forums. I’m referring to the talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and what we call the expanded Troika on Afghanistan (Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan).

There is a bilateral mechanism for Syria, primarily dealing with deconfliction. We always emphasise the US’s illegal presence on Syrian soil, especially since it includes plundering Syria’s natural resources and taking advantage of its oil fields and farm land. They use the proceeds to support (everyone is aware of this) separatism on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River thus flirting with a very dangerous problem – I mean the Kurdish problem. These games could come to a sticky end.

Since the US armed forces and combat aircraft are present in Syria, we have a deconflicting mechanism maintained by our respective defence ministries. In addition, sometimes we also have political consultations on how to move forward. We would welcome the United States resuming its participation as an observer in the Astana format and, in general, being more committed to the key principles of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the Syrian settlement.

The summit has no agreed upon agenda on paper. Sometimes our colleagues from the European Union (at a time when we still had relations and interaction bodies) focused on the word-for-word, scrupulous coordination of each item, which should then become the agenda of the negotiations. We didn’t have this with the Americans. We just listed the topics that the parties intended to touch on. We are doing the same this time. The work continues. It won’t be a long wait. I think things will become clear soon.We are interested in positive results from the summit, but, as they say, it takes two to tango. And if one party is break dancing, tangoing becomes a more difficult proposition.

Question: The Trump administration threw out the mechanism of the INF Treaty. Russia responded with an unprecedented act of goodwill. The Russian leaders sent a proposal to the United States and NATO to introduce a moratorium on the deployment of medium and shorter-range missiles in Europe. The Trump administration did not respond. There was only a weak reaction from European capitals. Is it possible to continue the dialogue on this problem? Is the proposed moratorium possible at all?

Sergey Lavrov: The INF Treaty is history. It doesn’t exist anymore. We have expressed regret over this.

You mentioned a very important fact. Immediately after this happened, apart from expressing regret over the treaty’s demise, President of Russia Vladimir Putin announced a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of ground-based medium and short-range missiles in Russia. It banned the deployment of the missiles prohibited by the defunct treaty unless similar US systems appeared in a given area. This was a unilateral moratorium.

Later, a few years ago, when this moratorium failed to generate much interest, President Putin took one more step. He sent a detailed message to the US and the other NATO and EU members and our Eastern neighbours (about 50 states in all). In this message, the Russian leader described in detail our moratorium proposal and supplemented it with an invitation to cooperate. He suggested that the Western countries also announce a reciprocal moratorium on their own without signing any legally binding agreements, simply as a goodwill gesture. In this detailed message, we discussed the West’s skeptical statements about Russia’s unilateral moratorium on the deployment of ground-based systems that were banned by the former treaty. The West’s politicians reasoned: “Russia is as cunning as a fox. It has already deployed Iskanders in the Kaliningrad Region that violate the parameters of the former treaty” while the NATO countries have no counterpart, thus this would be an inequitable exchange. However, to begin with, nobody has proved that Iskanders violate INF-established criteria and bans on the range of missiles. The Americans refused to provide any rationale on this.

I would also like to note at this point that they are still stubbornly refusing to present satellite photos from July 2014 when the Malaysian airliner crashed. The court in the Netherlands openly announced recently that there is no hope that the Americans will provide them. So, this question is closed for the court. In other words, evidence of paramount importance is being concealed.

Likewise, nobody has ever shown us the satellite photos that were used by the Americans to prove that our Iskanders violate the INF Treaty.

Considering that the Western countries believe Russia has already done this ahead of them and as we suggested freezing this situation, Russia would benefit from this, President Vladimir Putin said it straight in his Address to the Federal Assembly: considering the mutual mistrust, we suggest measures to verify a reciprocal moratorium. We invite you to come to the Kaliningrad Region and see these Iskanders. In exchange, we want our experts to visit missile defence bases in Romania and Poland because Lockheed Martin, the producer of missile launchers openly promotes them on its website as dual purpose: for launching both counter-missiles and anti-strike cruise missiles. I think this is a very honest proposal. Let’s check: you are concerned about our Iskanders, and we are worried about the dual purpose of those missile defence launchers.

The only positive response came from President of France Emmanuel Macron. He said this was an interesting proposal and that he was ready to take part in implementing it via a multilateral dialogue. But this didn’t happen. The Americans ignored the proposal for obvious reasons since they do not want to let anyone visit their missile defence sites (this is a separate question), while all the others obediently kept silent.

Our proposal remains on the table. I think we will certainly bring this up at the Geneva summit on June 16. Let’s see the response.

Question: Often, especially recently, you have said that the European Union is an unreliable partner. Unfortunately, this is the case, especially against the backdrop of insane and unbecoming for the 21st century Russophobic propaganda and scandals that are made up without providing any evidence.

You have extensive political experience. Do you think the low level of leadership in the EU may be at least partially mitigated during this year’s elections in Germany and other countries? Will the overall crisis be able to give rise to modern European leaders who will “emancipate” themselves, at least a little, from the United States and fulfil their mission which is to serve their respective peoples? This calls for a radical change in the EU’s policy towards Russia. Unfair and ineffective sanctions must be forgotten and we must return to dialogue and mutual trust in order to overcome common problems which cannot be resolved without a full dialogue and cooperation, including with Russia.

We look forward to seeing you in Bulgaria for the unveiling of the bust of our teacher Yevgeny Primakov.

Sergey Lavrov: God willing, I will definitely be there. We maintain a dialogue with Bulgaria via our respective foreign ministries. However, recently, certain factors have appeared, not from our side, that are not conducive to an expansion of constructive interaction. I hope this is temporary.

As for your question about the European Union and our relations with the EU, I have covered this issue many times. We want relations with the European Union that are equal and mutually respectful. We cannot have relations with the EU based on demands for Russia to change its behaviour. The foreign ministers of Germany and other European countries have said many times that we need to be partners (they no longer say friends) with Russia, but it must change its behaviour first. This is a mindset that cannot be changed.

I was talking about the rules-based order which they came up with. In fact, it is the Western vision of how to maintain relations between countries in the 21st century and, moreover, how to organise life within a country. These “messianic” processes on the advancement of democracy are quite aggressive. But as soon as you start talking with the West about democracy in the international arena and ways to promote it not only within the borders of a country (this is each individual state’s concern), but in international affairs so everyone is treated equally and heeds the voice of the majority, but also respects the minority, they immediately back pedal. They do not want to discuss the democratisation of international relations. The very concept of a “rules-based international order” negates any hope that the West will get drawn into a discussion on democratising global processes in international relations.

Literally in May, promoting one of the main elements of the concept of a rules-based world order, namely effective multilateralism, French President Macron bluntly stated that multilateralism does not imply the need to achieve unanimity. “The position of conservatives should not be an obstacle for ambitious frontrunners,” he said. I think this is clear. “Conservatives” are revisionists (you can call them that, although these words are antonyms). We and China are called “conservatives who do not want change” and “revisionists who want to slow things down that move the Western world forward.” At the same time, President Macron did not mention either the UN or international law.

There are “ambitious front-runners” who promote this concept, and there are those who want to “conservatively” hold on to UN Charter principles. That’s the problem. This was expressed by the president of the country, which was among those who, at some point, called for the EU’s strategic autonomy. But these discussions have been muted even in Germany.

At one EU event, President of the European Council Charles Michel praised the return of the United States to Euro-Atlantic solidarity. EU leadership was clearly relieved to know that everything is “good” again, the United States is “at the helm” again and they can follow in its wake.

I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I hope no one takes offense, but it’s a fact. These are publicly stated assessments that have been repeatedly uttered by EU leadership.

The Munich Security Conference was held in May where Charles Michel said that the alliance between the United States and Europe is the basis for a rules-based international order. International law was not mentioned. He stressed that it is necessary to aggressively promote democracy to protect this order from “attacks” by Russia, China, Iran and other “authoritarian regimes.” That is, it follows that democracy for these purposes needs to be promoted within these respective countries and not in the international arena. This is more than self-revelatory. Without reservation, a concept is being put forward that is openly seeking dominance, at least claiming it.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, for example, that with respect to digital transformation, it is necessary for the United States and Europe to develop a “rulebook” that the world can follow.

More recently, our US colleagues said that new trade rules must be determined by the West, not China. What does this mean? A reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is being discussed, because the Americans have understood one simple thing: that based on the currently approved rules of international trade and economy, which the United States initiated after WWII (the Bretton Woods system, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation), that determined the course of globalisation, China has achieved much greater success in playing the Americans on their field. So, WTO activities are now blocked. The United States does not allow the appointment of officers for vacancies in the Dispute Settlement Body. All claims brought to this body that the Americans would have surely lost, cannot be considered.

We are talking about creating a new system and reforming the WTO. It is being clearly said that “the new rules of international trade must be determined by the United States and Europe, not China.” That is what this is about. This underlies the concept of a rules-based order.

You asked about the potential outcome of the upcoming elections in European countries, in particular, Germany. This is a question that only the German people and the peoples of the other EU countries can answer.

I have already covered the prospects for the “emancipation” of the EU from the United States.

Question: The United States often introduces sanctions against foreign companies or countries by suspending them from SWIFT, a major financial tool, which they use by virtue of their position of hegemony in the world. As a matter of fact, many countries, including China and even some European countries are suffering from SWIFT, which is controlled by the United States. Recently, the Russian government said the dollar might be removed from the country’s currency reserve. The Chinese government has started issuing digital currency. In theory, digital currency could lead to the creation of a new international financial system, which would significantly alleviate the threat of being suspended from SWIFT. What do you propose that Russia and China do to create a new international financial transaction system and reduce their financial dependence on the US?

Sergey Lavrov: Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a detailed answer to this question when speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last week. We are not looking to pull out of the existing system, which largely relies on the dollar. The problems stem from the United States being unaware of its responsibility as the country issuing the main reserve currency in the world, or else the US is aware but blatantly abuses its role. There are quite a few stories of how everyone argued that the dollar could be used for political purposes, which makes it unreliable. As we continue to make the point that everyone must honour the universal multilateral approach and not politicise the mechanisms that have been agreed on once and for all but rather use them to achieve objectives that underlie these mechanisms, we, of course, are considering how to respond if our colleagues show yet again their willingness to dictate and punish and use international trade and transaction leverage for this purpose

I want to note that not a single official in the West ever in my memory demanded that Russia, China or any other country be disconnected from SWIFT. That is what some politicians are calling for, but this has never been borne out either in statements by officials from leading Western countries or in SWIFT administration statements.

We really want, and this was officially announced, to remove the dollar from our economy and our financial system. The other day a decision was taken to cease holding the country’s gold and forex reserves in dollars. Appropriate measures have already been taken. But I want to emphasise again that this does not mean that we are discarding the dollar altogether, however, for the reasons mentioned earlier we are interested in relying more on other currencies, including national currencies, in bilateral trade with our partners, including our Chinese partners, other SCO members and many other countries. We are also ready to support transactions that are not denominated in dollars and but that are based on the use of other currencies.

In this context, crypto-currency is a very popular topic today. China is vigorously developing it and has achieved remarkable results. We are also working on this in a substantive manner. I believe there will be a time when crypto currencies will play a significant role and occupy a considerable niche in international settlements, but it might be better to discuss the details of this with economists. The Russian Foreign Ministry watches political developments. We are concerned about how to make sure our country’s economic ties do not pose threats to our security.

Question: Currently, a fairly intensive three-way process is underway to restore transport connections in the region. This process involves Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, but not Turkey, which was a full participant in the last war in Karabakh and which is actually a party to the conflict. Meanwhile, you know that the Armenian-Turkish border has been blocked for 30 years after Armenia gained independence. This, by the way, is the only blockade on the territory of geographical Europe and transport lines are there, in particular, a railway which was built in Czarist Russia. It uses electricity from high-voltage power lines that have existed since Soviet times. Don’t you think that Turkey should be involved in this process of unblocking transport connections in the region and bear its share of the responsibility for this?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to add that Iran does not take part in the work of this trilateral group either, and Iran is no less and, perhaps, more interested in having its interests taken into account. You asked whether we should involve Turkey in this work and make it bear responsibility. The work of the trilateral group on restoring economic ties and transport links is not about punishment; it is about resuming normal economic life, which existed until the late 1980s when the war broke out, which stopped only four years later.

Now the bloodshed is over. It ended a little later than we proposed to the parties. It is not our fault that the war lasted longer than it could have and the truce was reached later than it could have been reached. We were only intermediaries; we could not force either side to do this or that. We only convinced them that further bloodshed was pointless and extremely dangerous, first of all, for how people will continue to live on this land.

Currently, our peacekeepers are carrying out their mandate. There have been no major incidents. Both Baku and Yerevan recognise this. Any minor problems are quickly corrected. Yes, there are tensions at some sections of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan but they have nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh. Simultaneously with the ceasefire, the leaders of our countries agreed on November 9, 2020 to unblock all communications. This was one of the main items that was agreed upon years ago by the OSCE Minsk Group chaired by Russia, France and the United States.

Following this agreement of principle, the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan met in January. They established a trilateral working group at the prime minister level to deal exclusively with unblocking of all economic, transport and other connections in the region. The examples you gave – railways, roads and electricity lines are all subject to negotiation where professionals will prioritise opening them.

Naturally, the parties are considering the interests of their other neighbours. It would probably be unrealistic to hope that having reached agreement the three sides could neglect the views of Turkey or Iran. This would be a mistake. Many strategic routes pass through this critical area: both north-south and east-west. The most important goal is to develop relations for the long-term perspective rather than think of involving or not involving someone else.

I understand that many people say that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains open. This will eventually be coordinated with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. At this point, they should not worry too much about its status. Instead, they need to promote confidence measures and the settling of humanitarian issues, and help both Armenians and Azerbaijanis live together in peace, security and economic wellbeing. I can assure you that if we help establish this lifestyle in two or three years, it will be much easier to resolve all the problems of the status of this area.

I would not focus on these or other statements from the capitals of the countries in the region or the immediate parties to the conflict. Emotions tend to prevail in these statements for the most part. We urge everyone involved in this to continue to help those on the ground to remain calm and return to normal life. We are actively involved in doing this via our peacekeeping contingent and the Emergencies Ministry. The results of the efforts by the trilateral group will depend on how much the unblocking efforts help improve everyday life.

Regarding Turkey and its role in this, as I said, the participants of these trilateral discussions do consider the interests of Turkey and Iran because otherwise the opening of links will not produce the best results.

The Russia-Turkey centre is monitoring compliance with the ceasefire from Azerbaijan. With technical equipment, it ensures joint observation of the developments on the ground. This is a very useful part of this general agreement. It ensures the involvement of our Turkish colleagues in this process and is a stabilising factor.

Question: The Russia-India partnership continues to flourish even though the world is going through hard times. Our cooperation on the Sputnik V vaccine confirms this. India and all Indians are grateful for the assistance offered by our Russian friends during the receding second wave of the pandemic.

What short- and long-term lessons can the international community learn about the origin and spread of COVID-19? Some people are worried that even 18 months later, we do not know about the origin of the virus that first appeared in Wuhan. This will not help us in preventing future pandemics.

How can we balance our national responsibility and international cooperation to follow the international health regulations and help the WHO to identify and prevent future outbreaks?

Sergey Lavrov: In general, the coronavirus pandemic has certainly created an unprecedented challenge. It has become a kind of test for “true friendship.” As we know, a friend in need is a friend indeed. However, several states decided not to share their vaccines. Probably, this approach is not justified by human morality or ethics, especially under conditions of interdependence and globalisation. We share these moral principles, as do our dear Indian friends.

Thank you for your kind words about the assistance we have been providing to Indians in these difficult times. During the past month, we managed to organise several large consignments of humanitarian medical aid, including the Sputnik V vaccine and other medications. We are currently developing the production of this vaccine in India. We hope that by taking these and other steps, by pooling our efforts, we will manage to deal with this grievous disease and protect the health of our people as soon as possible.

As for revealing the source of the virus, as you know, the WHO has made serious efforts in this respect. It sent experts to China. They came from 10 countries, including Russia. They also represented related international agencies. The results of their inquiry were published immediately after their visit. They were also presented at the 74th World Health Assembly that ended last week.

You are right. There are no decisive conclusions on the initial origins of COVID-19 so far, but this is not unique. Neither WHO specialists nor we know yet the origins of the Ebola virus that appeared in the 1970s. The specialists continue working on this. As you know, I am not well versed in this discipline, but I am convinced that the specialists must continue this work without politicising it. Any attempt to politicise the situation around COVID-19 is similar to efforts we are seeing in other areas. They reflect a striving of some countries to use methods of unfair competition. We need to develop comprehensive and transparent international cooperation on further studies of the origin of the virus, and, most importantly, on overcoming the pandemic. Talk about who is to blame and who is innocent must not obstruct any response effort.

When emergencies in health protection occur, the main goal is to have strong national healthcare and sanitary-epidemiological systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed this conclusion. I think the countries with well-organised healthcare systems and a high ability to mobilise medical and other resources have made a more effective response to the challenge of the coronavirus infection.

As for international cooperation, we have been developing this for some time, practically from the start of the pandemic through both bilateral channels and via international agencies. We promote the realisation of the International Health Regulations. They were drafted at our initiative and approved by the WHO but have not yet been incorporated into practical systems in many countries. These regulations are the main instrument of international law in developing national systems for preventing and dealing with epidemics like this. So, the way out of the current crisis probably lies in coordination, transparency, as well as an ability and willingness to share experience and pool efforts.

Question: Would it be possible and desirable for the United States and Russia to undertake, as part of studying cyberspace challenges, to work on countering cyber attacks by criminal groups that use ransomware against a particular country emanating from Russia or the United States? What could the parameters of such cooperation be? Or is the level of mistrust so great that this kind of cooperation is simply not possible now?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been hearing accusations against us of all kinds of transgressions for many years now. With regard to the cyber world, I mentioned the 2016 elections. In later occurrences, a number of incidents in the United States or other countries were immediately and publicly ascribed to the Russian Federation. Not a single fact has ever been presented to us. Now, the latest incident (President Vladimir Putin commented on this at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum) is the notorious attack against Colonial Pipeline and meat processor GBS. Even you in your question wonder whether it is possible to establish cooperation between Russia and the United States on investigating such incidents and on fighting criminal groups, in particular those that demand ransom. Even from this question, it becomes clear that you are motivated by a surge in public opinion about two specific incidents. Notably, I would like to stress, that the US administration does not promote the thesis that the Russian state is responsible for these incidents.

Antony Blinken recently said that these are probably private hackers, but Russia must stop them, because they originate from its territory. As a reminder in this regard (double standards), when the problems in the United States were at their height, American social media and internet platforms were blocking access to information on a particular issue. This topic was discussed, among other things, at the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We emphasised the responsibility of the United States, just like any other country, to ensure that its citizens have 100 percent access to any kind of information. Then the American side told us: “Right, but these are the obligations of the state, and we are talking about the actions of private corporations. We cannot be responsible for their actions.” In this case, the Americans are urging Russia to find these “private operators” and still fulfil the function of the state to suppress illegal actions. Let’s make sure we all follow the rules, and that the rules are universally applicable. Any state that has signed on to the obligation to ensure freedom of access to information is obliged to do so regardless of who is hiding the information – a state entity or a private corporation. Moreover, the bulk of all information is now in the hands of private corporations.

Now, I would like to say a few words about cybersecurity. We not only want, but we have repeatedly proposed to the United States, even, perhaps, somewhat obtrusively, to deal with this issue. When, as part of the above accusations we heard in 2016 (the Obama administration began alleging these things back in October, before the election day) we were presented with claims, we reminded our American colleagues that there’s a closed channel between Moscow and Washington in case of incidents, including in cyberspace. After accusations against the Russian Federation of interfering in the US elections were loudly read out, we suggested that the Americans provide us, through this closed channel, with the facts corroborating their concerns. We sent this proposal, I think, seven times from October 2016 to January 2017, right up to the Trump inauguration. None of these proposals were answered by the Obama administration’s relevant services. Instead, an annoyed Barack Obama, at the end of his tenure, raided and seized our diplomatic property in the US and drove the diplomats out. This impulsive step was a response to our professional offers to do honest and specific work.

This is not the only example. The cybersecurity dialogue with Washington was frozen through no fault of ours. Subsequently, we proposed returning to it. In July 2017, we handed over a draft memorandum on establishing a Russian-American ICT security group. The response appeared to be positive, and we agreed to hold the first meeting in Geneva in early 2018. The US delegation went there, and the Russian delegation was on its way there, too, but when our specialists landed at the Geneva airport, they were told that the Americans canceled the meeting without providing any meaningful reason.

In September 2020, President Vladimir Putin, at his level, issued a statement on how we would want to see cooperation between the United States and the Russian Federation in developing a comprehensive programme of measures to restore cooperation in this sphere. It included specific proposals. After President Biden’s inauguration, we reaffirmed this proposal. It is being reviewed by the US administration. I hope that we will find out in Geneva the reaction of President Biden and his team. The UN is working on international cybersecurity in the context of military-political problems, and at the same time a decision was made to start developing a convention on combating cybercrime. This is exactly what happened to Colonial Pipeline and the GBS meat processing company. In both cases, a consensus was reached, although before that our Western colleagues had objections. But consensus was reached on both issues. I have reason to hope that this will help advance the bilateral dialogue as well. But most importantly, the dialogue must be conducted professionally, rather than loudly and without facts.

Question: Angela Merkel has been Germany’s chancellor for 16 years. What is your opinion of Russian-German relations over this period? How will they change?

Sergey Lavrov: This is another issue President Vladimir Putin spoke about during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). He expressed his opinion of the professionalism and experience of Chancellor Merkel and his satisfaction with their cooperation. Of course, we are monitoring the developments in Germany in the context of the upcoming elections. We hope that their outcome will ensure what I wanted to describe as continuity in our relations, but it would be better if it were not just continuity in the form of a regular dialogue, but continuity that would also take into account the lessons of the past 16 years.

When President Putin assumed his position in the Kremlin after the 2000 election, one of his first foreign visits was to Germany. He addressed the Bundestag in German. Many of us, including yours truly, perceived the emotional and positive energy of his address as the addition of a personal dimension to the previous historical reconciliation of the Russian and German nations. This was obvious.  He invested a huge part of his authority and his policy into Russian-German relations, into reconciliation that should take the form of practical deeds in great many spheres. We are not to blame that our relations have cooled. Incidentally, alarming signs appeared even before 2013 or 2014. For example, in 2010, then President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev had a summit meeting with Chancellor Merkel in Meseberg. One of the decisions reached concerned the establishment of a Russian-German crisis management committee. It was not designed as a simple discussion venue, but as a body that would coordinate joint crisis settlement mechanisms. On the practical level they mentioned Transnistria. The document was coordinated, but Germany later abandoned all efforts to implement it.

Of course, we are aware that the main reason for a far from sunny state of our bilateral relations is support provided by Berlin, the EU in general and the West as a whole to the armed, bloody and anti-constitutional coup that took place in Ukraine in February 2014, barely 12 hours after Germany, France and Poland, acting through their foreign ministers, said they would guarantee compliance with the agreement on a settlement between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition.  The agreement was buried by the opposition signatories the very next day. Germany, France, Poland and the EU, which these countries represented, did nothing to challenge the opposition in response to our calls; worse than that, they even encouraged the new turn of events. Those who came to power put forth their anti-Russia position in their very first statements; they called for throwing Russians out of Crimea and sent trains with armed thugs there.

Germany and other European countries closed their eyes to these developments (the United States did the same), saying that reality on the ground had changed. In addition to this extremely negative policy, they accused us of violating the rules they themselves invented, and denounced the free expression of the people’s will in Crimea as annexation. Sanctions were adopted against Russia for the failure of European diplomacy to force the opposition to honour the agreements reached with President Yanukovych through the mediation of Germany, France and Poland.

This is when it all began. But we did not get confrontational; we did not cancel the planned Russia-EU summit. Despite all of this, in 2014 President Putin attended the celebrations of the allied landing in Normandy and the opening of the Second Front. It was there that the sides coordinated the Normandy Format, which led to the signing of the Minsk Agreements in February 2015. We thought once again that the document would be honoured. But just as in the case of the February 2014 agreement, the Minsk Agreements are not being implemented, and it is deeply regrettable that Germany and France, as parties of the Normandy format, are trying to justify Kiev’s absolutely destructive position. Vladimir Zelensky said more than once that he doesn’t want to implement the Minsk Agreements, but that he wants to keep them because as long as they exist there will be sanctions against Russia. Our German, French and other colleagues have never tried to overturn this logic or as much as comment on such statements.   We do want to have normal relations with Germany and work together with it to settle the crises that exist in our common space, in our neighbourhood. But we would like to see that Germany is able to honour agreements.

We appreciate Berlin’s stand in the face of US attacks on Nord Stream 2, which began during Donald Trump’s presidency. President Putin mentioned this as well. But he also pointed out that Germany has done this for a reason, because this is in the fundamental interests of Germany. Incidentally, the story with Nord Stream 2 is not over yet. I have read comments by Antony Blinken to the effect that they are discussing ways for Ukraine to preserve fees for the transit of gas to the EU. We have a transit agreement with Ukraine until 2024. What will happen after that should be discussed, but the US administration is already discussing what should be done to protect Ukraine from harm. According to Blinken, one of the possible ways is to extend the transit agreement “for many years into the future,” so that Ukraine will continue to benefit from the transit fees. If this doesn’t work out, another option is to compensate for the transit fees that Kiev may lose, which is something the Europeans should do.

In other words, the Europeans’ attitude to the issues on which we are cooperating will be put to the test many times yet. I hope very much that the German people will be guided by their interests, just as they always have been throughout their history. We are interested in strengthening our partnership as much as possible. Many people say that the Russian-German partnership and rapprochement threaten the trans-Atlantic alliance. But this is an issue for the future periods of geopolitical research.

Syria and COVID: Refuting the Lies with Mark Taliano

By Mark Taliano and John Shuck

Global Research, June 09, 2021

Progressive Spirit

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version). 

Visit and follow us on Instagram at @crg_globalresearch.

***

Mark Taliano published the second edition of Voices From Syria with co-author Syrian journalist, Basma Qaddour.

Mark is an educator and an activist.

He writes: 

“We are all being swept across a stormy frothing sea, rudderless, despairing. Not one of us is alone. When we find a common language of truth and peace, we will find salvation. The cancerous hands controlling our fates, our thoughts, our minds, keeping us apart, will be no more. Then we will be free.”

Indeed.

Mark talks with me about Syria and he minces no words in describing the evil unleashed on the Syrian people by the United States, Israel, and their allies through their terrorist proxies, Al Qaeda, Daesh and other mercenaries. We discuss the recent election in Syria and its meaning.  We also discuss the scamdemic and the dictatorship we are under with the excuse of a virus from his perspective in Ontario, Canada.

Mark researches and writes for Global Research with Michel Chossudovsky. 

Mark Taliano is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and the author of Voices from Syria, Global Research Publishers, 2017. Visit the author’s website at https://www.marktaliano.net.


Order Mark Taliano’s Book “Voices from Syria” directly from Global Research.

Mark Taliano combines years of research with on-the-ground observations to present an informed and well-documented analysis that refutes  the mainstream media narratives on Syria. 

Voices from Syria 

ISBN: 978-0-9879389-1-6

Author: Mark Taliano

Year: 2017

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How St. Petersburg is mapping the Eurasian Century

How St. Petersburg is mapping the Eurasian Century

June 04, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

It’s impossible to understand the finer points of what’s happening on the ground in Russia and across Eurasia, business-wise, without following the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

So let’s cut to the chase, and offer a few choice examples of what is discussed on top panels.

The Russian Far East – Here’s a discussion on the – largely successful – strategies boosting productive investment in industry and infrastructure across the Russian Far East. Manufacturing in Russia grew by 12.2% between 2015 and 2020; in the Far East it was almost double, 23.1%. And from 2018 to 2020, per capita investment in fixed capital was 40% higher than the national average. The next steps center on improving infrastructure; opening global markets to Russian companies; and most of all, finding the necessary funds (China? South Korea?) for advanced tech.

St. Isaac’s cathedral, St. Petersburg

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – As I’ve seen for myself in previous editions of the forum, there’s nothing remotely similar in the West in terms of seriously discussing an organization like the SCO – which has progressively evolved from its initial security focus towards a wide-ranging politico-economic role.

Russia presided the SCO in 2019-2020, when foreign policy got a fresh impetus and the socioeconomic consequences of Covid-19 were seriously addressed. Now the collective emphasis should be on how to turn these member nations – especially the Central Asian “stans” – more attractive for global investors. Panelists include former SCO secretary-general Rashid Alimov, and the current one, Vladimir Norov.

Eurasian partnership – This discussion involves what should be one of the key nodes of the Eurasian Century: the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). An important historical precedent apply: the 8th-9th centuries Volga trade route that connected Western Europe to Persia – and could now be extended, in a variation of the Maritime Silk Road, all the way to ports in India. That raises a number of questions, ranging from the development of trade and technology to the harmonic implementation of digital platforms. Here one finds panelists from Russia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

The Greater Eurasian partnership – Greater Eurasia is the overarching Russian concept applied to the consolidation of the Eurasian Century. This discussion is largely focused on Big Tech, including full digitalization, automated managing systems and Green growth. The question is how a radical tech transition could work for pan-Eurasia interests.

And that’s where the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) comes in: how the EAEU’s drive for a Greater Eurasian Partnership should work in practice. Panelists include the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Mikhail Myasnikovich, and a relic from the Yeltsin past: Anatoliy Chubais, who is now Putin’s special representative for “relations with international organizations to achieve sustainable development goals.”

Gotta ditch all those greenbacks

Arguably the most eye-catching panel on SPIEF was on the post-Covid-19 “new normal” (or abnormal), and how economics will be reshaped. An important sub-section is how Russia can possibly capitalize on it, in terms of productive growth. That was a unique opportunity to see IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Russian Central Bank governor Elvira Nabiullina and Russian Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov debating on the same table.

It was Siluanov who in fact commanded all the SPIEF-related headlines when he announced that Russia will totally ditch the US dollar in the structure of the National Wealth Fund (NWF) – the de facto Russian sovereign wealth fund – as well as reduce the share of the British pound. The NWF will have more euros and yuan, more gold, and the yen’s share remains stable.

This ongoing de-dollarization process has been more than predictable. In May, for the first time, less than 50% of Russian exports were denominated in US dollars.

Siluanov explained that the sales of roughly $119 billion in liquid assets will go through the Russian Central Bank, and not through financial markets. In practice, that will be a simple technical transfer of euros to the NWF. The Central Bank after all has been steadily getting rid of the US dollars for years now.

Sooner or later, China will follow. In parallel, some nations across Eurasia, in an extremely discreet manner, are also bypassing what is de facto the currency of a debt-based economy – to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars, as Michael Hudson has been explaining in detail. Not to mention that transacting US dollars exposes whole nations to an extra-territorial, extortionary judicial machine.

On the all-important Chinese-Russian front, permeating all the discussions at SPIEF, is the fact that a pool of Chinese technical knowhow and Russian energy is more than able to solidify a massive pan-Eurasian market capable of dwarfing the West. History tells us that in 1400, India and China were responsible for half of the world’s GDP.

As the West wallows in a self-induced Build Back Better collapse, the Eurasian caravan seems unstoppable. But then, there are those pesky US sanctions.

The Valdai Discussion Club Session dug deeper into the hysteria: sanctions serving a political agenda are threatening vast swathes of the world economic and financial infrastructure. So we’re back once again to the inescapable syndrome of the weaponized US dollar – deployed against India buying Iranian oil and Russian military hardware, or against Chinese tech companies.

Panelists including Russian Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev and the UN Special Rapporteur on the “Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights”, Alena Douhan, debated the inevitable new escalation of anti-Russian sanctions.

Another running theme underneath the SPIEF debates is that, whatever happens on the sanctions front, Russia already has an alternative to SWIFT, and so does China. Both systems are compatible with SWIFT in software, so other nations may also be able use it.

No less than 30% of SWIFT’s traffic involves Russia. If that “nuclear “option” would ever come to pass, nations trading with Russia would almost certainly ditch SWIFT. On top of it, Russia, China and Iran – the “threat” trio to the Hegemon – have currency swap agreements, bilaterally and with other nations.

SPIEF this year has taken place only a few days before the G7, NATO and US-EU summits – which will graphically highlight European geopolitical irrelevancy, reduced to the status of a platform for US power projection.

And taking place less than two weeks before the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva, SPIEF most of all performed a public service for those who care to notice, charting some of the most important practical contours of the Eurasian Century.

Vladimir Putin at the plenary session of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

June 04, 2021

Vladimir Putin at the plenary session of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65746

http://en.kremlin.ru/misc/65746/videos/4789

This year’s forum, with the theme A Collective Reckoning of the New Global Economic Reality, is one of the biggest events since the start of the pandemic. Heads of state and government, heads of major Russian and international associations, companies and banks, leading experts and politicians are taking part in discussions at the SPIEF in person or via videoconference.

* * *

Stanislav Natanzon, plenary session moderator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I am happy to welcome you all at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

This is the first global event of this level that people are attending in person, or at least it is a ‘hybrid’ event, to use the new buzzword. In any case, it is good to see you again. I think we have quite a backlog of topics for discussion, and I really hope the conversation today will be vibrant, frank and intense.

By tradition, we will first give the floor to the leaders and then we will have a discussion.

Mr President, please, you are the first to have the floor.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Highness Emir Tamim, Mr Federal Chancellor Kurz, ladies and gentlemen, friends,

I welcome all the participants and guests of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

As you know, since the beginning of last year, most meetings at many traditional venues have been cancelled or were attended remotely because of the pandemic. We are happy that after this long break, Russia is hosting the first major international business event and providing a platform for representatives of the global business community to communicate with each other, not only using modern telecommunications, but directly. At the same time, we have certainly done our best to ensure the participants’ safety and adopted the most stringent sanitary protocols.

I repeat, the very fact that this massive forum is being held is certainly a positive sign. This once again shows that partner-like ties and contacts between entrepreneurs, investors and experts are gradually becoming customary and normal once again.

We are also witnessing the same positive global economic trends. Despite the all-out 2020 slump that, according to experts, was the greatest since World War II, one can already safely say that the global economy is returning to normal. The global GDP is expected to post unusually high growth rates this year, the biggest rise since the 1970s. As you know, experts are talking about six percent growth.

This, of course, was an effect of the large-scale and extraordinary decisions made by economic authorities worldwide. By the way, practice showed that traditional monetary policy measures would not be enough to overcome the current crisis. The budgetary policy that was actively supported by central banks in developing countries for the first time has played a key role in the rapid economic recovery.

We should understand that leading economies have many resources and tools for stimulating business activity. The statistics speak for themselves: In 2020, industrial countries’ budget deficits increased by an average of ten percent of their GDPs, while in developing countries, the growth was about five percent. And we know that these budget deficits largely finance anti-crisis measures. Of course, it is good that such solutions are available, and this is, certainly, a positive aspect. Unfortunately, there are also some negative sides to this.

As a result, we can see that global economic recovery is proceeding unevenly, given the different capabilities of different countries. This is fraught with greater disproportions and wider gaps in living standards both within certain countries and between them. And this breeds serious political, economic and social risks for the development of the modern interdependent world and for our common security. I have already spoken about this at the World Economic Forum in Davos this past January.

A case in point is our efforts to fight the pandemic. Unless we ensure broad, universal access to coronavirus vaccines on all continents, the threat of the pandemic, its new outbreaks will remain with us. Pockets of infection will survive, posing a threat to the entire planet.

What do we see now? According to the IMF, countries with a high level of income and 16 percent of the world’s population have access to 50 percent of the vaccines produced. As the result, only 10 percent of the world’s population have been fully vaccinated or received the first jab, whereas hundreds of millions of people have no access to vaccines simply because their countries do not have the required technology, production facilities or money to buy the vaccines. And the assistance being provided to these countries by those who can afford to do it has been negligibly small so far.

Regrettably, as the saying goes, it is every man for himself in the fight against the coronavirus on the global scale. The necessary volume of assistance is not being provided where it is badly needed now, or, which is absolutely absurd, politically motivated bans are imposed on the purchase of tested and effective vaccines that have been proved to be completely reliable. In the current situation this looks like unwillingness to protect one’s own citizens from this threat. This is indeed taking place; we have seen this happen.

As you know, Russia is contributing to the efforts against the coronavirus. We have created four vaccines, and these achievements of our scientists have been recognised throughout the world. For example, Sputnik V has been registered in 66 countries with a combined population of over 3.2 billion.

I would like to point out specifically that we have not only created unique technologies and promptly launched vaccine production in Russia, but we are also helping our foreign partners localise their manufacturing as well. So far, Russia is the only country doing this.

As I have already mentioned, today every adult in Russia can receive a vaccine in maximally comfortable conditions, voluntarily and free of charge. I would like to use this occasion to once again urge our citizens to make use of this opportunity to protect themselves and their loved ones. As I have said, the Russian vaccine has been declared the safest and most effective vaccine in the world, with an efficacy of over 96 percent. According to our regulatory bodies, not a single death has been reported among those who received the vaccine. I have already said this, and I can judge from my own experience: you can get a small fever, and this is the only side effect, while the protection is very strong.

In addition, I would like to ask the Government, regions and business to work jointly on the vaccination of people who come to Russia as migrant labourers. Many of them work in our construction industry, in trade and services, as well as in housing and utilities.

The domestic pharmaceutical industry is ready to continue increasing the production of vaccines. We fully meet our own requirements and can give foreigners an opportunity to come to Russia for vaccination. Given the efficiency of our vaccines, I know that the demand for them is high. Moreover, it is now common practice for people from various countries, including entrepreneurs, heads of large European and other companies, to make special trips to Russia to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In this context, I would like to ask the Government to analyse all aspects of this issue before the end of this month so as to organise paid vaccination for foreigners in this country, taking into account, of course, security requirements and sanitary control.

Colleagues,

Obviously now, at the stage of post-crisis recovery it is important not only to ensure sustainable growth but also to benefit from the emerging opportunities and effectively develop competitive advantages as well as the scientific and technological potential. In the process, it is very important to preserve and strengthen business and investment ties between countries.

Multilateral projects are primarily capable of reviving and developing the global economy and we are grateful to our partners for the cooperation that is continuing during the epidemic and despite the difficult situation in international relations.

Incidentally, I would like to tell you in this connection that the laying of the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was completed today, two and a half hours ago. The work on its second line continues.

In fact, the line pipe, including the offshore section, has been laid. The pipe in Germany is in place. Now parts of the pipe must be lifted and welded on the Russian side. That is all. Anyway, pipe laying is over.

The readiness of the Russian line of the gas route to the Slavyanskaya compressor station was also ensured this week. Why am I talking about this? Because this station is one of the most powerful compressor facilities in the world and is a point of departure for the new gas pipeline. Slavyanskaya has been supplied with gas.

To sum up, Gazprom is ready to fill Nord Stream 2 with gas. This route will create direct links between the Russian and German systems and will ensure energy security and reliable gas supplies for the Europeans, like Nord Stream 1. I must add that this project is profitable economically and fully conforms to the most stringent environmental and technical requirements.

We are ready to implement similar high-tech projects with our European and other partners in the future, and we hope that the logic of mutual benefit and mutual profit will inevitably prevail over all sorts of artificial barriers in the current political environment.

Now allow me to say a few words about some of the priorities on our domestic business agenda.

Thanks to the prompt and timely measures taken, the Russian economy and labour market are already approaching their pre-crisis levels. We have managed to save millions of jobs and avoid a sharp drop in people’s incomes. True, we have encountered problems. Unemployment increased and real incomes declined; we all know this. But none of that was anywhere near the disaster that could have happened, given the circumstances. That, at least, we have managed to avoid.

We have prevented a sharp drop in incomes, as I said. Our decisions to support businesses, workers, and regions have worked. The targeted assistance provided to Russian families and people who lost their jobs also came highly useful.

Indeed, difficulties with employment remain. We will probably talk about this later. We also know that the pandemic is not the only reason for the challenges we are facing such as a relatively high unemployment rate among young people or strained regional labour markets. We know we cannot blame everything on the pandemic, and we understand that some of these problems have a systemic nature stemming from unresolved structural problems in our economy.

The Government should enhance its programmes to promote employment in those constituent regions where unemployment is still high. At the same time, I emphasise, we need to continue taking targeted action, and propose solutions that take into account the economic specifics in each region. Furthermore, I am instructing the government to launch a permanent nationwide programme to support employment of young people, including measures to promote youth entrepreneurship.

It is obvious that the main, systemic response to the employment problem, and the key condition for raising people’s incomes is economic growth. This is obvious, and everyone understands it. New, high-quality jobs are needed in all sectors and regions of Russia.

World history shows that the relaunch of the economy following serious shocks has always been connected to boosting investment in infrastructure, territorial development, new technologies and personnel training.

I would like to thank the Russian regions that did not take a break or find excuses amid the most difficult pandemic environment that required great concentration of resources and attention, but continued to work on improving their business climate, maintaining dialogue with businesses and attracting investors. These regions have been rightfully distinguished by the National Investment Climate Ranking. Thus, Bashkortostan, Nizhny Novgorod Region and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area are listed among the ten best regions to invest in; Samara, Sakhalin and Chelyabinsk regions have shown good dynamics.

We will provide systemic assistance to the regions in improving the business environment. I would like to ask the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoys to boost efforts in this area and the Government to focus on supporting the regions that have difficulties with raising investment. It is necessary to help them introduce the best management practices and improve the level and quality of work with investors.

This task is quite concrete: a transparent, predictable and comfortable environment must be provided for businesses, private investments and new projects in all Russian regions by 2024.

In particular, each region will need to outline priority development areas; this information will be open to businesses, as well as the region’s urban development and infrastructure plans for building utility lines, roads and communication systems, so that it would be easier for businesses to pick the best place for their new production site or other facility.

It is necessary to eliminate excessive links in the chain, various superfluous formalities and approvals, first of all, for the most sensitive areas such as connection to the grid, construction permits, and others.

We are consistently removing dated requirements at the federal level. Thus, starting September 1, almost 4,000 more building codes and regulations will no longer be mandatory. That will leave only 3,000 mandatory requirements in construction of the more than 10,000 we had previously. But there is still room for simplification.

I would like to note that this huge and painstaking work to streamline regulation took two years. Again, we will keep at this, while at the same time maintaining high requirements for the quality and reliability of construction.

I am asking the regional heads as well as the customers of major facilities at the federal and regional levels, and heads of our state-owned companies and private businesses to keep in mind that all construction permits will need to be prepared in line with the updated regulations and should take into account the rapid changes in construction technologies, and use advanced, highly sustainable building materials. All this will need to be considered.

In general, each region must offer an understandable, comprehensive algorithm for the investor to go all the way from project concept to the opening of a new industrial facility or a property as efficiently and quickly as possible, without wasting time or sustaining unnecessary costs.

I will once again stress the importance of cooperation between the Government and the regions. I would like to note that the performance of the federal ministers responsible for economic matters will also be evaluated by how quickly the situation improves in those regions where, as I said, there are still problems with the business and investment climate. Please do not pretend that this does not concern the federal government. This applies to everyone. We need a common result, and we need to work with the regions that need support.

Again, we should not have any so-called backward regions thrown on the sidelines of economic growth. Each constituent entity of the Russian Federation has investment and economic potential. We need to unlock and effectively use it in the interests of all Russians, for the good of all Russian families.

A programme of infrastructure loans that will give the regions an opportunity to attract long-term loans at a low interest rate will become a new instrument for their development. We have already spoken about this, discussed these matters and made public statements to the effect. In all, the actual investment in infrastructure under this programme must be no less than $500 billion in the next two and a half years.

I would like to ask regional governors to be very attentive to drafting projects for this type of funding. It is necessary to spend funds primarily on creating a comfortable environment for people and upgrading cities and other residential areas. This is a major factor of economic growth and investment appeal in the modern world, in the economy that surrounds people.

Based on the best international standards and the experience of rating the investment climate, the Agency for Strategic Initiatives drafted, in cooperation with experts and commissions of the State Council, a national rating of living standards in the regions of Russia. It is an important indicator and I would like to tell you about our first results in this respect.

Moscow, Tyumen Region, Tatarstan, the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area and St Petersburg are in the lead for obvious reasons. They are our traditional business centres. They have long invested serious funds in infrastructure for people. Importantly, more and more Russian regions are guided by high standards and are demonstrating good dynamics in many areas. Thus, the Republic of Mordovia has one of the best education systems; Udmurtia has very comfortable conditions for launching and running businesses, while Novgorod Region leads in social protection.

I would also like to mention such an interesting integral rating indicator as the commitment of people to their region, a desire to live and work there and link the future of their children with it. Sevastopol and Kaliningrad Region are at the top in this respect.

I would like to emphasise that the rating of the quality of life in the regions makes it possible to assess the situation objectively, to see which regions have the most experience and the best practices. Moreover, this rating is primarily based on the opinion of residents themselves. This feedback allows regional managerial teams to plan work better and to focus efforts on the most sensitive problems, such as, of course, more affordable housing.

I am aware that here, at the forum panels, and in the country in general, the issue is being discussed about what will happen next with reduced-APR mortgage lending, which, as you may recall, is now available at an APR of 6.5 percent. Indeed, this programme has become one of the key anti-crisis measures to support individuals and the economy. To date, over half a million households have applied for and received this loan. An additional 2 trillion rubles, approximately, have been attracted to housing construction.

As you may know, the programme will expire very soon, on July 1. To reiterate, this was an anti-crisis programme, meaning that it was temporary.

At the same time, abruptly terminating it is, of course, not an option. We must keep in mind the important role that easy-term mortgage lending is playing in the current circumstances for resolving our people’s housing problems and developing the construction industry, which, as we are aware, is the driving force behind related industries. Therefore, I propose extending this programme in all regions for another year, that is, until July 1, 2022. We will raise the rate slightly in doing so. Some changes will be made, including setting the easy-term mortgage rate at 7 percent APR. The maximum loan amount will be set at 3 million rubles and it will be applied throughout the country.

At the same time, I would like to let you know about a new decision designed to make mortgage loans more affordable for families with children. Here is what it is about. As you may be aware, a systemic special mortgage programme for families that had a second and subsequent child after January 1, 2018, is already in place. I propose expanding this to all families with children born after January 1, 2018, even if there is only one child in the family so far. That is, to reiterate, with the birth of their first child, a family will be able to take out a mortgage loan at a rate of 6 percent and buy housing on the primary market or refinance an existing mortgage loan. The maximum amount of such a loan for Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as the Moscow and Leningrad regions, where real estate prices are objectively higher, will be 12 million rubles, with 6 million rubles available in the other constituent entities of the Federation.

Colleagues,

We hope that a better quality of life and improved infrastructure in Russian regions will make them more attractive for promising projects, for more private investment, and will open up additional opportunities for large companies as well as small and medium-sized businesses, serving as an important support for the economy, and in many ways contributing to a modern, competitive business environment. Competition is the main driver of growth and, importantly, a market mechanism that keeps prices down.

Last year, we made a fundamental, systemic decision to support small and medium-sized businesses. We halved insurance premiums for small businesses from 30 to 15 percent. We will certainly not go back on this. Moreover, we are ready to take further steps to support entrepreneurship. I will mention some of them now.

Firstly, I propose launching a new mechanism to support SME lending as soon as this year – something we call umbrella guarantees.

Here is how it works. Our development institution, the SME Corporation, will issue guarantees for loans from partner banks. In fact, it will take on some of the risks and make loans more affordable for SMEs. According to estimates, this will allow entrepreneurs to attract additional resources for development, at least 600 billion rubles by 2024.

Secondly, I know that businesses, especially small ones, sometimes complain about the high bank charges on their trade and other operations.

We have already extended the faster payment system, which enables transactions with lower charges, for non-cash payments between individuals and entrepreneurs. However, so far, this system has not been as widely used by businesses as it could be.

As a reminder, by September 1, all the so-called systemically important, backbone banks in Russia must connect to the fast payments system. I also think it would be right if the largest of them do this in the very near future, by July 1.

In addition, I have one more proposal that I think will be a pleasant surprise for those who are involved in this type of business, small and medium companies. I am suggesting that they be fully reimbursed until the end of the year for the commission they pay for using the Fast Payments System (FPS) when they sell their services or goods to individuals, to people. I repeat: the cost of FPS will be zero for these companies.

I discussed this issue with my colleagues and the Governor of the Central Bank. It will be necessary to support financial institutions through the budget and avoid discouraging them.

My third point: companies that are now using the simplified taxation plan must transfer to the general tax schedule if they go beyond the employee limit or the revenue limit. Of course, in this case a business will have to shoulder an additional fiscal burden, and this can impede growth and compel entrepreneurs to use tricks, like the artificial division of a big company into small ones.

The restaurant business is a case in point in this respect. I suggest these companies participate in the pilot programme at the start of next year to work out the process for a more comfortable transition from the one tax schedule to the other.

With respect to some details, the companies in this programme will pay no VAT if their revenue is below 2 billion rubles a year. Importantly, they will retain the right to pay a reduced insurance premium rate of 15 percent even if their personnel count grows to 1,500 people. Currently the threshold is 250 people.

Colleagues, let us see what effect this has on keeping businesses legal and encouraging companies to grow. As for making businesses legal, I think all interested people understand what I am talking about: all cheques must go through the cash register; employment must be official and purchases must be legal as well, that is, recorded in the cash register. (Applause).

Thank you. I suppose we speak the same language. For my part, I will do all I can to see that the state meets its commitments.

I will add that we have already agreed to relieve of filing a tax declaration those entrepreneurs that are working under the simplified tax scheme and using cash registers. I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues in the Government and Parliament to the relevant draft law that was adopted in the first reading last year: it has stalled since then. Please finalise this as soon as possible.

Fourthly, small and medium-sized businesses must be relieved of antimonopoly oversight that is clearly excessive. Many existing threshold numbers have not been revised for a long time now and do not match today’s economic realities, since the economy and the companies keep growing.

For example, antitrust oversight covers all companies with annual revenue of over 400 million rubles. I propose doubling this amount to 800 million rubles, thus sparing a large number of growing companies burdensome and unnecessary reporting and paperwork. I propose setting a similarly higher threshold for oversight of mergers and acquisitions. That is, if a deal does not exceed 800 million rubles, it will not require the approval of antimonopoly authorities.

And, finally, my fifth point: measures to drive demand for the output of entrepreneurs across all sectors of the economy are especially relevant now. In this regard, I propose increasing the share of goods and services that our large companies, as well as state and municipal customers, must purchase from small and medium-sized enterprises, including non-profit organisations. It should be at least 25 percent.

We have held numerous discussions on this matter. I want to draw your attention right away to the fact that we are talking about companies that operate under Federal Law 223 and the companies that work with state and municipal authorities under Law 44. I am aware there are many subtleties here. And I know well that Russian industry does not even make certain products. However, the bar must be set where I said, and the Government will finalise the finer points.

In addition, it is imperative to cut the time it takes to pay for delivered goods and services from 30 to 15 business days, which is also important. Small businesses and socially oriented NGOs must see this time go from 15 to seven days.

Of course, real companies, not all sorts of sham or affiliated operations, should benefit from these preferences. I want the oversight authorities to keep this in mind. At the same time, I am instructing the Government to make sure that procurement for state needs involves mainly Russian manufacturers, of course, in compliance with internal competition rules, in this case.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I have said earlier, international cooperation must be instrumental in overcoming the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic. It is all the more important for us to pool our efforts in the face of common, systemic, long-term challenges that do not depend on the situation in the market or political disputes and setups, but determine the future of entire societies in a decisive way.

What am I talking about now? What am I referring to? Primarily, the climate agenda. Scientists estimate that over 2 trillion tonnes of greenhouse gases have accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere because of human economic activity. Every year, the volume goes up by 50 billion tonnes, gradually warming up the planet.

I often hear that Russia is not that interested in resolving global environmental problems. I can say that this is nonsense, a myth, and sometimes outright distortion. Like other countries, we feel the risks and threats in this area, including desertification, soil erosion and melting permafrost. Many of those here work in the Arctic and know that we have entire cities built on permafrost in the Arctic. If it all starts to thaw, what consequences will Russia face? Of course, we are concerned.

We are consistent supporters of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. I must emphasise that there is no separate Russian, European, Asian, or American climate. All our countries bear a common responsibility for today’s world and for the lives of future generations. We must set aside political and other differences and avoid turning the transition to “hydrocarbon neutrality” into an instrument of dishonest competition where attempts are made to change investment and trade flows in someone’s specific interests under the pretext of the hydrocarbon footprint, and where limited access to advanced ‘green’ technology becomes a factor in deterring individual countries and manufacturers.

How do we see Russia’s contribution to countering climate change? I am sure environmental and climate projects in our country will play a leading role in global efforts in climate conservation by virtue of Russia’s size, place and role in the world. We have set a goal: in the next 30 years the accumulated amount of pure greenhouse emissions must be lower in Russia than in Europe. This is an ambitious goal, but I am confident that it is feasible. I would like to ask the Government to draft a detailed plan of action on this before October 1 of this year. We will discuss this issue at a separate meeting.

What are our areas of focus?

The first one includes projects designed to reduce emissions throughout the economy. I have already mentioned that the Russian energy sector is increasing its share of low-carbon sources primarily through building nuclear and hydroelectric power plants and using renewable sources of energy. We have the world’s largest gas reserves, and while gas – we will probably discuss this later – is, of course, carbon, it is the purest kind of carbon, and we will be unable to do without it during the transition period.

Incidentally, using its nuclear industry as the foundation, Russia is already creating infrastructure for the production of hydrogen to be used as a raw material, fuel and energy source in metallurgy, the production of cement, and transport, among other areas.

We will also keep reducing emissions from hydrocarbon production and utilising associated gas. By the way, we probably utilise more gas this way than any other oil-producing country. We will thoroughly modernise the thermal power industry and electrify gas transport infrastructure. We also plan to further improve energy efficiency in the residential sector and heat supply systems, to switch public transport to natural gas, electric and hybrid engines, and to reduce material consumption in construction. In a word, we are talking about end-to-end technological retrofitting of our entire economy and infrastructure.

Clearly, such projects need market incentives in order to be launched successfully. To this end, we are starting to issue state-subsidised ‘green bonds.’ Also, we have developed performance criteria for environmental projects or a ‘green taxonomy’ in the parlance of experts.

Of course, reducing emissions is not enough to overcome the challenge of global warming. Greenhouse gas sequestration is essential if we want to achieve carbon neutrality. It is important to reduce existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and our main goal is to learn to capture, store, and make productive use of carbon dioxide coming from all sources.

Now, regarding a second area in this context: an entire industry, a fundamentally new market for so-called ‘carbon units’ is being created almost before our eyes. Many people, especially those in power production, are aware of this, but I will explain. This is the amount of harmful airborne emissions that can be absorbed by a section of land or forest. So, if you have done some additional work on your land to increase its ability to absorb the emissions in the air, you have created a number of carbon units. Many countries and associations are already planning to accept these units from exporters to offset the emissions from the production of imported goods.

Russia has enormous potential for emission absorption with its forests, tundra, agricultural lands and marshlands. Our country has a fifth of the world’s forests; they occupy almost 10 million square kilometres. Specialists and scientists believe that they are already absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents every year.

I repeat, the importance of Russia’s potential in natural compensation is enormous, simply huge in terms of the planet’s climate sustainability. Clearly, by virtue of its natural advantages, Russia can maintain a special place in the global market for carbon units. To achieve this, we need to use the forests and lands more effectively and enhance their absorption capacity. We must increase reforestation areas, fight wildfires, and expand pristine nature reserves, sanctuaries and national parks. In effect, we are now doing all this and intend to continue to do this in the future while introducing new soil-recovery agro-technology.

Importantly, we can work towards three objectives at the same time. Firstly, by investing in technology, the protection of forestry and land improvement, we will enhance the environmental wellbeing of our people, and the cities and territories they live in. Secondly, we will create jobs in the new high-tech industry of greenhouse emissions mitigation, and third,ly we will provide our exporters with an additional dimension for competitiveness in foreign markets.

This concerns many of you here in this hall. I would like you to see this as a direct message to Russian companies that are buying or starting to buy carbon units abroad or are planning to do this in the future. Instead, it is better to invest funds in climate projects in our country. Eventually, those who engage in this will receive many benefits, economic benefits. This effort will be more effective and oriented towards the future.

I would like to note that, based on our estimates, revenue from this new climate industry in the Russian market could soon surpass $50 billion a year, which is another important figure. In a word, this is a good, beneficial destination for investment by both domestic and foreign companies. We invite our interested partners to take part in this work. We will create the necessary conditions for this.

I would like to discuss several issues that are of critical importance for climate projects in Russia. It is necessary to work through in detail the criteria underlying these projects, to determine the sites and areas that are best suited for launching them, and the kind of technologies to use.

It is also imperative to create a transparent and objective system for assessing the outcome of climate projects. This is a critical part of what I am saying now – that is, to identify the current absorbing capacity of the sites and what it will be after the project is implemented. Actually, it is about calculating the delta in the form of the “carbon units” that I just mentioned.

All the while, it is important to monitor the emission and absorption of greenhouse gases based, among other things, on observations from outer space, digital technologies, and AI methods.

The construction of such a national system that makes use of the potential of Russian science is already underway in Russia. We are creating a network of “carbon testing grounds” to monitor carbon dioxide emission and absorption in real time, as well as the state of environmental systems, the quality of water resources and other variables.

We are also creating a pilot carbon market in Sakhalin Region. This experiment will come as a step towards achieving carbon neutrality and creating a nationwide carbon unit market.

I am aware that a system of this kind is about to be launched in other countries as well. Here is another important matter, which concerns mutual recognition of greenhouse gas emission and sequestration. This requires a transparent climate statistics system, mutual understanding between states and, of course, joint scientific research. We are open to this cooperation.

I am instructing the Government, by July 2022, to fully form the regulatory framework for implementing climate projects in Russia at the level of federal laws and departmental bylaws and guidelines, so that businesses, domestic and international alike, can draw up and implement their plans in this area relying on clear and easy-to-follow rules and criteria.

Colleagues, let me close by saying again that, despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic, life is gradually returning to normal. To reiterate, our meeting in St Petersburg is a case in point. Next week, St Petersburg will be hosting matches of the 2021 UEFA European championship which is getting underway.

On this note, I would like to convey my greetings to our great friend, the Emir of Qatar. It was his birthday yesterday. Our best wishes to you, Your Highness. I am confident that Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup 2022 with great success.

Such major events and forums truly unite and bring people from different countries closer. Businesspeople, of which there are many here, are well aware that in-person contacts based on mutual trust move forward, in many respects, business projects and initiatives, and, therefore, the global economy.

Russia will do its best to create every opportunity for these contacts to take place, for sharing experience and demonstrating the latest achievements in science and technology.

Thank you for your patience and your time, and I wish the forum every success.

Thank you very much.

The Current Status of Economy in Pakistan

The Current Status of Economy in Pakistan

June 03, 2021

By Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Official data released by the Government of Pakistan is encouraging very much. It shows an increase in foreign remittances, an increase in agri-produce, especially wheat, which is a staple food in Pakistan, and the GDP growth is projected at 3.9 percent, etc. All economic indicators seem satisfactory. If the data is accurate, we must congratulate the government and rank high achiever under COVID-19 era, whereas the global economy is in severe crisis.

However, public opinion is much different, and one can witness it when going to markets. The consumer products have a sharp rise in most commodities, especially the food and eatables prices have gone up. The items of daily use are also getting higher prices. Whereas the salaries are stagnant, there was no increase in wages since the PTI government came into power. Even the regular routine increments are halted. In the private sector, due to lockdowns, economic activities are also facing restrictions. There might be very few exceptions, but most people in Pakistan face low income or no increase in revenue. With limited and stagnant pay, meeting the sharp increase in inflation is not an easy task. People are tense and nervous.

The job market is almost halted; there are no new jobs in the Government sector, and the private sector is also not hiring because of limited business activities under COVID-19. However, the PTI government has made promises to create enormous new jobs but failed to meet its commitments. The creation of employment is directly related to GDP growth. With a population growth of 2 percent approximately, Pakistan can not afford new jobs with the meager GDP. However, Pakistani Universities are producing almost one and half million graduates every year, looking for jobs. The situation is rather vulnerable.

Internal and external debt is increasing, putting the nation in a much awkward situation. However, the exchange rate is stable for quite some time, which is appreciated.

Whatsoever is the official version, but the economic challenges are enormous multi-dimensional, including slower economic growth, rising unemployment, and poverty, massive fiscal deficit, growing public and external debts. However, these problems were inherited from previous few Governments like PP-Government from 2008-2013 and MPL-N Government from 2013-2018. But the current Government of PTI has not only failed to rectify but has aggregated to some extent.

PTI Government failed to improve the economic problems faced by the nation due to the incompetency of the economic team. The Finance Minister has been kept on changing on and off, which has damaged the political goodwill of PTI and may have lost public popularity already.

IMF has also played its role in worsening the situation. As a matter of fact, despite high claims by IMF, but failed all over the world to revive the economy globally. Most of the nation has suffered a bitter experience with IMF. Pakistan is no exception and believes that IMF has aggregated the problems instead of solving them.

Pakistan is a country blessed with abundant natural resources, mining and minerals are rich, and agriculture is one of our strengths. The population is around 220 million, with 70% of the population young under the age of 40. The huge, dynamic, diligent workforce is considered one of our strengths. A nuclear state, yet, so miserable economy, is beyond understanding. I believe it is mismanagement only; the real potential of Pakistan has not been exploited yet.

Pakistan has economists of international repute, trained by Nobel Laurents, like Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan. He has given a few recommendations to the Government of Pakistan recently published in the Business recorder:-

The IMF program had got suspended in Pakistan after the onslaught of Coronavirus in late February 2020. With the suspension of the IMF program came the suspension of hara-kiri attached with the program in raising electricity and gas prices, interest rate, and devaluation of the rupee. The interest rate was brought down from 13.25 percent to 7.0 percent in a few months; the exchange rate exhibited a modicum of stability and appreciated after the suspension of the IMF program; gas and electricity tariffs remained unchanged during the suspension. Such a suspension of the IMF program on account of Covid-19 brought tremendous positivity to Pakistan’s economy. It boosted the private sector’s confidence as they knew that utilities’ prices would remain unchanged, interest rates started declining. The government came forward to support businesses/industries and the poor segments of the country lavishly.

All these measures restored the confidence of the market and the private sector; the air of uncertainty was removed. The private sector moved forward, the credit off-take started rising, industrial activity was on the move, exports began gaining momentum, and the overall economy gained traction. All these were happening because of the suspension of the IMF program.

At the back of these developments, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases for the last two months. Business activities are being affected. The first thing that the government can do is to request the IMF for further suspension of the IMF program for a year and take this as an opportunity to revive the economy. Alternatively, Pakistan should renegotiate with the IMF and insist that there will be no more hike in the tariffs of electricity and gas, and the tax target for the FBR will be based on the ground realities of the economy. Pakistan should concentrate on wide-ranging reforms in the power sector (raising electricity prices is no reform; it is equivalent to maintain the status quo), tax system and tax administration reform, and reform in agriculture and industries. Reforms in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) law in the name of giving more autonomy as proposed by the IMF is like creating a state within the state, and therefore, must not be accepted. Unfortunately, IMF has been used to coerce other nations, and Pakistan is one such victim.

Secondly, the government must hold the hands of businesses at all levels—small, medium, and large. It is not the time to increase the cost of doing business by raising utility prices, interest rates and devaluing the currency. Furthermore, the SBP must consider reducing the policy rate to 5 percent from the current level of 7.0 percent in two/three monetary policy meetings, that is, by December 2021. It is abundantly clear that by raising the discount rate, we cannot reduce inflation in Pakistan.

Thirdly, agriculture has remained neglected by successive governments for nearly 13 years. Pakistan used to produce cotton in the range of 13-14 million bales until 2014-15. The production of cotton has nosedived to 6-7 million bales now. What went wrong in cotton production? The government must find the answer and take necessary corrective measures during the next fiscal year (2021-22).

Fourthly, wheat production in Pakistan had stagnated at 25 million tons from 2010-11 until this year (according to the government, the country has witnessed a record production of 27.3 million tons this year). Still, its population has been growing each year. Resultantly, the per capita availability of wheat per annum has declined from 145 kg to 120kg in 2019-20. The country’s wheat production has failed to maintain the pace of its population growth rate. Pakistan is fast heading towards acquiring a permanent wheat importing country and accordingly creating a food security issue for itself. Pakistan has entered into the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in which agriculture is a priority area. Pakistan must learn to enhance wheat and cotton production from China under the CPEC.

Fifthly, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), construction, tourism, and IT sectors have strong potential to revive the economy and create enormous job opportunities because all these sectors are highly labor-intensive with high employment elasticity. These sectors are severely credit-constrained. These sectors should be provided credit directly through banking channels or the well-reputed NGOs. The government, on its part, must improve its physical infrastructure, for which budgetary allocation must be ensured.

Sixthly, the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 60.5 percent of agriculture and contributes 11.7 percent to GDP. This sector is almost equal to the large-scale manufacturing sector. Pakistan produces nearly 62 million tons of milk in a year. More than 8 million rural population derive their livelihoods from this sector. It is a highly labor-intensive sector and has enormous potential for creating jobs. The road to poverty alleviation in the rural area passes through the livestock and dairy sector, but it has remained neglected in Pakistan. The government may involve the private sector in the development of this sector to produce milk and dairy products to meet growing domestic and foreign demand.

Seventhly, in the second phase of the CPEC, besides agriculture, industrialization through the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is yet another priority area where progress is much desired. The government must use CPEC as a vehicle for reviving economic activity to achieve 6 to 7 percent growth in the next four to five years. Let us resolve that during the fiscal year 2021-22, at least one SEZ will become functional.

Eighthly, Karachi being the growth and revenue engine of Pakistan, will play a pivotal role in reviving economic activity in the country and sustaining 5-7 percent growth on a sustained basis. “Give me peace and stability in Karachi, and I will give you the revenue,” this is a historic quote of a former Chairman of the FBR to a former Prime Minister of Pakistan in the mid-1990s. Peace and stability in Karachi and improved infrastructure and cleanliness of the city will go a long way in sustaining higher economic growth. The political situation in Karachi must be handled with political foresight inclusiveness, equal opportunities, and local government empowerment.

Summing UP: To revive economic activity and to achieve a growth rate of 5-6 or even 7 percent in the next four to five years on a sustained basis, Pakistan needs to do the following: i) either suspend the IMF program for a year or renegotiate the cruelest program ever given to Pakistan; ii) no more hike in utility prices (gas and electricity) there is a need to reduce the price of electricity as Pakistan has excess capacity; iii) use both fiscal and monetary policy to revive economic activity; iv) reduce the discount rate or policy rate to 5 percent in the next 2/3 monetary policy meetings; v) primary emphasis be given to agriculture and seeking Chinese assistance under the second phase of the CPEC; vii) SMEs, livestock and dairy sector, construction, tourism, and IT sectors should form the priority areas along with agriculture; viii) undertake wide-ranging reforms in agriculture, industry, energy, taxation, and governance; and ix) peace and stability and better infrastructure in Karachi are vital for economic recovery.

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com).

Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

May 07, 2021

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Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Remarks at the meeting of the UN Security Council, “Maintenance of international peace and security: Upholding multilateralism and the United Nations-centred international system,” held via videoconference, Moscow, May 7, 2021

First of all, let me thank Mr Wang Yi, State Councillor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, for organising today’s debates. Maintaining multilateralism and the UN-centred international system is as topical as ever and demands the UN Security Council’s constant attention.

Today the world finds itself in a critical stage of development. The coronavirus pandemic has posed a grave challenge to everyone without exception. Normal life has been completely upended. It is difficult to predict the long-term or deferred consequences of the crisis, although we can see some positive trends thanks to the massive deployment of coronavirus vaccines.

The pandemic broke out in a world that was already far from perfect. In recent years, we have seen growing international tensions, as well as escalating regional conflicts and cross-border challenges and threats. The entire architecture of global governance created after the Second World War is being tested.

It is clear that the prospects of the international community’s sustainable and predictable development are directly connected with our ability to find effective solutions to common problems and our readiness to exercise collective leadership in order for true multilateralism to prevail.

Russia, like the majority of countries, is convinced that such work must be carried out solely on the basis of universally recognised norms of international law. The United Nations must serve as the key platform for coordinating efforts: it is the backbone of the modern global order, where all independent states are represented. Today, its unique legitimacy and unique capabilities are especially needed.

The core tenets of international law enshrined in the UN Charter have withstood the test of time. Russia calls on all states to unconditionally follow the purposes and principles of the Charter as they chart their foreign policies, respecting the sovereign equality of states, not interfering in their internal affairs, settling disputes by political and diplomatic means, and renouncing the threat or use of force. This is especially important at the current stage in the difficult process of forming an international multipolar system. At a time when new centres of economic growth, financial and political influence are gaining strength, it is necessary to preserve the internationally recognised legal basis for building a stable balance of interests that meets the new realities.

Unfortunately, not all of our partners are driven by the imperative to work in good faith to promote comprehensive multilateral cooperation. Realising that it is impossible to impose their unilateral or bloc priorities on other states within the framework of the UN, the leading Western countries have tried to reverse the process of forming a polycentric world and slow down the course of history.

Toward this end, the concept of the rules-based order is advanced as a substitute for international law. It should be noted that international law already is a body of rules, but rules agreed at universal platforms and reflecting consensus or broad agreement. The West’s goal is to oppose the collective efforts of all members of the world community with other rules developed in closed, non-inclusive formats, and then imposed on everyone else. We only see harm in such actions that bypass the UN and seek to usurp the only decision-making process that can claim global relevance.

The well-known idea to convene a Summit for Democracy proposed by the US Administration is in the same vein. The establishment of a new club based on interests, with a clearly ideological nature, has the potential to further inflame international tensions and deepen dividing lines in a world that needs a unifying agenda more than ever. Of course, the list of democracies to be invited to the summit will be determined by the United States.

Another initiative with the goal of global leadership that bypasses the UN is the French and German idea to create an Alliance for Multilateralism. What could be more natural then discussing the tasks of strengthening multilateralism at the UN? However, Berlin and Paris think differently and issue joint documents declaring that “the European Union is the cornerstone of the multilateral international system” and promote the conclusions of the Council of the European Union under the title “The central role of the European Union and European institutions in promoting multilateralism.” Presumptuous, you might say. The EU does not think so and declares its own exceptionalism despite all its invocations of equality and brotherhood.

By the way, as soon as we suggest discussing the current state of democracy not just within states but on the international stage with our Western colleagues, they lose interest in the conversation.

New ambitious initiatives to create narrow partnerships are emerging all the time within the Alliance for Multilateralism, on issues that are already being discussed at the UN or its specialised agencies, for example, on cyber security (with 65 member countries), respect for the international humanitarian law (43 member countries), the Information and Democracy Partnership (over 30 countries), etc.

This also reveals the West’s true attitude toward multilateralism and the UN, which they do not regard as a universal format for developing solutions acceptable to everyone, but in the context of their claims to superiority over everyone else, who must accept what is required of them.

Another example of the dictatorial methods introduced by the West is the practice of imposing unilateral sanctions without any international and legal grounds, with the sole purpose of punishing “undesirable regimes” or sidelining competitors. During the pandemic, such restrictions have limited the capacity of a whole range of developing countries to counter the spread of the infection. Despite UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call to suspend such unilateral sanctions during the pandemic, we mostly see them becoming harsher.

We believe such efforts to impose totalitarianism in global affairs to be unacceptable, yet we see it more and more from our Western colleagues, above all the United States, the European Union and other allies, who reject all principles of democracy and multilateralism on the global stage. As if to say, either it’s our way, or there will be repercussions.

It is striking that Western leaders, while openly undermining international law, do not hesitate to argue that the main task of world politics should be to counter the attempts of Russia and China to “change the rules-based order.” Such statements were made the other day following the G7 ministerial meeting in London. In other words, there has already been a substitution of concepts: the West is no longer concerned with the norms of international law and now requires everyone to follow its rules and observe its order. What’s more, US representatives freely admit that the USA and Great Britain have had the biggest hand in shaping these rules.

I am not saying all of this to ratchet up the confrontational rhetoric or advance an accusatory agenda. I am simply stating facts. But if we all support multilateralism in word, let us honestly search for ways to ensure that there is fairness in deed, without attempts to prove one’s superiority or infringe on another’s rights. I hope that this approach to maintaining multilateralism and the UN-centred system will guide the activities of the UN Secretary-General and his team.

I am convinced that the time has come to do away with medieval and colonial habits and recognise the reality of today’s interconnected and interdependent world. Honest and mutually respectful cooperation based on equal partnership between all states, guided by pragmatism and devoid of any ideology or politicisation, is what is needed now. It is the only way to improve the atmosphere in the world and ensure predictability in the advancement of the human race. That is especially true of such global challenges as the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs, climate change, new infectious diseases, and protecting human rights, starting with the most important one – the right to life.

I agree with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who stressed recently that no country can overcome such global threats to the lives of our citizens alone, not even the United States.

The permanent members of the UN Security Council are called on to play a key role in fostering open and direct dialogue about the most pressing problems of our time. According to the UN Charter, they bear special responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed convening a summit with the leaders of the five permanent members. We hope to make this idea a reality once the epidemiological situation in the world stabilises.

In conclusion I would like to emphasise that the UN, as the main multilateral platform, must keep pace with changes on the global stage. The organisation must constantly adapt to ever-changing conditions, while continuing to fully respect the division of labour between the main UN Charter bodies and maintaining the support of all the member states. At every stage of change, our actions must be measured by the improvements made to the United Nations’ real-world effectiveness.

Russia stands ready to continue working constructively with all partners who share these approaches in order to bolster the authority and fully unlock the potential of the UN as the true centre of multilateralism.

Thank you for your attention.

“What Will We Lose?”

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April 30, 2021

moi

This article is by my brother Alex Bartlett and was first published at Off Guardian.

What have we lost? ____ What are we losing?
What will we lose?

This is the question is it not? Even though tens of thousands of experts, thousands of skeptics and all of the rest of us have been consumed over the last year debating, questioning, arguing and worst of all, just listening to endless stream of covid coverage it really comes down to this.

After sifting through all of the science-sourced “facts”, claims, death statistics, cases updates (so many, many cases) and the dire, ever grim projections from our modern-day high priests with their computer models it really just comes down to this question.

What will we lose?

For many reasons I am reluctant to write about this subject. I know nothing of epidemiology or virology or public health. I really have no business writing about loss due to covid 19, my profession is in high demand for the moment, my wife is gainfully employed and recently promoted and our living situation is quite good.

I will not dare pretend that I can speak about real hardship or suffering due to covid compared to what small business owners would be going through or what the working poor have had to endure but at the same time, only a complete fool would suggest that they have not lost anything in the past year.

With this in mind, at the same time, I cannot fully ever hope to comprehend all that I, no, all that we have lost and all of the ways this has happened. The sheer magnitude of these changes, almost all entirely some kind of loss for the vast majority of us is truly staggering. Perhaps for the 1st time in a very long time, perhaps ever, the other majority, the world’s poorest citizens will finally see the rest of us experience real empathy, a genuine understanding of some of the challenges and daily injustices they have been forced to accept as a normal way of living.

The worst aspect of my personal situation so far is that my elderly mother has been basically imprisoned in a care facility for over a year, unable to see any family save for myself and my brother who have been permitted to be designated “essential caregivers” so that she may have a few visitors.

So far with this measure, our Ontario Government has not been heartless enough just yet to completely isolate the elderly but all other friends and family are forbidden to visit. The last time she was allowed outside, almost 8 months ago, she was in the presence of a “minder” who kept us 6 feet apart, masked and who afforded us no privacy. I will lose my mom soon, she may die alone, forcibly confined with simple pleasures like walks in a park, the chaotic, non-judgemental love of grandchildren with their extra exuberance on holidays and birthdays all but eliminated.

My children are also no longer allowed in school even though kids are not and never were at risk and at the moment, over 75% of our schools in Ontario did not even have a single “case” when last in session. They are not only losing education but also social skills, study skills, valuable daily interactions and life lessons as well as exercise and fresh air and tragically, a large portion of that small, finite amount of time where they could just simply be kids.

I feel despair most days when I see my daughter, perched at the dining room table in front of a laptop ready to sign into virtual school, on her own and alone. Our wonderful, neighbourhood school sits shuttered while my daughter emulates the routine of an office worker at the age of 8. At the end of the day we can sometimes catch ourselves almost berating her like low level managerial assholes for not paying attention and fooling around during the day with the computer. For Christ sakes, what have we become as parents?

My 5 years old son cannot even last a 20 minute lesson online by himself. I initially felt frustrated that he could not persist in the same fashion the other young innocents can in these disembodied zoom classes but now I could be more accepting of this except that we both have to work during this “school time” and we need him to be occupied. Maybe this lack of digital “focus” speaks to how little screen time he had prior to this abomination of online “learning” or maybe it is simply because he is just 5 years old and he has no business being treated like this.

Am I surprised at how easily I just became a jaded, middle aged man who mostly complains to like minded friends and who wears himself and others out with the same impotent questions about “why and “how” could this happen? I did try emailing almost anyone in authority to question the safety and efficacy of the school mask mandate but this effort soon failed after so many “cut and paste”, formulaic responses from the bureaucratic minders along with their links on “community spread” and “how to safely wear a mask.”

It would have been nice to actually have been able to talk to school staff about my concerns in person but parents have not been permitted inside the school for over a year now. Will we ever be allowed back inside our schools or will there be new measures, new “threats” to keep us outside or have we simply just lost this ability to view and interact with this critically formative environment we immerse our children into?

I have not had a haircut since November 2020. “Unsafe” they say while putting all hairdressers on welfare for the better part of a year and also while making “working from home” just that much more undignified. Dogs have actually been permitted more frequent access to professional grooming than adults have here in Ontario in the last year.

Perhaps this is why booze, marijuana and fast food have always been available during this pandemic. I guess they know that as long as we remain in a well-fed stupor with Netflix porting us from reality, there will be no real angst or frustration on the streets.

For a brief moment last week, when announcing our latest stay at home order due to our hypersensitive, 47 cycle PCR test cases (approximately 1 case for every 4,500 residents here in Ontario mind you), our bumbling high school educated Premier tried to impose a quasi-martial law edict. The police would have been able to stop you and question your intent if you ventured outside of you home. I found it laughable that you could legally comply by saying you were “off to buy booze, weed or fast food” and these would all be valid, essential destinations for such an excursion. Meeting a friend for a walk in the park though, this is not safe, nor recommended or even permitted!

Luckily, they pulled back from this stance, the lawyers probably said it was unlawful, the police probably said that they did not want to enforce this heavy handed stance and perhaps the weary, bleary eyed, stumbling public would have probably, finally, maybe have said “enough”.

At this point, I think only the naïve believe that our old lives are coming back. Perhaps that is why they are so willing, so adamant to get the jab. It is not really to save the lives of others or prevent the scourge of an infectious disease but because it mainly seems like most people just want to travel again or to have the chance to no longer have to hear or worry about covid constantly.

Once again, I realize I have no business writing about loss. My friends are still all employed, I really do not know anyone who runs a small shop or a restaurant. I have no idea what it would be like to watch your business disintegrate, the debts pile up and the financial vultures start circling around you. I do understand why these small business owners and employees would be so motivated for everyone to get vaccinated so that they can finally open up and claw their way out of this deep covid hole they have been plunged into with the other end of their government issued loan lifelines handed to the big banks as a financial noose around their necks that will continually tighten in the months and years to come.

For the moment the rest of us are all still shielded by this work from home employment model that has not had any significant layoffs due to a massive, unchecked national Government wage subsidy program that even pays a 70% wage subsidy to large, significantly profitable corporations that are still paying dividends to shareholders. This white-collar job market stability is still further enhanced here in Canada by the re-bounding stock market that keeps rising to ever record heights thanks to the government debt printing machines.

So, how much will they really take from us in the months and years to come?

Let’s forget about PCR testing cycles, what constitutes a “case” vs. a clinical case, vaccine trials, if masks work or if lockdowns really achieve anything. These are all unnecessarily divisive discussions that, in the absence of any real or honest mainstream journalism, will never be permitted to be resolved in the public forum.

What we should really care about is that our children have been forbidden to interact with each other, to pursue hobbies, musical lessons, school clubs or just simple play-time with their peers. They are sent to school, when deemed “safe” based on the computer models, bound and gagged as invalids for up to 8 hours a day. Lunchtimes and playtimes are truncated, discouraged and replaced with silent lunches in front of a screen and ”socially distanced” outdoor play during shortened recess periods.

What will school look like in the years to come? What kind of digital ID’s will our children be forced to carry with them at all times and which big Tech conglomerate will collect, curate, market and disseminate all of their medical, scholarly and personal data?

What will replace all of the small restaurants, pubs and shops that have gone under? Will all of these beautiful brick and mortar establishments be bought up on the cheap by a large private equity firm that will offer the least equitable employment terms to desperate applicants?

At the moment I am not supposed to leave my neighbourhood limits. When will I be able to travel internationally and what risks must I accept with new vaccines and boosters to qualify to come and go and what private information must I sacrifice upon request to comply?

I feel that most of the online world I encounter is awash in mis-information, how soon will it be before the small and beleaguered sources of genuine information that I can find online are completely demonetized, de-linked, banned or de-platformed from the internet? The access to content and commenting that we have lost in the last year alone would have been incomprehensible to almost all of us just a few years ago, now the most “liberal democrats” are braying for big tech and the regulators to do more, to take more stringent actions. Soon we may experience a very harsh and unforgiving internet, one that reports us for straying outside of the ever-narrowing community guidelines.

What about my freedom, my right to refuse a hastily developed medical technology, one that has not been thoroughly tested but is still supposed to, guaranteed to (almost) provoke the appropriate immune response to a virus that poses almost no harm to me whatsoever?

What about unintended consequences? What happens to me if I suddenly develop any number of rare or debilitating health conditions in the future? My chances of catching covid-19 or experiencing ill effects from it are quite low so why can’t I be allowed to take this risk without being judged for doing so?

What happened to our acquired knowledge as a society as to how to behave when sick? This has served us well for thousands of years. When our amazing immune systems were fighting a significant illness, it was almost always obvious that the sick individual should be cared for but isolated and kept from others.

Why have we lost this trust in ourselves and in our own judgement? We are still permitted to raise our children (for now) but we are unable to properly assess our own health and infectivity as it may pertain to others at work or at school? Exercising our own good judgement is a critical aspect of a well functioning, civil society. Removing this right, this freedom of choice will only lead to a punitive, dystopian type of society, one that eagerly turns on each other rather than to help one another.

The optimists, those that believe in the system, the same system that has half the planet living in poverty mind you but don’t worry about that, just a minor flaw, they believe this fabulous system of democracy and commerce will deliver us the health outcome we all deserve. It will protect us and our weakest and all we need to do is take a shot, or two or three, every year and don’t mind the costs or how or to whom the money was distributed, it was necessary, it will be worth it.

Once this happens, once we reach the now newly re-defined as solely vaccine derived “herd immunity” then life is back! School, travel, friends and family. You can have it all but you may need a mask for just a bit longer, maybe two masks actually.

The rest of us, a small vocal minority or perhaps, hopefully a larger, mostly silent and dumbfounded mass of citizens will finally start taking stock of what we have lost and what we are truly at risk of losing.

It is hard to do. I still want the others to be right. I want the vaccine to be safe and effective. I want the sacrifice to be worth it. I want to travel and do all the things I imagined I would do with friends and family and at work. I want my kids to have these same options that I had. I want to believe that my government and our health officials are working with our best interests in mind while unaffected by conflicts of interest.

But the data says otherwise. This data that has always been there. That data that shows us that Covid is neither dangerous or all that contagious to anyone under the age of 70. The historical data that tells us that Influenza A and B and all the other sub-types could not possibly just disappear worldwide in the last twelve months. The data, all the data, these recent 12 months of newly acquired covid raw numbers from all over the world that does not lie

So, the media does.

So do almost all Governments as well.

They have the full cooperation of all of the big tech companies for maximum efficacy. Information has never been more widely available but then immediately censored or “fact” checked. Prominent voices of reason, objectivity and truth are shadow banned or de-platformed. Even the miniscule, insignificant frustrated comments I make against my better judgement on our national news website are quickly and automatically deactivated within minutes of posting. I should know better than to waste the pixels, however temporary they might be.

What can be done? Not much on our own but then quite a lot if we all do something. Close to a half a million marched in London on April 24th. It was wonderful to see. How many more will march in May? I hope at least twice as many will next time and that they will persist, and persist and persist. I hope that as the weather warms, more and more people will see that it is possible to be outside and inside, to be together and to celebrate our lives, our professions and our passions together without shame or fear.

What else do we have to lose?

*

His previous article: Together But Falling Apart

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US vaccine profits over lives | On The News Line

Pressure is mounting on the United States to lift a patent-related restriction, allowing other nations access to develop Covid-19 vaccines and treatments for the respiratory disease. It comes down to the priorities: saving lives, or making a profit? So far, the US has opted to make profits at the expense of innocent lives, while hoarding the vaccine for its own citizens.

The Israeli People Committee’s April Report on the lethal impact of vaccinations

 BY GILAD ATZMON

israel covid.jpg

by Gilad Atzmon

The Israeli People Committee (IPC), a civilian body made of leading Israeli health experts, has published its April report into the Pfizer vaccine’s side effects.* The findings are catastrophic on every possible level.

Their verdict is that “there has never been a vaccine that has harmed as many people.”  The report is long and detailed. I will outline just some of the most devastating findings presented in the report.

“We received 288 death reports in proximity to vaccination (90% up to 10 days after the vaccination), 64% of those were men.” Yet the report states, “according to data provided by the Ministry of Health, only 45 deaths in Israel were vaccine related.” If the numbers above are sincere then Israel, which claimed to conduct a world experiment, failed to genuinely report on its experiment’s results. We often hear about blood clots caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine. For instance, we learned this morning about 300 cases of blood clots in of Europe. However, if the IPC’s findings are genuine, then in Israel alone the Pfizer vaccine may be associated with more deaths than AstraZeneca’s in the whole of Europe.   

“According to Central Bureau of Statistics data during January-February 2021, at the peak of the Israeli mass vaccination campaign, there was a 22% increase in overall mortality in Israel compared with the previous year. In fact, January-February 2021 have been the deadliest months in the last decade, with the highest overall mortality rates compared to corresponding months in the last 10 years.”

The IPC finds that “amongst the 20-29 age group the increase in overall mortality has been most dramatic. In this age group, we detect an increase of 32% in overall mortality in comparison with previous year.”

“Statistical analysis of information from the Central Bureau of Statistics, combined with information from the Ministry of Health, leads to the conclusion that the mortality rate amongst the vaccinated is estimated at about 1: 5000 (1: 13000 at ages 20-49, 1: 6000 at ages 50-69, 1: 1600 at ages 70+). According to this estimate, it is possible to estimate the number of deaths in Israel in proximity of the vaccine, as of today, at about 1000-1100 people.”

Again, if this statistical analysis is correct then the numbers reported by the Israeli health authorities are misleading by more than 22-fold.

Those who follow my writing are aware of my work on the undeniable correlation between vaccination, Covid-19 cases, deaths and the spread of mutant strains. The IPC confirms my observation, providing more crucial information regarding age groups. “There is a high correlation between the number of people vaccinated per day and the number of deaths per day, in the range of up to 10 days, in all age groups. Ages 20-49 – a range of 9 days from the date of vaccination to mortality, ages 50-69 – 5 days from the date of vaccination to mortality, ages 70 and up – 3 days from the date of vaccination to mortality.”

The IPC also reveals that the “the risk of mortality after the second vaccine is higher than the risk of mortality after the first vaccine.”

 But death isn’t the only risk to do with vaccination. The IPC reveals that “as of the date of publication of the report, 2066 reports of side effects have accumulated in the Civil Investigation Committee and the data continue to come in. These reports indicate damage to almost every system in the human body.…Our analysis found a relatively high rate of heart-related injuries, 26% of all cardiac events occurred in young people up to the age of 40, with the most common diagnosis in these cases being Myositis or Pericarditis. Also, a high rate of massive vaginal bleeding, neurological damage, and damage to the skeletal and skin systems has been observed. It should be noted that a significant number of reports of side effects are related, directly or indirectly, to Hypercoagulability (infarction),  Myocardial infarction, stroke, miscarriages, impaired blood flow to the limbs, pulmonary embolism.”  

In Israel, the government is desperate to vaccinate children. The IPC stresses that such a move can be disastrous.  “In light of the extent and severity of side effects, we would like to express the committee’s position that vaccinating children may also lead to side effects in them, as observed in adults, including the death of completely healthy children. Since the coronavirus does not endanger children at all, the committee believes that the Israeli government’s intention to vaccinate the children endangers their lives, health and their future development.”

The IPC stresses that “there has never been a vaccine that has affected so many people! The American VARES system presents 2204 mortality reports of vaccinated people in the United States in the first quarter of 2021, a figure that reflects an increase of thousands of percent from the annual average, which stood at 108 reports per year.”

I should mention that there has been very little coverage of the IPC’s work in the Israeli press. Those health experts are engaged in brave work, knowing that their license to work in the medical profession and livelihoods are at severe risk.  

To read the report in Hebrew click here

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False Flag Weekly News Censored by Youtube…for Attacking Censorship!

WATCH FALSE FLAG WEEKLY NEWS 

By Kevin BarrettVeterans Today Editor

FROM MY FORTHCOMING ARTICLE FOR AMERICAN FREE PRESS:

The problem of censors who don’t know fact from opinion struck home this Sunday when YouTube froze my channel for two weeks due to two strikes for what they call “medical misinformation.” My weekly news roundup show False Flag Weekly News has covered a wide range of medical and scientific experts’ views about COVID-19 related issues, including the safety and efficacy of vaccines. YouTube’s censors apparently didn’t like some of those views. They explained: “YouTube doesn’t allow claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO).”

On the show, I made no such claims. Instead I simply reported on the claims that various experts had made, without endorsing any of them. In fact, I was quite skeptical towards many of the alarmist claims of anti-vaccine scientists.

The fact that scientific experts like Geert Vanden Bossche, Mike YeadonReiner Fuellmich, and Sucharit Bhakdi are saying alarming things about COVID vaccines is…well, a fact, and a newsworthy one. The draconian censorship of such facts, and of the experts’ interpretations, suggests very strongly that the elites pushing the COVID party line have something to hide.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE OPENING OF THE CENSORED EPISODE:

FFWN_210424-audio.m4a

Kevin Barrett: Welcome to False Flag Weekly News, the weekly news show where we question everything, especially public myths of the kind described by Philip Zelikow. I’m Kevin Barrett with Lucy Morgan Edwards this week. Welcome back, Lucy. Great to have you.

Lucy Morgan Edwards: Good to be back, Kevin.

Kevin Barrett: All right. So you’re the author of The Afghan Solution. You were a political adviser to the E.U. in Kabul, Afghanistan. And we will get to some some Afghan stories as we continue. But first, the obligatory disclaimers. Let’s let’s read those disclaimers. OK, first, this could be very disturbing to people who feel an emotional attachment to conventional wisdom as expressed in the mainstream media or from the mouths of politicians. So if you can’t handle questioning that stuff change the channel. Also, we are not a medical advice outfit. I am a doctor of literature, not medicine. So if I tell you to take three pills and call me in the morning, tell me to shove off. So we’re doing political commentary and analysis here, not medicine. No medical advice, no medical information, misinformation, nothing like that. All right. Here we are with our lead story: Philip Zelikow, the self-described expert in the creation and maintenance of public myths, who operates out of the University of Virginia. He not only wrote the script for 9/11 — or many people suspect as much — and then was called on to turn it into a bestselling novel called the 9/11 Commission report. He not only controlled that investigation completely, he wrote the entire report in chapter by chapter outline before the Commission even convened, and he probably wrote it from the script for the actual event that he co-wrote before 9/11. But now here he is back doing the same thing with COVID-19. He’s setting up what he hopes will become a COVID-19 Commission to tell the official public myth of COVID-19c. Lucy, would you say that this guy has chutzpah or something which requires a more obscene expression?

Lucy Morgan Edwards: Well, he surely does. There’s a comment from another academic colleague that that his appointment to do this is a rare public admission that this COVID project is set to run into the long term, maybe for the next 20 years, in the same way that the war on terror has run based on his his myth that has, of course, underpinned it.

Kevin Barrett: And so Zelikow says that “this is the greatest crisis suffered by America, if not the world, since 1945. Scholars and journalists will do their jobs. But there is also a role for the kind of massive investigation and research effort that only a large scale commission can provide.” So here comes the National COVID Commission, chaired by Philip Zelikow. I can’t even imagine what that big lie is going to sound like.

Lucy Morgan Edwards: And together with the censorship from mainstream media, that is becoming increasingly prevalent, that will be the official narrative. And we’re all going to have to follow it because we’re going to be canceled or censored if we don’t, doubtless.

Kevin Barrett: And he’s using a war metaphor, just like he did with the “war on terror” that was scripted before they blew up the Twin Towers and flew remote controlled airplanes into targets and stuff like that. So now apparently he’s saying this is a war, too. He says we have to win the war globally, not just nationally. It’s a world war. So once again, a war metaphor — against a virus.

Lucy Morgan Edwards: OK, so I feel that this is a clue that the same group that were behind 9/11 are behind the current situation. Rolling him out is a huge, clear clue.

Kevin Barrett: They’re not even trying to hide it. They’re actually basically telling us what they’re doing. And there’s a whole theory that Satanists have some kind of metaphysical duty to tell their dupes what they’re doing, because then the bad karma is on the dupes instead of on them. I don’t know if that’s true, but sometimes they act like it.

Lucy Morgan Edwards: That’s the modus operandi, isn’t it?

Kevin Barrett: Indeed. OK, let’s get into our “vaxxed” news. Let’s see…So Alan didn’t flash the the medical advice disclaimer. I can’t believe it. He Usually flashes it about every third story that has anything to do with COVID. OK, so here’s our nonmedical advice about Biden and his two hundred million COVID-19 vaccinations. He said his goal was 100 million. And they’ve shot Americans two hundred million times so far. Half of Americans now have been shot, and they’re still walking around. They’re still alive. And I hope that they will be for a while. Allen, our producer, of course, is a vaccine enthusiast and he’s still doing just fine. So, Lucy, your take on Biden’s heroic triumphalism around his two hundred million shots?

Lucy Morgan Edwards: Well, I mean, who knows if those figures are correct? I’m not sure what they’re based on. It does say in the piece that the government’s planning to incentivize people to take the vaccinations with bonuses, paid leave, gift cards and so on, so that they’re obviously going all in and are very keen to get everyone vaxxed. One could also say, why don’t they get rid of McDonald’s, given that most people die of obesity? So that raises more questions about what’s really going on with these so-called vaccinations, which some people, some eminent epidemiologists, are saying aren’t vaccines at all because they haven’t been fully tested while we’re in the third stage trial, which people are unaware of. And some are actually raising questions as to whether these really are actually vaccinations or just injections of something else.

Kevin Barrett: Oh, but you’re not allowed to say things like that. “That’s medical misinformation!” No, it’s not, because we’re not giving medical advice. We’re simply speculating. (And reporting what others have said.)

So in our next story, we see that the censorship axe is coming down with unprecedented ferocity on anybody who expresses any opinions on any of this stuff that deviate one iota from the official party line as created by the WHO and Faucci and Bill Gates and all their friends. And here’s Senator Klobuchar telling us that they’ve got to start seriously censoring the vaccine skeptics, the super-spreaders of misinformation. So if you express an unorthodox opinion now, you’re the equivalent of somebody who’s killing people by spreading an evil virus. And in this climate…The problem with this, it seems to me, Lucy, is that how can we believe the Orthodox party line when anybody who expresses anything else is axed and destroyed and censored and suppressed? There’s no robust free debate. And so God knows how many experts are out there (who dissent but are afraid to go public.)

Lucy Morgan Edwards: In the UK, it’s worse than that. So they’re going to be seeking to criminalize anyone who expresses opinions that don’t conform to the big tech big pharma view of COVID and what’s going on. There was a very good piece yesterday on UK Column News that went through the development of this increasing censorship and deplatforming. And the drive by the British government just to shut down any alternative viewpoints, any discussion, any academic discussion and so on, and that started really with David Cameron’s speech to the U.N., I think it was in 2013, where he laid out really what they were going to do, and the the non-tolerance for any alternative viewpoints. It was it was a real whoring of his position, actually. I felt it was absolutely disgraceful speech. And of course, the British government operates through Ofcom, which is a quasi governmental organisation, which is pretty totalitarian and is involved in the development of 5G and holds licenses and is therefore profiting from the development of 5G, which they’re, of course, trying to put in in tandem with all of this censorship that’s going on in order to suck up our data and surveil us increasingly.

Kevin Barrett: And so who knows how many experts are out there who actually agree with the skeptics but are afraid to say anything because they’re afraid that they’ll be deplatformed or fired or have their careers or reputations ruined. And that means it’s very hard for us to know what the truth is because it could easily be the majority of the experts that deviate from the party line in the privacy of their own minds, but are afraid to say anything. So in this kind of atmosphere of ferocious, hysterical censorship, it’s impossible to get at the truth. And so anybody who wants to genuinely convince us that the Orthodox line is correct should not be doing this! They should be encouraging free and fearless debate. And then we’ll see how many experts really think this and how many experts really think that. But as it stands right now, we can’t possibly know.

BIOGRAPHYKevin BarrettDr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist, is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.

He is host of TRUTH JIHAD RADIO; a hard driving weekly radio show funded by listener donations at Patreon.com and FALSE FLAG WEEKLY NEWS (FFWN); a audio-video show produced by Tony Hall, Allan Reese, and Kevin himself. FFWN is funded through FundRazr.

He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.

Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.http://www.truthjihad.comtruthjihad@gmail.com

The Gibraltar Massacre

BY GILAD ATZMON

Massacre 2.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon


Gibraltar currently has the world’s worst Covid-19 death rate per capita (2791 per million at time of publication). The disaster started on December 12, when an unprecedented surge in cases was witnessed (see graph below). Until that point in time, like in other European countries, Covid cases had been in constant decline for a while. In Gibraltar, numbers of cases had been dropping for almost a month since November 13.  

Gibraltar 11 December.png

What people do not know is that just a few days before Gibraltar morphed into a Covid killing zone, 273 Spanish key healthcare workers involved with Gibraltar’s elderly and vulnerable populations were reportedly inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine.

 

Gibraltar Bay radio reported on 7 December 2020, that “More than 9,200 Spanish nationals cross the Gibraltar border to work. Vaccination plans are still being drawn up, but around 273 workers working in care agencies looking after the elderly could become the first Spanish nationals to receive the Pfizer vaccine.“

The Spanish El Pais quotes Antonio Sánchez, a Spanish national and carer for two children with autism at a youth care centre who knew that he would be the amongst the first to receive the vaccine. “I am one of the first. The subcontractor company that I work for has told us that it’s very likely that they will begin vaccinating us next week [the week starting December 7].”

On 8 December elperiodico.com announced that  “the Spanish workers in the health and care sector in Gibraltar will be the first in the country to be vaccinated from Tuesday (8 December)  against coronavirus, under the Gibraltar Government vaccination program.”

Until now we have looked at Israel as the ultimate testing ground for the Pfizer experiment. As I have been reporting since the beginning of January, the outcome of the Israel/Pfizer experiment has been pretty devastating. Israel’s Covid deaths doubled in just 2 months of vaccinations. Cases of newborn Covid grew by 1600%, hospitalisations doubled and so on. 

In Britain we saw a similar surge in Covid deaths soon after the vaccination campaign was launched. In nearly every country that used the Pfizer vaccine around that time amongst other vaccines, the British mutant was blamed for the rise in cases and consequent deaths. Considering that air traffic almost ground to a halt by late December, it was already hard then to understand how the British mutant managed to spread so vastly. How, for instance, did it make Aliya to Israel to become the dominant Covid strain? How did it make it to Gibraltar, where it also became the dominant strain by late December? One possible and unfortunately obvious answer is that, unlike people, vaccines did travel in the air and all around the world.   

I do understand that the British and Israeli governments are reluctant to investigate the obvious correlation between vaccinations, cases, deaths and possibly the British mutant’s spread. An investigation into those questions may reveal that some facts related to the British mutant were known in advance.  For instance, we learned that the British mutant was identified in the UK as early as September. One may wonder, weren’t our British scientists alarmed by the possibility that the new variant may be related to vaccine trials that were taking place in the kingdom since the late summer?

Examining the most conservative Covid data available to us through the WHO and other international institutions, it is easy to study the close correlation between vaccination, cases, deaths and the spread of specific mutants (British, Brazilian, South African etc.):

In the graphs below you can easily notice that cases and deaths start to rise exponentially in shocking proximity to the launch of vaccine mass distribution campaigns.

3.vcd.jpg

 Yet, far more interesting is to try to understand the close relationship between vaccination and the so called ‘defeat of the virus.’ We should ask accordingly, how many people would be inoculated in a given society before we start to see a drop in Covid cases? I examined this question using the most conservative and widely circulated statistics:

Looking at Israel reveals that 30.6% of the population was rapidly vaccinated back in December before we saw a drop in cases. This intense action clearly resulted in Israel doubling its number of deaths and its health system nearly collapsing.

4. Israel drops 30%.06.png

The case of the United Arab Emirates is almost identical. The rapid vaccination campaign was followed by an immediate surge in cases and deaths, it then took 31% of the population being vaccinated to see the first drop in numbers. 

5. UAE cases drop 31%.png

In the UK, which was inefficient in its early mass vaccination campaign, the situation is much better. In Britain it took just 15% of the population being partly vaccinated (1 dose instead of 2) to see a clear sharp drop in cases. Despite that, the numbers of Covid death during mass vaccination surged by about 50%. We are talking about tens of thousands of people who perished.

6. UK Death drops 15%.png


I was therefore shocked to find already in early March that in Portugal it took just 3% of the population to be vaccinated mass vaccination to defeat Covid and see the numbers drop! 

This can be explained. If the presumably vaccine-induced mutant is twice as infectious than its ancestor and it is distributed initially through the medical system by means of shots rather than social contact, then making 3% of the population into super-spreaders may be enough to infect an entire society with a resistant mutant.

7.Portugal 3%.png

 In the cases I reviewed above, many people died and only an investigation of a criminal nature could indicate what level of consciousness, negligence or clumsiness were involved in the considerations and decisions behind mass vaccination in those relevant countries. What did our decision makers know in advance about the vaccine and possible mutants that it may induce? What have they realised along the campaign? What were the considerations and who exactly took the decisions?

Yet, the situation isn’t totally bleak as it also reasonable to assume that the unvaccinated who survived the British mutant probably bought themselves the best possible natural resilience to Covid-19 and its future mutants, something that we can’t say, unfortunately, about the vaccinated: Pfizer’s CEO admitted yesterday that the vaccinated are “likely” to be inoculated again within the next 6-12 month. Their immune systems are now dependent on Pharma’s constant supply of mRNA substances. 

 But the story of carnage in Gibraltar may provide us with a final validation of the above musings.

 33, 000 Brits live in Gibraltar. The official vaccination of the Colony didn’t start until the January 10, yet the reported Pfizer vaccinations of just 273 key health workers (less than 1% of the population) from 7 December,  if true, was enough to start a huge surge of Covid cases followed by an unprecedented spike in deaths.  Like in Israel, the UK, the UAE and many other countries, Covid vaccination was followed by a sharp rise in Covid cases.  Shockingly, the numbers of Covid cases in Gibraltar  started to drop on January 7, three days before Gibraltar started to vaccinate its entire British population.

Gibraltar 7 jan.png

 

 One may challenge my reading of the Gibraltar situation and wonder, ‘if the vaccines induce mutants, as you say, why didn’t the number of cases rise once vast vaccination was launched?’ A possible answer is that by January 7, 3 days before the launch of the mass vaccination campaign, Gibraltar already enjoyed strong herd immunity. Enough members of the British territory were exposed to the mutant, those who survived were immune. If I am correct here, then less than 1% of the population being vaccinated was enough to infect the entire colony with the British mutant and to buy it total herd Immunity.

I often ask myself why me, a jazz saxophonist, has to deliver analysis validated by mainstream conservative statistics and data.  Isn’t it the role of academics, health experts, the media, virologists, epidemiologists, the opposition party and the ‘Left’?

Gibraltar, like Israel, was a unique testing ground and the outcome is devastating but conclusive. But the most tormenting news is that we, the people, are betrayed in broad daylight by a united league that has drifted very far away from the Athenian ethos of science, pluralism and ethics. For me, this is certainly the scariest lesson from this so-called pandemic.

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

April 23, 2021

The Saker

There is, amongst some, a strong sense of relief: Defense Minister Shoigu has declared that the formations deployed by Russia to western Russia will now return to their regular bases.  Of course, the Ukrainians claim that they “deterred a Russian attack” while the Russians say that “the West got the message”.  Is that so and, if yes, who is right?

Well, I think that we can dismiss the Ukie nonsense out of hand.  Nobody out there, except the Ukrainians themselves, seriously believe that Russia “blinked”, if only because destroying the entire Ukrainian military would take Russia less than a week.  In fact, the Ukrainians know that very well, they just won’t admit it.

Notice that while the Ukrainians claim that they deterred Russia, Russia does not claim to have deterred the Ukrainians, instead Russia declared that the Russian bear roared loud enough to deter the united West.  Right there we have an important clue as to what has really happened.

I, however, submit that the causes which triggered the initial Ukrainian move to bring a large armored force right to the line of contact are still here.  In other words, nothing has been resolved.

What happened is this: in response to the threat from both the Ukrainians and US/NATO, Russia simply demonstrated her ability to quickly concentrate a truly huge force (2 Armies and 2 Airborne Divisions) along her border.  She also redeployed the Caspian Flotilla into the Black Sea, brought in large landing ships and, generally, “flexed her military muscles” in order to convey a clear message to the Ukrainians, the Europeans and the US:

  • To the Ukrainians: attack the Donbass and you will die, as for the Ukraine, it will break apart into several new successor states.
  • To the EU: if a war starts, you will even lose the very little agency you have left and your economy will not be competitive against the USA.
  • To the USA: if a war starts, you will face a stark choice: lose face or start a full-scale war against Russia.

Yes, so far, this strategy has proved very effective.  The Ukrainians were clearly terrified and the EU showed no enthusiasm for that war (except the UK, which risks very little, and the Poles who specialize in stupid historical decisions).  As for “Biden”, he realized that a full scale war against Russia was suicidal.

So are we now out of the danger zone?

Absolutely not.  There is still one thing the West is determined to achieve: to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian.  For the US Neocons, to see the two Slavic brothers kill each other is old dream come true.  Furthermore, the US still needs to bring the EU down to its economic knees to force it to buy energy, services and goods from the USA.  Last, but not least, the Ukraine has lost any appeal it might have had for the USA: the only thing which the Ukraine can still offer is to be a thorn in Russia’s side.

And then, there is the “Ze” regime in Kiev: not viable, not reformable, the Ukraine is has been comprehensively deindustrialized and now the Ukrainians are dying in huge numbers from the COVID pandemic: Banderastan is the ultimate failed state, worse than many African ones, in fact.

Yes, “Ze” was told by his masters to “cool it” and, so far, he has obeyed, but that solves exactly none of his problems.  Worse, there are a lot of well-armed Ukronazi deathsquads who still have the means to create some kind of incident which would reignite the whole thing again.  Also, it is worth remembering that the Brits and the Ukies both have a proven record of successful covert operations, which by definition include false flags.

In other words, nothing has really changed.  Yes, right now, Uncle Shmuel is trying to find out what his options are, and he will come up with a corrected plan (remember, Neocons are stupid, yes, but they are also clever in a short term, “horizontal” way).  Right now “Biden” is licking his wounds from the embarrassing faceplant with the attempt to kill Lukashenko and the (frankly silly) nonsense coming out of the Czech Republic.  There are some signs that at least the Germans realize what is really going on and who is truly trying to screw them over (while most of the German political class is corrupt to the bone, some German politicians are sensitive to the mood of the German business community).

Simply put: all we are observing today is a short term reprieve, nothing more.

The Russians know that, and it is safe to say that while some of their forces will demonstratively retreat, others will stay.  More importantly, now that this operational redeployment of key formations has been rehearsed, very publicly, the Russians have shown the US/NATO that Russia can deal with any military threat (in contrast, it would take NATO months to bring a big enough force to eastern Europe to represent a credible threat).

Finally, Ze has made a rather ridiculous speech telling Putin that they should meet.  Putin’s response was perfect: you want to meet with me to discuss our bilateral relations (which, incidentally, you have destroyed) – sure.  No problem.  But if you want to discuss the Donbass, you have to engage in direct talks with the LDNR, as the Minsk Agreement and the Steinmeier formula, which you have signed, stipulate.  In other words, back to square one.

This is a situation of not one, but two “thorns”: the Ukronazi Banderastan is definitely a thorn in the side of Russia, while the LDNR is a thorn in the side of Banderastan.  Make a guess, which side can put up with its thorn longer than the other side?

Many have forgotten it, but in a moment of anger, Poroshenko did tell Putin “take the Donbass if you want it!”, and Putin declined.  Since then, the Russians have shown over and over again that they do NOT want the Donbass.  At most, they might have to take it to save it from genocide, but even in this case the Russians have no intentions of invading the rest of the Ukraine only to have to deal with 1) Ukronazi insurgencies and 2) rebuilding this failed state from its current zero all the way back.  And that is the worst Russian threat not only for the Ukraine, but for all of Europe: Russia does NOT want, or need, the Ukraine and Russia won’t take it over, even in case of a full-scale war.  At most, Russia will repeat what she did in the 08.08.08 war: defang the Nazi regime by obliterating the Ukrainian military, and then let the regime naturally collapse.

Anyway, I will write a more detailed analysis of this situation next week, but right now I submit that all that is happened is a limited and temporary deescalation, not any kind of return to even semi-normality (and the Ukies are still murdering LDNR civilians every day, including with heavy weapons).

So, what do you think?  Back to sanity, or only a reprieve?

The Saker

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

 Source

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

April 21, 2021

Putin’s speech comes amid a period of diplomatic confrontation with Western nations and a stand-off over the situation in Ukraine and Russian troop movements.

The address to the Federal Assembly is often used to announce major changes in Russian domestic and foreign policy.

This is the current live stream.

The full and complete transcript is now posted.

Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly

The President of Russia delivered the Address to the Federal Assembly. The ceremony took place at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall.

April 21, 202113:20

Moscow

The ceremony was attended by members of the Federation CouncilState Duma deputies, members of the Government, the heads of the Constitutional and Supreme courts, regional governors, speakers of regional legislatures, the heads of traditional religious denominations and public activists.

* *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies,

Citizens of Russia,

Today’s Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly will be dedicated mostly to internal issues. These include, naturally, healthcare, social policy and the economy. Of course, I will say a few words about external affairs and literally a few words about security issues.

It stands to reason that I will begin with last year’s events, when our country and, actually, the entire world faced a new, previously unknown and extremely dangerous infection.

It that period, including during our meetings with experts and conversations with the leaders of many states, I often heard the following description of the situation: we are faced with total uncertainty. And this is how it really was.

I could see this from the information I received from the regions. The number of people who contracted the disease and needed to be rushed to hospital kept growing. Actually, all of you are very well aware of this. Many hospitals were filled to capacity and reported that they could run out of oxygen soon, including in intensive care units. Ventilators, protective masks and PPE were actually distributed by the piece. Shops were running out of basic products, such as cereals, butter and sugar, due to increased demand.

The epidemic was on the offensive. But although there was great concern, I personally had no doubt that we would pull through.

Citizens, society and the state acted responsibly and in unison. We rallied, managed to take preventive action, to create conditions that would reduce the risk of infection, and to provide medical personnel and citizens with personal protective equipment. We increased the number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients more than five times over, to 280,000 beds.

The brief outline of measures conceals the tremendous and intensive work of millions of people in all regions of the Russian Federation. I would like to cordially thank all of you for this. Everyone worked quickly, efficiently and conscientiously.

At that time and later on, we were analysing the situation practically non-stop. I recall vividly my visit to the hospital in Kommunarka. It was necessary to experience, to see at first hand the danger facing us and to assess the working conditions of medical specialists. They immediately found themselves in the thick of events and fought for every life, while risking their own.

Today, doctors, paramedics, medical nurses and members of ambulance teams are sitting here in this hall. Once again my heartfelt thanks to you and your colleagues from all the Russian regions.

Russian researchers made a real breakthrough, and Russia now has three reliable coronavirus vaccines. These and many other achievements of the past few years highlight the country’s growing science and technological potential.

I would like to thank everyone, every person who contributed to the fight against infection, including the workers at the plants manufacturing medications, medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and enterprises working 24 hours a day, housing and utility agencies, trade companies, the Russian business community that quickly converted entire sectors so that they could manufacture essential goods, civilian and military builders, agriculture workers who gathered a record-breaking harvest, one of the biggest in the country’s history, that is, over 130 million tonnes.

The personnel of law enforcement agencies and the special services continued to carry out their duty, and the Russian Armed Forces reliably ensured our country’s security.

I would like to underscore the selfless behaviour of people working for social services, orphanages, boarding schools, retirement homes and hospices who stayed and who continue to stay with their charges. You will certainly agree with me that, while analysing developments at these institutions, one feels proud of people who are carrying out their duty there in such a responsible manner. It could move you to tears. I would like to thank them once again.

I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude to school teachers and the lecturers at universities and other education institutions. You did everything possible to enable your students and pupils to gain knowledge and successfully pass their exams, with the involvement and support of their parents.

Russia’s cultural life continued unabated. Theatres, museums and concert halls remained open to audiences online thanks to modern technology. Everyone who works in this crucial sphere rose to the occasion.

Our people showed discipline and managed to observe, let’s face it, quite exhausting, but vital precautions. Thus, acting together, we have put up an effective barrier to the pandemic.

The people’s solidarity showed in concrete actions, in caring for the loved ones and in willingness to help people in need. Millions became volunteers and engaged in building person-to-person help routes. The nationwide We Are Together campaign brought together people from different walks of life and ages. As always during challenging times, our traditional religions stepped up to provide spiritual support to the society. I see the leaders of our religions here and I would like to bow deeply to you, thank you very much

Throughout history, our people have come out victorious and overcome trials thanks to unity. Today, family, friendship, mutual assistance, graciousness and unity have come to the fore as well.

Spiritual and moral values, which are already being forgotten in some countries, have, on the contrary, made us stronger. And we will always uphold and defend these values.

Colleagues,

The pandemic broke out at a time when the aftermath of the demographic shocks of the 1940s and 1990s converged. We realise that the current demographic situation is an emergency. Unfortunately, this is how things are. We must accept and admit it and do something about it based on our understanding of this situation.

Saving the people of Russia is our top national priority. This priority underlies the stipulations of the updated Constitution concerning the protection of the family, the important role parents play in bringing up their children, strengthening social guarantees, and further developing the economy, education and culture.

Our strategy is to return to sustainable population growth to make sure that the average life expectancy in Russia increases to 78 years in 2030.

Unfortunately, the statistics show us sad and disappointing numbers. We are even seeing a certain decline. It is clear what is happening because of the pandemic, but we will keep our strategic goals in this critical sphere unchanged.

I fully realise that this is no small feat, the more so as the coronavirus has not yet been completely defeated and remains a direct threat. We see the dramatic developments in many countries where the cases of infection continue to grow. We need to keep in check the defence barriers designed to slow down the spread of the virus along our external borders and within our country.

I would like to address all citizens of Russia once again. Friends, please stay alert. I am asking you to take care of yourselves and your loved ones and to comply with the doctors’ and sanitary services’ recommendations as closely as possible.

Vaccination is of crucial importance. I would like to ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the heads of the regions to monitor this process on a daily basis. The opportunity to take the jab must be available everywhere, so that we achieve the so-called herd immunity by the autumn.

The attainment of this goal depends on everyone, on all our citizens. Please, I am asking all citizens of Russia once again to get vaccinated. This is the only way to stop this deadly epidemic. There is no alternative. The other choice is much worse: to contract the disease with unpredictable consequences.

I would like to say once again that the disease is still with us. But we must start thinking already now about healing the wounds it has inflicted and restoring people’s health.

During the peak periods, our hospitals and outpatient clinics had to reduce or even suspend scheduled visits. This increased the risk of the aggravation of chronic illnesses or the risk of missing the first signs of or correctly diagnosing new illnesses.

I would like to ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the constituent entities of the Russian Federation to expand the system of medical check-ups and periodic screenings, taking into account the current epidemiological situation, and to relaunch them in full measure on July 1, 2021 for people of all ages. They must involve the largest number of people possible. This is why we will increase the supply of mobile medical diagnostic systems to the regions in the near future.

One of the targets of the coronavirus is the cardiovascular system. These diseases have always been the leading cause of death. Therefore, special attention during periodic screenings must be given to people with cardiovascular diseases. I would like to instruct the Government to take additional measures to prevent the diseases that are the main causes of premature death. As I have already mentioned, these are cardiovascular diseases plus malignant tumours and respiratory system diseases.

Hepatitis C claims many young lives. Decisions must be made to reduce this threat to the health of the nation to a minimum within 10 years.

To ensure that as many people as possible can restore their health at sanatoriums and health resorts, I propose that the 20 percent rebate programme for domestic travel is extended at least until the end of the year.

Children’s health is our special priority. Indeed, the foundation for good health for many years to come is laid during childhood. Children’s rest and recreation activities must be made as affordable as possible. In this regard, this year, I propose reimbursing half of what parents spend on their children’s summer camps.

In addition, we need to expand opportunities for student tourism. Already this year, we must launch several pilot projects, including accommodation on university campuses and in dormitories in other regions for students who travel around the country during the summer.

And, of course, we must reward the young people who have done well in academic competitions and in volunteer and creative initiatives as well as the projects operated by the Russia – Land of Opportunity platform. For them, the partial reimbursement programme for tourist vouchers will remain valid during the holidays, aka the high season. This is a ground-breaking decision.

I wish to thank all the parliamentary groups which supported the decision on the taxation of high incomes, or rather, a portion of high incomes. These proceeds will go to the dedicated Circle of Kindness fund and have already been released to help children affected by rare and serious diseases, to purchase expensive medicines and medical equipment, and to cover the costs of surgeries.

On April 28, we will celebrate Ambulance Worker Day which was established as a show of respect to those who arrive first to save lives. These specialists must be provided with all necessary supplies. Within the next three years, we will make another 5,000 new ambulances available to rural communities, urban-type localities and small towns, which will replace the ambulance fleet almost in full.

I want to emphasise that public healthcare authorities in many leading countries – we are well aware of it and, in fact, they themselves are saying so – were unable to deal with the challenges of the pandemic as effectively as we did in Russia. At the same time, global health care is on the cusp of a genuine revolution. This must be recognised and clearly seen. We cannot miss it.

The pandemic has exponentially sped up the introduction of telemedicine, artificial intelligence and new approaches in diagnostics, surgery, rehabilitation and the production of medicines everywhere. We must put these technologies at the service of the people of our country.

We must build our healthcare system around this ground-breaking technology, and keep an eye on pressing everyday problems in the process. As we are all aware, they abound, mostly in primary care. There must be no such thing as waiting lines, no hassle making a diagnostics appointment or a specialist doctor appointment, or obtaining prescriptions and sick leaves, for that matter. This has often come up in our discussions lately. The funds have been set side and allocated. It is time to move quickly and efficiently to make it happen.

We have a backlog to deal with in healthcare and other social sectors, including many technical, financial and managerial challenges. However, what people need is qualified and timely medical help. I propose reviewing public healthcare problems from this perspective at an expanded meeting of the State Council some time soon. We will prepare for it and hold it shortly.

I repeat: we have gained some fundamentally new experience in fulfilling our social commitments. During the pandemic, we made direct payments to families bringing up almost 28 million children, and they received their benefits without any unnecessary paperwork or other kinds of red tape – they got the money they needed and were entitled to automatically. I know Government members have been working on this, focusing deliberately, not without some failures, but they have made every effort to accomplish this task, and coped with it. This is great, this is a good example. This approach should become the norm at all levels of government.

This is the essence of the National Social Initiative, which was discussed at a recent joint meeting of the State Council Presidium and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives.

I am calling on the regional governors: it is your direct responsibility to organise the work of local clinics, daycare nurseries and schools, and employment centres, based on the daily needs of families, of each and every person. In many regions, I have seen with my own eyes that such work has already been launched in certain areas. This needs to be done everywhere and in all social sectors.

As soon as in 2022, we must introduce the ‘social treasury’ principles. This means that all federal benefits, pensions and other social payments and services will be provided and paid in a one-stop mode, without having to visit dozens of different agencies, but simply upon marriage, the birth of a child, retirement or other life milestones. Within three years, the vast majority of public and municipal services should be provided to Russian citizens remotely, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that is, on an ongoing basis.

Separately, we will have to discuss child-support payments, which are a sensitive topic for many families. Unfortunately, this is a problem in our country. This procedure should not be humiliating for anyone. Most issues here need to be resolved remotely and, most importantly, in the interests of the affected party. A mother with a child should not have to camp on the doorstep of various authorities to collect official documents, carrying her baby in her arms, and this is what usually happens. A system of interagency communication needs to be built, with banks included, in such a way as to ensure the unconditional execution of court decisions on the recovery of child-support payments. The state is obliged to protect the rights of the child; this is what we are talking about. I will return to this topic again later.

Colleagues,

We understand the heavy toll that the pandemic has taken on people’s welfare. Statistics show the aggravating effects of this outbreak on social inequality and poverty. It has been a challenge for all countries around the world – remember, all countries, not only Russia, are experiencing the same consequences. Certainly, we should be primarily concerned about the situation in our own country.

We are now facing price hikes that are undercutting people’s incomes. Some urgent decisions have been made, of course, but we cannot solely rely on targeted and essentially directive measures. We remember potential outcomes. Back in the late 1980s and the 1990s in the Soviet Union, they resulted in empty store shelves. But today, even when the pandemic was at its worst, we did not allow the same thing to happen.

The Government’s goal is to create conditions that will be long-term and which, I want to stress this part, colleagues, can, thanks to market mechanisms (which we have), guarantee the predictability of prices and quality replenishment of the domestic market. Nobody is saying that we will be setting prices from the top. There’s no need to muddy the waters and scare people. There are market regulatory mechanisms and they must be employed – promptly and to the extent required and appropriate to a specific situation in the economy and social sphere. We need to stimulate investment activity by reducing business risks. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Surely, the main goal right now is to ensure that people’s real incomes grow – that is, to restore them and secure their further growth. As I said, we need tangible changes in our fight against poverty.

Before anything else, the Government must provide direct support to families with children who are experiencing hardships. This has been our consistent policy and we will continue to pursue it.

We already have a system of benefits paid to parents of one or two children from the time the children are born and until they reach the age of three. Families with incomes below two subsistence minimums per family member are entitled to such benefits. The average monthly amount paid across the country is 11,300 rubles per child. Seventy-eight Russian regions pay benefits for the third child, also 11,300 rubles on average.

Please note that we are making consistent progress in this area, step by step. Last year, we introduced benefits for children aged three to seven. They range from 5,650 to 11,300 rubles per month depending on the region.

I instruct the Government to develop, by July 1, a comprehensive system of support for families with children. Our goal is to minimise the risk of poverty for such families.

But a number of new decisions need to be taken immediately, already today. It is always difficult for a single parent to raise a child. There are plenty of reasons for that. And this is not about the reasons but about supporting children. It is particularly difficult when a single-parent family is having financial problems, especially when children start going to school and family expenses objectively rise.

In particular, we must support single-parent families, where a mother or a father is bringing up a child alone, and only one of the parents is registered on the birth certificate – sorry to be speaking of such mundane things, but this is a fact of life – or the parents have divorced and one of them has the right to child-support payments. Therefore, as of July 1 this year, all children in such families aged between 8 and 16, inclusively, will receive a benefit. The national average of such benefit will be 5,650 rubles.

Of course, we must also help women who are expecting a baby and who have financial problems. It is extremely important for a mother-to-be to get support from the state and society, so that they can keep their pregnancy and know that they will receive help in raising and bringing up their child.

I propose approving a monthly subsidy for women who register at a maternity centre during early pregnancy and who have financial problems. The average subsidy for them will be 6,350 rubles a month.

Next, the sick pay for taking care of a child who falls ill depends on the employment record, which is correct, on the whole, and fair. However, young women receive much smaller sick leave payments. We have discussed this issue at the State Council, and it has been raised by the United Russia. We need to adopt legal decisions on this matter without delay, so that payments for taking care of a sick child aged up to 7 years inclusively are approved at 100 percent of the parent’s salary as soon as this year.

You understand what this means. The majority of those in this room know that the longer the employment record the larger the sick pay. Women who have a long work record usually receive full sick pay, but they usually do not have children at their age. Those who have children do not receive full pay. We must definitely help those who are expecting a baby.

I would also like to remind you that we have expanded and extended the maternity capital programme up until 2026. This benefit will now be paid already for the first child. We could not afford this before. The maternity capital has been adjusted to inflation and is almost 640,000 rubles

Free hot meals for all primary school children were approved as of January 1, 2020, and this measure has become a great help for families.

I would like to point out that all our decisions were designed to support our people. I know that many and very many people have financial problems now. The labour market and real disposable income of the people will be certainly restored, and we will move on. This has not happened yet. Therefore, I suggest approving one more one-off payment for the families that have school children, namely, 10,000 rubles per schoolchild. Moreover, this payment will also be made for the children who will only start school this year. We will transfer the money in mid-August, so that parents can get their children ready for school.

The updated Constitution of Russia includes clauses on demographic development, and protection of the family and childhood. They should be implemented in practice at all levels of government. I propose including a section aimed at supporting young people in each national project.

Friends,

During the pandemic, many young doctors and nurses, recent graduates as well as residents and students of medical universities worked courageously in the so-called red zones, joining their senior colleagues. In that extraordinary situation, teachers, schoolchildren, college and university students continued to teach and study, to have exams. Young family members supported their parents and older relatives. The youth of Russia proved to be extremely worthy during that period of trials. We can be proud of them.

We will do everything to open up as many life opportunities as possible for the younger generation. Their journey certainly begins at school, and I am sure that school will always be a second home for children; a new home, comfortable and modern.

Under the existing federal programme and with additional resources provided by the VEB Development Bank, we will build at least 1,300 new schools for more than a million children by the end of 2024. We will also purchase at least 16,000 school buses over the next four years. All school buses must be modern and safe.

Classroom teachers have been receiving a monthly addition to their salaries since last year. A very necessary and, I am sure, fair decision. I remember how we held discussions on this matter last year.

However, I have received requests, letters from teachers in secondary vocational institutions who say they have been forgotten. This is actually true. Justice must be restored. We have to fix this and establish the same additional payment of 5,000 rubles for supervisors of educational groups at technical schools and colleges.

I propose allocating an additional 10 billion rubles in the next two years for major repairs and technical equipment of our pedagogical universities. I ask the Government to pay close attention to up-to-date training of future teachers. The future of Russia largely depends on them.

Furthermore, school teaching teams should be expanded with teaching assistants, mentors and counsellors, whose job will be to organise exciting projects for children at schools.

It is very important that our young people should look to and be inspired by the achievements and victories of our outstanding ancestors and contemporaries, by their love for our Motherland and aspiration to make a personal contribution to its development. Children should have the opportunity to explore the national history and the multinational culture, our achievements in science and technology, literature and art in advanced formats. You know, I still open certain school textbooks occasionally and am surprised at what I see there – as if what is written there has nothing to do with us at all. Who writes such textbooks? Who approves them? It is unbelievable. They mention everything, the ‘second front’ and a lot of other facts, but not the Battle of Stalingrad – how is that possible? Amazing! I do not even want to comment.

I propose allocating an additional 24 billion rubles within the next three years to renovate cultural centres, libraries and museums in rural areas and small historical towns. This is another crucial area.

It is important to resume the activities of the Knowledge Society – we all remember well what it is – based on a modern digital platform. It seems to have been operational lately, but no one seems to notice it is there, either. Also, in order to support projects in culture, art and creative activities, we will set up a Presidential fund for cultural initiatives. Already this year, we will use its competitive grants to finance over 1,500 creative teams.

Colleagues,

A month from now, 11th grade students will be taking exams. Based on the results, most of them, about 60 percent, will enrol in universities and have their tuition covered from the budget. It can be safely stated that practically no country in the world apart from Russia has this kind of broad and free access to higher education.

In the next two years, we will make an additional 45,000 state-funded places available at our universities. At least 70 percent of them will go to the regions which need university graduates.

Starting this year, at least 100 universities in the constituent entities of our Federation will receive grants in the amount of 100 million rubles or more for opening student technoparks and business incubators, upgrading academic and laboratory facilities, and running training programmes. All state universities will be eligible for this support, including the ones that train future teachers, medical doctors, transport and culture workers. I am confident that the young generation of Russians, Russian scientists, will make their names known in the meaningful research projects that are yet to come.

This year was declared Science and Technology Year in our country. We realise that science is absolutely key in the modern world. Until 2024, Russia will allocate 1.63 trillion rubles from the federal budget alone for civil, including fundamental, research. But that is not all.

We are about to launch ground-breaking programmes in areas that are critical to our country. They will be given the status of nationwide projects. I would like to discuss some of them separately just to give you a sense.

First, we must have a solid and reliable shield to give us sanitary and biological safety. We now understand what it is about. It is imperative to ensure Russia’s independence in the production of the entire range of vaccines and pharmaceutical substances, including medications against infections that are resistant to the current generation of antibiotics. Importantly, this must be achieved with the maximum engagement of Russian-made equipment and domestic components.

In the event of an infection as dangerous as the coronavirus, or, God forbid, even more dangerous, Russia must be prepared to develop its own test systems within four days, precisely four days, and to create an efficacious domestic vaccine and start its mass production as soon as possible. These are the goals that we are setting for ourselves. The timeframe for achieving these goals is 2030. But the sooner we get there, the better.

Second, we need new comprehensive approaches to the development of our energy sector, including new solutions for nuclear generation in the promising areas of hydrogen energy and energy storage.

Third, we must find answers to the climate change challenges, adjust our agriculture, industry, the housing and utilities sector and the entire infrastructure to them, create a carbon utilisation sector, bring down emissions and introduce strict control and monitoring measures.

Over the next 30 years, the cumulative emissions in Russia must be smaller than in the EU. It is an ambitious goal, considering the size of our country and the specific features of its geography, climate and economic structure. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that it is a perfectly realistic goal in light of our research and technological potential.

Our new energy and pharmaceutical sectors and the solution of climate problems must provide a powerful boost to a comprehensive modernisation of all economic sectors and the social sphere. It is a direct path to the creation of modern and well-paid jobs.

The efforts taken by each level of government, business, development institutions and the Russian Academy of Sciences must have in view the main, central task: to improve the quality of life for our people. I would like to point out that our position on environmental protection is a matter of principle in this respect, and it will definitely remain unchanged.

The dangers of the alternative position have been recently exemplified by the events in Norilsk, Usolye-Sibirskoye and several other places. We will certainly help the people who live there, but we must also preclude a repetition of such environmental disasters.

I would like to ask those responsible to accelerate the adoption of a law on the financial responsibility of enterprise owners for clearing up the accumulated pollution and for the reclamation of industrial sites. This is a very simple approach. Here it is: if you have benefited from polluting the environment, clean up after yourself. We must act harshly. Rosprirodnadoz [the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources] and other regulatory authorities must do their jobs.

I would like to add that the “polluter pays” principle must also be employed in full in the waste disposal sector to ensure transition to the so-called closed-loop economy. With this aim in view, we must launch a mechanism of extended producers and importers’ responsibility for the management of products and packaging wastes as soon as this year.

I also propose marking environmental payments to the federal budget. I know that experts and financial specialists do not like such special marks, but I see this as a vital sphere of our activity. We can make an exception in this case, and invest these funds in clearing up accumulated pollution and improving the environment.

Also, as I said, the amount of hazardous emissions in Russia’s 12 largest industrial centres must be reduced by 20 percent by 2024. We have already discussed this. Obviously, this goal must be accomplished through a comprehensive modernisation of the industrial sector, the housing and utilities sector, transport and energy.

Moreover, I propose expanding the emission quota system to all Russian cities with major air quality problems and introduce strict liability for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Of course, this requires transparent monitoring.

We will definitely support the efforts of businesses to upgrade their facilities up to current environmental standards. For example, upgrading will begin this year at aluminium plants in Bratsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Novokuznetsk based on the state guarantee mechanism. I will later name other cities and towns in other contexts but it does not mean that our work is limited to those areas. They only serve as examples.

Colleagues,

Last year, we allocated unprecedented resources for supporting the economy. Among other things, we managed to preserve over 5 million jobs through subsidised loans for wage payments. I want to stress that this programme succeeded but it succeeded precisely because businesses acted responsibly and did everything they could to keep their employees. We could see that.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to prevent layoffs completely. I understand how hard it is for those who lost their jobs. The Government was instructed to ensure that the labour market recovers by the end of the year. Still, this problem must be solved sooner so that people can have a stable income again. The Government will be encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives and stimulate private investments that create new jobs.

As you know, last year, social insurance contributions for small and medium-sized businesses were reduced by half, from 30 to 15 percent. This decision will remain in force permanently and is not subject to review.

I instruct the Government to present, within the next month, additional proposals on supporting small and medium-sized businesses, such as tax incentives, accessible loans and expanding product distribution and sales, including to major state-run companies.

As for other decisions in the economic sphere, I would like to mention the following.

First, we have already scrapped many archaic norms and requirements in construction and other fields and discontinued many unnecessary control inspections, but we also need to increase the momentum to achieve substantive, clear and tangible results in improving the business climate. For example, building a turnkey factory in Russia should be faster, more economically efficient and easier than in other regions of the world, including countries with developed economies.

Furthermore, we need to simplify the working conditions for non-commodity exporters. We have certainly been pursuing this policy line for a few years now, but we still need to remove all excessive restrictions in forex control for these exporters. This is one of the problems. The new procedure should start functioning in July. We have discussed this matter more than once. All amendments to the legislation must be adopted as quickly as possible during the spring session.

Secondly, the talent of an entrepreneur is primarily the talent of a creator, an aspiration to change life for the better, to create new jobs. The state will definitely support this attitude.

In the modern world where the market situation sometimes changes almost every day, businesses have to deal with high risks, especially when investing in long-term projects. To address this, we will be adjusting the entire private investment support system. We will evaluate how effective the projects are by the new products, services, and technologies they provide people with and how they improve the potential of Russia and each individual region.

The Special Investment Contract mechanism has already been improved; we have implemented a new instrument – Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements. We have consolidated development institutions on the basis of VEB. Their job is to reduce the risks for investing private capital, to help in the creation of new markets and investment mechanisms, the same as with the Project Finance Factory mechanism already in place. It is currently supporting more than 40 commercial projects with a total investment of 3 trillion rubles.

I am waiting for proposals from the Government on the implementation of the ideas proposed in March at a meeting with Russian businesses. Colleagues, you are well aware of this.

Third, we are making all major decisions concerning the economy through a dialogue with the business community. This is the practice established over many years. Of course, we have the right to expect that the auxiliary financial instruments and support mechanisms will bring the most desired result, which is converting profit into investment and development.

There is an important thing I want to say although it is nothing new to businesses. They know it already. The corporate sector is expected to make a record profit this year, despite all the problems that we are dealing with. Despite these problems, this is the real picture. We will take note of how this profit will be used and, based on the annual results, we may decide to calibrate the tax legislation. I want to see specific proposals from the Government. Off the record, I should note: some withdraw dividends while others invest in the development of their companies and entire industries. We will be encouraging those who invest.

Last year, we substantially increased budget expenditure while managing to maintain the stability of state finances. The Government and the Central Bank must continue to pursue a responsible financial policy. Ensuring macroeconomic stability and containing inflation within set parameters is an extremely important task. I assume that it will definitely be accomplished.

At the same time, thanks to our budget capacity and our reserves, we can allocate more funds to support investment in infrastructure and provide regions with new development instruments. Launching these instruments will require the law to be amended. I expect that all parliamentary parties – A Just Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Communist Party and United Russia – will uphold these amendments.

In this regard, I want to thank all constructive public forces in the country for their responsible and patriotic attitude during this difficult epidemic. These are not just meaningless words because it was this attitude and its practical significance that helped all of us preserve the balance and stability of Russia’s government and political system. This is always important but it is especially relevant because we are preparing for the elections to the State Duma and other government bodies, considering the extensive work we will have to carry out. I hope that this competitive mindset that unites us in the face of common goals will persist.

Colleagues,

The country is developing and moving forward, but this is only taking place when the regions of the Russian Federation are developing. A striving of the heads of constituent entities to make their regions successful and self-sufficient must be and will be encouraged in every way.

We will support those who assume responsibility and launch constructive projects. I am confident that every Russian region has huge potential. To help make positive and productive use of this potential, what must we reduce first of all? The governors know what I am referring to: we must reduce the debt burden. These topics must be thoroughly discussed once again.

I ask the Government to submit by June 1 the proposals on ensuring long-term stability of regional and municipal finance and on increasing the regions’ self-sufficiency. We will discuss them in summer at a State Council meeting, and we will do so with due regard for the priority decisions about which I will tell you now.

First of all, we must help regions with large commercial debts. Here is what I suggest: the amount of a region’s commercial debt that exceeds 25 percent of the given region’s own revenues will be replaced with budgetary loans that will mature in 2029.

In addition, I propose restructuring the budgetary loans, yes, budgetary loans that were issued to the regions last year for taking measures to combat the pandemic. I believe that this would be fair. I would like to remind everyone that these loans will mature in two months, on July 1. I suggest extending them to 2029 as well.

I would like to emphasise that the restructuring of accumulated debts should be used as a mechanism of increasing the self-sufficiency of regional economies, especially considering that we will be offering a fundamentally new development tool to our constituent entities. I am referring to the so-called budgetary infrastructure loans with an interest rate of not more than 3 percent per annum and with maturity in 15 years. We intend to allocate a total of at least 0.5 trillion rubles, that is, 500 billion rubles of such infrastructure loans by the end of 2023.

Regional debt restructuring must be based on the concept of justice, which has always been the case, actually. Some constituent entities have large accumulated commercial debts, while other entities did not take out many loans. The latter may feel neglected in this case. This will not do, and we will not permit this. We will support those who have always pursued and continue to pursue a balanced financial policy. The principle of the distribution of infrastructure loans will be as follows: the fewer debts a region had, the more it will be able to receive in infrastructure loans.

We are one country. All levels of government and business must work to one end. Debt restructuring and an innovative investment resource in the form of infrastructure loans will allow us to expand the planning horizon and to launch new solutions that are tied in with the implementation of national projects, sector-specific strategies and a comprehensive plan for upgrading the backbone infrastructure.

Federal infrastructure loans are a powerful resource, but whether they will help us get ahead or attract private investment hugely depends on what regional management teams do and on their ability to conduct an open and candid dialogue with businesses, investors, and, of course, primarily, individuals.

The infrastructure projects in the regions must be implemented, primarily, in the interests of the people, and serve as investment in the creation of new jobs and in promoting the well-being of millions of Russian households and securing the future of our children. The priorities will be building motorways and bypasses in urban areas, upgrading the housing and utilities sector infrastructure and the public transport system, as well as conducting integrated development of territories and building tourist facilities.

Please note that the infrastructure and budget loans will be fully under the control of the Federal Treasury and will be provided exclusively for specific projects that have been thoroughly analysed by experts at the federal level. While we are at it, I would like to say something to regional leaders and the Government: listen, let’s work in a rhythmic and business-like manner. I do not want to use harsh or rude language at this rostrum, but things must be done on time and projects must be prepared, not just pictures shown to the Government. In turn, the Government must quickly process the projects and help the regions deal with things they have problems dealing with. You must help your colleagues, you understand that? Not trash what they have brought to you and say they did a bad job. Some of them are unable to do what you ask of them. Help them, and then things will be on the path forwards.

The scale of the projects may vary, but most importantly, as I said, they must benefit our people and open up new opportunities. For example, in conjunction with our major companies and using the proposed mechanism, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area will begin the construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway. This is the railway that will spur the development of the richest resources of the Arctic. This project has been in the works for a long time now, and it’s time to launch it, since we can do so now. For example, as a result, Nizhny Novgorod will be able to continue building the metro and to start renovating the city centre. Chelyabinsk, another city with a million-plus residents, will also have the opportunity to upgrade its transport system through a long-standing metro construction project. I am aware of other similar projects in Krasnoyarsk and other regions.

And, of course, the construction of new facilities must be at a qualitatively higher level. I want the Government to draft a clear step-by-step plan for the end-to-end and widespread use of digital design, and the production and introduction of cutting-edge energy-efficient materials. This is also important if we want to tackle the climate and environmental challenges.

Large-scale infrastructure development sets fundamentally new tasks before the construction industry. In the difficult past year, it worked smoothly and built over 80 million square metres of housing. This is a good result. The more we build, the more affordable housing will there be for Russian families.

Therefore, we have an ambitious goal. We have already discussed it as well and this ambitious goal has not disappeared– we plan to build 120 million square metres of housing every year. That said, we must certainly envisage a special mechanism for supporting private housing construction.

As for large-scale construction, the DOM.RF development institute will attract financial resources through the placement of bonds. This is a tried and tested mechanism that generally works well. These resources must go to developers as targeted loans.

I would like to emphasise that federal budget subsidies will allow DOM.RF to issue loans to developers at a minimal annual rate of about 3–4 percent. The construction of residential neighbourhoods in Tula, Tyumen, the Sakhalin Region and Kuzbass will be pilot projects for developing this model.

Improvement of cities and towns and housing construction growth play a major role in the development of the regions. We must take care of the urgent, daily problems of local residents. Quite a few Russian families live in areas connected to gas networks but their homes still have no access to gas for some reason. It seems the pipe is there but there is no gas at home.

I would like to ask the Government to work out, in cooperation with the regions, a clear-cut plan for bringing gas to such households. In this context, I support United Russia’s initiative, notably, that people do not have to pay for laying gas pipes directly to the border of their land plots in a residential area.

As I have already said, the Government must analyse all details in cooperation with Gazprom and other companies and agencies that work in this area to prevent any setbacks. Otherwise, I will say something from this rostrum and people will be waiting for it but because you don’t put some squiggles or commas in the right place everything will get bogged down again. This is unacceptable, and I will check on it myself, so please pay attention. Mosoblgaz and other companies must understand what they must do, in what timeframe and how much money they have at their disposal.

The goal is certainly more extensive. We must offer every region our solutions on public access to reliable and clean energy sources. This may be electricity, including from renewable sources, or environmentally friendly use of coal, which is also an option in the modern world, pipeline or liquefied gas. I instruct the regional heads to prepare, in coordination with the Government, detailed plans of action and start implementing them next year.

For example, in Kamchatka we must envisage the creation of local gas-receiving infrastructure to ensure reliable long-term gas supplies to the residents and companies of the Kamchatka Territory.

Colleagues,

We will not only give fundamentally new development tools to the regions, but will also directly invest federal resources into the settlement of the worst systemic problems, which will have a compound effect on boosting the regions’ growth and improving the quality of people’s lives.

We will begin with allocations from the National Welfare Fund for building mainline motorways. First of all, we should finance the ongoing construction of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed road and, more than that, extend it all the way to Yekaterinburg, completing this project within three years.

This way, together with the existing Moscow-St Petersburg high-speed road and the Central Ring Road, this will ensure safe high-speed motorway transit across the entire European part of Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals, by 2024.

However, it is not enough to simply connect the end-of-line destinations. What good will this do, if it does not change anything about life in villages or small towns but only gives the people there an opportunity to watch high-speed trains and vehicles rush past? The backbone infrastructure must definitely lead to the development of all the territories where it has been built, giving rise to the development of a modern regional network.

The constituent entities will now be able to use infrastructure loans to speed up the implementation of these construction projects. But in their development plans, our colleagues should remember and take into account that the federal and regional mainlines must function as a unified system in the interests of our citizens, businesses and regions. In this way, the infrastructure loans and the resources of the National Welfare Fund will be working for the benefit of all Russian regions.

The same goes for our new national project in the tourist sphere. A programme of easy loans will be launched soon to finance the construction and renovation of hotels and other tourist infrastructure. The interest rate on these loans will be 3–5 percent as well, and the loans will mature in 15 years.

There are many other pilot projects. I will only mention some of them: the development of Sheregesh, the leading mountain ski resort in Kuzbass; the creation of a yachting resort in the Bay of Balaklava in Sevastopol; and the development of the tourist industry on the Altai and in the Kaliningrad Region.

The infrastructure loans project will give a new impetus to entire tourist clusters. In particular, several regions in Central Russia will be able to modernise and expand the Golden Ring route at a fundamentally new level, realising the tourist potential of small towns such as Tarusa, Palekh, Murom, Gorokhovets, Tutayev and Borovsk. Development projects will be launched in the Volga Region cities, the Crimean resorts, the Black Sea and Pacific coast areas, as well as in our resort towns such as Staraya Russa in the Novgorod Region and Kavkazskiye Mineralnye Vody in the Caucasus, including its gem, Kislovodsk.

Russia is a hospitable country that is open to its good friends. You surely remember what happened during the 2018 football championships. As soon as the epidemiological situation allows, we will lift the remaining restrictions and millions of tourists from all over the world will come to Russia again. We have a practical task at hand: to ensure that e-visas for travel to Russia are available remotely and without undue formalities within a matter of four days in the majority of countries.

Colleagues,

The meaning and purpose of Russia’s policy in the international arena – I will just say a few words about this to conclude my address – is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of our country. Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

At the same time, unfortunately, everyone in the world seems to be used to the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions and to certain actors’ brutal attempts to impose their will on others by force. But today, this practice is degenerating into something even more dangerous – I am referring to the recently exposed direct interference in Belarus in an attempt to orchestrate a coup d’état and assassinate the President of that country. At the same time, it is typical that even such flagrant actions have not been condemned by the so-called collective West. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone pretends nothing is happening.

But listen, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials – well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.

Clearly, there is a reason why our Western colleagues have been stubbornly rejecting Russia’s numerous proposals to establish an international dialogue on information and cyber security. We have come up with these proposals many times. They avoid even discussing this matter.

What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

All the while, unfriendly moves towards Russia have also continued unabated. Some countries have taken up an unseemly routine where they pick on Russia for any reason, most often, for no reason at all. It is some kind of new sport of who shouts the loudest.

In this regard, we behave in an extremely restrained manner, I would even say, modestly, and I am saying this without irony. Often, we prefer not to respond at all, not just to unfriendly moves, but even to outright rudeness. We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer.

We really want to maintain good relations with all those engaged in international communication, including, by the way, those with whom we have not been getting along lately, to put it mildly. We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough.

Those behind provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way they have not regretted anything for a long time.

At the same time, I just have to make it clear, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence and certainty in our cause, as well as common sense, when making a decision of any kind. But I hope that no one will think about crossing the “red line” with regard to Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where it will be drawn.

I will now say, just as I always do during the annual addresses to the Federal Assembly, that the improvement and qualitative strengthening of Russia’s Armed Forces continues on a regular basis. In particular, special attention will be given to the development of military education both at military school and academies and at military training centres at civilian universities.

By 2024, the share of modern weapons and military equipment in the armed forces will reach nearly 76 percent, which is a very good indicator. This share in the nuclear triad will be over 88 percent before this year is out.

Standing on combat duty are the latest Avangard hypersonic intercontinental missile systems and the Peresvet combat laser systems, and the first regiment armed with Sarmat super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles is scheduled to go on combat duty in late 2022.

The number of combat air systems with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and warships armed with precision hypersonic weapons such as Kinzhal that I mentioned, and with the Kalibr missiles, is increasing. The Tsirkon hypersonic missiles will be put on combat duty soon. Work is underway on other modern combat systems, including Poseidon and Burevestnik, in accordance with the development plans of the Armed Forces.

As the leader in the creation of new-generation combat systems and in the development of modern nuclear forces, Russia is urging its partners once again to discuss the issues related to strategic armaments and to ensuring global stability. The subject matter and the goal of these talks could be the creation of an environment for a conflict-free coexistence based on the security equation, which would include not only the traditional strategic armaments, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but – I would like to emphasise this – all offensive and defensive systems capable of attaining strategic goals regardless of the armament.

The five nuclear countries bear special responsibility. I hope that the initiative on a personal meeting of the heads of state of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which we proposed last year, will materialise and will be held as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.

Russia is always open to broad international cooperation. We have consistently advocated the preservation and strengthening of the key role of the United Nations in international affairs, and we try to provide assistance to the settlement of regional conflicts and have already done a great deal to stabilise the situation in Syria and to launch a political dialogue in Libya. As you know, Russia played the main role in stopping the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

It is on the basis of mutual respect that we are building relations with the absolute majority of the world’s countries: in Asia, Latin America, Africa and many European countries. We are consistently expanding as a priority contacts with our closest partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and our allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

Our common projects in the Eurasian Economic Union are aimed at ensuring economic growth and the wellbeing of our people. There are new, interesting projects here, such as the development of transport-and-logistics corridors. I am sure they will become a reliable infrastructure backbone for large-scale Eurasian partnership. The Russian ideas of this broad, open association are already being put into practice, in part, via alignment with other integration processes.

All these projects are not just geopolitical ideas but strictly practical instruments for resolving national development tasks.

Colleagues,

I began today’s Address with urgent healthcare issues, and concluding it, I would like to say the following. Nobody in the world knew what misfortune we would have to face. However, we, citizens of Russia, have already done much and will do all we can to counter the threat of the epidemic. Our country has reliable resources for this. We created them in healthcare, science, education and industry in previous years.

However, we must definitely move forward. We have mapped out national development tasks. Naturally, the challenge of the epidemic has made objective adjustments to our work. Today’s Address contains instructions on demography and family support, as well as on efforts to fight poverty, increase incomes, create jobs, improve the business environment and raise state management to a new level.

I would like to ask the Government to focus on these tasks in preparing new initiatives on Russia’s socioeconomic development and instruct it to present them by July 1 of this year.

What do I have in mind? Doing everyday work, we must certainly not forget about our strategic development goals and our national development goals, and we must improve the mechanisms for reaching them.

We will discuss the Government’s proposals with the participation of the relevant State Council commissions, our business associations, experts and the Civic Chamber. Following such a broad discussion, we will make final decisions on further financial and organisational actions at the meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects.

Now I would like to address all citizens of Russia once again to say that we will do everything in our power to achieve the goals set. I am sure we will move forward together and accomplish all the tasks that we have set for ourselves.

Thank you very much for your attention.

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is played.

A Palestinian Prayer for Ramadan: May the Voices of the Oppressed Be Heard

April 21, 2021

Palestinian Muslims performing prayers and reading Quran in the Great Al-Omari Mosque in the early days of the holy month of Ramadan. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud

COVID-19 cases in Palestine, especially in Gaza, have reached record highs, largely due to the arrival of a greatly contagious coronavirus variant which was first identified in Britain.

Gaza has always been vulnerable to the deadly pandemic. Under a hermetic Israeli blockade since 2006, the densely populated Gaza Strip lacks basic services like clean water, electricity, or minimally-equipped hospitals. Therefore, long before COVID-19 ravaged many parts of the world, Palestinians in Gaza were dying as a result of easily treatable diseases such as diarrhea, salmonella and typhoid fever.

Needless to say, Gaza’s cancer patients have little fighting chance, as the besieged Strip is left without many life-saving medications. Many Palestinian cancer patients continue to cling to the hope that Israel’s military authorities will allow them access to the better equipped Palestinian West Bank hospitals. Alas, quite often, death arrives before the long-awaited Israeli permit does.

The tragedy in Gaza – in fact in all of occupied Palestine – is long and painful. Still, it ought not to be classified as another sad occasion that invokes much despair but little action.

In fact, the struggle of the Palestinians is integral to a larger struggle for fundamental human rights that can be witnessed throughout the Middle East which, according to a recent Carnegie Corporation report, is one of the most economically unequal regions in the world.

From war-torn Libya to war-torn Syria, to Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and many parts of the Arab and Muslim world, the dual tragedy of war and want is a scathing reminder of the price ordinary people pay for frivolous power struggles that yield nothing but more uncertainty and achieve nothing but more hatred.

Once more, the holy month of Ramadan visits the Muslim Ummah while its tragedies are still festering – new conflicts, unfinished wars, an ever-expanding death toll and a never-ending stream of refugees. Sadly, not even Ramadan, a month associated with peace, mercy and unity, is enough to bring about however fleeting moments of tranquility, or a respite from hunger and war for numerous Muslim communities around the world.

In Palestine, the Israeli occupation often takes even more sinister turns during this month, as if to intentionally compound the suffering felt by Palestinians. On April 14, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims to intervene so that Israel may cease its harassment of Palestinians at the holy shrines of Al Quds – occupied East Jerusalem.

Aside from the increased attacks by Jewish extremists, who are now storming Al-Aqsa Mosque at a significantly higher rate than ever before, the Israeli occupation authorities have “removed the doors of the Mosque’s minarets, cut the electrical wires of loudspeakers to prevent the Adhan (call to prayer) and seized (Ramadan) iftar meals, in addition to threatening to storm the Mosque on the final days of the holy month of Ramadan,” Sheikh Hussein said in a statement.

Israel fully comprehends the spiritual connection that Palestinians, whether Muslims or Christians, have to their religious symbols. For Muslims, this rapport is further accentuated during the holy month of Ramadan. Severing this connection is equal to breaking the collective spirit of the Palestinian people.

These are only a few examples of a multifaceted and deeply rooted tragedy felt by most Palestinians. Numerous similar stories, though of different political and spatial contexts, are communicated every day throughout the Muslim world. Yet, there is no meaningful discussion of a collective remedy, of a strategy, of a thoughtful answer.

Ramadan is intended to be a time when Muslims are united on the basis of a wholly different criterion: where political and ideological differences disappear in favor of spiritual unity which is expressed in fasting, prayer, charity and kindness. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing is not Ramadan as it was intended to be, but different manifestations of the holy month, each catering to a different class – a painful but true expression of the disunity and inequality that have afflicted the Muslim Ummah.

There is the Ramadan of boundless wealth, finely catered iftar meals, coupled with endless, cheap entertainment. In this Ramadan, platitudes are often offered about charity and the poor, but little is delivered.

There is also the Ramadan of Palestine, Sudan and Yemen, of the Syrian refugee camps and of little dinghies dotting the Mediterranean, carrying thousands of desperate families, holding little but their hope of a better future beyond some horizon. For them, Ramadan is a stream of prayers that the world, especially their Muslim brethren, may come to their rescue. For them, there is little entertainment because there is no electricity and there are no massive iftar feasts because there is no money.

“Dua” is Arabic for supplication. For the oppressed, dua is the last resort; at times, even a weapon against oppression in all of its forms. This is why we often see bereaved Muslims raising their open palms to the sky whenever tragedy has befallen them. Ramadan is the month where the poor, destitute and oppressed raise their hands to Heaven, beseeching God in various accents and languages to hear their prayers.

They are reassured by such hadiths – sayings of Prophet Mohammed – as this: “The supplications of three persons are never turned away: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler and the supplication of the oppressed which is raised by Allah above the clouds, the gates of Heaven are opened for it, and the Lord says: By my might, I will help you in due time.”

There has never been a more critical time for the Ummah to work together, to heal its collective wound, to uplift its down-trodden, to care for its poor, to embrace its refugees and to fight for its oppressed. Many Muslim communities around the world are aching and their pain is unbearable. Perhaps this Ramadan can serve as the opportunity for social justice to be finally enacted and for the oppressed to be heard so that their hymn of torment and hope may rise above the clouds.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

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