Vladimir Putin had a meeting with the heads of four party factions represented in the lower house of parliament: Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR), Gennady Zyuganov (Communist Party), Sergei Neverov (United Russia) and Sergei Mironov (A Just Russia).
The meeting was also attended by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, I apologise for postponing our meeting a little.
Head of the Communist Party faction Gennady Zyuganov: In fact, this is good. We began our meeting on March 5 and we will finish it on March 6.
Vladimir Putin: That’s right. This does not happen often, at least when it comes to official meetings. I do get delayed quite often, but this happens only rarely with regard to official meetings.
Anyway, we meet and hold consultations on a regular basis. Today I would like to ask your advice on amendments to the Constitution.
As you well know, I proposed amending the Basic Law in my Address to the Federal Assembly. You know about this. And later a draft law setting out concrete amendments was submitted to the State Duma, which adopted it in the first reading. This allowed us to spend more time discussing the amendments for the second, main reading.
A working group has been established, as you know, on drafting proposals for amendments to the Constitution; this group includes representatives from all party factions. State Duma deputies and members of the Federation Council are taking an active part in the discussion of the incoming proposals, including at the concerned committees of both houses of parliament.
I also had one-on-one meetings with each of you. As far as I can see, many of these proposals have been taken into account. Members of the working group travelled to the regions and had discussions with the electorate and legislatures.
I would like to particularly emphasise that by working on amendments to the Constitution, we are all thinking not only about the present but also about the future because it is our Basic Law. Many of you, at different times and in different situations, pointed out that this Basic Law was adopted in very specific circumstances.
You may have noticed that I also spoke about this in the Address. It is fair and it is true. Now the situation in the country is radically different. As a matter of fact, ours is a different country now, in this respect. So of course, the amendments are relevant.
Of course, our potential allows us to act on these changes due to the rapidly changing situation in the country. It is fundamentally important that the updated Constitution unites people regardless of their political views, level of income, region of residence, ethnicity or faith.
It is not a coincidence that the Constitution is called the Basic Law that is supposed to consolidate the entire society. I think we will be able to offer draft amendments for nationwide voting that will fit this description.
We can even find some political issues that bring us together. For example, I have never heard from you that the country should return to the 1990s. With all the positive sentiments of democratisation, it is certain that nobody wants to go back to the years of tough ordeals for our citizens.
Still, it is not enough to simply draw a line under a certain period of our country’s development. We need guarantees that it is now impossible to backslide in the direction that we do not want to return to; that attempting to shake the country again is unacceptable and nobody wants it.
Many of you witnessed those distressing events yourself. I am confident that nothing of the kind must be repeated in our history – in our future, to be precise.
What else is crucial? Right now we have every opportunity to carry out a socially-oriented state policy that responds to our citizens’ desire for improvement of the quality of life and living standards.
We all understand how important it is today to support families and family values, to provide overarching protection to our children, to ensure that education and healthcare are accessible and, of course, to make sure that senior citizens, retired citizens, enjoy comfortable living standards.
The social sector concerns people in absolutely all age groups. All regions and municipalities should abide by the same high standards here. It is not so easy to accomplish this, considering the level of these regions’ development, but it goes without saying that we need to do our best to achieve this objective. Of course, in order for us to make real improvements, these goals must work at all public administration levels, from municipal to federal.
I know that your position as leaders of parliamentary parties was largely decisive in the approval of the draft law in the first reading and during the discussion of incoming proposals. I have already said that many of your proposals have been taken into account. I would like to highlight the major contribution of United Russia as the largest party faction and as the country’s leading party.
Mr Zyuganov, I would like to thank you for supporting proposals on the indexation of pensions and social payments, as well as amendments to strengthen the functions of parliamentary control and to stipulate restrictions for the heads of government agencies. A person wishing to make it into the corridors of power should be ready for deliberate self-restrictions.
I would also like to thank Mr Zhirinovsky for supporting proposals on the primacy of national legislation over international law. You brought this up in the past, I remember it well; this concerns ways of enhancing public governance and supporting the state policy that aims to strengthen international peace and security.
Mr Mironov, thank you for supporting proposals regarding the regular indexing of pensions and for amendments to ensure targeted social assistance, social support measures and the assertion of the unifying role of the Russian language and Russian culture.
It appears that we have now managed to find the essential constructive solutions that will make it possible to introduce relevant and much needed changes to the Basic Law.
At the same time, I would like to ask you not to overload it with proposals that may certainly be important but that should be applied to federal laws, regional laws or regulatory documents of the Russian Federation’s Government.
Large-scale and detailed work to prepare a draft law on amendments to the Constitution for the second reading has been conducted with the active involvement of citizens, society and parliamentary parties. Colleagues, I would now like to ask you to jointly support the draft law on amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation in the second and then in the third reading.
Here is another issue that requires our attention. As you know, a nationwide voting on constitutional amendments is set for April 22. The amendments will come into effect only after their approval by our citizens.
I said this many times before in different situations, including at my meetings with the working group, but I would like to say this once again. No matter how well we work on the law, it will only come into effect after the nationwide voting. In other words, the citizens of Russia will be the real lawmakers in this case. They will play the main and absolutely decisive role. It is very important that the people know and understand what they will be voting for.
In this connection, I would like to ask you to support the explanatory work of your parties and their active members, as well as your supporters, especially in the media, on the Internet and during personal meetings.
A considerable part of the crucial amendments submitted by members of your party factions will be reflected in the final wording of the draft law. I hope you will also help the Central Election Commission to organise the process.
As we agreed, voting will be organised and held using the model of the law on presidential elections. This means that punishment for violating the voting procedure will be the same as for similar violations during presidential elections. Therefore, I have issued instructions on amending the Code of Administrative Procedure and the Criminal Code.
The Civic Chamber will monitor the nationwide voting. I would like to ask you to help the Chamber, including by sending your parties’ observers to polling stations.
All of us want the voting to be held at the highest possible level and to strictly comply with the procedure, so that nobody questions its outcome.
I believe that together we will be able to hold the nationwide voting at a level befitting our country and, most importantly, create the necessary conditions for the free expression of our citizens’ will regarding amendments to our Basic Law, the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
Leader of the LDPR faction Vladimir Zhirinovsky: The Constitution, the amendments that we will adopt… Personally, I took part in the drafting and adoption of the 1993 Constitution. I spoke here at the Kremlin. Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin were there then.
Now we are making amendments and we know their authors. I cannot see a single amendment with a negative meaning: all the amendments are made to improve, all are positive. This is why I am not sure why some people see a catch somewhere or are not satisfied with something. There is nothing bad in the social, political, government or cultural sphere: only positive things can be noted in all areas.
In this sense, I do not understand those who say: “Why do we do this?” Everything has improved. We have improved the Constitution, and it will remain in force for many years to come.
In fact, the life of the Constitution is the life of one generation. It has been in effect for more than 20 years, and now the new generation will live for 20 years with the new amendments to the Constitution. This is why it is the rule of our life, the main political law which we all need; it unites everyone. It tells us what country this is, its borders, who lives here, what languages are spoken, and what rights there are.
The main thing is that more rights are given to representative bodies. This is progress. Millions of people fought and gave their lives for this for many centuries, to give parliaments more power. And we are doing this now. Both houses, the courts and the judiciary branch. This means that everything is only improving.
This is why I believe that people will be glad to go to the polling stations on April 22. And it is good that a working day was chosen, the middle of the week. In the future, annual elections can also be held in the middle of the week, on the last Wednesday of April. This will not be connected with Easter. It means the atmosphere of the spring, and the summer will be free, too. This is why I think that the April 22 vote on amendments to the Constitution will be successful.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Gennady Zyuganov: Mr President,
Your three latest initiatives are connected with the Address to the Federal Assembly, first of all, to improve the social component and special care, which made it possible to allocate almost four trillion rubles more for these tasks. We supported this and have been waiting for this decision for a long time.
We met with the Prime Minister. Now we are working on an entire range of projects. I am sure they will play a positive role.
Among other things, the new edition reflects the special significance of education, science and culture. By the way, it is essential, including the role of the Russian language as state-forming and the special focus on children and women. You stressed that while you are working there will be mother and father, and traditional values will be especially important: this is a principled position.
Second, you have strengthened the Government, which is now getting ready to deliver its report to the State Duma. I think it is very important that the coordinated positions of the President from the Address are approved both by the Government and the State Duma in the new budget. We proposed a development budget: 33 trillion, and 12 laws for it, which will allow us to address these tasks.
And you took this highly responsible step and started “renovating” the Constitution, which was passed after the bloody attack on the parliament and which is largely illegitimate.
This is a progressive decision, and we voted for it in the first reading. We submitted additionally 114 amendments, and it appears that 22 of them have been taken into account. We are now studying the situation in detail, and in principle, our organisations and the union of patriotic forces are interested in this matter.
What worries us? Several things worry us. Russians, the country’s nucleus and its state-forming nation, are disappearing here. In the past years, we have lost almost 20 million, and we have to take urgent action in this respect. I can feel that you realise this, but it will require additional expenditure and special attention needs to be paid to these regions.
Annually, we export mineral resources worth about 20 trillion rubles, but the budget has never accumulated more than eight trillion rubles. Therefore my voters perceive nature management and the use of natural resources in the interests of every citizen as the most important matter because almost 20 million people have very low incomes, and we need to rectify this situation immediately.
There is an amendment to the Constitution. But we should proceed from the fact that a minimum wage of 12,130 rubles is very little. We have suggested a significant rise in the minimum wage, and we have discussed this matter with you. We should also search for a solution here.
It is very important to us that the position of the welfare state is strengthened. To this end, we have come up with a number of interesting ideas. The women’s congress is set to begin tomorrow or even today, to be more exact. Participants from across the country will discuss these decisions. Efforts to care for the family and mothers with many children are also taking on special value.
Our party must discuss this principled matter from the grassroots level to the top. Meetings with voters are taking place everywhere. We will make the final decision soon. But we are interested in continuing this dialogue that involves the President, the Parliament and the Government.
I would like to congratulate you. Today, you have conducted complex negotiations but you have reached an important decision, and I would like to ask you to pay attention to the fact that it is essential for us to strengthen domestic political stability and to preserve it to the greatest possible extent. In this respect, we believe that our Parliament and its Speaker are working in a well-coordinated and efficient manner. And we need to cherish and value this.
This is all the more so now that the Government is drafting its programme for the future. To my mind, if we spend the entire year on achieving these goals, the entire country would benefit from this.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Head of the A Just Russia faction Sergei Mironov: Mr President, A Just Russia has submitted 41 amendments, 14 of which have been taken into account, including a crucial proposal of fundamental importance to us, on adjusting pensions to inflation at least once a year. We hope that our working pensioners will not be overlooked during the implementation of this constitutional provision future.
We have held discussions in all of the party’s regional branches. On February 25–27, we held news conferences on the constitutional amendments. Overall, we are ready to discuss the amendments in the second and third readings.
Today you had a far from easy but fruitful day. I congratulate you on these good results on behalf of the party and, actually, on behalf of all Russian citizens. I would like to conclude my statement now because I believe that you need some rest.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
It is a very serious matter, and hence we will spend as much time on it as necessary. Thank you.
Head of the United Russia faction Sergei Neverov: Mr President, I would like to say that we appreciate the fact that a working group, which includes representatives of all our factions, was set up at your initiative during preparations for the second reading. I would like to say that our faction has submitted quite a few amendments, including through our colleagues in the working group.
It is very important to support your amendments to the Constitution, because they as a block incorporate the initiatives which we put forth within the framework of the working group.
We have agreed with the deputies that the main proposals should be submitted via the working group, which includes representatives from various sections of society and hence can discuss them in a more professional manner. At the same time, we did not restrict our deputies as far as submitting proposals was concerned.
Our colleagues have submitted separately a number of proposals regarding amendments. I would like to say that most of them have been supported and taken into account. On the other hand, the committee has rejected some proposals, yet each deputy had an opportunity to voice their ideas.
The social block of proposals is very important for us, because it includes the adjustment of social benefits and pensions to inflation. All of us remember that some time ago the maternity capital was not adjusted at all, there was no possibility to do that, and pensions were adjusted only partially. This requirement has now been added to the Constitution, which is very important for the people.
Last week we focused on the regions. We had a rather busy schedule travelling around and meeting with people, discussing things, and people offered us very positive feedback. In fact, the issue that Mr Mironov mentioned, questions about adjustment of pensions for inflation for working pensioners, needs to be more thoroughly considered.
Of course, there is a lot of support for strengthening the sovereignty and independence of our country. People are raising these matters very actively. Of course, other frequently discussed matters include support of families, children and other areas, such as culture, and everything reflected in the Constitution. People raised a great number of issues.
People have also been saying that supporting fellow nationals abroad is also very important. It is in the Constitution. After all, so many Russian nationals live in the CIS and other countries. This issue is also of utmost importance.
I think that before the second reading we will also meet as a party faction and discuss everything once more. What is very important for us right now is the approval procedure itself, including the second and third readings, discussions by regional parliaments and, of course, meetings with voters, our citizens, where we can further clarify all the amendments and, of course, get their support.
The mechanism you created – which requires public support and discussions at all these levels – will really help simply because nobody will even think about changing anything off the record or in any other unofficial manner. It will only be possible through public discussions.
I think people are taking this process very seriously because they can see that they can truly make suggestions that will be heard as all the amendments discussed and submitted had to go through this procedure.
Thank you for finding an opportunity to meet with us today despite your very tight schedule during this critical period of work basically for the entire world that you have spent solving the problems covered today.
I would like to say that while we were waiting for this meeting, we did not waste any time and talked more about these matters. Mr Volodin has been inviting us to meetings quite frequently. But here we also had a chance to talk in the Kremlin, which does not happen very often.
Sergei Mironov: The meeting was even more efficient here.
Sergei Neverov: We worked for two days. We started on one and finished on the other. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky: My speech was the shortest.
Vladimir Putin: Right to the point, as always.
Everything that is happening in the world is, of course, very important to us but there is nothing more important than what is happening at home, here in Russia. Therefore, we will take as much time to work on this as is necessary.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President,
During the discussion regarding the amendments we received 387 legislative initiatives, 387 amendments. Now the committee has completed its work. We studied each amendment with lawyers and other experts. The committee members voted for the adoption of 200 amendments and rejected 177 proposals.
These are really the amendments proposed by all party factions and elaborated by the working group and Federation Council members. This is how they have been distributed in the chapters of the Constitution.
It was proposed to introduce 47 amendments to Chapter 3. This chapter regulates the federal structure. The committee suggested the adoption of 20 amendments to Chapter 4 that describes the powers and responsibilities of the President of the Russian Federation.
The committee suggested the adoption of 32 amendments to Chapter 5 on the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, and 25 amendments to Chapter 6 on the Government of the Russian Federation.
Another 25 amendments were proposed for Chapter 7 on Judicial Power and the Procurator's Office, and 12 amendments were suggested for Chapter 8 on Local Self-Government.
In addition to this, the procedure itself, as was mentioned several times taking into account that it’s open, contemplates a national vote, so 30 amendments were proposed to maximise the legitimacy of the participation of our citizens. So, the amendments have been distributed for adoption.
We hope that the second reading of the draft law will take place on March 10. Special attention is being paid to this. We will more or less devote this plenary session completely to the discussion of the constitutional amendments. The meeting will begin with this.
Of course, it would be very good if we preserve the consolidation that we had during the review of the draft law in the first reading because the first reading is devoted to the discussion of the Concept. The Concept enjoyed unanimous support. All party factions backed the Concept.
Obviously, everyone has their own amendment aimed at improving something but this is the Constitution that requires a well-balanced approach and it is necessary to analyse everything once again. We will meet linguists and lawyers to study the amendments once again and to verify them by the second reading. Then every deputy will make up his or her mind and each party faction will express its position.
I would like to thank you for taking this step because the Constitution was adopted during difficult times in 1993 and, of course, many things have changed since then. New challenges have emerged and all this requires changes in our Basic Law.
Your amendments are supported by all the parties represented in the State Duma because we believe that they reflect the demand of the society to the utmost. Therefore, we hope that we will discuss them with all of you once again and then everyone will take their own position.
Of course, Mr President, today meant a lot for the entire world. We are delighted that our President and his counterpart from another state have taken decisions that will ensure the maintenance of peace, stability and security not only in the Orient but also in the rest of the world too and will prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Europe. This is extremely important.
Vladimir Putin: In conclusion, I would like to say the following. We can discuss other issues, but let us finish this one.
Colleagues, you have millions of supporters. These people support you because you formulate various tasks that we need to address in the way your supporters would like to address them.
Just like you, they want us to achieve certain goals that you formulate. But every person voices his or her own approaches to achieving them. And ordinary people sometimes find it hard to comprehend the details.
But this country, its current status and its future are what our citizens want, and this is what unites all of us. Everyone wants our society to be more just, everyone wants our state to be strong and to occupy a worthy place in the world. Regardless of different methods and ways of attaining this goal, we, in reality, want to achieve one and the same goal.
In this connection, I would like to thank you for always finding the strength to unite behind common nationwide goals and nationwide tasks during the most serious and crucial moments.
Mr Volodin has just said that new challenges have arisen. Indeed, they have increased to some extent, and some constitutional amendments note the need for increasing our sovereignty and formalise this in the Basic Law.
Apart from new challenges, we also have new opportunities. In the past, we were unable to index benefits, pensions and other payments. We can do this today, and therefore, we must accomplish this.
And if this is so, it would be correct to formalise this in the Basic Law. To a certain extent, this is our common achievement highlighting new opportunities.
Mr Zhirinovsky, I believe that this should be formalised for the sake of future generations and probably for a period of 50 years, rather than 20 years, and the future generations of officials addressing state development matters at various levels will have to fulfil these provisions.
At this stage, I would simply like to thank you for our joint work and for the fact that we had these opportunities to address new tasks, to work on the Constitution and amendments to the Basic Law.