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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, Ms Matviyenko. How are you?
St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko: Working hard, Mr President. I have come to ask you for advice in connection with Friday’s events.
First of all, I would like to say that I am very grateful to my colleagues, the governors, because the governor corps has proposed to nominate me for the post of the Federation Council Speaker. I also want to thank you for your kind words and for your high assessment of my work.
But I feel ambivalent: on the one hand, I have a duty toward St Petersburg for the trust and support I have received from the city’s residents, but on the other hand, I realise that it is a huge responsibility to work in the Federation Council. It is a great challenge: there are procedures that must be followed, and I must find out the opinion of Federation Council members, whether they are willing to support me as Speaker. That is why I have come to you for some advice.
Dmitry Medvedev: To be perfectly serious, I truly believe that your work as Governor of St Petersburg has always been very popular and successful.
I don’t say this because I am duty bound to do so as President, but as a man who was born in Leningrad, who grew up in Leningrad and St Petersburg, and I can tell you that the city has changed a great deal during your term in office. It is a pleasure just to look at streets, buildings, courtyards. Of course, the city still has enough problems, as any other metropolis. What city doesn’t have them? Moscow has plenty, just like New York or Paris.
Therefore, I believe that you have done some very good work and that is what I believe to be the reason for the governors’ initiative, which they set forth during a meeting with me in Gorki. They spoke about your candidacy with great enthusiasm. What are some of the reasons for that?
First of all, they respect you as a colleague, as a governor, as a person who is successful at her job. Second, which is also very important, is that there is a feeling among the governors that the potential of the Federation Council, its federative capabilities, its potential as a Chamber of Regions, has perhaps not been fully realised. Or, at least, that it could be put to better use. They hope the new Speaker will fulfil this role. That is how I see the situation. Therefore, the position of Speaker of the Parliament’s Upper House is certainly a highly responsible and respected position.
Let me be direct: I believe that the state will benefit if you become Speaker of the Federation Council, the Upper House of Parliament. But the decision does not rest with the President. The President has great powers in our country, but this is not one of my responsibilities. However, I have already voiced my opinion and I am prepared to repeat it: I openly supported the idea as soon as it was expressed. I think that, perhaps, the best course of action would be to do as you have said, to hold consultations with your colleagues, with members of the Federation Council. If you feel supported, then you should proceed with the existing procedures. I think that would be the right decision.
But, of course, you must continue to work until then because St Petersburg is a huge city.
Valentina Matviyenko: Absolutely. We are currently working very actively on road repairs, repairing roofs after last winter, which was very severe, improving amenities, relaying networks, and preparing for the winter and the new school year. This year we are going to open a record number of kindergartens and schools and we want to complete all the works by September 1. So there is a lot of work, believe me, I tackle various tasks every day.