Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

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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.

FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

Source

FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

February 20, 2021

A good sub-title for this interview could be “Lavrov Unplugged”.

A quote from the transcript (which incidentally was available faster than any other transcript from the The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation ):

“… when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

….

All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.”

Video in Russian without subtitles or English voiceover as yet.

Question: There is a feeling that the West is very annoyed by the appearance of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. At first, they were very aggressive and wouldn’t let it go. When I talked with Minister of Trade and Industry Dmitry Manturov, he called it “the vaccine war.” Now the opinion has changed. Is this about the quality of the vaccine or is politics involved in this?

Sergey Lavrov: I think it is possible to use the logic of the Russian proverb that can be translated into English as “love it so but mother says no.” Western experts know that the Sputnik V vaccine is definitely one of the best, if not the very best. Otherwise, there would not be such a stream of requests for it, which is growing geometrically.

On the other hand, they realise that the spread of Sputnik V and other Russian vaccines that will soon enter the international market, will enhance our authority and status in the world. They do not want this to happen. But they have come to realise that their first response was simply outrageous in the context of the facts and medical science. When President Vladimir Putin announced the development of the vaccine in August 2020, the offensive was completely undiplomatic. Their response just betrayed their irritation, you are perfectly right.

And now many countries (the Czech Republic and others) are saying they can’t wait for the certification of the vaccine by the European Medicines Agency. In Hungary, they believe they are ready to start vaccination and supplies are now underway. The number of requests from Europe is steadily on the rise. Just the other day, Prince Albert II of Monaco sent a request for the vaccine for the entire population of his principality.

After independent agencies published their scientific evaluations, the West had to admit that the vaccine was good. Yet, attempts to discredit it continue.

Just yesterday I read a somewhat ambiguous statement by President of France Emmanuel Macron. He put us and the Chinese into the category of those who are trying to gain advantages in the world arena at the expense of their medical achievements. The day before yesterday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen spoke with an emphatically negative connotation about the supplies of the Russian vaccines to foreign countries.

We must follow the correct position of principle, first voiced by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, notably, that we were the first to develop the vaccine, and we will continue to increase its production. This is not easy, we do not have enough capacities, and this is why we are negotiating with India, South Korea and other countries. At the same time, he said we are open to the broadest possible cooperation.

There is one more important point. When this issue was discussed at the UN the other day, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the countries that have this vaccine or have the money to buy it, not to forget about the poor. In the meantime, attempts are being made to accuse us of trying to gain geopolitical favour by supplying it abroad. This is an obvious discrepancy. It is clear that the West is poorly prepared for this discussion.

Question: So, it’s about the same as when President Putin said at the Davos Forum that the world cannot continue creating an economy that will only benefit the “golden billion,” and we are actually accused of supplying the vaccine for the benefit of the “golden billion.” Still, are they talking about the vaccine like this just because it was made in Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see any other reason, because no one even tried to conduct a medical or a scientific test. They just said right away that it was impossible just because it’s impossible, meaning that “no one can do this that quickly.” It was only in October 2020, when the West said they would be able to report on their achievements. President Putin announced in August that the Russian-made vaccine was ready for rollout.

Unfortunately, I often see that the response to everything we do, say or offer is, at best, questioned right off the bat. Usually, they say that “the Russians are playing their geopolitical games again.”

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who was here recently and met with you, said that Russia is distancing itself from the West. At the same time, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said we are open to cooperation with Europe. You said we are ready to break up, but we are not breaking off our relations. What really stands in the way of normal relations between the EU and Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: A biased attitude, by and large. I worked with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, a good colleague of mine, when he was Spanish Foreign Minister. Now many, in an attempt to give a controversial dimension to the High Representative’s visit to Russia, forget how it all began. In May 2019, Mr Borrell said: “Our old enemy, Russia, says again ‘here I am,’ and it is again a threat.” We then asked his protocol service to confirm what he said. We were told that it was a figure of speech and that he was misunderstood. However, this attitude shows.

We are seen as a stranger. In my interview with Vladimir Solovyov, replying to his question as to whether we are ready to break off with the EU, I gave an affirmative answer because there are no relations to talk about. As former US President Barack Obama once said (although he said it about the Russian economy), relations have been “torn to shreds.”

Indeed, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [between the EU and Russia] entered into force in 1997. It contained a number of declarative goals for moving towards common economic, humanitarian and cultural spaces. For many years, we used a mechanism of summits, which were held every six months in Russia and in the EU alternately. In fact, our entire Government held annual meetings with the European Commission to discuss the participants’ responsibilities in the context of over 20 sector-specific dialogues. We were building four common spaces and roadmaps for each of them. These were 100 percent substantive and specific projects. It was all destroyed, just like the Partnership and Cooperation Council, within which the Russian Foreign Minister and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reviewed the entire range of relations. This disappeared long before the Ukraine crisis.

Many in our country are just waiting for a chance to pounce on the Russian Government’s foreign policy. We are being asked how we can say that we are ready to break off with the EU when it is our largest trade and economic partner. If we take the EU as a collective partner, it is our largest partner in terms of gross trade. For example, in 2013 (before the Ukraine events) Russia became a WTO member. From that moment, our trade relations were built on the principles advocated by that organisation rather than the EU’s principles. As a single trade bloc, the EU also participated in the WTO. We traded with member countries based on WTO guidelines. If you think the EU is a valuable trade and economic partner, here are some statistics for you: in 2013, the United States was the EU’s biggest trading partner with about $480 billion, followed by China with $428 billion and Russia with $417 billion. That is, these numbers are of the same order of magnitude. Where do we stand now? In 2019, EU’s trade with the United States stood at $750 billion, with China $650 billion, and with Russia at about $280 billion. In 2020, it was $218 billion, if counting with Great Britain, and $191 billion without it.

The reason? It’s the sanctions imposed by our “valued” and largest economic partner for reasons that have never relied on any facts whatsoever. At least, no facts have ever been presented to us. We understand Crimea. We understand Donbass as well. It’s just that the EU admitted its inability, or perhaps, unwillingness, to prevent the anti-constitutional coup with an open Russophobic slant and chose to turn things upside down. Brussels shifted the blame to us and imposed sanctions on Russia rather than the putschists, who, by and large, spat on the guarantees of the European Union, which signed the corresponding agreements, totally ignoring, as I said, the fact that the actions of the government, which they supported, were openly and violently anti-Russian.

Question: Without the events in Ukraine, would our relations with the West have sunk to where they are now?

Sergey Lavrov: It is difficult for me to talk about this. After all, later there were other events linked with the accusations of “the poisoning in Salisbury.” No facts were presented. We were not allowed to meet with our citizens. No evidence was offered. Everything was similar to what is happening now with the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny.

Question: It seems the West is looking for a pretext to spoil our relations.

Sergey Lavrov: They are looking but there are many pretexts: it’s always possible to use something as an excuse to put the relationship on the required track. But it’s not that they want to spoil relations. I don’t think this is their main goal. They want to bolster their self-esteem. Now they are starting to act like the US, revealing the mentality of an exclusive group of states. I quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. When asked why they continue discussing sanctions against Russia and what goals they had achieved by imposing sanctions, he replied that he didn’t believe sanctions should be used for any purpose. What matters is that they don’t leave any action by the Russian Federation unpunished.

The concealment of facts that could somehow confirm accusations against us started long before the crisis in Ukraine. We can recall 2007 – the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in the hospital. There was a coroner’s inquest. Later this trial was declared “public.” In George Orwell’s logic, in Britain this means a “secret trial” during which no inquisitorial procedures of the secret services may be presented. You know, these are system-wide problems.

I listed what we used to have in our relations with the European Union. Nothing is left now, not even sporadic contacts on some international issues. As regards the Iran nuclear programme, we are taking part in the work of the collective group of countries, which are trying to somehow put this programme back on track. This is not part of our relations with the EU proper. In the Middle East, we have a Quartet of mediators consisting of Russia, the US, the EU and the UN. In other words, this is multilateral cooperation rather than our relations with just the EU.

With regard to who is taking steps to prevent our relations from further decline, at least a little, we were thinking about that when Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was getting ready to visit Moscow. He suggested cooperating in healthcare and vaccines. We have already discussed this here. As a Brussels institution, the EU will hardly be allowed to contact Russian agencies or companies independently regarding the vaccines. We would sooner cooperate directly with the producers of AstraZeneca, as this is already taking place.

On the eve of Mr Borrell’s visit, we invited his experts to make a joint statement on the Middle East by the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Our positions are nearly identical on the matter and we thought it would be appropriate to urge the Quartet to resume its activities and call for direct Palestinian-Israeli talks, respect for the relevant UN resolutions, and so on.

We gave them a page and a half text that was easy to approve after the first reading. Several days prior to his arrival, we were told that “it did not work out.” I will reveal a secret because this is a blatant example. I asked Mr Borrell at the negotiating table: “What about this statement? Why didn’t it work out?” He started turning his head all around. It was clear from his reaction, and he confirmed this later, that nobody had even told him about it. These are the people that deal with what some of our liberals call “relations with the EU.”

Question: Concluding this theme, I’d like to say that as a man born in the USSR, I understand that during the Soviet-Western confrontation we had different ideologies, economies and so on. Later, I thought that everything was the same on both sides. They were for democracy and we were for democracy; they had a market economy and we had a market economy. So what are the differences? Why do we fail to find a common language to this day? I thought we found it in the 1990s? Why did we find it then?

Sergey Lavrov: We found it at that time because nobody in the Russian Federation disputed the answer to the question of who was ruling the show. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this many times. We decided that was it – the end of history. Francis Fukuyama announced that from now on liberal thought would rule the world. Now there are attempts to push this liberal thought to the fore again in a bid to gain international influence. But when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

Initially, having become President, Vladimir Putin and his team tried to convey this message through diplomatic signals that educated and smart people would be bound to understand. But nobody listened. Then the explanations had to be made politely but openly in the Munich speech. All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.

Question: Regarding the sanctions. Bloomberg posted a news item today that new sanctions against Russia are planned concerning the Nord Stream 2, however, they are not going to be tough but rather “soft.” On the other hand, they report that the Americans want to thwart the Nord Stream project but without irritating Germany. Where are we in this situation?

Sergey Lavrov: We are a country that completely complies with the contractual obligations undertaken by our companies that are part of the project, along with the EU companies that joined it. The current situation is largely due to a decision taken by what we call the European Union, a decision that proves beyond doubt what sort of alliance it is. A few years ago, when the Poles, and others sharing their attitude, attempted to impede the Nord Stream project, the Legal Service of the European Commission was asked for legal advice, official opinion. The service presented a document which stated in no uncertain terms that the investment project had been launched long before amendments were made to the EU’s gas directive, the Third Energy Package. That’s it. Period. This issue should be closed for any person who has respect for the law. But no, the European Commission took this opinion and launched its own quasi-legal procedure which resulted in the conclusion that the project had indeed been launched much earlier, yet it fell under this third energy package and the gas directive. That’s what kind of a partner we have in this “relationship.”

This is about how we can “pounce” on them and express readiness to break relations with them when they are our main economic partner – that’s what kind of a partner they are. Meanwhile, now Germany alone is fighting for the project.

And in fact, Joe Biden’s administration will not cancel anything which was done by Donald Trump except for leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Democrats are returning there now.

The NATO defence ministers meeting has just ended. But there was no let-up in US demands to pay 2 percent of a country’s GDP for defence needs, i.e. for purchasing US weaponry. There was no backing off the demands on Europe regarding Nord Stream 2 – to stop participating in some matters that undermine European security. They see it better from across the ocean, right? This is about who is the boss. Europe also wants to run the house but it was taken down a peg. The situation around Nord Stream 2 is straightforward.

For now they are saying publicly that bargaining is underway and possible agreements between Washington and Berlin are being discussed, including that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may be allowed to be completed and even start operating. However, if at the same time gas transiting via Ukraine is going to be falling, then Nord Stream 2 must be shut off. I cannot decide for Germany, however, it is obvious to me that this proposal is humiliating. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his meeting with parliamentary party leaders, this is yet further evidence that they want Russia to pay for their Ukraine geopolitical venture.

Question: Do we have to pay for this geopolitical project?  Why do they think we have to pay for it?

Sergey Lavrov: Because they don’t feel like lashing out on it. They need the Ukrainian regime for the sole purpose of constantly irritating Russia and finding new reasons to support their Russophobic policy. They want to weaken anything around us – Belarus, Central Asia, and now also the South Caucasus, as they got nervous after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s successful mediation mission between Armenia and Azerbaijan: why was this done without them? They are now trying to infiltrate this region and step up their activities there. All of that has nothing to do with the Cold War-era ideology of a showdown between the two systems you talked about a few minutes ago. It has to do with the fact that our Western partners are unwilling, unprepared and unable to speak on an equal footing, whether with Russia, China, or whoever. They need to create a system where they will be the boss regardless. This is why they are taking an increasing dislike to the United Nations since they cannot have total control of it.

Question: Do you see the EU as a monolith, or as something more loose, with certain processes unfolding inside and some countries, no matter what, starting to talk about their willingness to be friends with Russia? In the case of the sanctions, the key figures behind them are, strange as it may seem, the Baltic States, which do not play a prominent role in the EU but, for some reason, everyone is listening to them.

Sergy Lavrov: It sounds inappropriate to refer to the EU as a monolith a mere couple of months after Brexit. This “monolith” is not the same as before. If you mean a monolith in a figurative sense, my answer is no. Quite a few countries are maintaining relations with Russia. The visit of Josep Borrell was the first trip by an EU official of this level to Russia in three years. In the same three years, about two dozen ministers from European Union member countries have visited Russia. We are having a great dialogue, without wasting too much time on confrontation and moralising. Indeed, all of them do have their assignments – a couple of sheets of paper from which they read a script approved by the “party committee” in Brussels.

Question: Do you mean they bring a notebook with instructions with them?

Sergey Lavrov: Certainly. They do not dare to veer off course. This, for example, goes for Alexey Navalny, or the Skripals as in the previous case, or human rights. Now scientist Yury Dmitriyev from Karelia is in the spotlight. They flatly refuse to accept evidence of his involvement in crimes, like pedophilia. They read from their notebook and I would adduce my arguments to the contrary and describe our vision of this or that situation and wonder why we cannot obtain evidence on the Navalny case or the Skripal case. In response they simply read again from their notebook. Apart from this discipline induced by the bloc member states’ solidarity, we discuss things normally. Yes, the EU sets the terms on which [its member countries] participate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), while we are trading with these countries in the WTO on the terms that were agreed on for Russia to join this organisation. But the EU has nothing to do with this cooperation in trade and investment activity, except for its attempts to restrict trade and economic ties with the sanctions.

You mentioned the Baltic States. Indeed, they run the show in this respect to a great extent. I have talked to your colleagues about this on more than one occasion. When in 2004 there were hectic activities to drag them into the EU, Russia and Brussels maintained a very frank dialogue. The President of the European Commission at the time was Romano Prodi. In 2005, the objective was set to move to visa-free travel.

Question: Nobody has any memories of this today.

Sergey Lavrov: We remember this when we reply to those who ask how we dare say that we are ready to break relations with the EU. You mentioned the Baltic States. We had long been negotiating an updated version of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU, which the EU terminated in 2014. It was expected to go a bit beyond the boundaries of the WTO rules and allow us to negotiate additional trade preferences. At one time there was an objective to establish a free trade zone, but this has long since fallen into oblivion. However, there were plans to update the agreement in order to liberalise trade even more, in addition to the WTO rules. In 2014, they ceased to exist – another example of breaking down our relations.

A visa-free travel agreement was also finalised back in 2013. We had met all of the EU requirements: we agreed that only people with biometric passports would be eligible for visa-free travel and that those who violated EU entry rules or any other EU rules while in an EU country during a visa-free period would be subject to readmission. We signed the relevant agreement. Everything they asked for, and that suited us, was done. Later, when it was time to sign the agreement and then ratify it, the EU said: “Let’s wait.” It did not take us long to learn why they had said this, all the more so as they did not try to conceal their motives. This Brussels team decided that it was politically incorrect to approve a visa-free travel agreement with Russia prior to offering it to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Question: In other words, Russia was made dependent on other countries?

Sergey Lavrov: It sure was, at the Baltic States’ initiative. This is also important for understanding the nature of our relations. This is an attitude from people who decided that they were European, which is not at all the case. Russia sees Europe in all its diversity. If the “party committee” in Brussels does not like it, we cannot force them to.

Question: Europe stretches at least to the Urals.

Sergey Lavrov: Correct. In 2009, when Jose Manuel Barroso was President of the European Commission, we held a Russia-EU summit in Khabarovsk. Our European colleagues arrived later in the day. We went out for a walk along the embankment. We were showing them around the city and Mr Barroso said: “It’s amazing. It took us 13 hours to get here from Brussels, and it’s still Europe.” This is the key message behind the slogan “Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

Question: I’m going to ask you about one other country, Belarus. There will be a presidential summit on February 22. President Lukashenko will come to Russia. Recently, Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei gave an interview to the RBC media holding and mentioned Belarus’ multi-directional foreign policy. Do you think we have managed to work well with Minsk on integration? What should we expect from these talks?

Sergey Lavrov: The term “multi-directional” should not be used as a profanity. Most normal states want it. Russia, too, has used a multi-directional approach as the basis of its foreign policy since 2002. In our understanding, a multi-directional approach is possible only if based of equality, respect and a balance of interests, as well as mutual benefit. This is the only way it can work.

First, they threaten us with sanctions, and then the same people are saying that we “had it coming” and impose unilateral restrictions on us, and then say that we are “bad” because “we are looking to the East.” Everything has been turned upside down.

Russia is a Eurasian country. We have close contacts with Europe, which have been cultivated for centuries, before anyone even thought of a European Union, and the Europeans fought and competed against each other. By the way, we often helped them achieve peace and fair outcomes in wars.

Question: We even saved the monarchies?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they are aware of it. The republic in the United States, too, to a certain extent.

However, our European neighbours have severed almost all of our ties and left only sporadic contacts on international crises that are of interest to the EU in order to keep a profile on the international arena. In many ways, the EU is driven by a desire to be seen as an important operator in Syrian and other matters. If we are not welcome here, we will simply continue to work with our other neighbours who are not prone to whims like that.

Objectively, our trade with the EU is almost half of what it was in 2013. Our trade with China has doubled over the same period.

Question: Back to Minsk. What can we expect from talks between President Putin and President Lukashenko on February 22?

Sergey Lavrov: There are some who want to interpret Minsk’s words about the multi-directional nature of its foreign policy as proof of its “unreliability” as a partner and ally. I do not think so.

In the Council of Europe, of which Belarus is not a member yet, we advocate the CoE establishing relations with Minsk. We supported the accession of Minsk to a number of Council of Europe conventions. We have always been in favour of Belarus enjoying normal relations with its western neighbours. I’m not sure what the CoE will do next. Russophobia has swept over most of the EU countries, and the most “violent” ones are in charge of the agenda.

I read the remarks by President Lukashenko (not all his interviews, but they were cited) to the effect that he sees no obstacles to deepening integration. Progress will depend on how President Vladimir Putin and President Lukashenko agree on things.

There are two more days to go before the talks. I don’t think we should be speculating on the outcome of the summit. We will know everything soon.

Question: Recently, US President Joseph Biden said the United States will no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions” (ostensibly, Donald Trump did this). How can we build our relations now? Are there subjects we can discuss with Washington? Are they ready to talk with us?

Sergey Lavrov: These comments on who is rolling over or will be rolling over in the face of someone’s actions illustrate a very deep split in US society. It reached a level of personal enmity that is aggressive and contrary to American political culture. The politicians did not particularly mince their words during previous presidential campaigns or prior to elections to Congress, but I don’t remember anything comparable to what is being said now.

Our liberal media promote a tough pro-Western line. In looking for objects of criticism in Russia, they are infringing on the threshold of decency and getting personal. They are very crude, and behave not like journalists but like inveterate propagandists, accusing others of propaganda.

The fact that the New Start Treaty was extended in time is a very positive step. This shouldn’t be overrated, but it shouldn’t be underrated, either. In his election speeches Joseph Biden mentioned his willingness to extend it, but these were election speeches after all. His promise could be interpreted differently later, but he extended this important document for five years without any conditions, like we suggested. If this had not happened, there would not have been a single instrument of international law, not only in Russian-US relations but in the entire range of multilateral ties, that contained any restrictions in the sphere of disarmament, arms control and nuclear weapons non-proliferation.

It is very important that just a few days prior to February 5, 2021, the date the treaty was extended for five years, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joseph Biden reaffirmed their intention to promote talks on strategic stability in these new conditions, in their first telephone conversation after the US presidential election. The situation has changed substantially since 2010: We and the Americans have acquired new weapons some of which are covered by the treaty. We announced this last year. We said that they must be taken into account. Some other weapons are not covered by the treaty – they are basically very different because of their physical characteristics.

Question: Are you talking about hypersonic weapons?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, the United States also has such weapons. Hypersonic weapons are partly covered by the New START Treaty, if these are ballistic missiles.

The New START Treaty already covers some weapons systems, so we now have to include these weapons systems in the Treaty for the next five years and see how all this will be verified. But it does not cover some weapons.

The United States has developed a new system called the Prompt Global Strike (PGS). By the way, this system implies a non-nuclear strike. We have suggested negotiating all issues without exception that have an impact on strategic stability and the legitimate interests of the contracting parties.

Question: Did they agree to this? Are they ready?

Sergey Lavrov: In October 2020, we submitted draft joint understandings to the Trump administration. This rough outline shows how we can sit down and start negotiating the agenda. We have received no reply from them. Instead of addressing this matter, Marshall Billingslea, the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, mostly made vocal statements that the United States was all for it but that the Russians did not want to do this.

When I spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, I reminded him that Russia had submitted its proposals to the Trump administration, which dealt with this matter and many other issues, including cybersecurity and concerns over interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We would like to get back to them, and to hear the Biden administration’s opinions in this regard. We realise that they now need some time to settle down in the White House and the Department of State. I hope that this will not take too long.

There are still some questions on disarmament, for example, the lineup of participants in the disarmament process. The US position on China, approved by Donald Trump, remains unchanged; the same concerns a number of other matters.

Regarding multilateral talks, first of all, this should not annul Russian-US agreements because we have several times more nuclear weapons than other nuclear countries. Second, if we make this a multilateral process, then all prospective participants, primarily the five nuclear powers, should reach a voluntary agreement. We will never try to persuade China. We respect the position of Beijing, which either wants to catch up with us or proposes that we first reduce our arsenals to China’s levels and then start on the talks. All circumstances considered, if this is a multilateral process, then we will get nowhere without the United Kingdom and France. The Trump administration insisted that China should take part and at the same time said about its allies that they were the good guys, literally. This sounds funny. Apart from the complicated and lengthy disarmament process, we do not have so many promising spheres where we can cooperate constructively.

Question: Does this mean that their vision of the issue is entirely different or that they are reluctant to negotiate?

Sergey Lavrov: They think that they are the boss, and this mentality is still here and it determines the perception of their enemies. So far, they have not designated China as an enemy, but they have called us an enemy a couple of times. Democrats have an additional motivation for expanding this policy. Their position is that, supposedly unlike with Donald Trump, they will be “no Russian tail wagging the dog.”

Question: Don’t you think that Democrats have come to power with the intention of taking revenge against Russia, and that they will implement Donald Trump’s anti-Russia plans that he failed to accomplish in four years.

Sergey Lavrov: They made such statements during the election campaign. Joe Biden and his supporters said openly that the Trump administration had gone soft, that it was constantly making advances and working for the Russian intelligence. Donald Trump said that he was conducting the toughest policy with regard to Russia. He said that he liked Vladimir Putin, but he introduced more sanctions than all of his predecessors taken together.

We are also witnessing a cowboy-style showdown there. But this is normal for US politics, especially today. Disagreements between liberals who considered liberalism an irreversible trend have become aggravated to the greatest possible extent. Donald Trump, who did not like liberal principles and approaches, suddenly took over. He tried to think more about the basic interests of the American founders, the people who moved there (and it has always been a nation of immigrants), and who accepted its laws. So, the big question is whether people should remain loyal to the country that has accepted them, or do they want to erode its principles?

Question: Should they try to fit in?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they want to be the boss. Everything boils down to this once again.

Question: Karabakh, the subject of that. Fortunately, the war is over and a peace agreement has been inked. We covered extensively the role Russia and Azerbaijan played. I have a question to do with Turkey. I was in Azerbaijan during the war and heard many people say that the Azerbaijanis are supportive of the Great Turan idea (a state that covered the territory from Turkey to Central Asia). Is Moscow concerned by Turkey becoming a stronger state?

Sergey Lavrov: This opinion is entertained by a portion of the society. I’m not going to give a percentage of how many people support this idea. I’m not sure many of those who informed you about this really know what “Great Turan” is all about.

The relations between Turkic-speaking peoples have become an integral part of cooperation between Turkey and the corresponding countries, including Azerbaijan and a number of Central Asian states.

There is the Cooperation Council of the Turkic-Speaking States, in which we participate as observers. A number of our republics are interested in contacts with it and are promoting their specific projects.

There is TURKSOY  ̵  the International Organisation of Turkic Culture. There’s also the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries. All of them have been functioning for a long time now. They draft their own plans and hold functions. Their cooperation is mainly based on cultural, linguistic and educational traditions.

Speaking about the Great Turan as a supranational entity in a historical sense, I don’t think that this is what Turkey is after. I don’t see how former Soviet and now independent countries can be supportive of this idea in any form. On the contrary, their foreign policies and practices focus on strengthening their national states.

Turkey has its interests which include its fellow tribesmen who speak the same language. We also want the Russian World to communicate. We have created an extensive network of organisations of our compatriots living abroad; we are opening Russian World centres at universities in different countries with purely linguistic, educational and scientific goals.

The Centre for the Russian Language and Culture created by the Russkiy Mir Foundation was recently closed in Krakow. This is an obvious step for Poland, as well as for the Baltic States, which are fighting everything that is Russian. Ukraine followed in their footsteps and shut down several media outlets and imposed a language ban. We are well aware of all this. We will keep raising this matter at the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the corresponding UN agencies. One cannot pretend that this comes with the “growth” and the “coming of age” of the Ukrainian nation, which, as they say, is an “ill-fated” one. The Ukrainians claim that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great. In that case, they should be responsible for the orders they introduce. The EU, and Germany and France as the Normandy format participants, avoid performing their duties when it comes to “educating” Ukraine in terms of making it comply with the Minsk agreements, and this has become a chronic behaviour pattern which does not reflect well on Germany or France.

Question: It was announced that Ukraine was recognised an unfriendly state. How will this affect relations between us?

Sergey Lavrov: This is just a descriptive attribute. What’s friendly about it? Russian schools are being closed, customers and shop assistants are not allowed to speak their native language, and the Nazis are burning Russian flags.

Question: This is reminiscent of the Baltic States 20 to 30 years ago.

Sergey Lavrov: Back when the Baltic States were about to be admitted to the EU, we asked the Brussels bureaucrats, the Eurogrands, whether they were sure they were doing the right thing. The problems that are at odds with the membership criteria persist, including non-observance of the rights of the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia and Estonia. We were told that the Baltic States are phobic of Russia (war, the so-called occupation, etc.), the EU will bring it into its fold, it will calm down and ethnic minorities will be happy and contented. Things turned out the other way round. The Russians were not granted any rights, and statelessness is still there.

Question: Let’s go back to Turkey: Ankara’s stronger position, its active role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, President Erdogan’s visit to Northern Cyprus (which a Turkish leader has not done for quite a while). What does Moscow think about it?

Sergey Lavrov: As far as Turkey and Northern Cyprus are concerned, we see it as Ankara’s relations with its “fellow countrymen.” I have not heard about Turkey refusing to honour the UN obligations accepted by the conflicting parties. These obligations include seeking a mutually acceptable solution and creating a bicommunal bizonal federation. There is a discussion of whether the federation will be strong or weak. But there is no disagreement about the fact that it must be one state. Although not so very long ago, it was the common opinion that the entire project would fail and they would have to create two states. We understand that Ankara is interested in Cypriot Turks living in equality and their rights being observed. We support the idea that the same motives with which Turkey explains its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, including with respect to hydrocarbons, should determine its dialogue with Greece and Turkey.

On February 17, 2021, I spoke with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias who told me that on January 25, 2021, he had had a probing conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. They did not iron out all issues. But it is good news that a dialogue was established. They agreed to continue it. On February 18, 2021, I spoke with Mevlut Cavusoglu. We continued sharing opinions following the telephone conversations between President Putin and President Erdogan on Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and our bilateral relations. New power units of a nuclear power station are under construction; the TurkStream project is ongoing. There is much common ground between our countries when it comes to energy.

In October 2019, the first Russia-Africa Summit in history was held in Sochi. A record number of heads of state and heads of government attended. In the course of the preparations for the summit, we reviewed the development of our relations with African countries and the current state of affairs, including from the perspective of expanding our presence on the continent which political scientists consider to be the most promising in the long term. We reviewed other countries’ presence in Africa. Since 2002, the number of Turkish embassies in Africa has increased from 12 to 42. Turkey’s trade with the region is estimated at around 20 billion dollars a year and Russia’s trade is around 15 billion dollars. This is to say that Turkey has an eye for potential.

Question: Perhaps Turkey is disappointed with the EU because nobody accepted it?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe it could partially be the case. In its contacts with the EU, Ankara continues to insist that the EU promised it accession. Turkey is spreading its wings and gaining weight despite the existing economic problems at home. Turkey mainly goes on by accumulating its national debt but this model is widely common around the world.

Question: 2020 is the year of the pandemic. During such times, countries should join forces and help each other. Do you think that this was the case? Or did the world fail to put aside disagreements and rally together even when it came to the COVID-19 infection?

Sergey Lavrov: Now this conversation is back to square one. There are no ideologies anymore. But this ideology-based, politicised perception of the Russian vaccine was not a very good signal. The Sputnik V vaccine was announced in August 2020, many months after the G20 summit (March 2020) where Vladimir Putin strongly advocated cooperation in vaccine production. Even then, we were ready to create joint scientific teams. But Western countries and their companies, unwilling to help competitors, did not respond to that proposal. So much for unification in this purely medical field.

There is also the humanitarian sphere. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made calls during the pandemic to suspend all unilateral sanctions in fields directly affecting food, the supply of medicine and medical equipment, in order to alleviate the suffering of the population in countries that were under unilateral sanctions (regardless of their reasons). There was no reaction from the initiators of those sanctions (primarily the US and the EU). Also, there was no response to President Vladimir Putin’s proposal, at the G20 summit, to create ‘green corridors’ for the period of the pandemic, to move goods under the most relaxed rules – without tax, duties, tariffs, delays, or special customs inspections.

We are all in the same boat, and it’s not so big. Some forecasts say this situation will continue for a long time, and the coronavirus will be a seasonal infection, and it is not at all the same as the flu or other diseases, so we will have to use precautions permanently, use PPE. This realisation should somehow prod countries to more open cooperation, especially those that up until recently had some doubts.

True, there have been some good shifts. One of them is the United States’ return to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some hotheads in Washington believe that, now that they have returned, they will make others do their bidding. There are fewer than 50 Chinese people in the WHO Secretariat, 25 Russians, over 200 Americans, and more than 2,000 NATO representatives. The past US administration said China was manipulating the WHO. That is not true. Otherwise, we are admitting the complete helplessness of 2,000 NATO members who should be the majority in the WHO Secretariat.

Nevertheless, there are some positive results though. This problem has been recently considered at the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. It is important now to focus on equitable collaboration within the WHO. Besides the attempts at carrying out “soft coups” and establishing their own rules in the organisation, hardly based on consensus, an idea has been suggested to move the main decision-making on global health policies outside the universal organisation. We have been pointing out this tendency for some time now – the one to replace international law with a rules-based world order. As it turns out in reality, those rules boil down to working out all decisions in a circle of those who agree with you rather than in a group with universal representation where you have to argue your case and search for balances and compromises. And then you just present the decision as ‘the ultimate truth’ and demand that everyone respect it.

This underlies the Franco-German initiative for a new multilateralism and some limited partnerships in the West. For example, Paris has launched an International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. Under this non-universal, non-UN partnership, the EU creates the so-called ‘horizontal’ regime of sanctions to be imposed on anyone that France-initiated partnership points at. A similar sanctions regime is being created for cybersecurity. Instead of any open-ended discussion, the French are promoting some partnership to defend freedom in cyberspace. This is another example of rules on which ‘order’ will be based.

There are attempts to start similar groups outside the WHO. But people’s health is not a field where one can play geopolitics. Unless there is a conspiracy behind this to reduce the population of the Earth. Many are now starting to develop such theories and concepts.

Why Russia is driving the West crazy

Why Russia is driving the West crazy

February 10, 2021

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted on Asia Times

Future historians may register it as the day when usually unflappable Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov decided he had had enough:

We are getting used to the fact that the European Union are trying to impose unilateral restrictions, illegitimate restrictions and we proceed from the assumption at this stage that the European Union is an unreliable partner.

Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, on an official visit to Moscow, had to take it on the chin.

Lavrov, always the perfect gentleman, added, “I hope that the strategic review that will take place soon will focus on the key interests of the European Union and that these talks will help to make our contacts more constructive.”

He was referring to the EU heads of state and government’s summit at the European Council next month, where they will discuss Russia. Lavrov harbors no illusions the “unreliable partners” will behave like adults.

Yet something immensely intriguing can be found in Lavrov’s opening remarks in his meeting with Borrell: “The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.”

The two largest players in the Eurasian space (italics mine). Let that sink in. We’ll be back to it in a moment.

As it stands, the EU seems irretrievably addicted to worsening the “unhealthy situation”. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen memorably botched the Brussels vaccine game. Essentially, she sent Borrell to Moscow to ask for licensing rights for European firms to produce the Sputnik V vaccine – which will soon be approved by the EU.

And yet Eurocrats prefer to dabble in hysteria, promoting the antics of NATO asset and convicted fraudster Navalny – the Russian Guaido.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, under the cover of “strategic deterrence”, the head of the US STRATCOM, Admiral Charles Richard, casually let it slip that “there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.”

So the blame for the next – and final – war is already apportioned to the “destabilizing” behavior of Russia and China. It’s assumed they will be “losing” – and then, in a fit of rage, will go nuclear. The Pentagon will be no more than a victim; after all, claims Mr. STRATCOM, we are not “stuck in the Cold War”.

STRATCOM planners could do worse than read crack military analyst Andrei Martyanov, who for years has been on the forefront detailing how the new hypersonic paradigm – and not nuclear weapons – has changed the nature of warfare.

After a detailed technical discussion, Martyanov shows how “the United States simply has no good options currently. None. The less bad option, however, is to talk to Russians and not in terms of geopolitical BS and wet dreams that the United States, somehow, can convince Russia “to abandon” China – US has nothing, zero, to offer Russia to do so. But at least Russians and Americans may finally settle peacefully this “hegemony” BS between themselves and then convince China to finally sit as a Big Three at the table and finally decide how to run the world. This is the only chance for the US to stay relevant in the new world.”

The Golden Horde imprint

As much as the chances are negligible of the EU getting a grip on the “unhealthy situation” with Russia, there’s no evidence what Martyanov outlined will be contemplated by the US Deep State.

The path ahead seems ineluctable: perpetual sanctions; perpetual NATO expansion alongside Russia’s borders; the build up of a ring of hostile states around Russia; perpetual US interference on Russian internal affairs – complete with an army of fifth columnists; perpetual, full spectrum information war.

Lavrov is increasingly making it crystal clear that Moscow expects nothing else. Facts on the ground, though, will keep accumulating.

Nordstream 2 will be finished – sanctions or no sanctions – and will supply much needed natural gas to Germany and the EU. Convicted fraudster Navalny – 1% of real “popularity” in Russia – will remain in jail. Citizens across the EU will get Sputnik V. The Russia-China strategic partnership will continue to solidify.

To understand how we have come to this unholy Russophobic mess, an essential road map is provided by Russian Conservatism , an exciting, new political philosophy study by Glenn Diesen, associate professor at University of Southeastern Norway, lecturer at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, and one of my distinguished interlocutors in Moscow.

Diesen starts focusing on the essentials: geography, topography and history. Russia is a vast land power without enough access to the seas. Geography, he argues, conditions the foundations of “conservative policies defined by autocracy, an ambiguous and complex concept of nationalism, and the enduring role of the Orthodox Church” – something that implies resistance to “radical secularism”.

It’s always crucial to remember that Russia has no natural defensible borders; it has been invaded or occupied by Swedes, Poles, Lithuanians, the Mongol Golden Horde, Crimean Tatars and Napoleon. Not to mention the immensely bloody Nazi invasion.

What’s in a word? Everything: “security”, in Russian, is byezopasnost. That happens to be a negative, as byez means “without” and opasnost means “danger”.

Russia’s complex, unique historical make-up always presented serious problems. Yes, there was close affinity with the Byzantine empire. But if Russia “claimed transfer of imperial authority from Constantinople it would be forced to conquer it.” And to claim the successor, role and heritage of the Golden Horde would relegate Russia to the status of an Asiatic power only.

On the Russian path to modernization, the Mongol invasion provoked not only a geographical schism, but left its imprint on politics: “Autocracy became a necessity following the Mongol legacy and the establishment of Russia as an Eurasian empire with a vast and poorly connected geographical expanse”.

“A colossal East West”

Russia is all about East meets West. Diesen reminds us how Nikolai Berdyaev, one of the leading 20th century conservatives, already nailed it in 1947: “The inconsistency and complexity of the Russian soul may be due to the fact that in Russia two streams of world history – East and West – jostle and influence one another (…) Russia is a complete section of the world – a colossal East West.”

The Trans-Siberian railroad, built to solidify the internal cohesion of the Russian empire and to project power in Asia, was a major game-changer: “With Russian agricultural settlements expanding to the east, Russia was increasingly replacing the ancient roads who had previously controlled and connected Eurasia.”

It’s fascinating to watch how the development of Russian economics ended up on Mackinder’s Heartland theory – according to which control of the world required control of the Eurasian supercontinent. What terrified Mackinder is that Russian railways connecting Eurasia would undermine the whole power structure of Britain as a maritime empire.

Diesen also shows how Eurasianism – emerging in the 1920s among émigrés in response to 1917 – was in fact an evolution of Russian conservatism.

Eurasianism, for a number of reasons, never became a unified political movement. The core of Eurasianism is the notion that Russia was not a mere Eastern European state. After the 13th century Mongol invasion and the 16th century conquest of Tatar kingdoms, Russia’s history and geography could not be only European. The future would require a more balanced approach – and engagement with Asia.

Dostoyevsky had brilliantly framed it ahead of anyone, in 1881:

Russians are as much Asiatics as European. The mistake of our policy for the past two centuries has been to make the people of Europe believe that we are true Europeans. We have served Europe too well, we have taken too great a part in her domestic quarrels (…) We have bowed ourselves like slaves before the Europeans and have only gained their hatred and contempt. It is time to turn away from ungrateful Europe. Our future is in Asia.

Lev Gumilev was arguably the superstar among a new generation of Eurasianists. He argued that Russia had been founded on a natural coalition between Slavs, Mongols and Turks. The Ancient Rus and the Great Steppe, published in 1989, had an immense impact in Russia after the fall of the USSR – as I learned first hand from my Russian hosts when I arrived in Moscow via the Trans-Siberian in the winter of 1992.

As Diesen frames it, Gumilev was offering a sort of third way, beyond European nationalism and utopian internationalism. A Lev Gumilev University has been established in Kazakhstan. Putin has referred to Gumilev as “the great Eurasian of our time”.

Diesen reminds us that even George Kennan, in 1994, recognized the conservative struggle for “this tragically injured and spiritually diminished country”. Putin, in 2005, was way sharper. He stressed,

the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. And for the Russian people, it was a real drama (…) The old ideals were destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or simply hastily reformed…With unrestricted control over information flows, groups of oligarchs served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty started to be accepted as the norm. All this evolved against a background of the most severe economic recession, unstable finances and paralysis in the social sphere.

Applying “sovereign democracy”

And so we reach the crucial European question.

In the 1990s, led by Atlanticists, Russian foreign policy was focused on Greater Europe, a concept based on Gorbachev’s Common European Home.

And yet post-Cold War Europe, in practice, ended up configured as the non-stop expansion of NATO and the birth – and expansion – of the EU. All sorts of liberal contortionisms were deployed to include all of Europe while excluding Russia.

Diesen has the merit of summarizing the whole process in a single sentence: “The new liberal Europe represented a British-American continuity in terms of the rule of maritime powers, and Mackinder’s objective to organize the German-Russian relationship in a zero-sum format to prevent the alignment of interests”.

No wonder Putin, subsequently, had to be erected as the Supreme Scarecrow, or “the new Hitler”. Putin rejected outright the role for Russia of mere apprentice to Western civilization – and its corollary, (neo) liberal hegemony.

Still, he remained quite accommodating. In 2005, Putin stressed, “above all else Russia was, is and will, of course, be a major European power”. What he wanted was to decouple liberalism from power politics – by rejecting the fundamentals of liberal hegemony.

Putin was saying there’s no single democratic model. That was eventually conceptualized as “sovereign democracy”. Democracy cannot exist without sovereignty; so that discards Western “supervision” to make it work.

Diesen sharply observes that if the USSR was a “radical, left-wing Eurasianism, some of its Eurasian characteristics could be transferred to conservative Eurasianism.” Diesen notes how Sergey Karaganov, sometimes referred to as the “Russian Kissinger”, has shown “that the Soviet Union was central to decolonization and it mid-wifed the rise of Asia by depriving the West of the ability to impose its will on the world through military force, which the West had done from the 16th century until the 1940s”.

This is largely acknowledged across vast stretches of the Global South – from Latin America and Africa to Southeast Asia.

Eurasia’s western peninsula

So after the end of the Cold War and the failure of Greater Europe, Moscow’s pivot to Asia to build Greater Eurasia could not but have an air of historical inevitability.

The logic is impeccable. The two geoeconomic hubs of Eurasia are Europe and East Asia. Moscow wants to connect them economically into a supercontinent: that’s where Greater Eurasia joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But then there’s the extra Russian dimension, as Diesen notes: the “transition away from the usual periphery of these centers of power and towards the center of a new regional construct”.

From a conservative perspective, emphasizes Diesen, “the political economy of Greater Eurasia enables Russia to overcome its historical obsession with the West and establish an organic Russian path to modernization”.

That implies the development of strategic industries; connectivity corridors; financial instruments; infrastructure projects to connect European Russia with Siberia and Pacific Russia. All that under a new concept: an industrialized, conservative political economy.

The Russia-China strategic partnership happens to be active in all these three geoeconomic sectors: strategic industries/techno platforms, connectivity corridors and financial instruments.

That propels the discussion, once again, to the supreme categorical imperative: the confrontation between the Heartland and a maritime power.

The three great Eurasian powers, historically, were the Scythians, the Huns and the Mongols. The key reason for their fragmentation and decadence is that they were not able to reach – and control – Eurasia’s maritime borders.

The fourth great Eurasian power was the Russian empire – and its successor, the USSR. A key reason the USSR collapsed is because, once gain, it was not able to reach – and control – Eurasia’s maritime borders.

The US prevented it by applying a composite of Mackinder, Mahan and Spykman. The US strategy even became known as the Spykman-Kennan containment mechanism – all these “forward deployments” in the maritime periphery of Eurasia, in Western Europe, East Asia and the Middle East.

We all know by now how the overall US offshore strategy – as well as the primary reason for the US to enter both WWI and WWII – was to prevent the emergence of a Eurasian hegemon by all means necessary.

As for the US as hegemon, that would be crudely conceptualized – with requisite imperial arrogance – by Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski in 1997: “To prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and keep the barbarians from coming together”. Good old Divide and Rule, applied via “system-dominance”.

It’s this system that is now tumbling down – much to the despair of the usual suspects. Diesen notes how, “in the past, pushing Russia into Asia would relegate Russia to economic obscurity and eliminate its status as a European power.” But now, with the center of geoeconomic gravity shifting to China and East Asia, it’s a whole new ball game.

The 24/7 US demonization of Russia-China, coupled with the “unhealthy situation” mentality of the EU minions, only helps to drive Russia closer and closer to China exactly at the juncture where the West’s two centuries-only world dominance, as Andre Gunder Frank conclusively proved , is coming to an end.

Diesen, perhaps too diplomatically, expects that “relations between Russia and the West will also ultimately change with the rise of Eurasia. The West’s hostile strategy to Russia is conditioned on the idea that Russia has nowhere else to go, and must accept whatever the West offers in terms of “partnership”. The rise of the East fundamentally alters Moscow’s relationship with the West by enabling Russia to diversify its partnerships”.

We may be fast approaching the point where Great Eurasia’s Russia will present Germany with a take it or leave it offer. Either we build the Heartland together, or we will build it with China – and you will be just a historical bystander. Of course there’s always the inter-galaxy distant possibility of a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis. Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, Diesen is confident that “the Eurasian land powers will eventually incorporate Europe and other states on the inner periphery of Eurasia. Political loyalties will incrementally shift as economic interests turn to the East, and Europe is gradually becoming the western peninsula of Greater Eurasia”.

Talk about food for thought for the peninsular peddlers of the “unhealthy situation”.

The Headless Chicken and the Bear

THE SAKER • FEBRUARY 9, 2021 

Introducing the headless chicken

The EU has a major problem: it is run by a comprador class which is entirely dependent on the United States. Okay, that by itself is not the problem I am referring to. The problem I am referring to is one we could call the problem of the decapitated chicken: a decapitated chicken can run without a head, but it sure does not know where it is running or why. This happens to all comprador classes when their beloved masters suddenly vanish. This is exactly what happened to the European ruling classes when Trump came to the White House: they “lost their head” and they began running all over the place, obviously achieving nothing. Now that the Neocons gave Trump the boot, the EU rulers are desperate to show the new US leaders that they only hated Trump, not the US, and what better way to show your complete submission than by barking at the Asiatic Mordor of the East known as “Russia”?

This latest PSYOP was apparently organized in the US last fall, while Trump was still in power, at least nominally. This makes sense, just like the huge “Patriot Act” was carefully prepared months, if not years before 9/11 happened. This time around, some US intelligence agency (probably the CIA) then passed the baby to the German BND which was supposed to act as an intermediary to give the US “plausible deniability”. The big problem is that the Germans apparently screwed things up, and the plan was a flop: the latest sacral victim failed to die (again!). As for Putin, he used his executive power to allow Navalnyi (who was on parole) to immediately fly to Germany for treatment as soon as the Russian medics stabilized him. From there on, everything went south and Navalnyi’s curators scrambled to save whatever could be saved.

They produced a movie about Putin’s palace in Crimea, only to have Russian reporters film the location and prove that this movie was a total fake. Then they sent Navalnyi back to Russia figuring that if the Russian authorities arrested him huge protests would follow or, alternatively, if the Russians did nothing, Navalnyi would be able to create chaos during an important election year in Russia. This resulted in another flop, not only were the crowds in Russia small, their behavior was deeply offensive and even frightening to most Russians who have seen enough Maidans and color revolutions to know how this stuff ends. As for Navalnyi, he was arrested immediately upon landing, and his parole was revoked.

Of course, all this was reported very differently in what I call Zone A, but while this made it possible for the authors of this PSYOP to conceal the magnitude of their failure, in the rest of the world and, especially, in Russia, it was pretty clear that this ridiculous buffoonery had failed. That outcome presented the EU headless chicken with a major problem: on one hand, we protest about “Putin murdering his own people with combat gasses” while on the other we are about to complete North Stream 2 (NS2), which we need to remain competitive; if we continue, we will lose NS2 and we will alienate Russia even further, but if we stop acting like an idiot on suicide watch, our overseas masters will make us pay. EU leaders obviously failed agree on a plan so, just like a headless chicken, they ran in all directions at the same time: they publicly protested, but also sent as top official, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell, to try to appease the Russians. Borrell actually did a decent job trying to placate the Russians, but this time something went very wrong. Not only was Foreign Minister Lavrov very blunt in his public comments, the Russians also expelled 3 EU diplomats for participating in the demonstrations even while Borrell and Lavrov were talking. This is when the proverbial bovine excreta hit the fan, at least in EU whose “watchdog media” (here I use the term “watchdog” as meaning “immediately barking at anybody daring to stray from the official propaganda line”) went crazy and accused Borrell of caving in to the Russians. Some even demanded Borrell’s resignation. As for Borrell himself, he did what all western officials do after a visit to Moscow: he changed his tune as soon as he came back home. Finally, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, added that “The task [of Borrell] was to carry out a public flogging, which, I think, they planned very carefully, it was a cascade of topics: talks about rallies, talks about journalists, and making [Alexey] Navalny the main theme of the discussion”. According to Zakharova, this plan failed because Russia insisted on discussing the “real issues“.

Interestingly, the Russians did not expel any US diplomats (at least not yet) in spite of the fact that these officials all agreed that the origin of the PSYOP was from overseas and in spite of the quasi-certainty that US officials must have been present, at least in the Moscow and Saint Petersburg protests. To its credit, the US embassy in Moscow did recommend to all US citizens that they stay away from illegal demonstrations. This is an ongoing crisis and by the time this analysis is posted, things might have changed dramatically. My purpose today is not to look at the US or the EU, but at what I believe is a major shift in Russian policy.

At this point, we should not see the expulsions of the 3 EU diplomats as anything more than just a “shot across the bow”, a way to indicate that the winds have changed. But these expulsions are not big enough to qualify as a real, painful, retaliation. Why?

Because the real slap in the collective face of the EU was the press conference of Lavrov and Borrell in which Lavrov was truly uniquely direct and candid. For example, Lavrov bluntly said ” We are proceeding from the assumption that the EU is not a reliable partner, at least at the current stage. I hope that in future strategic attention will be given to the EU’s fundamental interest in its closest neighbours and that the talks we have held today will promote movement to a more constructive trajectory. We are ready for this“.

Translated from diplospeak into plain English, this means 1) we are fed up with you and 2) we don’t need you.

This blunt statement is what triggered all the subsequent hysterics in Brussels about Borrell being ill treated by the Russians and Borrell’s subsequent declaration that “Russia does not want a constructive dialog” and that the EU must now decide if it still wants to get closer to Russia or if it wants to distance itself from a country slipping into authoritarianism.

In western parlance the degree of “democratism” or “authoritarianism” is solely defined by the willingness of a country to be a satrapy of the Empire. Under this definition, all sovereign countries are “dictatorships” and all AngloZionist satrapies are paragons of democracy.

Has the Russian bear had enough?

Just two weeks ago I wrote that With “Biden” in the White House, the Kremlin Now Needs to Change Gear and I believe that this is exactly what we are seeing today. Here is my evidence:

  • The tone of the Russian has changed and is much more direct and blunt
  • The fact that the three EU diplomats were expelled while Borrell was in Moscow was a very deliberate slap in the EU’s collective face
  • The tone of the Russian media has also changed, journalists and experts are all expressing their utter disgust with the EU and are calling for less words and more actions
  • The NS2 lobby in Russia (who advocated a policy of total non-confrontation at least until NS2 was completed) is rather absent from the public discourse. This might mean that this lobby has thrown in the towel or, alternatively, that the block I call “Eurasian sovereignists” does not consider NS2 as vital for Russia (they are correct, by the way) and that putting the squeeze on the EU is much more important (again, I agree with them here too).
  • The EU’s other anti-Russian vendetta, I am referring to the recent attempt at overthrowing Lukashenko, has also failed. However, this PSYOP was so rude and crude, and the EU acted with such arrogance that it really gave Russia no other option than to take action, not only by flying Tu-160s along the Belarussian border or by selling S-400s, but also by using highly symbolic diplomatic countermeasures.
  • The Russian Aerospace Forces (2 Su-24M, 2 Su-27s and 2 Su-30SM) have conducted mock missile strikes against USN ships as soon as they entered the southern waters of the Black Sea. Note: the same day Chinese aircraft conducted a mock attack on a US carrier in the Pacific.
  • Russia has now deployed both the Bal and even the formidable Bastion coastal missile defense systems. This, combined with the formidable capabilities of the Southern Military District and the Black Sea Fleet which turns the entire Black Sea into a shooting range and any hostile ship into an easy target for the Russians. Clearly, the Russians are fed up with the arrogance of the USN.
  • Defense Minister Shoigu has just announced a major increase in the production of high-precision and hypersonic weapons.

These are just a few examples of a much longer list of changes which are taking place before our eyes.

So far, the EU did not get the message at all. At least officially. But witnessing the infighting taking place not only over Borrell’s trip, but also about what to do about vaccines (The Lancet has just posted a major article entitled “Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears safe and effective” which basically said that all the western nonsense about Sputnik-V being BOTH 1) unsafe AND 2) ineffective were lies) I can clearly see that the EU rulers are seriously worried. Right now it sure looks like the EU is losing the “COVID propaganda war” and that all these russophobic states (except the hardcore nutcases of 3B+PU) will have to now ask Russia for her vaccines. So far the only official EU reaction was to expel 3 Russian diplomats and somewhat protest. But these are clearly the opening shots of a much longer confrontation between Russia and the EU.

The crucial factor to consider here is this: while the aggregate power of the US+NATO+EU+5EYES is bigger than Russia’s, the mental paralysis of the EU leaders makes the EU alone already much weaker than Russia. Of course, since Biden’s administration is a who’s who of the most hysterical russophobes imaginable, chances are that the US will interfere and attempt to back the anti-Russian factions in the EU. Considering the tone used by Russian officials over the latest USN provocations in the Black Sea and the Sea of Japan, I don’t doubt the Kremlin’s determination to act both in words and with actions.

And then there are the subtle threats which the general public is rarely exposed to. The latest example is a highly specialized article entitled “Rationale for the combat use of aviation to disrupt an integrated massive air strike during a multi-domain operation of the enemy” which explains how Russia could disrupt and defeat a NATO attack. I won’t go into all the (very interesting) details here, but I will just say that the authors declare that Russia can go from a policy of deterrence by nuclear forces to a policy of (conventional) deterrence by having the means to “inflict comprehensive defeat (upon NATO countries) using all types of weapons within the deterrence of inflicting an unacceptable complex defeat on it with all types of weapons within the framework of preventive actions under the conditions of the danger of local war threatening the Russian Federation“. In truth, this is not the only Russian specialized article discussing the future of warfare, and what makes this one truly unique is that RT, of all places, decided to post an article about it entitled “Russian Air Force experts publish plan to neutralize NATO forces in all-out war with bombing strikes“. This really looks like the Kremlin wanted to make absolutely sure that western politicians (as opposed to western military analysts who read that stuff on a daily basis anyway) would think long and hard about what US military plans for NATO really would mean for the EU.

Then there is the outcome of the Polish military command staff exercise Winter-20 which resulted in, I kid you not, Russia completely defeating the Polish military in 5 days only! (For details, see herehere or here). Again, there is nothing really new here, the US and/or NATO have conducted plenty of exercises which had the “Russian hordes” defeating the “forces of democracy and progress”. And, again, the real difference was in the Russian coverage of this news: for the first time the Russians openly made fun of NATO and of the (always paranoid and insanely russophobic) Poles. In truth, the Russians always knew that the Polish military is as good on pompous ceremonies and parades as it is inept on the battlefield, but that kind of open contempt is something new, at least from the state supported media.

So far, the EU clearly is not coming to terms with this new reality. The latest (breathtakingly stupid) EU plan to try to scare “Putin” (here “Putin” is the collective Kremlin boogeyman, not necessarily VVP): Svetlana Tikhanovskaia has appealed to the wife of Navalnyi, Iulia, to become the “she president of Russia”. Yes, seriously. Iulia Navalnaia as President of Russia!

As for Navalnyi’s supporters in the EU, they have decided to create a Russian government in exile. Again, this is not a joke. By the way, the “Minister of Foreign Affairs” of this “Russian Government in Exile”, Leonid Volkov, initially declared that the illegal riots should be halted, only to be told otherwise by his handlers. He immediately made a required 180 and declared that protests will resume. This is how Maria Zakharova bluntly, and very officially, reacted on Facebook to his “change of mind”: (minimally fixed machine translation)

NATO doubles down

On February 4, 2021, Volkov declared that the protests in Russia were canceled and will resume in the spring and summer. “We will not hold a rally next weekend…The wave of protest must end at a high point. Because if we continue to decline, it will be terribly demotivating and frustrating for everyone… We will prepare well and hold something big both in the spring and in the summer. We will never give up our demands.” Then, on February 9, 2021, Volkov changed his mind and announced that the campaign will continue in February. “We’ll make it much trickier” he added. What happened between February 4 and 9 and forced the “opposition” to radically change tactics? Everything is quite simple – on February 8, 2021, an online meeting with Volkov and Ashurkov took place at the Permanent Mission of Poland to the EU in Brussels, in which EU countries, the United States, and Britain took part. And in fact-this was a meeting of the NATO countries. The NATO members instructed the “opposition”, and in fact their agents of influence, how to continue “more cunning” to conduct subversive work. Too much money and resources have already been invested by the West in this story to wait until spring. They clearly understand: in the spring, the information campaign pumped up by Westerners will be blown away. They can no longer juggle the topic of “chemical weapons” without presenting the facts – they are pinned to the wall. So they double down.

As for Navalnyi and his supporters, Zakarova was even more direct, saying “stop calling them opposition, they are NATO agents!”.

As I have explained many times, western politicians double down not when they feel strong, they double down when they feel weak and when they place their hopes in the willingness of the other side not to seriously further escalate.

And, just to make sure that the Empire can win the battle for the “hearts and minds” of the Russian people, the Brits are now counting (again) on Pussy Riot to release a song in support of protests. Again, while this does sound like a joke, it is not.

Now comes the best part: there are a lot of signs that the EU will, again under the pious pretext of “solidarity” follow the 3B+PU politicians and, if not recognize such a government in exile, at least treat its members as real officials. That is also supposed to also terrify the Kremlin, I guess. But if that is the best the EU can come up with, VVP and the people of Russia, can sleep in peace.

So where do we go from here?

Making predictions is a tricky thing when dealing with both 1) countries with limited agency/sovereignty and 2) countries led by incompetent/delusional politicians. The many theories of deterrence out there all assume what is called a “rational actor” and a truly sovereign state. What is certain is that the Empire and its EU protectorates will only increase what I call “petty harassment measures” to try to offend and humiliate Russia (stuff like this crap). In response to such “ankle biting” Russia will do two things: drop any pretense of diplomacy and denounce these “ankle bites” for what they are (provocations) and further turn to Zone B (aka “reliable partners”) for partnerships. Russia will also bluntly spell out to the Europeans the risks they are taking with their ill-conceived sabre rattling along the Russian border. Sadly, this probably means that, just as the Chinese Navy recently, the Russian Aerospace Forces and Navies will have order to engage any aircraft or vessel threatening Russia (so far these are only rumors, but they are persistent and seem to have strong backing in the Duma). This is a very dangerous development as western politicians, being primarily ideological (and, therefore, delusional) creatures will always prefer to play a game of (headless) chicken hoping that the other guy will back down. The fact that the “other guy” (both Russian and Chinese) in the past did, indeed, back down and show restraint only further encourages western politicians to double down forever no matter what. For these reasons I would call the probability of an actual military clash between US/NATO and/or Russia/China as “likely in 2021”. As for the future of NS2, I always assumed that EU politicians can count their Euros and realize that the EU needs that project way more than Russia. Frankly, I am not so sure now: counting on the mental abilities of a headless chicken is probably not a good idea! Neither is counting on the courage of the type of politicians whom Boris Johnson once called “supine invertebrate protoplasmic jellies“.

It appears that Russia and the EU are on a direct collision course. Frankly, I welcome it, in spite of the obvious dangers. Why? Because nothing except a real confrontation can bring EU politicians down to the real world back from the La-La land they currently live in. The Russian bear needs to smack down the headless chicken. Hard.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Annual Press Conference

Source

December 17, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Annual Press Conference

Mr Putin answers questions by press representatives and the general public in his annual press conference.  This video is the live stream and we are already 3 hours into the meeting.  I find the translators better than in previous years, but kindly refrain from complaining about quality.  This is what we have currently.  A transcript will be available but will probably take some days.  The video starts at the current time in the conference, so, to listen from the start, move your video back to the start.

Update : a partial transcript is available earlier than usual.  It will be posted here, as the sections become available.

The news conference is being broadcast live by Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One, NTV and MIR television channels, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site (http://www.otr-online.ru/online/) provide live sign language interpretation of the event.

Representatives of federal and foreign media are working at the World Trade Centre in Moscow. In addition, special platforms have been set up in all federal districts, where representatives of regional media can participate and ask their questions.

The call centre continues to accept questions from individuals. You can ask your question on the website https://moskva-putinu.ru or using the Moskva-Putinu mobile app.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

My greetings to all of you, here in Novo-Ogaryovo, in the call centre and across the regions of the Russian Federation, in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Today we are holding the traditional news conference to wind up this year’s results. Since COVID-19 prevented us from holding the Direct Line live, my colleagues have tried to merge these two events into a single one by introducing elements inspired by the Direct Line format into this news conference so that I can interact directly with people, hear what they have to say, what is going on in the country, and listen to their proposals on what more can be done in order to address matters in the best possible way and find effective solutions to the issues we face and deliver on our objectives.

Allow me to mention that over the past years it has become a good tradition for us to ensure that all the questions we get, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, are answered in one way or another. For that, I would like to thank my colleagues from the Presidential Executive Office, the Government, but first and foremost from non-governmental organisations: the Civic Chamber and the Russian Popular Front, the volunteers who contacted the people who took part in previous Direct Lines, talked to them, discussed the challenges pinpointed by these people, and quite often succeeded in resolving various matters that people were concerned with, and which probably remain relevant to this day.

I very much hope that we will do the same this year. I would like to ask volunteers, the Russian Popular Front to continue this wonderful practice, very useful for the country.

For me, I would like to emphasise, such events are not formal; I highly value them. Even though I have a vast flow of information about what is happening in the country reaching me through various channels, still, there is nothing more valuable than direct communication with the people, with Russian citizens, there is nothing more valuable than hearing their opinions about their lives and concerns, and again, what we need to do in order to have a better life.

You know, I would rather finish my opening remarks here. It would be a good idea to start the Q&A without wasting any more time. I would like to give the floor to Mr Peskov, who is at the call centre now. He will continue to moderate our meeting.

Mr Peskov, please.

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Good afternoon, Mr President. Hello everyone.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Dmitry Peskov: We have our participants scattered widely across our vast country, and I suggest we start from the easternmost point.

Vladivostok, please.

Once again, I urge everyone to be brief and dynamic so that as many journalists as possible have time to ask their questions.

Please, Vladivostok, help me out, for a start.

Dmitry Kaistro: Good evening. It is evening here already.

So this is Vladivostok, the capital of the country’s largest federal district, the Far East. There are 50 correspondents here, and you can see how active they are. Each of them has their own established audience and their own questions for the head of state.

I suggest we begin now. We seem to have people here who really have something to say.

Mr Peskov, would you choose who will go first?

Dmitry Peskov: Could you show me the audience, please? Did I see Magadan there?

Dmitry Kaistro: Yes, the young lady in blue.

Lyudmila Shcherbakova: Good afternoon.

Magadan State Television and Radio Company. My name is Lyudmila Shcherbakova.

First of all, I would like to greet you Mr President, and all the spectators and the audience on behalf of Russia’s Far East and Magadan Region in particular.

I have the following question. We all know that this was a challenging year, to an extent that I can hardly find the right words to describe. Still, in your opinion, was this year all bad, or was there something positive as well?

Vladimir Putin: The year was… What do you mean by calling this a bad year? This is like the weather: is it good or bad? Weather is just the way it is. The same goes for the year: it had its ups and downs, as it always happens in life.

Of course, this year brought us a problem that is on everyone’s lips, and is a matter of concern for all of us: the coronavirus pandemic. However, not only Russia, the entire world has been hit by this scourge. We are fully aware of this, since over 70 million people have already been infected by the coronavirus, according to WHO data. This problem has affected all aspects of our lives.

What is a pandemic? It means lockdowns, curbed production, declining passenger and cargo traffic and all that goes with it. Unfortunately, it also means fewer jobs, and lower incomes. This has all become a reality.

At the same time, here is what I wanted to point out. First (and I will try to provide figures to back this up), despite the plethora of challenges we have been facing, and there has been plenty of problems, and we will discuss them today, since this is why we are here, the whole world has been submerged in this ocean of problems. Still, we can affirm in all confidence that we faced up to these problems with dignity and in some ways maybe even better than other countries of the world that have every right to be proud of their economies, social services and healthcare systems.

I have some prompts here (it is not my intention to delve deep into numbers since it sounds boring) to show you where we are right now. At this point in time, Russia’s GDP has fallen by 3.6 percent, which is less than in the leading European, EU countries, and less than in the United States. In some EU countries GDP has so far dropped by as much as 9 percent (I think this is the case in Great Britain).

We have industrial production down 3 percent now – mainly due to oil, because we have made the OPEC Plus deal and began to cut production, and this affected our overall performance. But there is also good news (better in some areas, worse in others, but we do have some improvements): yesterday, my colleagues from the Government reported to me that processing industries (manufacturing) showed 1.1 percent growth in November. This gives us reason to hope that this trend will continue, that we will move forward in this direction.

Over the past few years, our agricultural industry has posted good figures, and now, at the moment, it is somewhere around up 1.8. The Minister said agriculture might not even show a decline for the year, but an increase of up to 2 percent. I hope this will be the case.

Our banking sector is in a very satisfactory condition, with profits estimated at about 1.3 trillion rubles for the year. This definitely testifies to the financial system’s stability.

Real wages. I ask the country’s citizens, try not to be angry with me because what I will say now might not correspond to how people feel in real life; nevertheless, I am going to cite an averaged figure, and it also needs to be taken into account. I hope real wages will grow by about 1.5 percent by the end of the year across Russia, although unfortunately, there will be a decline in real disposable incomes. Why is this happening? What does it mean? Where does this difference come from? This has to do with the declining incomes of individual entrepreneurs, and the resulting changes. Overall, real incomes, unfortunately, will fall by around 3 percent.

Unemployment rate in Russian was 4.7 percent at the beginning of 2020; now, as you know, it has grown to 6.3 percent. We will certainly talk about this later.

Everything we do to support the economy, to support the affected industries, is aimed at maintaining employment. We have [unemployment at] 6.3 percent now, but I hope that over the next year, we will be able to bring it down to the earlier figures.

A positive trade balance can be considered a good indicator. It creates conditions for good macroeconomic development.

Our national debt had been at its lowest at $70 billion, in dollar terms. It shrank by another 10 billion since. We borrow less in foreign markets, while regularly servicing all our loan obligations. Our international reserves have grown. At the beginning of this year, they amounted to 554.4 billion; now, as of December 4, they are already about 587.7 billion. The same holds true for the National Wealth Fund. In ruble terms, it was 7.7 trillion, now it is almost 13.5 trillion. This is significant growth.

There is something I need to draw your attention to. What is an obviously positive part of our economic growth? As much as 70 percent of the Russian federal budget comes from non-oil and gas revenues now. This means, well, we are not entirely off the so-called oil and gas needle, but we are starting to get away from it. Even if someone still likes to think of Russia as a petrol station, they no longer have real grounds for that. Even though the dependence is still strong enough, and we have to bear this in mind.

Finally, this outgoing year is also associated with major national events, such as the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Despite all the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we nevertheless celebrated it properly, with the Victory Parade on Red Square; and the Immortal Regiment march also took place, albeit online. These are all positive aspects.

But most importantly, there is something else I definitely need to mention now, and I would like to thank the citizens of our country for it: even in the most difficult circumstances, we have once again reaffirmed what underlies the Russian identity – people rallying together in the face of a threat. We have seen it all, the work of volunteers, the work of doctors – we bow down before them again as a sign of deepest gratitude – the prevailing attitude in society, people are ready to help and support their neighbours, those especially in need of help and support. That showed a nationwide unity – let alone the We Are Together volunteer campaign, which is just an external manifestation of the internal attitude in society – this, in my opinion, is something that determines our country and is a decisive factor. Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who took part in those major campaigns.

Thank you.

Dmitry Peskov: I would like to remind everyone that after asking your questions you should change the mike cover for a new one. After all, we must comply with the sanitary rules.

Let us proceed. The Kremlin pool, please, show us Novo-Ogaryovo.

We will give the floor to our largest holding, the VGTRK, Rossiya channel.

Alexei Petrov: Thank you. Alexei Petrov, Vesti news programme, Rossiya TV channel.

Mr President, face masks have become an unpleasant symbol of the times. It is obvious that the pandemic is the main event of the year. My question concerns the situation in the Russian healthcare system. How would you describe its state of readiness? How well has it responded and how well is it responding to the current challenges?

There is an important nuance here. Do you think the situation is being analysed? Are the shortcomings and drawbacks being considered? This includes the shortage and labelling of medications, something that has been spoken about many times, and our social activists have reported about this to you. What is the net result?

Another thing has to do with the primary care system reform. A lot of money has been invested in it. How will it proceed now in the light of the lessons of the pandemic?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the readiness of our healthcare system. Of course, not a single healthcare system in the world was ready for the scale of the problem we faced. There are simply no such systems. We are analysing everything that is taking place across the world, and we see that there are no such systems. But there are examples of how the pandemic response was organised in Russia. Compared to other countries, although we do have a great number, an ocean of problems, some of which you have mentioned, but compared to what was happening in the world our healthcare system has proved to be more effective.

I will now talk about medicine shortages and other problems – it goes without saying that the problems are still there, and we can see them all. It is evident from the incoming questions, and I can hear it in your question, it suggests that not everything has been resolved. But look, when the pandemic was only just starting, when the very first signals came from our friends in the People’s Republic of China that there was a problem, we reacted immediately at the border, and – I have already said this many times – it bought us time to get prepared, so that when it all hit us on a large scale, we were ready.

It bought us time, we began to quickly deploy the healthcare system proper, as well as other measures to prevent a pandemic, and we did not waste any of that time. The required number of beds for coronavirus patients was 95, we are counting in millions, and the availability was only 50 percent; now we have 125 – sorry, I meant thousands – 125,000, and now we have 177,000 deployed, even 277,000 – a total of 277,000 beds deployed in a fairly short time. During that time, we have built 40 coronavirus centres: 30 of them were built quickly by the Ministry of Defence, and 10 by the regions. Overall, we will have 40, as the last one should be completed in the final days of 2020. This shows our ability to quickly respond to a problem.

Yesterday, when I was inspecting equipment, I spoke to a young woman working as a volunteer: at the time the pandemic began, we had very few doctors or specialists – 8,300, and now, there are 150,000 doctors working with this infection, and total medical staff numbers are more than half a million, some 520,000–530,000, I think.

What happened? We were able to quickly convert some of the medical institutions available for dealing with COVID and set up a retraining system for medical personnel. We introduced bonuses for people working in the ‘red zones’ in order to support our doctors, also 10,000 for senior students of medical universities, and 7,000 each for college students, as you know. We quickly expanded the production of personal protective equipment and suits, and disinfectants to sanitise premises. In some cases, the expansion was dramatic: for example, with the facemasks everyone is sick and tired of by now, we increased production 20 times, and this rarely happens.

Our healthcare system and state governance system in this area have shown that they can quickly mobilise resources, and they have done this. Incidentally, the required amount of medications has doubled. It is true that some regions have problems – I am aware of this and have just received information from the call centre based on what people say. There is a shortage of medications at hospitals, not to mention pharmacies, and free medications are not provided – I will say a few words about this as well. But these are not the same problems that we faced at the beginning. These problems have to do with logistics and purchase and delivery delays, but on the whole our industry has responded well enough.

At the beginning of the pandemic we did not know what we were facing, how to identify or test the disease, what treatment to use, and whether there would ever be an antidote, that is, a vaccine against it.

Just look now: we have moved forward a great deal in all of these areas. Russia is one of the world’s top three countries for COVID testing, and the WHO believes that mass testing is a way to deal with the problems created by the spreading infection. Take medications: we are now producing domestic medications in the necessary amount. And lastly, vaccination: Russia is the first country in the world to create and produce a vaccine, or vaccines created at the Gamaleya National Research Centre and at the Novosibirsk-based Vektor Centre. These are good vaccines, as I have said on numerous occasions, safe and effective: their efficacy rate is over 95 percent, approaching 96 or 97 percent, according to experts, and not a single case of serious side effects has been reported.

Thankfully, our foreign colleagues have changed their attitude towards us and are ready to collaborate in the areas where it is not working out for them. The Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca is ready to work with us, and is in the process of signing a corresponding agreement. This is very good; I am really glad when top-notch specialists – this is a large and good company with a global reputation – join forces, including with their Russian partners. I have no doubt that this will have a very good result not just for our citizens, but for the world as a whole.

Everything I have said just now shows that although there are quite a few problems, our healthcare system has responded appropriately to the threats our citizens faced.

Turning to the question on primary healthcare, it is true, of course, that we had to channel the necessary resources into what I have just mentioned, fighting the coronavirus, helping doctors, volunteers, students, etc., and acquiring the required manufacturing capability as soon as possible. We have postponed the effort to upgrade primary healthcare, without forgetting about it or placing it on the back burner. Instead of launching this undertaking on July 1, we will begin on January 1, and all the resources that were to be spent on this programme will be engaged within the timeframe set out in the programme. This is 500 billion rubles from the federal budget and another 50 billion from regional budgets. Over the next three years or so, some 300 billion rubles will have been made available and used.

We have started improving some aspects of primary healthcare. This includes buying motor vehicles, for example. We need these vehicles right now, as I can see from the questions we have been receiving, but this is also part of the programme to develop primary healthcare.

Since we are on this topic, I would like to say that ensuring that all people enjoy access to medical services is what the efforts to develop primary healthcare are all about. I know that there are many issues here that need to be resolved without delay. This will be our priority. Of course, this is also about personnel training, infrastructure, etc.

As for your question on how to respond to challenges that arose in the course of the fight against the pandemic and have yet to be resolved, of course, we are looking into these issues. In this context, let me reiterate that our event today is essential since it provides us with massive feedback from all regions across the country, giving us a picture of what is being done in specific regions of the Russian Federation, and allowing us to respond to these developments and fine-tune our actions.

We can draw the obvious conclusion that we need to move towards building a better sanitary and epidemiological service and reforming it. We need to understand how many specialised hospital beds we need and in what regions, and how many specialists are required. This programme is ready by all accounts, and we will make it a reality.

Dmitry Peskov: Let’s move on. Ura.Ru.

Anton Olshannikov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Anton Olshannikov, from the Ura.Ru news agency.

The epidemic is a problem indeed, but life goes on, and in this regard, I have this compound question about life, concerning elections, the big campaign we are going to have next year.

How do you think this upcoming political campaign will differ from the last one? What will the political landscape be like in the country?

The second part of my question is about the old mainstream opposition parties. Isn’t it time for them to make way for young parties, and do these young parties even have a chance, given how they have shown themselves at the municipal elections?

And the last part of my question is about external interference. It is obviously quite possible, especially since this campaign is so important. How do you intend to block this interference?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: As for the 2021 parliamentary elections, there will be a few differences, of course, mainly because we have adopted amendments to the Constitution – this is my first point. This means that the parliament now has more powers in a number of areas, including in forming the Government of the Russian Federation. You know, I would like to repeat this again, the State Duma now in fact makes the final decision not only regarding the Prime Minister, but also on cabinet ministers and deputy prime ministers.

The President must sign the personnel decisions adopted by parliament. And this – I do not think everyone has fully realised this yet – this greatly augments the importance of the deputy corps’ work, of their responsibility to the country, including for the work of the Government. This link between parliament and the Government is extremely important, I think. This is the first point.

Second, about the new parties and whether the old political heavyweights should cede their places to them. This is not for the new parties or for the political heavyweights, that is, the traditional parties, but for our citizens, the voters to decide. They will decide at the elections which parties to support. But does our political system, which continues developing, offer an opportunity for more political forces and parties to participate in the general election campaigns? Yes, it does. I think, no, I am sure that next year up to 16 parties will be taking part in the elections without collecting signatures, as far as I am aware. This is because in accordance with our legislation they have won seats in several Russian regions and therefore have the right to try their hand on the national political stage.

I wish them every success, but I would like to repeat that it is for the voters to decide whom to elect. I would like to note in this connection that the traditional parties are well known and have been represented in parliament for many years. It should be said that different, sometimes widely different views are expressed in parliament, where heated debates are held on a number of priority matters facing the country. At the same time, nearly all these parties act patriotically in the interests of the nation while offering their own solutions to the problems the country is facing. Approaches and ways to address problems may differ, but the goal of all our traditional political parties is the same – the welfare and development of the country.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us move from Moscow to Siberia now. Novosibirsk, you have an opportunity to ask your question.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, you have mentioned Novosibirsk as a centre where one of our vaccines has been created. Allow me to take Mr Peskov’s place now and act as a moderator. Can I choose who will ask the question? The thing is that I have seen a poster with the word “vaccine” on it. Go ahead, please, but first introduce yourself.

Lyudmila Keibol: Lyudmila Keibol, Altai Territory.

Mr President, I would like to ask if you have been vaccinated. What do you think about compulsory vaccination if there are not enough pilot vaccine doses in the regions? The epidemiological situation is quite complicated in Altai Territory.

And one more question: will we have enough vaccine doses in Russia if we help out other countries?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Look here. I urge everyone to pay close attention to specialists’ recommendations. I see, Lyudmila, that you have put on a mask. This is great. And you have gloves as well.

Specialists are telling us that the vaccines that are now coming into civil circulation are designed for people in a certain age group. So vaccines have not yet reached people like me. Let me repeat that I am a law-abiding person in this sense, I follow the recommendations of our specialists, therefore I have not been vaccinated yet. But I will do it as soon as it becomes possible. This is the first point.

Now the second one: I hear from specialists that it is necessary to have an interval between, say a flu shot and the coronavirus vaccine. Some of them say it should be two weeks whereas others insist it should be at least four weeks. I am referring to the coronavirus vaccine.

The third point is about the need for a large-scale or universal vaccination campaign. I think it must be done. It is not only Russian virologists who say this but also their colleagues practically throughout the world. Mass vaccination is one of the few ways of dealing with all pandemic-related issues. It is this vaccination that will create nationwide, community immunity. And let me repeat once again: our vaccine is effective and safe. Therefore, I do not see any reasons for rejecting it.

Finally, the next issue that is related to aid to other countries, as you put it. First of all, as I have always said and will say it again because I want all people in this country to hear me, our task is to carry out vaccination inside the Russian Federation. There are some issues in this respect.

What are they? The vaccine itself and its components are good. But we are still short of the hardware, the equipment for producing the amount of the vaccine we need. I believe 70 million people have already got flu shots. This is large-scale vaccination all over the country. This is what we must also do to counter COVID-19. But to produce this vaccine, we need corresponding plants, companies and equipment. We will build them. I assume that all plans in this respect will be carried out. Next year, in the very beginning, we will already have millions of vaccine doses and we will keep increasing its production on and on.

With regard to cooperation with other countries, since we need time in order to boost the technological capabilities of our enterprises to produce the vaccine, nothing is preventing us from producing the components of this vaccine in other countries, which will invest their own money into expanding their production capacities and purchasing the corresponding equipment. This is what I am talking about. In no way does this interfere with vaccinating the public in Russia. On the contrary, it will even improve the final quality of the product, since increasingly it will be mass produced.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, let us continue the tradition Mr Peskov started here. (Addressing Lyudmila Keibol) We would like to present you with a microphone windscreen. The fact is that you used the microphone without wearing a mask. Now you have it, so go ahead and use it.

Vladimir Putin: You are a perfectionist, I would say. But never mind.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us visit the call centre.

Nailya Asker-Zade: The call centre has received many pandemic-related questions, as well as questions about the doctors’ work during this challenging period. These questions were handled by a medical worker and volunteer Alevtina Kiselyova. She worked five months as a general practitioner at an outpatient clinic and saw COVID-19 patients.

Good afternoon, Alevtina,

Tell us what Russia’s citizens are complaining about.

Alevtina Kiselyova: Good afternoon,

We received many complaints about serious problems, including testing, getting a home visit by a doctor, and a lack of medications in both pharmacies and hospitals. At times, people waited over a week for an ambulance to arrive.

I also handled messages from the “red zone” doctors, which I would like to focus on.

Doctors from the town of Kola, Murmansk Region, and the town of Kachkanar, Sverdlovsk Region, have not once been paid a bonus for working with COVID-19 patients. The last time the bonus was paid to the military hospital personnel in Nizhny Novgorod and the doctors at an infectious disease hospital in the city of Tver was September.

We have received many requests from those who are risking their lives just as doctors but do not receive any additional payments for this. These are the support personnel – lift operators, cleaning staff and canteen workers. They are working in the risk zone, and the operation of the “red zone” would be impossible without them. I feel sorry for those who are at the forefront of the war against the pandemic but do not feel appreciated.

Mr President, we have a large number of questions regarding this, and we can give them to you so that you would issue instructions on dealing with every one of them. Mr President, is it possible to settle this problem?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Alevtina, was it you I talked with yesterday?

Alevtina Kiseleva: Yes, I talked with you yesterday.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

I have a question from the call centre, possibly from you, from the Ryazan Region: “We live in a small town, and we never have access to medications, free medications. Why do coronavirus patients have to pay for their medications? They said that confirmed cases would receive free medications, but we do not. Everyone I know is buying their own medications. Where is the money?” I would like to know this too. It is from Vladimir Korshunov, Ryazan Region.

Alevtina, this is what I would like to tell you and all those who have sent in their questions, including Mr Korshunov. We have indeed allocated 10 billion rubles to the regions for a prompt response to arising problems connected with the purchase of PPE and the preparation of medical centres and facilities for dealing with COVID. We have also allocated 5 billion rubles, or even slightly more, for the provision of free medications to those who receive treatment at home.

As for the Ryazan Region, I know for sure that all the approved allocations have been transferred from the federal budget to the region. It is not clear why these medications are not provided to the people; we will definitely look into the matter. Here is the procedure for receiving free medications: notify your outpatient clinic, which should confirm the diagnosis and provide the necessary medications.

Alevtina, we will systematise the complaints that you received, and respond to other similar complaints and requests. To reiterate, we gave 10 billion to the regions for institutions and personal protective equipment, and 5 billion to help people directly. Of course, we will investigate where this money went. All the money from the federal budget was made available to the regions. Some governors – I am in constant contact with all of them – are reporting back to me that the money is being disbursed. There may be, of course, isolated irregularities, I hope that this is the case. Judging by the number of complaints, though, these are not isolated instances, but a widespread problem. We will definitely take a closer look at it.

Alevtina Kiselyova: Thank you very much.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us go back to the World Trade Centre.

Introduce yourself, please.

Pyotr Marchenko: MIC Izvestia, REN TV channel.

Good afternoon, Mr President,

Thank you for the vaccine. Above all, thanks go to the researchers. However, talk about fighting the pandemic has overshadowed the issue of the origin of that scourge. The debate continues until now, with the United States accusing China, and China accusing the United States of the virus being man-made or non-man-made. What do we know about it? Perhaps you ordered the special services to get on it and find out the source of the problem?

Vladimir Putin: There are many rumours regarding its origin. I do not feel like discussing this in front of the entire country and the whole world, especially since we do not have any evidence to back up these accusations. I think we need to join our efforts in combating the problem rather than look for the culprits. Cooperation will be the right thing to do. This is my first point.

Secondly, some of our Western partners never stop emphasising that they adhere to humanistic principles in their domestic and foreign policies. So, we should think about how to help the people in particularly difficult circumstances and lift trade restrictions and sanctions for the countries and areas of cooperation that are critical for overcoming the pandemic fallout. Perhaps restrictions on supplying medications, medical equipment and doctor training should be lifted in the first place. This is what everyone should be thinking about rather than looking for the culprits.

I have to note that, fortunately, we are developing cooperation with many countries, including the People’s Republic of China, at the level of specialists, regional heads and at the federal level.

As for the tasks assigned to the special services: there are many various tasks, of course, but I believe this is not the right place to discuss how these tasks are fulfilled.

One of the earlier questions was about possible interference in our elections. I am sorry, I did not respond to it, but not because I do not want to answer it. I just thought there are other issues that are more important, and focused on them. But this is a general question. Of course, they will try to interfere, they always do, and not only in our elections, but almost all over the world. This is global policy. Just like there are bases all over the world, there is interference on a worldwide scale. We know about it and are getting ready for it. But we will be able to efficiently block it only if the overwhelming majority of our citizens understand that a) it is interference, b) we must counteract it, and c) it is unacceptable and we must determine our destiny ourselves.

It is very important that our society feels this. Therefore, the sentiments of internet bloggers, the sentiments of the media and their intention to protect themselves is a crucial thing, the protection of our sovereignty. At the same time, of course, we are open to cooperation with our partners and international observers.

I think there is no such transparency anywhere else in the world. In some US states, you know, there are over a dozen states where it is prohibited for any foreign observers to attend the elections. We are nothing like that. On the contrary, we are open, we will work, and observers inside the country are working actively, including public organisations, the Civic Chamber, and others, and they are allowed to take part as observers. There are more opportunities for political parties and the media to observe the political processes inside the country, as it was before. We will definitely boost this activity to make our citizens confident that the elections are open and transparent and that their results should be respected.

Dmitry Peskov: We will stay at the World Trade Centre. Alexander Gamov, one of the most prominent members of the presidential pool, go ahead, please.

Alexander Gamov: Mr President, first, thank you very much for holding this countrywide gathering, I almost called it a Union-wide one, since it is so great for us to come together at this time and get an opportunity to tell you the truth.

In general, you know that the coronavirus has dealt a heavy blow to the standard of living of many people. I come from the regions, and I get a lot of phone calls from there with people saying that they find it extremely difficult to get by, worse than ever before: poverty is on the rise, and poor people are getting even poorer, with unemployment, the falling ruble, growing prices and higher mortality. Also, I wanted to tell you that prices have been gradually increasing since about September or August. Why did it take until December to start talking about it? A minister would not sweat until cornered by the President, it seems.

Could you tell us, please, whether there is a programme for resolving the issue with growing prices within a week, as you have said? Does the President or the Government have a programme to help Russia in the coming weeks?

Thank you very much. I represent the Komsomolskaya Pravda website, radio station and newspaper. Alexander Gamov.

Vladimir Putin: As I have said at the outset, this is a challenging situation. When I said that the pandemic caused the shutdown of several manufacturers, rising unemployment and a decline in disposable incomes, these were not empty words, and not something that can be overlooked. This means that we see and understand what is going on.

You said that things have never been as hard as they are today. This is not so. In 2000, 29 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Almost one third of the country earned less than the subsistence level. One person out of three lived below the poverty line earning less than the subsistence level.

In 2017, we had 12.3 percent of the population below the poverty line. Unfortunately, today this level increased to 13.5 percent, due to all these problems. Of course, 20 million people is still too many.

You asked me whether there is a plan. Of course, there is a plan. Reducing the number of people below the poverty line is one of our key priorities. Let me elaborate on this subject.

First, here is the plan: by 2030, we need to bring down the share of the population living in poverty from the current 13.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Having 6.5 percent of the population earning less than the subsistence level is still not good, but we need to be realistic. This is a far-reaching, but feasible goal. This is the first point I wanted to make.

Now about prices. It is true that some prices are growing for objective reasons, for example, because the cost of their component parts has increased due to changes in the exchange rate. This is inevitable. Some products are only assembled in Russia, and we are now paying more for a large share of component parts, which have become more expensive because the ruble has slumped a bit.

But when the price hike is not related to objective reasons, this provokes a painful reaction. This is what made me angry, frankly speaking. For example, although we had a record large harvest this year, the largest harvest in the past six years – it will be 131 million tonnes and possibly even 134 million tonnes this year, yet bread and pasta prices are growing. How is that? Why? This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Second, sugar. I was told in the past that we should do something about cane sugar so as to support our own producers. We did so, in a number of ways, but not because we wanted to create a shortage on the domestic market. The minister has told me that we produce enough sugar for domestic consumption. But how can it be enough if sugar prices have soared by 75 percent?

Or take sunflower oil: prices have grown by 17 percent. Is there a shortage of sunflower seeds? No. There is also plenty of that. Why did it happen then? Because prices have grown on the global market, and so our producers increased exports and started adjusting domestic prices to global ones, which is absolutely unacceptable.

This is why we had such a tough discussion. The Government has responded. The main thing now is not to go too far with disciplinary action. This should have been done before with market measures; we should have adjusted the import duty, and this would have solved the problem. These are well known instruments, but they should be used on time. I hope we will do this now.

Contracts have been signed or will be signed – I think they have already been signed – between producers and retail chains: producers will bring down their prices to a certain level, and the retail chains should do the same for basic foods.

Of course, prices need to be monitored, and we will certainly do this. I hope to see the required changes within days, or weeks at the most.

Now about what can and must be done and what we are doing to help the people in this difficult period.

To begin with, we have substantially increased unemployment benefits since the unemployment rate has grown from 4.7 percent to 6.3 percent. This is common knowledge.

But the most difficult situation is taking shape in families with children, and we have created a whole programme to support families with children: from zero to 1.5 years, from 1.5 to three years and from three to seven years old. We have introduced an allowance for toddlers from zero to 1.5 years, and the rules are as follows: if every family member receives less than two subsistence minimums (at first, it was was 1.5, but later we expanded this programme and now it covers more people), such families are entitled to receive one child subsistence minimum for every child. As for children from 1.5 to three years of age, if their parents’ incomes are below these levels, they can receive the same payments but from the maternity capital: we have given them the right to receive these funds from the maternity capital. And, finally, for children aged between three and seven years we have introduced the following rule: if the income of each family member is below the subsistence minimum, they will start getting half of the subsistence minimum per each child. However, we decided from the very start to analyse this situation and see how it will affect the incomes of families. If not all families reach one subsistence minimum per member, starting January 1, that is, in two weeks from now, we will be already paying them one subsistence minimum for every child.

These are, so to speak, urgent measures to support Russian families. I did not mention lump sum payments for all children under 16.

And then there is support for the labour market. We will probably talk about it later on, and I will speak about it separately, so as not to drag out the answer to your question. However, this is certainly one of the key issues, therefore I allow myself to devote more time to it.

But the main point, of course, is that we need to develop the economy, reach the national development goals and implement national projects that contain these goals, create new jobs, raise the economy to a new level meeting the latest requirements, as well as develop artificial intelligence, digitisation and modern production lines that would allow people to have interesting jobs and receive decent incomes. The entire package of our measures envisaged by the national projects is aimed at reaching these goals.

Dmitry Peskov: Let’s not forget about the regions.

Yekaterinburg, please. We have not had any questions from Yekaterinburg yet.

Olga Armyakova: Colleagues, good afternoon. This is Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Urals.

We are broadcasting from the office of the presidential envoy, where journalists from all over the Ural Federal District have gathered. Accreditation has been approved for 70 journalists, but only 69 are present now. We learned why just a minute ago. Colleagues, I must share this with you: a journalist from a local news agency could not come to the news conference because she had a son yesterday. I think that is a good reason, and that you, Mr President, will accept it. As for the others, you can see that they are all ready to leap into action, to ask their questions.

Mr Peskov, what will we do? Will you choose the questions yourself?

Dmitry Peskov: Can you show me the room?

Olga Armyakova: Yes, of course.

Dmitry Peskov: Show me the room, please.

Right there, in the front row, with the “Waste” poster. Let’s have your question.

Olga Armyakova: The front row, please, go ahead.

You can remove the face mask, and don’t forget to introduce yourself. And then ask your question.

Olga Balabanova: Good afternoon, Mr President. Olga Balabanova from Magnitogorsky Metall newspaper, Magnitogorsk.

I have an environmental question, about waste management reform. As everyone is aware, it was officially launched in January 2019, but in fact it began long before that, five years ago. At any rate, a concession agreement was signed and a project was drafted in my city in 2015, but it came to a halt at the government expert review level. It looks as if they have started building [the recycling plant] now.

Why is the reform, which is vitally important for the whole country, dragging on in all regions, and what can be done about this?

Vladimir Putin: I do not think it is dragging on, this reform. There are many problems with organising production but the reform itself is proceeding.

There are several large objectives.

First, we must create a new industry, full-cycle production, when waste is not taken to landfills but recycled for use in other sectors. This is the first objective.

Second, we must ensure proper waste sorting so that by 2030 waste can be separated into different groups for subsequent recycling.

Currently, one of the tasks for the organisers of all this work is to ensure that manufacturers and packaging companies carry more responsibility so that the burden of waste disposal could shift from customers to packaging producers.

Overall, this is a practice typical almost everywhere in the world, and we will adhere to this very practice. For example, in car manufacturing, we charge a recycling fee. It works in our country and in the rest of the world. The same needs to be done in these areas.

I assure you that the Government is dealing with this, as are regional authorities. And they will continue to work on this, no question about that. We allocate substantial resources for these efforts, and there is a solid plan. This money will not be reassigned to any other purpose, and this work will be completed according to plan.

Since you are from Magnitogorsk, you know, one of the questions I have here has to do with Magnitogorsk and atmospheric emissions. The person asking the question wrote about what is happening in Magnitogorsk in relation to atmospheric emissions. Frankly speaking, I was a bit surprised because I know that over the past few years, the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works has invested significant resources into upgrading its production facilities with the specific intention of reducing emissions and, according to the reports I received, the emissions have indeed decreased. And then I read this.

Olga, what do you think? What is happening in Magnitogorsk in terms of atmospheric emissions?

Olga Balabanova: Perhaps, as a patriot (I work for a newspaper associated with this plant), I believe that if waste treatment facilities were built, it is not a window you can open or close, as one of my friends says. It is an entire complex of facilities. My fellow residents may tear me to pieces for my words, but I think that many people take the fog they can see over the left riverbank for smog. In fact, the tank was separated from the plant with a closed circuit system. The water there is warm and does not freeze, which often produces fog. People look at it from the right bank and think that they see smog over the left bank. There are other production facilities in the city, such as a poultry factory, that may produce the smell that people often notice. But I do not think that the situation is as critical as they like to inflate it on social media.

Vladimir Putin: Right, but this inquiry did not come from social media but from a specific person in Magnitogorsk. It is not social media.

Olga Balabanova: We read about this on social media as well. Perhaps there is a problem, but the plant is dealing with it, and I do not think these are just idle promises.

Vladimir Putin: I asked because I know that the plant has invested heavily in reducing emissions, much more than other metallurgical production centres. And in fact emissions have gone down, when measuring in tonnes. So, this came as a surprise to me. It seems that this matter does deserve some attention in general.

Speaking about the environment, we are working on deploying a network of sensors across the country where polluters are especially active. Metallurgical production centres will be first on the list, and the system will be paid for by the companies themselves. I believe we will act accordingly in Magnitogorsk, and we will closely monitor, probably in a more objective manner what is happening there.

Thank you very much.

You know, there was a question earlier, if I may interrupt our presenters, on teachers’ salaries. “A top-category teacher in a rural area working 18 hours, which is full-time employment for a teacher, earns the same salary as a cleaning lady at the same school” – this is what Sergei Stepanchenko wrote us. This is a burning issue. This is why I picked it from this folder with many similar questions.

Do you see what has happened here? I will tell you what happened and what needs to be done.

Why did this happen? We took a decision that the minimum wage cannot be below the subsistence level, which led to an increase in salaries. This led to what you mentioned in your letter: the minimum wage cannot be less than the subsistence level, so the minimum wage went up, and a cleaning lady no longer earns less than minimum wage. She now has a higher salary. This had to be accompanied by an increase in salaries for other categories, but it was not done due to budget constraints. But the government will have to do this regardless. For this reason I would like to draw the Government’s attention to the fact that this state of affairs is far from normal.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us go back to the World Trade Centre. We gave the floor to the most seasoned journalist here, now I want to give the floor to an aspiring journalist. I saw Sergei Shnurov there. Please give him the microphone.

Sergei Shnurov: Good afternoon, Mr President,

Sergei Shnurov, RTVI international channel.

I will leave the high-profile questions about Navalny to my colleagues, I will be nicer this time. Since I work for an international channel, my question is as follows: why did Russian hackers not help Trump get reelected? Have they all gone to the Silicon Valley already? No one is left behind, as you like to say. What kind of job can Trump count on now? Will you provide him with shelter if he asks for political asylum, like Snowden? This was an open-ended question coming from the channel.

Now, a question from me: how can an ordinary Russian, someone representing the majority of the population in our country, describe this life without using profane language?

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the final part of your question. Just go back to the classics of Soviet cinema. Remember, when you have a radiator section land on your foot, you should say, “you dirty so-and-so?” instead of using curse words. Russian is rich enough to let anyone get his or her message across clearly and intelligibly, without resorting to the strong language you referred to.

I want to thank you for not using it now, as you sometimes do, as I understand, from stage, addressing large audiences. Thank you very much for being courteous today.

Why did Russian hackers not help Trump get reelected? I believe that this is not so much a question as a provocation. Russian hackers did not help the incumbent president of the United States to get elected the first time around and did not interfere in the domestic affairs of that great power. This is nothing but speculation and an excuse to degrade relations between Russia and the United States. This is an excuse to not recognise the incumbent US president’s legitimacy for domestic US considerations. In this sense, Russia-US relations have become hostage to domestic politics in the United States.

I believe that, primarily, this is bad for the United States, but it is up to them, let them do as they please. We believe that the president-elect will figure out what is going on. He is a seasoned politician both in domestic and foreign affairs. We look forward to the new administration resolving at least some of the existing problems.

I do not think Mr Trump will need to look for employment. Almost 50 percent of the people voted for him, if you count the number of registered voters, not electors. He relies on a fairly large base in the United States and, as far as I understand, is not going to leave his country’s political scene.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us now turn to Novo-Ogaryovo and the Kremlin pool reporters, who are in the same room with the President.

LIFE, go ahead please.

Alexander Yunashev: Good afternoon, Mr President.

I will take the advice from the young reporter. A number of interesting investigative reports have been released lately, for example, about your daughter, your former son-in-law Shamalov and other people who are allegedly close to you. This week the Alexei Navalny investigation also came out. Could you tell us why a criminal investigation into his poisoning and who did it has not been launched until now?

Vladimir Putin. I see.

It is no surprise that these fake news stories emerge. It has always been this way and always will. There is a battle unfolding in the media space. Nothing new here. Do you remember the terrible developments in the Caucasus and efforts to fight international terrorism? How was yours truly portrayed by the international media and, unfortunately, in Russia as well? Remember how they portrayed me with fangs? I remember all this very well. Still, I have invariably proceeded from the premise that I need to be doing what I believe to be right for our country. When I do something, I do it not for the sake of pleasing someone abroad. This is the first part of my answer.

The second part has to do with my close ones. This report is impossible to read. I flipped through it, since it talks about me, it seems, but it is such a cut-and-paste job, with so many things piling up, that I was unable to finish reading it. What did I want to point out in this regard? The report keeps repeating “the president’s son-in-law” over and over again. At the end, however, he is referred to as the former son-in-law. This is the first thing I wanted to say. Still, in the text they keep driving home the message that he is my son-in-law. So this goes for point one.

The second point is about “President Putin forbidding the elite to hold overseas assets.” There is no ban preventing the elite from holding assets abroad. Public servants cannot have financial assets abroad. This was the right thing to do. They cannot hold accounts or other financial assets abroad. The company in question is 100-percent private. The state does not own a single share in it.

The next question: who received shares in this company and how? It turns out that the company released a statement on this matter and what it thinks about these allegations. The company had a compensation scheme for its senior executives, and Mr Shamalov received stock just like all other senior executives. There are also other programmes for executives at a different level, and they received stock following a different scheme. Nothing special here.

But ultimately, in my opinion, the most important thing is this: just now, aspiring journalist Shnurov asked about our hackers. What is written in the beginning? Note that it says that an unknown, anonymous person is pursuing goals we do not understand and then, apparently, this anonymous person is tracked down. What do I mean? It is said that what happened is similar to the events in 2016 when outlawed Russian hackers associated with Russian military intelligence hacked US Democratic Party members’ emails. Here is your anonymous person. I think we know who that is. Who called these hackers outlaws associated with Russian military intelligence? It was the US Department of State and US intelligence agencies, which are in fact the authors. At any rate, it is completely obvious that it was done upon their instructions. This is the first thing.

The second is that the reference to the insinuation that our hackers, as they believe, interfered with US domestic policy in 2016 means that the purpose of this is clear. The purpose is to take revenge and try to influence public opinion in our country in order to interfere, of course, with our domestic politics. This is absolutely obvious. It is absolutely obvious to me and, I think, it will also become clear to the majority of readers if they pay attention to the things I have just mentioned.

But to this end, I would like to emphasise the following:

One should be driven by… now I want to address those who ordered these publications, not those who actually wrote them. I know that if they get an assignment from intelligence services they have to write it. But those who order these kinds of articles, should not be driven by revenge or act on the assumption of alleged exceptionalism; instead, they should develop relations with their international partners based on mutual respect and the fundamental standards of international law. Then we will be able to achieve shared success in the areas that are essential to all of us.

Now, with regard to the patient of a Berlin clinic. I have already mentioned it many times, and can repeat only certain things. Mr Peskov told me just yesterday about the latest speculations in this regard concerning our special service officers’ data and so on. Listen, we are perfectly aware of what this is all about. It is about legalisation the first time around and now. This is not about an investigation. This is about legalising the materials from the US special services.

Do you really think we are unaware of the fact that they are tracking locations? Our special services understand this well and are aware of it. Officers of the FSB and other special services are aware of it and use telephones whenever they believe they should not be hiding their location, etc. But if this is so – and rest assured that this is so – it means that this patient of a Berlin clinic has the support of the special services, those of the United States in this particular case. And if this is the case, then it gets interesting and the special services should, of course, be looking after him. However, this does not mean at all that he must be poisoned. Who cares about him? If they really wanted to, they would have, most likely, carried it through. His wife addressed me, and I gave the green light to have him treated in Germany that very second.

There is one important thing that the general public is not paying attention to. It is a trick to attack the people at the top. Those who perform it thus propel themselves up to a certain level where they can say: see who I am talking to? I am a person of the same calibre, so treat me as a person of nationwide importance. It is a well-known trick that is used in political dealings around the world.

I think, though, that something else, not these tricks, should be used to gain people’s respect and recognition. You need to prove your worth either by doing something important or by putting together a realistic programme with specific goals that can be implemented in a particular country, Russia, in this particular case.

I urge the opponents to the current government and all political forces in our country to be led not by personal ambitions, but by the interests of the people of the Russian Federation, and to come up with a positive agenda in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. And we have many of them.

Dmitry Peskov: Moving on to Rostov-on-Don.

Go ahead, please.

Aina Nikolayeva: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, colleagues.

We are here at Don State Technical University. This is where the staff for the region’s major manufacturers like Rostselmash is educated. But today we have people with a humanities bent, mostly my colleagues, journalists. If you allow me, I will not waste your time anymore and pass the microphone to them.

Sofia Brykanova: Good afternoon.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask a question.

Mr President, I have what has become a traditional question for your news conferences, about Donbass. It is invariably relevant to our region.

Aina Nikolayeva: Please, introduce yourself.

Sofia Brykanova: I am sorry. Sofia Brykanova, Don-24 news agency.

I have the following question: what prospects do you see for settling the conflict in Donbass and what, in your opinion, does the future hold for Russian-Ukrainian relations?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the future of Russian-Ukrainian relations, this largely depends on the Ukrainian government, rather than Ukraine itself, I would say. After all, all the preceding heads of state, just as the current one, Vladimir Zelensky, came to power with slogans on unifying the country, which, at the end of the day, included building a relationship with Russia. But they have not been able to deliver on this promise so far. In fact, on their way to power they garner support from a majority of the people and voters, but when they get there, they hesitate and start looking back at the extreme nationalist forces. I think they simply lack the political courage. And the process stalls.

This is what is happening right now, more or less. Thank goodness, when we met in Paris within the Normandy Format, we agreed on ending hostilities. This is holding, which is a major achievement. An exchange of detainees has taken place.

However, there has been no progress in removing economic and social restrictions. In fact, nothing has been done to advance a political settlement. Moreover, officials in Kiev have said time and again that they do not intend to abide by the Minsk agreements and have suggested revising their key provisions.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Minsk agreements have been confirmed by a UN Security Council resolution, which means that they are international law. As such, they cannot be subject to unilateral revision. They have to respect the other side that signed the agreements, namely Donbass representatives.

For these reasons, I believe a settlement is inevitable. It will happen sooner or later. The question is when. Let me reiterate that this largely depends on the current Ukrainian government.

Russia will keep supporting Donbass as it has been. We will even increase our support. This includes supporting manufacturing, resolving social and infrastructural issues, etc. We will calmly proceed in this direction. Make no mistake, we understand the complicated situation in Donbass. Again, we will remain proactively involved not only on the humanitarian front, but also through direct cooperation.

Dmitry Peskov: Now let’s take a question from Nizhny Novgorod. Nizhny Novgorod, please.

Yevgeny Khvan: Good afternoon, Mr President, Mr Peskov.

This is Nizhny Novgorod, the capital of the Volga Federal District. We have more than 70 journalists in our studio today. Of course, I can see everybody holding colourful posters. But allow me, as moderator, to choose a question based on the format of this news conference. Mr Peskov, will you allow me or will you choose yourself?

Dmitry Peskov: Of course, go ahead.

Yevgeny Khvan: Please, colleague with the poster saying “Online.” Since this is an online conference; don’t forget to introduce yourself.

Oleg Kashtanov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Oleg Kashtanov. Izvestia Mordovii, Saransk.

My question is about online education. This is a widely discussed matter. Last spring, our schools and universities had to switch to distance learning. I would like to know your opinion: do you think our higher education system and our schools tackled this challenge successfully? And could you be very specific? Because people are asking if this online education system is here to stay. And in this difficult time, could it be that the quality of education is declining? And, as a result, are graduates less qualified?

Vladimir Putin: Oleg, look, there should be a distinction between online education in schools and online education in colleges and universities. We have 39,900 schools in the country and only 2 percent are teaching online while a small part are using a mixed format and a major part are operating as normal. As for universities, all of them were asked to consider switching to remote classes.

Regarding schools, I have plenty of notes here on their preparedness and technical capability to administer online learning, and I will talk about this in more detail later when I answer the written questions. But, of course, there are problems. There are problems with hardware because many people don’t have computer equipment. There are also problems with internet access and even access to phones. These difficulties exist, especially in small towns.

What are we going to do? In 2021, all schools in the Russian Federation will be provided with access to high-speed internet. Some schools already have the internet, but in 2021, all schools must have it. This is the first thing.

As for higher education, we have allocated support for universities twice this year, in July and in the autumn, with financial resources to support remote activity. And they are supposed to expand their capabilities in online learning, as independent economic entities, with the government support I just mentioned. This support has been provided twice this year.

Now, on the quality of education. Of course, the online format will never replace a direct face-to-face interaction between students and teachers. At any rate, it will not happen for a long time. I think I do not need to go into detail as everybody understands what I mean. Nevertheless, an online format of education will be used; it exists and, of course, will be developed further both at schools and at universities.

You know, just yesterday I spoke to some colleagues of mine. What can we project for the future? For example, it is not always possible for an expert in a very specific area to be present in several places at once, at several schools. Besides, this expert may be busy with his or her own research. But he or she can teach online. And we should certainly use this opportunity.

To be continued.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin address to G20 member countries

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin address to G20 member countries

Vladimir Putin addressed the meeting of the heads of delegations of the G20 member countries, invited states and international organisations.

The summit chaired by Saudi Arabia is held via videoconference on November 21–22.

The forum’s agenda includes issues of tackling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, providing universal access to vaccines, strengthening healthcare systems, global economic recovery and employment, as well as cooperation in the digital economy, fighting climate change, environmental protection and countering corruption.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin:

Colleagues,

The scope of problems humanity has faced in 2020 are truly unprecedented. The coronavirus pandemic, global lockdown and frozen economic activity have launched a systemic economic crisis the world probably has not known since the Great Depression.

The growth of national economies has been severely undermined. The pandemic claimed dozens, hundreds of thousands of lives while millions of people have lost their jobs and incomes.

The main risk, obviously, even despite some positive signals, the main risk remains: mass long-term unemployment, a so-called “stagnant” unemployment with the subsequent growth of poverty and social insecurity. The role of the G20 is to stop this from happening.

Russia highly values Saudi Arabia’s efforts during its G20 Presidency. In the present situation, the forums’ agenda was re-focussed towards global economic recovery and the protection of people’s health and wellbeing.

Drawing on the experience of fighting the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, the G20 launched a number of multilateral initiatives to curb pandemic-related economic risks and to restore business activity including via key global management institutions, namely the United Nations Organisation, the World Health Organisation, IMF, the World Bank and others.

Our countries have designed a package of incentives for the world economy totalling $12 trillion. The US President has spoken now about the US efforts – indeed, it is a very big contribution to the recovery of the American economy, which also means the recovery of the world economy.

We all together facilitated the emergency mobilisation of $21 billion for essential medical needs and gave a start to international cooperation in developing, producing and distributing vaccines.

Like other nations, Russia took unparalleled anti-crisis steps as it gave top priority to the key and fundamental value – people’s lives and health.

To ensure the sustainability of the national economy and maintain social stability, Russia’s Government together with the Bank of Russia are implementing a comprehensive plan of assistance to the population, small and medium-sized businesses and industries in the risk zone. Support was provided to the banking sector and regional budgets, businesses were issued loans while government investments were increased. The current volume of anti-crisis budget support totalled 4.5 percent of the GDP.

The timely adoption of these targeted measures allowed Russia, as well as the majority of developed countries, to mitigate the economic decline, to enhance the healthcare system and get through the hard times without irreparable losses. Both our accumulated reserves and attracting loan resources in the domestic market helped to finance the above measures.

Yet we are aware that the developing economies and some emerging market economies objectively lack such resources. Their fiscal revenues have plunged while the need to allocate considerable funds for fighting the pandemic is growing practically daily. National currency devaluation carries a big risk, and respectively, the cost of servicing on the state debt, primarily for low income countries, which have two thirds of their loans in US dollars.

The IMF and the World Bank rendered significant assistance to developing countries. Following their proposal, G20 made a decision in April to install a temporary moratorium on developing nations’ debt payments. That is certainly a much-needed initiative, but it only covers the poorest countries. It does not include their debt to private creditors and concerns less than four percent of the developing countries’ overall costs of servicing state debt in the current year.

I believe additional measures are needed to prevent the deterioration of the situation and the growth of economic and social inequality.

Urgent issues that have accumulated in international trade also need to be addressed. Thus, it is necessary to try to contain protectionism, to abandon the practice of unilateral sanctions and to resume delivery chains. We spoke about this just yesterday at another international platform, APEC.

Adjustment of multilateral universal trade rules to e-commerce (much needs to be done in this area) and other new economic realities are also on the agenda.

On the whole, the G20 should continue searching for new approaches to reforming the World Trade Organisation to meet present-day challenges. This task defies a solution without a stable and effective multilateral trade system, but at present, there is no alternative to the World Trade Organisation.

Russia supports the draft key decision of the current summit aimed at making effective and safe vaccines accessible for everyone. Undoubtedly, immunisation drugs are and must be universal public domain. Our country, Russia, is ready to provide the countries in need with the vaccines developed by our researchers. This is the world’s first registered vaccine Sputnik V, based on human adenoviral vectors platform. The second Russian vaccine, EpiVacCorona from a Novosibirsk research centre, is also ready. The third Russian vaccine is coming.

The scale of the pandemic compels us to engage all the resources and research available. Our common goal is to form portfolios of vaccines and ensure reliable protection for the planet’s population. It means that there will be enough work for everyone, colleagues, and I think it is a case when competition may be inevitable but we must proceed primarily from humanitarian considerations and make it a priority.

Let me stress – this crisis must become an opportunity to alter the trajectory of global development, preserve the favourable environment and climate, ensure equal conditions for all nations and peoples, build up effective tools of multilateral cooperation and key international institutions while drawing upon the UN Charter and universally accepted norms and principles of international law. We see this approach to solving global issues as the key task and responsibility of the G20 as the main forum of the world’s leading economies.

Colleagues, I would like to once again thank the hosts of today’s event, Saudi Arabia. Thank you for your attention.

Weekly China Newsbrief and Sitrep

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Weekly China Newsbrief and Sitrep

By Godfree Roberts selected from his extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China

Editorial Comments

Now that the excitement of all the major Heads of Countries virtually speaking at the UNGA is over, we can come to initial conclusions.  The theme of this gathering was to investigate the UN itself, and to position it to be a better global gathering place where internal relations can be discussed, problems solved and the work of multi-polarity between nations can continue.  President Putin gave a serious statesman speech without any fireworks, stating why the UN is important and calmly outlining the conditions in our world today, which actions should take priority and what the Russian focus is in the medium and long terms.  His gift to the UN and staff is a free SputnikV Vaccine.  Chairman Xi did the same and also came bearing gifts, putting some money where their mouth’s are in essence.  Here is the transcript and this quote stands out:  (Note my bolded sentence).

“Since the start of this year, we, the 1.4 billion Chinese, undaunted by the strike of COVID-19, and with the government and the people united as one, have made all-out efforts to control the virus and speedily restore life and economy to normalcy. We have every confidence to achieve our goals within the set time frame, that is, to finish the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, lift out of poverty all rural residents living below the current poverty line, and meet ten years ahead of schedule the poverty eradication target set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

China is the largest developing country in the world, a country that is committed to peaceful, open, cooperative and common development.  We will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot war with any country.  We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We do not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in a zero-sum game. We will not pursue development behind closed doors. Rather, we aim to foster, over time, a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. This will create more space for China’s economic development and add impetus to global economic recovery and growth.

China will continue to work as a builder of global peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of international order. To support the UN in playing its central role in international affairs, I hereby announce the following steps to be taken by China:

— China will provide another US$50 million to the UN COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.

— China will provide US$50 million to the China-FAO South-South Cooperation Trust Fund (Phase III).

— China will extend the Peace and Development Trust Fund between the UN and China by five years after it expires in 2025.

— China will set up a UN Global Geospatial Knowledge and Innovation Center and an International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals to facilitate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

So why is it that the Chinese government seemingly fails to convince the western public that China is not their enemy? Alternatively stated, why is it that the western countries are successful in portraying China as their enemy?  The answer is non-complicated at a first look.

At present, 90% of Americans learn about China through Western media, so it’s hard for the Chinese Government to convince Americans of anything.

American media are even more tightly controlled than Chinese media and far less trustworthy, says the American Press Institute, “Just six percent of Americans say they have a lot of confidence in the media, putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public’s view of other institutions”.

Americans don’t trust what their media tell them, but they don’t have other sources of information, either.

Joey Yu says: (February 22) —”The average American also has never left the United States. Never seen another country unless it’s through the media, and what the media shows them is probably outdated.”  • And nearly all Western media has the constant anti-Chinese political refrain which has brainwashed many even highly educated American and British professionals. I have given up trying to correct such people because I would lose their friendship if I continue to do that. But that brainwashing rankles.

First we had President Trump’s speech at the UNGA, which can only be categorized as a blistering and outright attack on China, well outside of the theme set for this meeting, while pretending to be the ‘Peaceful Nation’.  The Chinese commentary was immediate and devastating. I pulled these few comments describing President Trump’s speech out of just one of the Chinese commentaries:

Discriminatory, did the US President come to the UN for a quarrel, vulgar, full of loopholes, fooling only the American public, undisguised attempt at a new cold war, a destroyer, a creator of tensions, a hysterical attack that violated the diplomatic etiquette a top leader is supposed to have, pays no heed to diplomacy, they believe power is everything, they want the agenda of the international community to serve US politics, and the UN General Assembly be turned into Trump’s presidential campaign, the US has performed so poorly in handling domestic affairs that reforms could barely be advanced, it has to pass the buck to digest the domestic anger.

And then finally:  “This is the sign of stagnation and the decline of a major power. It’s hoped the US government will not go further in this direction, which will only end up deceiving itself.”

With that as a backdrop, this selection from Godfree’s Here Comes China Newsletter focuses on

  • vaccines,
  • how the ‘scary social credit system’ actually works,
  • a purported whistle blower,
  • Pakistan and Belt and Road
  • Chinese foreign investment.

While in the western countries there is a concerted effort against vaccines, and a tremendous amount of backlash from citizens against vaccines for Covid-19 (and I don’t blame them at all given who is developing these for the western world), in China the situation is completely different:

China will not need a sweeping coronavirus vaccination programme because the pathogen is effectively under control in the country – at least for now. Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), said that large-scale vaccination would only be needed if there was a major outbreak, like the one in Wuhan in February. “This is an issue of balancing risk and return”.[MORE]


We’ve seen endless propaganda with visions of brutal control of the citizens via the so-called Social Credit System in China.  Let’s take a look at how it really works.

The chairman of China’s embattled HNA Group Co. Ltd. was restricted from excessive spending on travel, golf and other activities by a court as debt woes continue rattling the once high-flying conglomerate. A district court in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi province, issued orders to limit spending by HNA and its 67-year-old co-founder and Chairman Chen Feng, a court document database showed Wednesday. As the legal representative of HNA, Chen will be restricted from taking flights, buying train tickets that are pricier than economy class, accommodations in luxury hotels, spending on entertainment such as golf and leisure trips, buying property and nonessential vehicles, and investing in high-yield wealth management products, according to the orders. The Xi’an court said it issued the orders in a debt dispute filed against HNA in August. [MORE]

It seems absolutely fine to me that if someone mismanaged his large business and lived a luxury life, that he should be brought back to a normal lifestyle while fixing his business.


We`ve all heard of the Chinese Virologist that is being trotted out on most western mainstream media, saying that China developed the Covid-19 virus in a lab and she was told to stay silent.   Yet, I bet very few have seen the Chinese commentary on this:

Chinese defector’s shocking virus claim: Dr Li, a formerly a specialist at Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, said her supervisor first asked her to investigate a new “SARS-like” virus in Wuhan – but that her efforts were later stifled. She said she reported back that cases appeared to be rising exponentially but was told to “keep silent and be careful”. “’We will get in trouble and we’ll be disappeared’,” her supervisor reportedly said.  Dr Li travelled to the US in late April before speaking out, saying she had to leave Hong Kong because she “knows how [China] treat whistleblowers”. [MORE]

A press release from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) denied her claim and stated that: “Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at HKU during December 2019 and January 2020. We further observe that what she might have emphasised in the reported interview has no scientific basis but resembles hearsay.” The director of HKU’s School of Public Health, Keiji Fukuda, said in an internal memo to staff that none of the researchers named by Yan were involved in any cover-up or “secret research”.[MORE]


Pakistan and China signed the Development Agreement for the first China Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Monday. Chairman Atif R. Bokhari said sufficient headway has been made on this front and the zones are now gearing up for business. “Pakistan’s proximity with China will allow these SEZs to foster economic interdependence for mutual economic advantage,” he added. [MORE]

In Pakistan, the Belt and Road project is everywhere. A dinner at the Islamabad Club quickly turns into a reminiscence of different visits to China. After a lecture in Lahore, a group of young men from Baluchistan want to know if China’s monumental economic initiative will develop their region — or cause it to lose its identity. The acronym for the corridor linking China and Pakistan, CPEC, can be heard in hotel lobbies and restaurants; it stands out for those who cannot understand Urdu. There are young people who have come of age since the beginning of the initiative and for whom it constitutes the only possible horizon for professional advancement. Earlier this year, I spent three weeks traveling in Pakistan, the crown jewel of the Belt and Road project, the country where the initiative first took root and therefore the most plausible candidate for the place where its future can be surmised and understood.

So central is the Belt and Road to Pakistani politics that it should not be thought of as a specific enterprise. Rather, it provides the overarching framework for every economic policy and project. In short, the initiative is something that should feel very familiar to policymakers in Brussels and other European capitals.

In my discussions with economic authorities and think tanks, it quickly became obvious that the main debate in Pakistan today is about the best way to adapt policy decisions and reforms to the Belt and Road framework. The Belt and Road can thus be compared to the European Union and the role it played for countries in Central and Eastern Europe after the 2004 and 2007 enlargements. Which decisions should these countries make in order to better occupy their place within the given political and economic order?

That many in the West still think of the Belt and Road purely in terms of infrastructure is something I find deeply perplexing. In the project’s inaugural speech that Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered in Astana in 2013, infrastructure was no more than one of the five pillars of the Belt and Road — and very obviously not more than an ancillary one. The real action was clearly elsewhere.

At the time of Xi was giving his speech in Astana, it was common to hear from different officials and intellectuals in Beijing that the Belt and Road was meant to be completed in 2049, around the time of the first centennial of the new China. Last year, while living in Beijing, I started hearing that the temporal horizon was even longer. Many spoke openly of a 100-year project. This is not the time-scale of an infrastructure plan. The Marshall Plan was concluded in just a few years. Interestingly, in Pakistan this idea — that the Belt and Road is a project of economic and technological development, culminating in a new global political and economic order — is clearly understood.  By Bruno Maçães, a former Europe minister for Portugal, is a senior adviser at Flint Global in London and the author most recently of “History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America” (Hurst, 2020). The paperback edition of his “Belt and Road: a Chinese World Order” will be published this month.  [MORE]


Over 80% of the World’s Na­tions received Chi­nese For­eign In­vest­ment in 2019. Chi­na’s out­bound for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment to­talled USD$136.91 bil­lion, for a YoY de­cline of 4.3%. The in­vest­ment sum nonethe­less made China the world’s sec­ond biggest source of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment af­ter Japan ($226.65 bil­lion). As of the end of 2019 Chi­na’s to­tal for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments were $2.2 tril­lion, third be­hind the United States ($7.7 tril­lion) and the Nether­lands ($2.6 tril­lion). Chi­na’s out­bound for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment com­prised 10.4% of the global to­tal in 2019 – the fourth con­sec­u­tive year that this fig­ure was above 10%. Chi­na’s to­tal for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments were 6.4% of the to­tal, on par with 2018. 80% of Chi­na’s for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments in 2019 were in the ser­vices sec­tor, with key ar­eas in­clud­ing leas­ing and com­mer­cial ser­vices, whole­sale and re­tail, fi­nance, in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions/ soft­ware, real es­tate, and tran­sit/ ware­hous­ing. [MORE]


Selections and editorial comments by Amarynth.  (Go Get that newsletter – it is again packed with detail).

75th session of the UN General Assembly : President of Russia Vladimir Putin

75th session of the UN General Assembly : President of Russia Vladimir Putin

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/64074

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

This year, the international community celebrates two, without exaggeration, historic anniversaries: the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and establishment of the United Nations.

The importance of these two forever interlinked events cannot be overemphasized. In 1945, Nazism was defeated, the ideology of aggression and hatred was crushed, and the experience and spirit of alliance, as well as the awareness of the huge price that had been paid for peace and our common Victory, helped construct the post-war world order. It was built on the ultimate foundation of the UN Charter that remains the main source of international law to this day.

I am convinced that this anniversary makes it incumbent upon all of us to recall the timeless principles of inter-State communication enshrined in the UN Charter and formulated by the founding fathers of our universal Organization in the clearest and most unambiguous terms. These principles include the equality of sovereign States, non-interference with their domestic affairs, the right of peoples to determine their own future, non-use of force or the threat of force, and political settlement of disputes.

Looking back at the past decades, one can say that despite all difficulties of the Cold War period, major geopolitical shifts and all the intricacies of today’s global politics, the UN has been ably fulfilling its mission of protecting peace, promoting sustainable development of the peoples and continents and providing assistance in mitigating local crises.

This enormous potential and expertise of the UN is relevant and serves as a solid basis for moving ahead. After all, just like any other international organization or regional entity, the UN should not grow stiff, but evolve in accordance with the dynamics of the 21st century and consistently adapt to the realia of the modern world that is indeed becoming more complicated, multipolar and multidimensional.

The current changes certainly have an effect on the principal UN body, the Security Council, as well as on the debate concerning the approaches to its reform. Our logic is that the Security Council should be more inclusive of the interests of all countries, as well as the diversity of their positions, base its work on the principle of the broadest possible consensus among States and, at the same time, continue to serve as the cornerstone of global governance, which cannot be achieved unless the permanent members of the Security Council retain their veto power.

Such a right pertaining to the five nuclear powers, the victors of the Second World War, remains indicative of the actual military and political balance to this day. Most importantly, it is an essential and unique instrument that helps prevent unilateral actions that may result in a direct military confrontation between major States, and provides an opportunity to seek compromise or at least avoid solutions that would be completely unacceptable to others and act within the framework of international law, rather than a vague, gray area of arbitrariness and illegitimacy.

As diplomatic practice shows, this instrument actually works, unlike the infamous pre-war League of Nations with its endless discussions, declarations without mechanisms for real action and with States and peoples in need not having the right to assistance and protection.

Forgetting the lessons of history is short-sighted and extremely irresponsible, just like the politicized attempts to arbitrarily interpret the causes, course and outcomes of the Second World War and twist the decisions of the conferences of the Allies and the Nuremberg Tribunal that are based on speculation instead of facts.

It is not just vile and offending the memory of the fighters against Nazism. It is a direct and devastating blow to the very foundation of the post-war world order, which is particularly dangerous in view of the global stability facing serious challenges, the arms control system breaking down, regional conflicts continuing unabated, and threats posed by terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking intensifying.

We are also experiencing a whole new challenge of the coronavirus pandemic. This disease has directly affected millions of people and claimed the most important thing: the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Quarantines, border closures, numerous serious troubles to citizens of almost all States constitute the present-day realia. It has been especially difficult for elderly people who, due to the necessary restrictions, have not been able to hug their loved ones, children and grandchildren for weeks or even months.

Experts are yet to fully assess the scale of the social and economic shock caused by the pandemic and all its long-term consequences. However, it is already evident that it will take a really, really long time to restore the global economy. Furthermore, even the proven anti-crisis measures will not always work. We will need new innovative solutions.

The only way to elaborate such solutions is to work together, which is the most important task for both the UN and G20 States, as well as other leading inter-State organizations and integration associations that are also going through tough times due to the pandemic impact and need fundamentally new horizons and scope of development.

This very idea of a qualitative integrative growth, the ”integration of integrations“, is the one behind Russia’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership involving all Asian and European countries without exception. It is purely pragmatic and increasingly relevant.

Besides, I would like to draw attention once again to Russia’s proposal to create so-called ”green corridors“ free from trade wars and sanctions, primarily for essential goods, food, medicine and personal protective equipment needed to fight the pandemic.

In general, freeing the world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would be of great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment. According to experts, total or partial reduction in global employment in the second quarter of this year equals to the loss of 400 million jobs, and we have to do our utmost to prevent this unemployment from growing long-term and ensure that people return to work and can support their families instead of finding themselves imprisoned by poverty with no prospects in life.

This is indeed a most acute global social problem, so the politics has a mission now to pave the way for trade, joint projects and fair competition, rather than tie the hands of business and discourage business initiative.

The pandemic has also pinpointed a series of ethical, technological and humanitarian matters. For instance, advanced digital technologies helped quickly reorganize education, trade and services, as well as set up distant learning and online courses for people of different ages. Artificial intelligence has assisted doctors in making more accurate and timely diagnoses and finding the best treatment.

However, just like any other innovation, digital technologies tend to spread uncontrollably and, just like conventional weapons, can fall into the hands of various radicals and extremists not only in the regional conflict zones, but also in quite prosperous countries, thus engendering enormous risks.

In this regard, matters related to cybersecurity and the use of advanced digital technology also deserve a most serious deliberation within the UN. It is important to hear and appreciate the concerns of people over the protection of their rights, such as the right to privacy, property and security, in the new era.

We must learn to use new technologies for the benefit of humankind, seek for a right balance between encouraging the development of artificial intelligence and justifiable restrictions to limit it, and work together towards a consensus in the field of regulation that would avert potential threats in terms of both military and technological security, as well as traditions, law, and morals of human communication.

I would like to point out that during the pandemic, doctors, volunteers and citizens of various countries have been showing us examples of mutual assistance and support, and such solidarity defies borders. Many countries have also been helping each other selflessly and open-heartedly. However, there have been cases showing the deficit of humanity and, if you will, kindness in the relations at the official inter-State level.

We believe that the UN prestige could strengthen and enhance the role of the humanitarian or human component in multilateral and bilateral relations, namely in people-to-people and youth exchanges, cultural ties, social and educational programs, as well as cooperation in sports, science, technology, environment and health protection.

As to healthcare, just like in economy, we now need to remove, as many as possible, obstacles to partner relations. Our country has been actively contributing to global and regional counter-COVID-19 efforts, providing assistance to most affected states both bilaterally and within multilateral formats.

In doing so, we first of all take into account the central coordinating role of the World Health Organization, which is part of the UN system. We believe it essential to qualitatively strengthen the WHO capability. This work has already begun, and Russia is genuinely motivated to engage in it.

Building on the scientific, industrial and clinical experience of its doctors Russia has promptly developed a range of test systems and medicines to detect and treat the coronavirus, as well as registered the world’s first vaccine, “Sputnik-V.”

I would like to reiterate that we are completely open to partner relations and willing to cooperate. In this context, we are proposing to hold an online high-level conference shortly for countries interested in cooperation in the development of anti-coronavirus vaccines.

We are ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all States and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine which has proved reliable, safe, and effective, to other countries. Russia is sure that all capacities of the global pharmaceutical industry need to be employed so as to provide a free access to vaccination for the population of all states in the foreseeable future.

A dangerous virus can affect anyone. The coronavirus has struck the staff of the United Nations, its headquarters and regional structures just like everyone else. Russia is ready to provide the UN with all the necessary qualified assistance; in particular, we are offering to provide our vaccine, free of charge, for the voluntary vaccination of the staff of the UN and its offices. We have received requests from our UN colleagues in this respect, and we will respond to those.

There are other critical items on today’s agenda. The issues of both environmental protection and climate change should remain the focus of joint efforts.

The specialized multilateral UN conventions, treaties and protocols have proved fully relevant. We are calling on all states to comply with them in good faith, particularly in working to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Dear colleagues! I would like to underline again, that Russia will make every effort to contribute to peaceful political and diplomatic resolution of regional crises and conflicts, as well as to ensuring strategic stability.

For all the disputes and differences, at times misunderstanding and even distrust on the part of some colleagues, we will consistently advance constructive, uniting initiatives, first of all in arms control and strengthening the treaty regimes existing in this area. This includes the prohibition of chemical, biological and toxin weapons.

The issue of primary importance that should and must be promptly dealt with is, of course, the extension of the Russia-US Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which will expire shortly, i.e. in February 2021. We are engaged in negotiations with our US partners on the matter.

We also expect that mutual restraint would be exercised with regard to deploying new missile systems. I would like to add that as early as last year, Russia declared a moratorium on deploying ground-launched medium and short-range missiles in Europe and other regions as long as the United States of America refrains from such actions. Unfortunately, we have not received any reaction to our proposal from either our US partners or their allies.

I believe that such reciprocal steps on specific issues would provide a sound basis for launching a serious, profound dialogue on the entire range of factors affecting strategic stability. It would aim at achieving comprehensive arrangements, shaping a solid foundation for the international security architecture that would build on prior experience in this field and in line with both the existing and future politico-military and technological realia.

In particular, Russia is putting forward an initiative to sign a binding agreement between all the leading space powers that would provide for the prohibition of the placement of weapons in outer space, threat or use of force against outer space objects.

We are well aware of the fact that security issues as well as other problems discussed by this jubilee UN General Assembly call for consolidated efforts on the basis of values that unite us, our shared memory of the lessons of history, and the spirit of alliance which guided the anti-Hitler coalition participants who found it possible to raise above differences and ideological preferences for the sake of Victory and peace for all nations on the Earth.

In the current challenging environment, it is important for all countries to show political will, wisdom and foresight. The permanent members of the UN Security Council – those powers that, for 75 years now, have been bearing particular responsibility for international peace and security, the preservation of the foundations of international law – should take the lead here.

Fully realizing this responsibility, Russia has suggested convening a G5 summit. It would aim at reaffirming the key principles of behavior in international affairs, elaborating ways to effectively address today’s most burning issues. It is encouraging that our partners have supported the initiative. We expect to hold such summit – in person – as soon as epidemiological situation makes it possible.

I would like to reiterate that in an interrelated, interdependent world, amid the whirlpool of international developments, we need to work together drawing on the principles and norms of international law enshrined in the UN Charter. This is the only way for us to carry out the paramount mission of our Organization and provide a decent life for the present and future generations.

I wish all the peoples of our planet peace and well-being.

Thank you.

Russians are the dumbest idiots on the planet!

By The Saker

Russians are the dumbest idiots on the planet!

September 04, 2020

Russians are dumb.  Hopelessly stupid.  They are amateurs of the worst kind.  Ignoramuses on steroids.  Why?

Well, for one, their so-called super-dooper biowarfare agent “Novichok” seems unable to kill anybody.  The Russians must have realized that.  This is why, when they tried to kill Skripal (after freeing him from jail) they put that Novichok thing all over the place:  on the bench near Salisbury, on Skripal’s door handle, even in some bottle of perfume a local addict found in the trash.  Probably all over the Skripal home, and this is why the Brits initially said that they would tear down the extremely toxic place (yet both the Skripal cat and their hamster survived – tells you how utterly useless that pretend biowarfare substance really was…).

One would have thought that after this total cluster-bleep the Russians would have learned their lesson.

But no.  They are clearly too dumb for that.

So they decided to poison Alexei Navalnyi, a well-know “dissident”.

And they failed.

Again!

Not only did the use exactly the same “Novichok” (or so says the German media), they allowed Navalnyi’s aircraft to make an emergency landing and the FSB did nothing to prevent an ambulance to bring Navalnyi to a hospital.  Apparently, the FSB does not even have the authority to prevent such urgent treatment of the man they want to kill.  Heck, they can even create a traffic jam to prevent Navalnyi from getting to a hospital.

How incompetent!

Even worse, these accursed Russki doctors gave Navalnyi atropine, the exact same substance the Germans gave him.  Makes me wonder if these doctors were not all CIA/BND agents trying to save Navalnyi’s life…

Clearly, the FSB are also stupid: they can’t even get aircraft or doctors to obey them…

But it gets worse.  In spite of the fact that Navalnyi has broken the terms of his suspended sentence and in spite of the fact that such a person cannot leave the country, these Russian imbeciles allowed him to fly to Germany while his body was still full of Novichok sloshing around.

All the Russians needed to do to kill Navalnyi would have been to give him a heart attack using any one of the many untraceable agents in existence (say, potassium chloride).

In despair, the clueless FSB might have caused Navalnyi do die in a car “crash”.

But they can’t even do that.  Shame on you, FSB!

And since Navalnyi is diabetic, killing him ought to be fantastically simple: just give him the wrong dose of meds and, voilà, bye-bye Navalnyi.  But not, these idiots decided to use the now infamous Novichok.

Obviously, Russians are the dumbest, most incompetent, idiots on the planet! Russian special services and biological research institutes are especially known for the crass incompetence.  Proof

They stole the Covid19 vaccine from the Brits, THEN they made it dangerous.

Idiots!

Right?!

Just like the so-called Russian hackers (another Russian category famous for its extremely low IQ!) could not even try to hack DNC computers or steal the 2016 election without leaving their Russian sounding aliases all over the place.  Heck, these hackers even worked only during Moscow time office hours.

I am telling you – the Russians are fantastically stupid, the dumbest people on the planet.

Especially their intel and security officers, their biowarfare specialists and their hackers.  Morons. All of them!

Let’s all repeat it together: the Russians are dumb! the Russians are dumb! the Russians are dumb!

That is very “highly likely”!

The Saker

Covid 19 Russian vaccine

Saker appeal: please help me get a better picture about this! (UPDATED)

Saker appeal: please help me get a better picture about this! (UPDATED)

August 11, 2020

Dear friends,

As I expected, today Russia has registered the first vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  I took a quick look at CNN and BBC, and did not find that reported (maybe they have added it since, I only scanned the headlines).

As most of you know, I don’t follow the legacy corporate ziomedia, but in this case, maybe I could ask all of you to let me know here IF the western media covers the registration of this first vaccine and HOW they cover it.

So here is my request:

If you come across any article discussing the fact that Russia was the first country on the planet to register a vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, please post a link to it in the comments section.  If you want, please include a key excerpt and a personal commentary.

Deal?

I am really interested to see if ANY western media outlets will honestly cover this or not (I think not).

Finally, this is not an English language blog, only a MOSTLY English.  So please feel free to include articles in any language, but please also add a translated summary.

Many thanks and hugs and cheers to all,

The Saker

UPDATE: Wow, just WOW!  What an avalanche of information, thank you all!!!  I have just one request: please do NOT emails me links, but please post them here for all to see. 

Thank you!!  The Saker

Related

Exempting Big Pharma from COVID-19 Vaccines Liability

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, August 03, 2020

House and Senate leaders are discussing whether to include this exemption for COVID-19 vaccines under development in new legislation likely to be passed and signed into law in the coming days.

Most likely, tort liability protection for Big Pharma will be approved.

All vaccines contain harmful to human health toxins — including mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, and phenoxyethanol (antifreeze).

Vaccines can be more hazardous than diseases they’re designed to protect against, most people unaware of the risks, establishment media concealing them.

Toxins in vaccines weaken the human immune system, making vaxxed individuals vulnerable to potentially life-threatening illnesses — young children and the elderly most at risk.

In developing vaccines, most clinical trials fail. Years of development precede the production and marketing of new ones.

Despite years of research, no successful coronavirus vaccines were ever developed.

Yet a race is on by drug and biotech companies to develop, produce, and mass-vax millions of people in the coming months against COVID-19.

Last week, Thailand Medical News reported that to date,

“more than 13,782 scientific studies have been published with regards to the COVID-19 disease and the SAR-CoV-2” virus that causes it.

“There are more than 2,472 clinical trials either planned or in progress with regards to COVID-19 disease in terms of repurposed drugs, new pharmaceuticals, supplements, herbal and traditional medicine, antibodies, vaccines, medical devices etc.”

“There are about 126 completed clinical trials to date.”

“There are more than 372 existing drugs being studied for repurposing to treat various aspects of the COVID-19 disease along with 17 new pharmaceutical preparations, 64 phytochemicals from plants and herbs and 38 proteomes.”

“There are more than 148 vaccine candidates in development stages.”

“There are at least…127,000 scientific researchers from around the world from various specialties and fields working on various aspects to find solutions for the COVID-19 disease.”

Rushed development of vaccines amounts to playing Russian roulette with human health.

Instead of protecting the public from health hazards, US ruling authorities, in cahoots with Big Pharma, are promoting use of potentially dangerous vaccines ahead — in lieu of proved effective, widely available, inexpensive hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) when used with either azithromycin or doxycycline and zinc. More on this below.

In 2005, the US Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREPA) became the law of the land.

It “authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a declaration that provides immunity from liability (except for willful misconduct) for claims of loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions determined by the Secretary to constitute a present, or credible risk of a future public health emergency to entities and individuals.”

It granted Big Pharma tort liability protection for avian influenza vaccines, including from vaccine safety laws enacted by states — at the discretion of HHS.

In 2011, the US Supreme Court in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth ruled in favor of protecting Big Pharma from state tort liability lawsuits that seek damages for injuries or death attributed to use of a vaccine.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Scalia argued that the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act preempts all vaccine design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers brought by plaintiffs seeking compensation for injury or death.The Great COVID-19 Vaccines to the Rescue Hoax. “Making A Billion Dollars” vs. “Harmful Side Effects”

The majority 6 – 2 ruling held that “a vaccine side effect could always have been avoidable by use of a different vaccine not containing the harmful element.”

Ignored was that ALL vaccines contain harmful to human health substances.

Perhaps one day vaccines will be largely or entirely safe to use as directed, clearly not so now, why Big Phama should be held liable for injury or death from use of their vaccines and other drugs that cause physical harm when used as directed.

The same goes for all products and services sold by companies to consumers or other firms.

COVID-19 vaccine developers want liability protection from products they’ll market in the months ahead.

Note: The highly touted Moderna COVID-19 vaccine induced adverse reactions in over half of clinical trial participants, some cases severe — what’s been unreported by major media.

Other COVID-19 vaccines in development may face similar issues, notably because they’re being rushed to market in the coming months. Consumers beware.

Last week, James Todaro MD quoted former New England Journal of Medicine editor-in-chief Marcia Angel, saying the following:

“Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, (the pharmaceutical) industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself.”

Dr. Todaro stressed the following:

“In the history of medicine, no single drug has been so singularly attacked by the media, World Health Organization, government officials and institutional health experts as hydroxychloroquine (HCQ),” adding:

“Approved as a ‘safe and cost-effective’ essential medicine by the WHO, CDC and regulatory authorities across Europe, hydroxychloroquine has been prescribed to millions of patients over the past 65 years.”

“Despite decades of known safety, hydroxychloroquine was labelled ‘dangerous’ and a ‘poisonous substance’ after showing promise as a therapeutic for COVID-19.”

Full-court press negative publicity by the NYT, WaPo, CNN, and other establishment media demeans HCQ, ignoring its effectiveness in treating COVID-19 when properly administered during the disease’s early stage.

Epidemiologist Harvey Risch MD stressed that HCQ was shown to be “highly effective (when) given (to patients) very early in the course of treating” COVID-19 — especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc.”

Why is this information being suppressed? Why isn’t the public fully informed?

It’s because of the hugely profitable market potential Big Pharma hopes to cash in on by convincing millions of people to be mass-vaxxed against COVID-19.

Most people are unaware of possible harmful to health side effects they could experience early or much later, including major illnesses.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s Children’s Health Defense.org website (CHD) explained that

“severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS – 2003 was) was a dress rehearsal…for Covid-19 in 2020,” adding:

Research showed that Chloroquine (CQ) and HCQ are prophylactically and therapeutically effective in treating the coronavirus.

“In early April, a survey of US physicians found that two-thirds (65%) would prescribe CQ or HCQ ‘to treat or prevent COVID-19 in a family member,’ and roughly the same percentage (67%) would take it themselves.”

“In May, the White House doctor confirmed HCQ’s excellent benefit-to-risk ratio.”

“For the biopharma companies poised to profit from new drugs and Covid-19 vaccines…it is not an attractive option to keep older drugs that have outlived their patent” protection.”

Instead of advocating for HCQ’s widespread use, the Big Pharma controlled FDA revoked authorization for its use in treating COVID-19.

The nation’s top-ranked Mayo Clinic medical facility falsely claims no effective COVID-19 medications or cures exist.

CHD explained that nations using HCQ have “only one-tenth the mortality rate in countries where there is interference with this medication, such as the United States.”

As the saying goes, follow the money. A potential bonanza of revenues and profits awaits drug and biotech companies whose COVID-19 vaccines are approved for sale by the FDA in the months ahead.

CQ has been around since 1934, HCQ since the mid-1940s, the latter drug approved by the FDA in 1955 to treat autoimmune-inflammatory conditions.

HCQ especially was shown to be effective prophylactically and therapeutically in treating COVID-19 as explained above.

The CHD reported that through late July,

“65 studies around the world indicated that 100% of the studies that assessed HCQ for Covid-19 pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or early use showed ‘high effectiveness,’ as did 61% of the studies examining HCQ use in later stages of illness.”

When properly used, HCQ can prevent or cure COVID-19 most often.

The alternative is going along with mass-vaxxing, risking potentially hazardous to human health side effects that may include contracting coronavirus disease and/or something more serious.

Note: If HCQ was widely promoted and used by the public, no lockdowns, social distancing, face masks, or other self-protective actions would be needed.

Economic and social life could resume normally without fear of contracting COVID-19.

Responsible government would promote the above, prioritizing public health, safety and welfare.

Not the US, acting in cahoots with Big Pharma’s aim to cash in big from hazardous to human health vaccines when available.

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Featured image is from Natural NewsThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2020

Russia and the next Presidential election in the USA

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Intro: not a pretty picture

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: in this article, I will assume that there will be a US Presidential election in the Fall. Right now, it appears to be likely that this election will take place (there appear to be no legal way to cancel or delay it), but this is by no means certain (see here for a machine translated and very interesting article by one Russian analyst, who predicts a diarchy after the election). Right now, the state of the US society is both extremely worried (and for good reason) and potentially explosive. It is impossible to predict what a well-executed false flag attack could do to the US. There is also the possibility of either a natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, etc.) or even an unnatural one (considering the condition of the US infrastructure, this is almost inevitable) which could precipitate some kind of state of emergency or martial law to “protect” the people. Finally, though at this point in time I don’t see this as very likely, there is always the possibility of a coup of some kind, maybe a “government of national unity” with the participation of both parties which, as Noam Chomsky correctly points out, are basically only two factions of what could be called the Business Party. There might come a point when they decide to drop this pretense too (just look at how many other pretenses the US ruling elites have dropped in the last decade or so).

Alexander Solzhenitsyn used to explain that all governments can be placed on a continuum ranging from, on one end, “states whose power is based on their authority” to, on the other end, “states whose authority is based on their power“. In the real world, most states are somewhere between these two extremes. But it is quite obvious that the US polity currently has gone very far down the “states whose authority is based on their power” path and to speak of any kind of “moral authority” of US politicians is really a joke. The (probable) upcoming “choice” between Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump and Joe “creepy uncle” Biden will make this joke even more laughable.

Right now, the most powerful force in the US political system must be the financial sector. And, of course, there are many other powerful interest groups (MIC, Israel Lobby, the CIA and the ridiculously bloated Intel community, Big Pharma, the US Gulag, the corporate media, Oil, etc.) who all combine their efforts (just like a vector does in mathematics) to produce a “resulting vector” which we call “US policies”. That is in theory. In practice, you have several competing “policies” vying for power and influence, both on the domestic and on international front. Often these policies are mutually exclusive.

Last, but certainly not least, the level of corruption in the US is at least as bad as, say, in the Ukraine or in Liberia, but rather than being on the street and petty cash level, the corruption in the US is counted in billions of dollars.

All in all, not a pretty sight (see here for a good analysis of the decline of US power).

Yet the US remains a nuclear power and still has a lot of political influence worldwide and thus this is not a country anyone can ignore. Including Russia.

A quick look at Russia

Before looking into Russian options in relation to the US, we need to take a quick look at how Russia has been faring this year. The short of it would be: not too well. The Russian economy has shrunk by about 10% and the small businesses have been devastated by the combined effects of 1) the economic policies of the Russian government and Central Bank, and 2) the devastating economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic, and 3) the full-spectrum efforts of the West, mostly by the Anglosphere, to strangle Russia economically. Politically, the “Putin regime” is still popular, but there is a sense that it is getting stale and that most Russians would prefer to see more dynamic and proactive policies aimed, not only to help the Russian mega-corporations, but also to help the regular people. Many Russians definitely have a sense that the “little guy” is being completely ignored by fat cats in power and this resentment will probably grow until and unless Putin decides to finally get rid of all the Atlantic Integrationists aka the “Washington consensus” types which are still well represented in the Russian ruling circles, including the government. So far, Putin has remained faithful to his policy of compromises and small steps, but this might change in the future as the level of frustration in the general population is likely to only grow with time.

That is not to say that the Kremlin is not trying. Several of the recent constitutional amendments adopted in a national vote had a strongly expressed “social” and “patriotic” character and they absolutely horrified the “liberal” 5th columnists who tried their best two 1) call for a boycott, and 2) denounce thousands of (almost entirely) imaginary violations of the proper voting procedures, and to 3) de-legitimize the outcome by declaring the election a “fraud”. None of that worked: the participation was high, very few actual violations were established (and those that were, had no impact on the outcome anyway) and most Russians accepted that this outcome was the result of the will of the people. Furthermore, Putin has made public the Russian strategic goals for 2030,which are heavily focused on improving the living and life conditions of average Russians (for details, see here). It is impossible to predict what will happen next, but the most likely scenario is that Russia has several, shall we say, “bumpy” years ahead, both on the domestic and on the international front.

What can Russia reasonably hope for?

This is really the key question: in the best of situations, what can Russia really hope for in the next elections? I would argue that there is really very little which Russia can hope for, if only because the russophobic hysteria started by the Democrats to defeat Trump has now apparently been completely endorsed by the Trump administration and the all the members of Congress. As for the imperial propaganda machine, it now manages to simultaneously declare that Russia tried to “steal” COVID vaccine secrets from the West AND that Russian elites were given a secret COVID vaccine this Spring. As for the US Dems, they are already announcing that the Russians are spreading “disinformation” about Biden. Talk about PRE-traumatic stress disorder (to use the phrase coined by my friend Gilad Atzmon)…

Although I have no way of knowing what is really taking place in the delusional minds of US politicians, I am strongly suspecting that the latest hysteria about “Russia stealing COV19 vaccine secrets” is probably triggered by the conclusion of the US intel community that Russia will have a vaccine ready before the US does. This is, of course, something absolutely unthinkable for US politicians who, (sort of) logically conclude that “if these Russkies got a vaccine first, they *must* have stolen it from us” or something similar (see here for a good analysis of this). And if the Chinese get there first, same response. After all, who in the US legacy media would ever even mention that Russian or Chinese researchers might be ahead of their US colleagues? Nobody, of course.

I would argue that this mantric Russia-bashing is something which will not change in the foreseeable future. For one thing, since the imperial ruling elites have clearly lost control of the situation, they really have no other option left than to blame it all on some external agent. The “terrorist threat” has lost a lot of traction over the past years, the “Muslim threat” is too politically incorrect to openly blame it all on Islam, as for the other boogeymen which US Americans like to scare themselves at night with (immigrants, drug dealers, sex offenders, “domestic terrorists”, etc.) they simply cannot be blamed for stuff like a crashing economy. But Russia, and China, can.

In fact, ever since the (self-evidently ridiculous) “Skripal case” the collective West has proven that it simply does not have the spine to say “no”, or even “maybe”, to any thesis energetically pushed forward by the AngloZionist propaganda machine. Thus no matter how self-evidently silly the imperial propaganda is, the people in the West have been conditioned (literally) to accept any nonsense as “highly likely” as long as it is proclaimed with enough gravitas by politicians and their legacy ziomedia. As for the leaders of the EU, we already know that they will endorse any idiocy coming out of Washington or London in the name of “solidarity”.

Truth be told, most Russian politicians (with the notable exception of the official Kremlin court jester, Zhirinovskii) and analysts never saw Trump as a potential ally or friend. The Kremlin was especially cautious, which leads me to believe that the Russian intelligence analysts did a very good job evaluating Trump’s psyche and they quickly figured out that he was no better than any other US politician. Right now, I know of no Russian analyst who would predict that relations between the US and Russia will improve in the foreseeable future. If anything, most are clearly saying that “guys, we better get used to this” (accusations, sanctions, accusations, sanctions, etc. etc. etc.). Furthermore, it is pretty obvious to the Russians that while Crimea and MH17 were the pretexts for western sanctions against Russia, they were not the real cause. The real cause of the West’s hatred for Russia is as simple as it is old: Russia cannot be conquered, subdued, subverted or destroyed. They’ve been at it for close to 1,000 years and they still are at it. In fact, each time they fail to crush Russia, their russophobia increases to even higher levels (phobia both in the sense of “fear” and in the sense of “hatred”).

Simply put – there is nothing which Russia can expect from the upcoming election. Nothing at all. Still, that does not mean that things are not better than 4 or 8 years ago. Let’s look at what changed.

The big difference between now and then

What did Trump’s election give to the world?

I would say four years for Russia to fully prepare for what might be coming next.

I would argue that since at least Russia and the AngloZionist Empire have been at war since at least 2013, when Russia foiled the US plan to attack Syria under the pretext that it was “highly likely” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians (in reality, a textbook case of a false flag organized by the Brits), This means that Russia and the Empire have been at war since at least 2013, for no less than seven years (something which Russian 6th columnists and Neo-Marxists try very hard to ignore).

True, at least until now, this was has been 80% informational, 15% economic and only 5% kinetic, but this is a real existential war of survival for both sides: only one side will walk away from this struggle. The other one will simply disappear (not as a nation or a people, but as a polity; a regime). The Kremlin fully understood that and it embarked on a huge reform and modernization of the Russian armed forces in three distinct ways:

  1. A “general” reform of the Russian armed forces which had to be modernized by about 80%. This part of the reform is now practically complete.
  2. A specific reform to prepare the western and southern military districts for a major conventional war against the united West (as always in Russian history) which would involve the First Guards Tank Army and the Russian Airborne Forces.
  3. The development of bleeding-edge weapons systems with no equivalent in the West and which cannot be countered or defeated; these weapons have had an especially dramatic impact upon First Strike Stability and upon naval operations.

While some US politicians understood what was going on (I think of Ron Paul, see here), most did not. They were so brainwashed by the US propaganda that they were sure that no matter what, “USA! USA! USA!”. Alas for them, the reality was quite different.

Russian officials, by the way, have confirmed that Russia was preparing for war. Heck, the reforms were so profound and far reaching, that it would have been impossible for the Russians to hide what they were doing (see here for details; also please see Andrei Martyanov’s excellent primer on the new Russian Navy here).

While no country is ever truly prepared for war, I would argue that by 2020 the Russians had reached their goals and that now Russia is fully prepared to handle any conflict the West might throw at her, ranging from a small border incident somewhere in Central Asia to a full-scaled war against the US/NATO in Europe.

Folks in the West are now slowly waking up to this new reality (I mentioned some of that here), but it is too late. In purely military terms, Russia has now created such a qualitative gap with the West that the still existing quantitative gap is not sufficient to guarantee a US/NATO victory. Now some western politicians are starting to seriously freak out (see this lady, for example), but most Europeans are coming to terms with two truly horrible realities:

  1. Russia is much stronger than Europe and, even much worse,
  2. Russia will never attack first (which is a major cause of frustration for western russophobes)

As for the obvious solution to this problem, having friendly relations with Russia is simply unthinkable for those who made their entire careers peddling the Soviet (and now Russian) threat to the world.

But Russia is changing, albeit maybe too slowly (at least for my taste). As I mentioned last week, a number of Polish, Ukrainian and Baltic politicians have declared that the Zapad2020 military maneuvers which are supposed to take place in southern Russia and the Caucasus could be used to prepare an attack on the West (see here for a rather typical example of this nonsense). In the past, the Kremlin would only have made a public statement ridiculing this nonsense, but this time around Putin did something different. Right after he saw the reaction of these politicians, Putin ordered a major and UNSCHEDULED military readiness exercise which involved no less than 150,000 troops, 400 aircraft & 100 ships! The message here was clear:

  1. Yes, we are much more powerful than you are and
  2. No, we are not apologizing for our strength anymore

And, just to make sure that the message is clear, the Russians also tested the readiness of the Russian Airborne Forces units near the city of Riazan, see for yourself:

This response is, I think, the correct one. Frankly, nobody in the West is listening to what the Kremlin has to say, so what is the point of making more statements which in the future will be ignored equally as they have been in the past.

If anything, the slow realization that Russia is more powerful than NATO would be most helpful in gently prodding EU politicians to change their tune and return back to reality. Check out this recent video of Sarah Wagenknecht, a leading politician of the German Left and see for yourself:

The example of Sahra Wagenknecht is interesting, because she is from Germany, one of the countries of northern Europe; traditionally, northern European powers have been much more anti-Russian than southern Europeans, so it is encouraging to see that the anti-Putin and anti-Russia hysteria is not always being endorsed by everybody.

But if things are very slowly getting better in the EU, in the bad old US of A things are only getting worse. Even the Republicans are now fully on board the Russia-hating float (right behind a “gay pride” one I suppose) and they are now contributing their own insanity to the cause, as this article entitled “Congressional Republicans: Russia should be designated state sponsor of terror” shows (designating Russia as a terrorist state is an old idea of the Dems, by the way).

Russian options for the Fall

In truth, Russia does not have any particularly good options towards the US. Both parties are now fully united in their rabid hatred of Russia (and China too, of course). Furthermore, while there are many well-funded and virulently anti-Russian organizations in the US (Neo-cons, Papists, Poles, Masons, Ukrainians, Balts, Ashkenazi Jews, etc.), Russian organizations in the US like this one, have very little influence or even relevance.

Banderites marching in the US

Banderites marching in the US

However, as the chaos continues to worsen inside the US and as US politicians continue to alienate pretty much the entire planet, Russia does have a perfect opportunity to weaken the US grip on Europe. The beauty in the current dynamic is that Russia does not have to do anything at all (nevermind anything covert or illegal) to help the anti-EU and anti-US forces in Europe: All she needs to do is to continuously hammer in the following simple message: “the US is sinking – do you really want to go down with it?”.

There are many opportunities to deliver that message. The current US/Polish efforts to prevent the EU from enjoying cheap Russian gas might well be the best example of what we could call “European suicide politics”, but there are many, many more.

Truth be told, neither the US nor the EU are a top priority for Russia, at least not in economic terms. The moral credibility of the West in general can certainly be described as dead and long gone. As for the West military might, it is only a concern to the degree that western politicians might be tempted to believe their own propaganda about their military forces being the best in the history of the galaxy. This is why Russia regularly engages in large surprise exercises: to prove to the West that the Russian military is fully ready for anything the West might try. As for the constant move of more and more US/NATO forces closer to the borders of Russia, they are offensive in political terms, but in military terms, getting closer to Russia only means that Russia will have more options to destroy you. “Forward deployment” is really a thing of the past, at least against Russia.

With time, however, and as the US federal center loses even more of its control of the country, the Kremlin might be well-advised to try to open some venues for “popular diplomacy”, especially with less hostile US states. The weakening of the Executive Branch has already resulted in US governors playing an increasingly important international role and while this is not, strictly speaking, legal (only the federal government has the right to engage in foreign policy), the fact is that this has been going on for years already.

The example of Sahra Wagenknecht is interesting, because she is from Germany, one of the countries of northern Europe; traditionally, northern European powers have been much more anti-Russian than southern Europeans, so it is encouraging to see that the anti-Putin and anti-Russia hysteria is not always being endorsed by everybody.

But if things are very slowly getting better in the EU, in the bad old US of A things are only getting worse. Even the Republicans are now fully on board the Russia-hating float (right behind a “gay pride” one I suppose) and they are now contributing their own insanity to the cause, as this article entitled “Congressional Republicans: Russia should be designated state sponsor of terror” shows (designating Russia as a terrorist state is an old idea of the Dems, by the way).

Russian options for the Fall

In truth, Russia does not have any particularly good options towards the US. Both parties are now fully united in their rabid hatred of Russia (and China too, of course). Furthermore, while there are many well-funded and virulently anti-Russian organizations in the US (Neo-cons, Papists, Poles, Masons, Ukrainians, Balts, Ashkenazi Jews, etc.), Russian organizations in the US like this one, have very little influence or even relevance.

Banderites marching in the US

Banderites marching in the US

However, as the chaos continues to worsen inside the US and as US politicians continue to alienate pretty much the entire planet, Russia does have a perfect opportunity to weaken the US grip on Europe. The beauty in the current dynamic is that Russia does not have to do anything at all (nevermind anything covert or illegal) to help the anti-EU and anti-US forces in Europe: All she needs to do is to continuously hammer in the following simple message: “the US is sinking – do you really want to go down with it?”.

There are many opportunities to deliver that message. The current US/Polish efforts to prevent the EU from enjoying cheap Russian gas might well be the best example of what we could call “European suicide politics”, but there are many, many more.

Truth be told, neither the US nor the EU are a top priority for Russia, at least not in economic terms. The moral credibility of the West in general can certainly be described as dead and long gone. As for the West military might, it is only a concern to the degree that western politicians might be tempted to believe their own propaganda about their military forces being the best in the history of the galaxy. This is why Russia regularly engages in large surprise exercises: to prove to the West that the Russian military is fully ready for anything the West might try. As for the constant move of more and more US/NATO forces closer to the borders of Russia, they are offensive in political terms, but in military terms, getting closer to Russia only means that Russia will have more options to destroy you. “Forward deployment” is really a thing of the past, at least against Russia.

With time, however, and as the US federal center loses even more of its control of the country, the Kremlin might be well-advised to try to open some venues for “popular diplomacy”, especially with less hostile US states. The weakening of the Executive Branch has already resulted in US governors playing an increasingly important international role and while this is not, strictly speaking, legal (only the federal government has the right to engage in foreign policy), the fact is that this has been going on for years already. Another possible partner inside the US for Russian firms would be US corporations (especially now that they are hurting badly). Finally, I think that the Kremlin ought to try to open channels of communication with the various small political forces in the US which are clearly not buying into the official propaganda: libertarians, (true) liberals and progressives, paleo-conservatives.

What we are witnessing before our eyes is the collapse of the US federal center. This is a dangerous and highly unstable moment in our history. But from this crisis opportunities will arise. The best thing Russia can do now is to simply remain very careful and vigilant and wait for new forces to appear on the US political scene.

Another possible partner inside the US for Russian firms would be US corporations (especially now that they are hurting badly). Finally, I think that the Kremlin ought to try to open channels of communication with the various small political forces in the US which are clearly not buying into the official propaganda: libertarians, (true) liberals and progressives, paleo-conservatives.

What we are witnessing before our eyes is the collapse of the US federal center. This is a dangerous and highly unstable moment in our history. But from this crisis opportunities will arise. The best thing Russia can do now is to simply remain very careful and vigilant and wait for new forces to appear on the US political scene.

Russian MoD Says COVID-19 Vaccine Ready, Queue Accusations It Was Stolen From “The West”

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Russian MoD Says COVID-19 Vaccine Ready, Queue Accusations It Was Stolen From "The West"

On July 21st, Russia’s first COVID-19 vaccine is ready, First Deputy Defense Minister Ruslan Tsalikov said.

It was created by military specialists and scientists of the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology.

“Final assessments on the results of testing by our specialists and scientists of the National Research Center have been already made. At the moment of release all volunteers without exception developed immunity against the coronavirus and felt normal. So, the first domestic vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection is ready,” Tsalikov said.

The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade told TASS that on June 30 documents for registering the vaccine were submitted to the Health Ministry.

The vaccine has two variants – a liquid and freeze-dried one. Both types were tested on 43 volunteers and all of them reportedly developed immunity to COVID-19.

The Defense Ministry reported on July 20th that jointly with the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology it had successfully completed clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine on volunteers on the basis of the Burdenko Main Military Hospital.

Separately, a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response.

Trials involving 1,077 people showed the injection led to them making antibodies and T-cells that can fight coronavirus.

The US company Moderna was first out of the blocks and its vaccine can produce neutralising antibodies. They are injecting coronavirus RNA (its genetic code), which then starts making viral proteins in order to trigger an immune response.

The companies BioNtech and Pfizer have also had positive results using their RNA vaccine.

Notably, however, Russia was accused of allegedly sending out its hackers to steal information from the UK, US and Canada on their vaccine data, and now that Moscow reportedly has success in its trials, a new row of accusations should be expected and is quite likely.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Health Minister Expects Russian Vaccine Against COVID-19 to Be Registered in August

Sputnik

17.07.2020

A scientist conducts sample​ sedimentation during the research and development of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a laboratory of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 11, 2020.

YEKATERINBURG (Sputnik) – The registration of a Russian vaccine against the coronavirus is expected to be completed in the first half of August, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Friday.

“I think the first registration will happen in August, in the first decade of August or the beginning of the second decade,” Murashko said.

The clinical trials of Vector’s vaccine can start in around two or three weeks, the health minister went on to say.

According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology and the Federal Biomedical Agency’s vaccine institute are considered Russia’s leaders in coronavirus vaccine creation. Their vaccines are expected to be produced this year.

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