The head of state inspected the production process, sheet-metalworking and end product shop. He also talked to the plant’s workers and answered their questions.
Vladimir Putin was accompanied by Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Urals Federal District Igor Kholmanskikh, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, Chelyabinsk Region Governor Boris Dubrovsky and General Director of the Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant Albert Yalaletdinov.
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Excerpts from the transcript of the meeting with workers of the Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your director, who is the plant’s principal shareholder, has told me about the plant. It was built within a matter of eighteen months. This is great.
You have a modern plant, and its products are in demand on the market. By the way, have you congratulated your boss? He had his birthday the other day. Happy birthday and all the best.
Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant Director Albert Yalaletdinov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You have an interesting plant. I think it holds promise: you export your products, and you are increasing your share on the domestic market as well. This is wonderful. And the wages are good too, slightly higher than the average in the region and even in the country. This is very, very good.
I wish you success and all the best.
Do you have any expansion plans?
Albert Yalaletdinov: We need to cope with what we have first, and in a year, we will see what we can do next.
Vladimir Putin: How many workers do you have? Nearly 500, is it?
Albert Yalaletdinov: 526.
Vladimir Putin: A decent figure, and a good young body of workers. Where do they receive training? Right here at the plant?
Albert Yalaletdinov: Yes, partly. There are different ways.
Vladimir Putin: There are many skilled workers in Chelyabinsk, because this is an industrially developed region.
Albert Yalaletdinov: It is becoming more difficult, because our skill requirements are growing.
Vladimir Putin: You have several competitive advantages, including higher pay. This probably helps you find the necessary personnel.
Albert Yalaletdinov: Does anyone have any questions?
Valery Plotnikov: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Valery Plotnikov: I am Valery Plotnikov, a pre-production engineer.
First, we are glad to see you at our plant. I would like to ask you a number of questions. How do you like our new production facility?
Vladimir Putin: I already said I like it very much.
Valery Plotnikov: How could you help us? And how could we help you?
Vladimir Putin: You are already helping us, as your plant's clients are all major oil and gas production and pipeline transportation enterprises in the country, all of them.
Therefore, the market is very solid and promising in the long-term. These are things that need to be replaced all the time. So I think those who had the idea of establishing this enterprise just could not go wrong.
The products are high quality and on par with global standards, and they are easily sold on the foreign market. The main thing is to make these products not only for the domestic market but also to make them meet world standards. And your products do.
Therefore, our task is only to provide a product market for you. But you are doing this yourselves due to the quality of your work.
Present here is one of the chiefs of one such company, Transneft, and he is also paying thorough attention to everything and analysing it.
Good luck to you!
Question: Good afternoon! I am Anton, operator of a numerically controlled machine tool.
I would like to know… Four years ago, a meteor fell in our region. You probably remember this. I would like to know if there…
Vladimir Putin: If there is a chance of another one falling? (Laughter)
Question: If there is any protection from this.
Vladimir Putin: Well, this is a complicated issue. Even the accident that took place in your region was not predicted in fact ‒ although today experts make attempts to calculate the trajectory of the most dangerous objects.
There are various ways of protection. They are extremely hard to execute so far, yet they exist: attacking these objects, disintegrating them with various explosive devices, including nuclear ones, or landing an apparatus on such outer space bodies and transporting them away from the Earth.
There are many different projects in this regard, but they are realistic. Experts believe they all are realistic. So far, luckily, no major incidents are expected. We will hope for this, and we will work on this. But these are large-scale projects that have to be implemented together with partners ‒ this, in fact, has to be global cooperation.
Ravil Dautov: My name is Ravil Dautov. I am a foreman at the assembly shop.
Here is my question. I live with my family in the Central District of Chelyabinsk. It is difficult to breathe there when the weather is calm or when the wind blows our way. We simply gasp for breath, and our children are often ill.
Here is my question: Can punishment for the plants that do not use air filters be increased? Maybe something can be done to make filters cheaper than fines? Or to toughen regulation over such enterprises, possibly by measuring emissions not at the plant but in the neighbourhoods where we spend so much time?
Vladimir Putin: Both methods are good. I can tell you what is being done in this respect. First of all, you and I understand that a large city such as Chelyabinsk developed over decades, with plants built here decades ago without due regard for environmental consequences.
You can feel these consequences today. We know that you do, and this problem cannot be left unattended. We need to step in. This is why a while ago we passed a law on the implementation of the best technology to ensure environmental safety.
Regrettably, in the past few years we had to postpone the enforcement of this law due to harsh pressure from industry. There were many reasons for this, including crisis elements in the economy. Industry representatives told the Government and us that the implementation of the so-called best technology would increase their spending. In this case, they told us, they would have to lay off some of their personnel in order to maintain their profitability.
Therefore, we put off the enforcement of the law, but finally the decision was made: the law must become fully effective in 2019. Specific requirements regarding modern equipment are being introduced, and this concerns more than just air filters.
The point at issue is the use of the latest technology to increase labour efficiency and at the same time to reduce the impact on the environment, including through hazardous emissions. This is first.
The second thing you have mentioned is that we should move from assessing the environmental safety of each particular plant to the safety of the entire area where the given plant is located, for example Chelyabinsk. The decision has been made, and we will implement it.
We will determine the permissible level of emissions for each particular plant based on the new standards. If we attack this problem from all angles, which is exactly what we intend to do, I am sure that we will see improvement. As for Chelyabinsk, it is obvious that this is an acute problem here.
Anton Krivtsov: My name is Anton Krivtsov, and I am a lawyer.
Recently, there have been more tax disputes between business people and tax agencies.
Vladimir Putin: This is not new. They began when we adopted a real, modern tax system.
Anton Krivtsov: In the end, such disputes are solved in commercial courts, which means that business people are ready to test how appropriate the decisions of the tax agency are.
Vladimir Putin: This is better than in the 1990s, when such issues were solved in the streets.
Anton Krivtsov: Exactly. However, criminal cases are opened at the tax agency’s request, without waiting for a court ruling. Law enforcement agencies, in particular, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and sometimes the Investigative Committee do that, and at the same time, they begin an inspection, which sometimes means blocking accounts, sometimes opening a criminal case and sometimes calling the business person in for questioning.
Mr President, don’t you believe that such investigative actions are premature? Are they necessary in these cases? Are they needed? Don’t they rattle the business circles? What do you think?
Vladimir Putin: I have already spoken about that, and corresponding decisions have been made; they will be implemented, and some of them are already being implemented. You know that certain decisions have been made regarding the article on fraud. The issue is the investigative procedures related to the events you have mentioned, including tax violations.
I have already spoken about that with both the Prosecutor General’s Office and parliamentarians, and we have agreed that it is completely unacceptable, for example, the seizure of computer disks. If you need any evidence, make copies, record it somewhere and use copies. Nothing should be done that would impede a company’s regular activities, nothing.
A set of measures is being developed by the Prosecutor General’s Office, and I also discussed this with the Supreme Court. By the way, this also goes for various arrests. We should look into this very carefully.
“Let us work with individuals in certain conditions.” No. Why would they do that? An entire package of measures is being designed, finally, and we will surely upgrade these liberalisation activities.
Zulfugar Gummetov: My name is Zulfugar Gummetov, I am an engineer.
I am a big ice hockey fan, and I know that you practice this sport. We are very proud that we have…
Vladimir Putin: That may be a bit exaggerated.
Zulfugar Gummetov: …a President like you.
Vladimir Putin: I am only learning.
Zulfugar Gummetov: My question is how do you manage to do it, given how busy you are?
I have another question. There have been many reports in the media lately suggesting that Russian athletes could be barred from taking part in the Olympics.
I have a feeling that sports officials do not pay enough attention to this. Maybe the government should do more to support athletes?
Vladimir Putin: Look, you and I are both sports fans, we both play sports, and there are millions of people like us across the country. We are keeping a close eye on all the developments related to the so-called doping scandal.
The first thing I want to say is that Russia vigorously opposes any forms of doping, for a number of reasons. The primary reason is of course protecting the health of Russian athletes. Even those working for high results have to be conscientious, and the sanctioning bodies must ensure that there are no violations.
The second point is that sports competitions must be fair, otherwise they lose any reason and no one will be interested.
My third point is that there is a need to bring some order into the international anti-doping system. Like many sports fans across Russia, you probably know that some athletes can receive therapeutic use exemptions to take banned substances, thereby obtaining a competitive edge.
But if a person is sick and has to take medication, maybe it would make more sense to take part in the Paralympic Games or play outside of competition. It is obvious that justice must be restored in this area — another important point.
Now, again, as concerns Russia, there has never been and, I hope, will never be any kind of state-run doping system that we are being reprimanded for or actually accused of. However, it has to be acknowledged that there have been cases – as in many other countries – and we are looking into them and will deal with them moving forward.
We are improving our anti-doping system. In fact, we have fulfilled all the WADA requirements. We have done everything they requested, in particular, we established an independent public organisation headed by a highly respected person and an honorary IOC member from Russia. We transferred the entire anti-doping system from the respective state organisations to Moscow State University. We started a national programme.
However, we see that there have been increasing reports, plants in the media on our athletes possibly being banned from the next Olympic Games under the pretext of the doping violations at the previous Olympics. I have already spoken on this issue and here are my thoughts.
The main claim today is that many vials with Russian athletes’ samples had scratches on them, which could indicate that the vials had been unsealed and the samples replaced.
As requested by the International Olympic Committee, several weeks after the Sochi Olympics (I believe, two or three months later), we handed over all the samples to a storage facility in a WADA-controlled lab in Lausanne. We handed them over with written acknowledgement of receipt and did not receive any objections at the time.
When the samples were turned in, nobody raised any objections. The samples were stored in Lausanne for two or three years, and only much later the question was raised of the vials allegedly having been unsealed. But they had been stored away for two years by then, under signed receipt. And there had been no objections before. What happened to them during those years? Who caused the scratches, or perhaps bite marks, on them? We do not know.
Next. When these cases are investigated, nobody asks our athletes. For example, the famous Mr Rodchenkov, who allegedly plied everyone and then ran away. By the way, he used to work in Canada for a few years before that, then came here and became the head of our lab, plied whoever here and then ran away to Canada again.
However, our athletes are kept away from it. Of course, this is a subject for investigation. Our responsible agencies are working on it, including with various judicial systems. I think all the existing special judicial systems are not enough; we need to go to civil courts.
What concerns me? When will the Olympics take place? February, isn’t it? And when is the presidential election? March. I suspect that all of this is done to create conditions on someone’s behalf to provoke sport fans’ and athletes’ anger that the state allegedly had something to do with it. And now it is paying for it.
Today’s international sport organisations, including the International Olympic Committee, all of them depend on many different elements, first of all sponsors, then people who acquire television rights, advertisers and so one. It is a big web of ties and dependences.
The controlling interest lies in the US, because this is where the main companies that order and pay for television rights are and where the main sponsors, main advertisers and others are.
That is why I strongly suspect that, in response to our alleged interference in their elections, they want to create problems during the presidential elections in Russia, and if this is true, it is very bad, because it undermines the essence of the Olympic movement.
Sport, as well as culture, should be outside all politics, because these are the bridges that connect people, not something that destroys relations between states. But we shall see how things proceed from here.
Question: Mr President, a new plant has been built. Russia has a state programme to support the development and use of natural gas vehicle (NGV) fuel. In conjunction with Bauer, we have localised the production of natural gas stations here, at the Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant.
You and Mr Bayat [CEO of Bauer Comp Holding] discussed this issue in Sochi in October at a meeting with German entrepreneurs. This represents a new area of focus, new jobs. We have sufficient know-how and would very much like to participate in this programme. Could you tell us, what needs to be done?
Vladimir Putin: To develop NGV fuel production?
Look, I will arrange direct contacts with Gazprom for you. Viktor Zubkov, former Prime Minister, a very experienced man, is in charge of this line of work in Gazprom. This is my first point.
Second, contacts with the Ministry of Energy. They will definitely show you where to go and what you need to do in order to become part of this programme. By the way, I already mentioned this and would like to reiterate: NGV fuel is much better for the environment than electric vehicles, since our colleague had a question about the environment.
I believe Europe wants to either increase the share of electric vehicles by 30 percent or bring the share to 30 percent of the total within the next few years. However, speaking of natural gas, it is a more environmentally friendly fuel, because you need a primary source material in order to produce electricity since it does not come directly from the wall socket.
Too much coal is currently being used in the overall energy mix. Coal is a fairly complex fuel in terms of the environment. In our case, it is gas. If you compare things, it turns out that natural gas fuel is environmentally cleaner than even electricity.
So, you are on the right track. We will also try to do this and to provide the market with the corresponding decisions both at the government and the legislative level.
Minster of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov: Mr President, my colleagues and I have already talked this over and we are meeting at the Ministry in a week. We have been carrying out a programme to compensate the discount on natural gas vehicles for three years in a row.
Remark: And we take advantage of it.
Denis Manturov: Indeed.We have set aside 2.5 billion in next year’s budget…
Vladimir Putin: Your colleague is wondering what exactly they are to do and with what partners.
Denis Manturov: We will do this in partnership with Gazprom.
Vladimir Putin: Right, you will give them a cue.
Dmitry Patrushev: Mr President, my name is Dmitry Patrushev and I am a maintenance engineer at our plant.
I often travel to different Russian cities on business. I have noticed that cities that host large international or national events have great infrastructure, including sports complexes, transport networks and cultural facilities.
I liked Kazan very much. I would like our city to host some event on this scale, so that we could have the experience of the event ending and the infrastructure remaining. We are asking for your assistance.
Vladimir Putin: Events are not as important as infrastructure, as you have said. However, there is another factor. It is important to build infrastructure but it is equally important to provide for its full use in the future. For example, we have already discussed sports and the Sochi Olympics.
We have really done a lot for the city’s development and its infrastructure. Thank God, we have managed to use it practically to capacity all year. Therefore, before building something, it is important to understand how it will be used.
As for your city, I know that regional authorities have certain plans concerning culture, sports and education, and they are carrying out these plans. If in certain cases support from the federal budget is required, we are ready to lend a hand.
As far as I remember, there are plans to renovate the Drama Theatre with support from the federal budget; the required sum is 1.2 billion rubles. The same is true for other projects. I believe that you are going to renovate the Opera and Ballet Theatre yourselves.
Governor of Chelyabinsk Region Boris Dubrovsky: We are working with a sponsor there.
Vladimir Putin: I believethat the acoustics of the organhall in Chelyabinskare among the bestin Europe now. We will keep working and, if necessary, we will combine our efforts.
Marat Tokarev: Mr President, would you mind answering one more question?
My name is Marat Tokarev. I am the head of the Department of Refrigeration Equipment.
Our equipment production partly involves vendors of foreign machinery. We also produce equipment for export. Therefore, we need to know how stable the national currency will be to develop our plans. Mr President, since you are here, can you tell us in confidence what will happen to the ruble in 2018?
Vladimir Putin: As you can see, the ruble has levelled off. I have already said that the inflation rate is at its historic minimum. It is the lowest inflation rate in modern Russia.
We are pursuing a very balanced fiscal and budget policy. It is important for both industrial production and the public, or individuals in legal terms, not only for legal entities. We are very careful about our expenditures.
You know, the budget can handle an oil price of $40 per barrel while the current rate is over $63. The remaining funds go to reserves. Our reserves are growing. The Central Bank’s reserves have gone up from 377 billion to over 400 billion. And this is not because we shove the money in our pockets. This is a safety cushion for the entire country and our economy. Investment in fixed assets has gone up by 14 percent, I think. This means that the funds invested in production will soon trigger more economic growth and expansion.
The GDP is also growing. The growth rate is twice as high (if not more) as our initial industrial production plans. Agriculture has been booming lately. It has grown by 3.4 percent on average. Why am I quoting these statistics? All these factors as a whole create conditions for a stable national currency.
Marat Tokarev: Thank you.
Vladimir Artemyev: I am Vladimir Artemyev, an assembly fitter.
Mr President, my question concerns maternity capital. The programme period is nearing its end, and my wife keeps saying she wants to have a second child.
Vladimir Putin: And she is right, you should listen to her.
Vladimir Artemyev: Will there be more programmes for those with a second child?
Vladimir Putin: I could go over everything in detail now, but I hope you will not be mad if I refrain. We are putting together a complete package now. Everything related to supporting motherhood and childhood was grouped together, this is going to be a separate programme.
As I have already mentioned, unfortunately in Russia this is the way it is – everyone lives in their own universe and often does not pay attention to many things. I will say it again: since the war years, the birth rate has been plummeting. Speaking of the Soviet Union – the RSFSR, to be more exact – births dropped by over one million in 1943 or 1944. The same occurred in the 1990s, can you imagine that? This was a blow to the demographic situation. It was clearly related to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the social sphere, and economic hardship. This decline repeats every 25 years.
And now we are entering a period when the war decline and the decline of the 1990s have merged. This has resulted in a considerable drop in the number of women of childbearing age, both very young and a bit older. Of course, the government has to think of ways to support demographic processes, all the more so as in recent years they have gained considerable momentum overall, which no one expected. This is a good indicator showing that people are expanding the planning horizon for their lives and families. I will speak about this in detail soon.