President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We will discuss railway transport issues today and carrying out the financial plan in this sector. This is a systemic issue that concerns the entire economy. But I want first to say a couple of words about my visit to Vienna. Overall, the work with our colleagues there was very substantial.
As you know, we reached an agreement on moving forward with the South Stream pipeline, and this is an important part of the project’s overall implementation. You could say that this represents a big step forward in carrying out our strategic plans and in supporting our European partners by ensuring stable energy resource supplies to Europe.
“As you know, we reached an agreement on moving forward with the South Stream pipeline, and this is an important part of the project’s overall implementation.”
Among the various issues discussed, we also spoke about sensitive matters, issues such as the events in eastern Ukraine. In this respect we touched on the very sensitive problem of refugees. I asked you to look at what we can do to help people who are fleeing the conflict zone for our territory. It is clear that the number of refugees coming in now is too high for the regions to deal with on their own. I asked the Government to look at what we can do to support the regions. I know the Prime Minister has already made a decision. I ask Mr Kozak to say a few words now about how you are organising this work.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak: Mr President, as things stand at the moment, 95,000 people have applied to the Federal Migration Service to clarify their status on our territory. They are part of the approximately 400,000 people who, taking into account the difference between people leaving and entering the country, have officially applied for refugee status, for the right of temporary asylum, or to be granted citizenship or right of residence. This figure, even not counting refugees and people who have applied for temporary asylum, is more than triple what it was last year.
It is the regions on the border that are bearing the main burden at the moment. We have opened 271 temporary asylum centres there at the moment, which have taken in more than 27,000 displaced persons. Rostov Region has the biggest burden to bear in terms of providing shelter, medical care and food. The Government has already sent money.
We held a meeting with the federal executive authorities involved in this work yesterday, and with the regions that are bearing the biggest burden. We have decided to simplify procedures for obtaining the right of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation. The current procedures are cumbersome and require a medical examination first. With this many people coming in, we need to simplify procedures so as to make it quicker for people to obtain temporary asylum status.
Furthermore, many people are currently living with Russian families, but people did not count on having to provide for themselves for a month or two while waiting to obtain temporary asylum status, and are already experiencing material difficulties. We have therefore decided, starting Monday, to draft proposals so that whoever has been granted temporary asylum in Russia will also receive a one-off support payment. This is all the more so as many people are facing problems because Ukrainian banks are not working and many people came here with their bank cards but now cannot withdraw money. We will need to make some minimum funds available for these people too, and not just for those who are at the temporary shelter centres.
By Monday, we will have drafted a Government resolution on medical aid and vaccinations for the people arriving here. The local authorities currently have no such rights, and so we will allocate the necessary resources to make sure that people receive this assistance.
We already have cases of people seeking high-tech medical assistance, in particular for children. It is not possible to turn away these people in such a situation. There are only a few such cases and we will provide the needed assistance and make the additional funds available.
I also want to say that the number of people applying to take part in the programme for resettling and supporting compatriots from abroad has risen considerably, almost seven-fold, and now comes to more than 4,500.
Vladimir Putin: These are people wanting to permanently resettle in Russia?
“There is a big step forward in carrying out our strategic plans and in supporting our European partners by ensuring stable energy resource supplies to Europe.”
Dmitry Kozak: Yes, people wanting to permanently resettle in Russia under this programme. The programme is being carried out quite successfully in the regions: of the 48,000 people the programme for this year was expecting, 33,000 people have already arrived from various countries, including Ukraine, the regions have already allocated start-up money, and the new arrivals are in employment, and so there is a demand for this programme.
Most of the people applying to us now are people who have lost their homes in Ukraine, and this group is mostly seeking permanent residence. Given this situation, we have already decided that we need to support the resettlement programme and increase the provisions for it for this year.
We have spent the last five days working out with the regions where there is demand for labour resources and where there are possibilities for resettling people so that the process is a comfortable one and in keeping with the demographic situation. The regions have made applications.
The amount of money needed for this year is not so big, and so we will try to increase this programme so that people who have applied to resettle in Russia will soon receive support through this programme, so as not to keep them in the temporary shelter centres but send them straight away to the places where they will live.
Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you.
It’s summer season; vacation season is in full swing. And we have made a number of decisions to ensure this work in Crimea. I would like to hear how the issues of transportation and communications are being resolved.
Please, Mr Sokolov, go ahead.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Mr President,
In addition to air transport, the Kerch ferry crossing is working as we expected. From April until now, approximately 3,700 ferry crossings have been made across the Kerch Strait, transporting about 550,000 passengers, 125,000 automotive vehicles, almost 4,000 buses and 11,000 rail cars. Since May, freight and passenger flows have been separated.
Freight ferry crossings are currently made from the port of Novorossiysk to Feodosia, Gelendzhik and fishing port in Kerch. They are carried out by three ferries. However, we expect an increase; although we are currently providing stable service for freight flows, it is predicted to increase in the summer period, so we are adding another ferry to the Novorossiysk-Feodosia route, starting just this week, and a freight automobile ferry will begin operating from the port of Temryuk to Kerch in July.
Today, there are four ferries being used for passenger and automobile transfers across the Kerch Strait. We have about 12,000 people and 3,500 vehicles transported daily. Overall, we are planning to launch another ferry in July, the same model as the most powerful ferry, the Ionas, and thus transport over 300,000 passengers a month across the Kerch Strait.
This will allow us to serve over two million people through the end of the year, across the Kerch Strait alone.
And thus, we are implementing the idea of multimodal rail transport: about 112,000 tickets have already been purchased, and about 1,500 to 2,500 people use a single train ticket every day to ride both the railroad and across the Kerch Strait. Naturally, the buses are a priority. Those who use this service to travel to and from Crimea are happy with its quality.
Overall, these measures will allow us to normalise the transport situation at the crossing, significantly increasing its capacity. And naturally, we understand that even the three million passengers that can be served by this crossing must be served by a more reliable transport connection, a bridge over the Kerch Strait, which we are also working on actively in accordance with your instructions.
“It is clear that the number of [Ukrainian] refugees coming in now is too high for the regions to deal with on their own.”
Vladimir Putin: Very well. Thank you. And Mr Nikiforov.
Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov: Mr President,
The sale of SIM cards with Russian phone numbers, starting with the +7 country code, has started in the Crimean Federal District. SIM cards are available at all major retail locations. Nearly 200,000 SIM cards have already been sold. Moreover, a reserve of about 1.5 million units has been created on the peninsula.
Providing Russian communications services in the Crimean Federal District guarantees that local residents will have a stable connection and the option to communicate without any additional roaming charges, including with other regions in Russia. Unfortunately, it is possible that there may be disruptions in providing communication services on the part of Ukrainian operators: many such statements have been made from their side. With regard to this, I recommend that all residents of Crimea obtain Russian SIM cards as quickly as possible.
Currently, the networks of the Russian operators are almost ready; they are ready to launch. We plan to launch as soon as the number of SIM cards purchased by local residents reaches a certain critical mass. We expect this to happen in the next few weeks.
I would also like to report that a decision has been made on allocating 450 million rubles targeted toward urgent modernisation of postal infrastructure: this includes supplying post offices with equipment and vehicles that transport mail, in order for the postal service to work without disruptions. It is under a lot of pressure. Today, a significant amount of pension payments, benefits, parcels and money transfers are passing through the postal services. We want to ensure that the level of postal services is the same as it is throughout the rest of the Russian Federation.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.