Question: Mr President, may I? One of the issues discussed at the Interior Ministry Board meeting concerned relations between law enforcement and the business community. What does this mean? You mentioned formal replies and said that the Interior Ministry has some ideas on this score and that they are justified, to a degree. What is your main message when you speak about how law and business interact?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: There is a problem and this fact is well understood. The people in general, and especially our businesses, believe that relations with law enforcement agencies are critically important for creating favourable conditions for doing business. I believe that they are right, that this is indeed so. At the same time, our law enforcement agencies admit that there are many questions and problems in this sphere.
For example, we need to improve existing laws so as to create conditions in which the breach of duties by law enforcement officers will be impossible, whereas the business community will respect the rules and laws that were designed to protect the interests of the overwhelming majority of citizens, not only the business community.
First of all, I was referring to all kinds of inspections held to protect people, the consumers of goods and services, from shoddy goods and services that do not meet modern standards. As for relations between law enforcement and the business community, they have always been in the focus not only in this country but also in other countries.
Business people complain, as always, about certain abuses. But the Minister said in his report today that business people often turn to law enforcement agencies asking them to protect their interests. They do not file lawsuits but seek the assistance of law enforcement officials. As I have said here, there are grounds to believe that business people do not come in right off the street, like ordinary people, but through connections they have in law enforcement, which bears special responsibility, just as drivers do because vehicles are a source of increased danger. Law enforcement officers bear special responsibility for preventing a situation in which business people have only themselves to blame.
On the other hand, I agree that we must pay special attention to this. We have decided that this issue must be addressed by a working group that has been established at the Presidential Executive Office. This group will work together with members of law enforcement agencies, prosecutor offices and courts to decide what we must do to improve the existing laws and create the foundation for effective law enforcement. In fact, this is what we discussed.
Question: Mr President, sorry to lead you off topic. There was no press conference yesterday, after the meeting with Mr Netanyahu. However, Mr Netanyahu said a working group would be created between Israel and Russia on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Syria. First question: is this true? And the second question is, how do you assess the situation in that country now?
Vladimir Putin: It is not my business to give assessments on the situation in any country, in this case in Israel.
Question: No, sorry. I meant Syria. About developments in Syria.
Vladimir Putin: I think everyone is familiar with the situation in Syria. We quite openly provide information and share as much as possible. The situation has stabilised. Isolated centres of resistance by terrorists remain, but they are being subdued now. I think that in the near future, they will be eliminated completely. True, there is the Idlib zone on the right bank of the Euphrates, which is not so stable. We need to work on this – I talked about it with the Prime Minister yesterday.
As for the working group, the idea is to create a working body that would manage the final normalisation after the last hotbeds of terrorism are subdued, involving all the stakeholders – primarily Syria, the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic, maybe the opposition, other countries in the region, all parties involved in this conflict. Among other things, it would certainly cover the withdrawal of all armed forces from Syrian territory and the full restoration of Syrian statehood with its territorial integrity intact. We have long talked about this, and it is fully consistent with the Russian position. Yesterday we discussed this matter.
As for the development of our bilateral relations, there has been quite consistent progress. We must acknowledge the Israeli leadership’s efforts: Prime Minister Netanyahu is working on this personally, and we know his views on the outcome of World War II, and the role of the Soviet Union, the Red Army. You have heard about the initiative to create a memorial associated with the victims of the siege of Leningrad – we are certainly grateful to Israel for this work. I will try to attend the unveiling of this memorial in Israel. We hope that despite internal political events, the pre-election situation, no matter how it unfolds, continuity will be preserved in the development of Russian-Israeli relations.