During the meeting with forum participants, a discussion was held on the most acute problems of life in the regions and professional issues regarding the development of Russian journalism, as well as international issues.
* * *
Excerpts from transcript of meeting with regional and local media representatives at the Fifth Truth and Justice Media Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
No matter where we meet, the atmosphere is always the same, as if we have not left the hall regardless of the region. This is good in a sense because it instantly creates a familiar working climate.
I would like to emphasise that this is a regular forum of this kind, and I consider it very important. I would like to thank the Russian Popular Front (ONF) for initiating these events.
This gives you an opportunity not only to communicate with each other and exchange the best practices of your work but also to let the Russian Popular Front know about your concerns and hopes. This is also very important for me, my colleagues and the Presidential Executive Office because it creates direct feedback.
As I have said many times, this is very important for us, and that should be no surprise. You are the people who are at the leading edge. You are working directly with people and know and feel better than anyone what is happening in the regions, and this is essentially the point because all of Russia is standing behind you.
I would like to welcome you once again, and we can talk as we did at the previous meeting about issues that concern you and that you consider most important and urgent.
Go ahead please.
Co-Chairperson of the ONF Central Headquarters and State Duma Deputy Speaker Olga Timofeyeva: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, colleagues.
Indeed, the whole country, journalists from all parts of Russia are present in this hall. But these people are a bit more than journalists because by writing their articles in regional newspapers and in blogs they have changed the situation and have compelled the authorities to hear about problems in places they did not want to listen to the average person.
You said we meet every year and this is indeed our fifth meeting. It is true, we have changed the venue. Today, Kaliningrad is the informal capital of the regional media.
I would like to say that many things changed during this time, because our platform is not just a chance to blow off steam, to tell you about problems and talk about ways to solve them. These are your direct instructions.
Regional channels are now available on button 21. A very large sum, 550 million rubles, was allocated to support print media. Today we are talking about increasing the news ticker for the regional channels to survive.
A lot of your instructions that are issued after our Media Forum really change life in Russia. They are changing laws and bringing money to the budgets. It is very important that we have gathered here today.
As per your instruction, the Centre for Legal Support of Journalists has been working for several years. Of course, nobody wants to deal with criticism and exposure, especially the authorities; that is why we often have to deal with unreasonable reactions.
We protect journalists who lose accreditation, who are fired and who nobody wants to hear. This is also your achievement, because you instructed us to establish this centre. We really defend their interests in court.
For the first time in all these years, the Russian Union of Journalists is partnering with the Russian Popular Front.
I give the floor to my colleague and partner Vladimir Solovyov.
Chairman of the Russian Union of Journalists Vladimir Solovyov: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, colleagues,
The Russian Union of Journalists also actively protects the members of our community. And, of course, this is the first time that the Russian Popular Front and the Russian Union of Journalists are holding this forum together. This is a very good practice.
Two days ago we presented awards to several hundred winners of two contests. Almost all of them are here, in this room. Many of the problems affecting our country and our society are reflected in their works. We will study them. I believe this is a good practice, and we will continue to hold these forums together with the Russian Popular Front.
The Russian Union of Journalists, which is the largest public organisation of the creative class in Russia, and also one of the largest in the world, is undergoing renovation, a reset. I hope that our team will manage to make the Union of Journalists a worthy member of Russia’s civil society.
This year the Russian Union of Journalists marks its 100th anniversary, and we want to do something worthy of this milestone. I would like to personally invite you, Mr President, to celebrate this anniversary with us in Moscow this November.
I would also like to thank you on behalf of many members of our journalist community for supporting the initiative to establish the honorary title of a Merited Journalist of Russia.
For more than 20 years we have been unable to secure this title for our colleagues. Now something is happening, the process has started. Every day, we receive letters and phone calls from our colleagues supporting this initiative.
Olga Timofeyeva: What did the three days of the forum include? These were three days of discussing various problems: regional problems and those of journalists. But for the first time we changed the format, we discussed together – with political scientists, representatives of all regions – your Address to Russia.
Did we hear anything in it for us? Yes, something important about people and for people. We also heard about a plan of action that we all need to carry out together to keep moving forward.
And for us, for the Russian Popular Front, it is a great honour to be able to further analyse the Address and propose our vision of how to quickly realise it together with ordinary residents, because the journalists who are present here are just ordinary residents of Russian regions.
And, if possible, we have a few block questions on the Address, a few conceptual ones – about the profession, issues in journalism. And, as always, traditionally for the Media Forum, we will end with a quick round of questions – the questions written by our journalists are short and to the point. They are very tough, but interesting, in our opinion; and I hope to get interesting answers.
Let’s start with healthcare. The day before, you invited us, the whole country, to join the “80+ club”. And of course, our eyes lit up, as we all want to stay alive and healthy. All of us present here today are not just journalists, but also citizens, patients, because, unfortunately, sometimes we fall ill.
But, of course, we can hardly say that medical care is accessible everywhere, because in regions, especially in rural areas, you need to travel 200, sometimes 300 kilometres to get to the clinic. Unfortunately, this is a real problem, as you pointed out.
And we heard a direct instruction to the Russian Popular Front – to stay in touch with people and keep an eye on the situation. And we heard a clear plan of action that will really bring medical care to small villages.
But the question is: how soon and where will we get the personnel? Because it is all well and good to build clinics and medical outposts, but we also need qualified professionals.
Vladimir Putin: If I may, I would like to say a few words about what your colleague has just said, and this is related to the recognition of the importance, public recognition of journalism.
It is not for me to say that this is a creative profession, and there are plenty of examples in world journalism when it is very difficult to distinguish it from literary activity. This is the first point.
Secondly, journalism always has its finger on the pulse of the public interest and public problems. The contribution of journalists to the resolution of these problems – from housing and utilities to corruption, without listing all of them – is extremely important.
And finally, there are absolutely unique examples of personal courage when journalists work in dangerous areas. Naturally, if society pays attention to all this and judges it accordingly.
So, we will take your initiative to its logical conclusion, open a new page and start the practice of conferring these titles.
Vladimir Solovyov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Now about…
Olga Timofeyeva: Outpatient clinics in rural areas.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, please, do you have any questions? Or is this the whole question?
Olga Timofeyeva: Outpatient clinics in rural areas. When will they become a reality? And also about personnel.
Vladimir Putin: I think the information about this has not yet been published but yesterday the Government adopted a related decision on additional funding in several areas.
First, I think an additional 1.2 billion or about 1.3 billion rubles have been earmarked in 2018 for opening paramedic and medical assistance centres in rural areas.
Second, an additional 2.5 billion rubles have been allocated in 2018 to establish mobile medical stations, purchase vehicles and equipment.
Additional funds have been also allocated for the training of personnel. I believe all these measures will help us move in the right direction as I said and help small settlements that have unfairly found themselves in a difficult situation. This work begins right now.
Yelena Yeskina (Daghestan): I have a question, Mr President. Will you please say honestly – as the people of Daghestan are very concerned – will the scale and the dynamics we are witnessing in Daghestan in the fight against corruption, in the elimination of the so-called nepotism continue after the election?
Vladimir Putin: Whatever is being done is done in the interest of the people of Daghestan, and it will continue.
Yelena Yeskina: Thank you.
Inna Sverdlyukovskaya (Krasnodar Territory): Help is needed with adopting a state programme on support for farm produce processing. So that agricultural enterprises that process farm produce receive state subsidies, including both large enterprises and farmers’ enterprises, and private family farms. I will refer to your Address. You said yesterday that processing is an important issue and it is necessary to help those who are prepared and want to engage in processing locally. It would be great if it was done.
Vladimir Putin: To begin with, it is already being done. We allocated substantial subsidies exactly to support those who are engaged in processing. Indeed, 134 million tonnes of grain was once an unthinkable figure even for the Soviet Union. We are the world’s top exporter of wheat and second biggest exporter of cereals. This is also fantastic, as much as the weapons I spoke about yesterday.
But processing is needed. Our Turkish friends are nearly the world’s top flour producers. This is achieved to a large extent thanks to our grain. And of course, we must produce as many foods locally as we can. By the way, let me repeat, we subsidise it and will continue doing so.
But it is even better if the grain that is produced is aimed at animal farming from the onset. This will be the next level of technological processing, as they call it. We have to resolve the issue of beef in the coming years so as to cover our market and to increase production, including for export purposes. I did say yesterday that we are planning to sell more than we buy in the nearest future.
You know, just a year and a half or two years ago I was delighted to say that we sold as many agricultural products as we did weapons, $15 billion. Meanwhile last year we sold weapons worth the same $15 billion whereas agribusinesses sold their products abroad for over $21 billion. This means the trend is gathering momentum.
Of course, we need to deal with processing. Let me reiterate, we are doing this but I mentioned yesterday that we must achieve what you are suggesting. We need a farm produce processing programme. We are going to have a meeting with farmers soon, and I think we will discuss all these topics and will definitely come up with solutions.
Ivan Anokhin (Moscow): I think we all gasped yesterday as we watched those videos about the missiles, it was just super, I feel proud of the scientists, engineers, those who did it.
But my question is in fact simple: is it possible to apply those advanced military technologies in everyday life in the foreseeable future? Maybe to improve people’s quality of life.
Vladimir Putin: You know, I am going to tell you where the message came from when I was thanking our scientists, engineers and workers for their achievements. I am not going to reveal a secret here anyway.
When work was completed on one of those systems, including the Avangard. And it is a very powerful weapon, which can travel intercontinental distances, which does not use ballistic trajectories and is capable of travelling in dense layers of the atmosphere at incredible speed – faster than Mach 20. Faster than Mach 20! I asked for a list of people to be acknowledged and awarded.
I was given several sheets of small print (small print!) text listing not individuals but enterprises, research institutes and design bureaus. I went through the sheets and asked, “What is this?” And the chief designer said to me, “This is our cooperation. The product would never have materialised if a single one of them did not take part.”
You see, I realised at that moment a key fact, which is that we had not stolen something somewhere or screwed together some parts. This is a result of the work of the research sector, design bureaus and industrial enterprises practically throughout the entire country. It involved dozens of enterprises and thousands of personnel.
This means that we have such a tremendous, operable complex generating a final product, a complex that includes science, education, personnel and modern manufacturing facilities. All of that is cutting-edge.
It gives us hope (now I come back to your question) that all of that can be used and applied in civilian industries. I also talked about that yesterday. Of course, this requires efforts, and we will be working towards it. Perhaps not everything can be used immediately, similar to the implementation of the nuclear and missile project. What was the end of the missile project? A space flight, and finally a spacewalk, Yury Gagarin’s flight.
Look, I spoke about the two latest systems yesterday: a global range missile and an unmanned submersible. Both of them operate on modern nuclear power units. The submersible, let me repeat, has a nuclear power unit which is 100 times smaller than on modern nuclear-powered submarines, and it reaches the maximum capacity 200 times faster than the nuclear power unit in modern submarines. And it accelerates – I don’t even want to give the figure – faster than modern ships. Incredible! Of course, it could be used.
Or take the Avangard system I mentioned. It is really fantastic, it travels at Mach 20 in dense layers of the atmosphere, like a meteorite, the temperature on its surface is 1,600–2,000 degrees Celsius, and it is manageable, it can make course changes a thousand kilometres left, right, up, down, everything works.
This means that, first, the communication signal goes through. Second, I want to say the following. It became possible when new materials appeared. It would have been impossible without modern materials. We had been working on it for a long time.
I said about that, as you may have noticed, back in 2014. We know that other countries also tried to do it. By all appearances they cannot make it yet for a number of reasons I have just stated. And we have managed to do it. We have the materials. Of course, they can be used.
Or the laser weapons I mentioned furtively towards the end. You know, this is absolute science fiction, The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin. We all probably remember it, we read it as kids. But now it is reality. And these technologies can certainly be used.
Among other things, we recently resumed manufacturing of the Tu-160 military supersonic jet, a missile carrier. Of course, it can be converted into a civilian version. I have already talked with aircraft manufacturers, and they say, “Yes, sure, additional research and calculations are needed.” But with our distances, when a flight to Vladivostok takes longer than to New York, it will certainly meet the demand, even though the fares may be high initially.
All of that can be done. And we will definitely be doing it, gradually, but surely. We have the foundation, and that is what matters. We have the people who can do that – that is crucial. We will be doing it, by all means.
Maxim Yermakov: Mr President, I came from the Far East, from Tynda, the capital of the Baikal-Amur Mainline.
In your Address yesterday, you indeed laid a great emphasis on the development of small territories. Even though there are sceptics, some people say it would be better for the population to be concentrated in cities with over one million residents. The Far Eastern Hectare programme has been launched, and people are actively using the project. Interesting ideas have sprung up, and we have been covering that. How about expanding the programme to the entire territory of the country? To areas where there is indeed a shortage of people? What do you think about that?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, regarding the one million-plus cities and small towns, what and how should be developed, many of those present know, or some of you perhaps not, since everyone has their own focus, but the latest research shows that large cities are drivers of development.
They account for the bulk of the Gross Domestic Product, and this will continue to be so in the near future. They concentrate scientific and educational resources and personnel, which will push the country forward.
But Russia is an unusual country, it is a whole continent, and we cannot afford to develop megacities alone. How many of them do we have, the cities with over a million residents? Ten or eleven. And should the rest of the country remain unpopulated? No, this is impossible and this is wrong.
This is the reason why when I spoke about territorial development in my Address yesterday, I said that these megacities should become growth drivers. What do we need to ensure? We have to ensure only the internal development of these megacities, we have to ensure the connectedness between them and large centres, even those with fewer than a million residents.
If that happens, small towns and even villages will become connected, including with major centres, and they will become engaged in the common life of the country and will enjoy all the benefits of modern civilisation. This is what we must achieve.
This is especially true since large cities and metropolises have their own problems. We have already talked about environmental issues here. This is why we will try to streamline our work in this way.
And what did you ask in conclusion?
Maxim Yermakov: About the Far Eastern hectare and its opportunities.
Vladimir Putin: About the hectare…
Look, this is why we create such incentives for the Far East – a free hectare of far eastern land. We are establishing priority development areas there with a complete set of tax and administrative incentives.
The same principles were applied when we established several ports there, including the free port of Vladivostok. In fact, this is also a PDA – a priority development area, because they have the same set of preferences as the PDAs.
Why are we doing all that? Because we want to make sure that people live there, to stop the outflow of the population, to stop depopulation, On the contrary, we want people to move there, to settle down, start families and have children. This hectare leads to people getting together, and when they get several hectares, new communities spring up. This is a very positive process. But we are doing it to breathe life into the Far East. If we spread the advantages across the country, then we will have to invent something else to make the Far East attractive.
This process of inventing and creating may be endless. We very much wish to spread the incentives system and PDAs to other territories as well. We have heard many times about it. And probably, step-by-step, we will start replicating those Far Eastern tools in other territories.
And now let us have a quick round of questions you wanted.
Olga Timofeyeva: Do you do morning exercises?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, every day, I exercised today, too.
Olga Timofeyeva: If you were not President, what would you be doing?
Vladimir Putin: Creating.
Olga Timofeyeva: Do you cook yourself? What did you cook last?
Vladimir Putin: I make salad, it is very tasty, I will you treat you to it later.
Olga Timofeyeva: I will hold you to that.
How can one fight laziness?
Vladimir Putin: By working.
Olga Timofeyeva: Why do you wear your watch on your right wrist?
Vladimir Putin: I have already said. It is hanging on the wrist.
If I wear it on the left wrist, the winder rotates, and it is uncomfortable and hurts. This is why I wear watch here. I’ve been doing it a long time.
Olga Timofeyeva: How do you manage to remember a colossal amount of information and numbers?
Vladimir Putin: It is not so hard if you do it every day.
Olga Timofeyeva: Do you believe in folk signs and omens?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I do.
Olga Timofeyeva: What is the best relaxation for you?
Vladimir Putin: The answer is well known – a change of activity.
Olga Timofeyeva: When will you visit Chukotka? They say you have never been there.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I will visit, for sure.
Olga Timofeyeva: When?
Vladimir Putin: I will tell you later.
Olga Timofeyeva: New Year is no holiday without the President’s greetings. All of us watch it in different time zones, at different times. And what do you?
Vladimir Putin: I also watch and wait for the President’s address. Honest. (Laughter, applause.)
Olga Timofeyeva: Do you have a dream that has not come true yet, something that has not worked out?
Vladimir Putin: No. You see, each of us, as we live and work, we set certain goals for ourselves. I have a certain job, and the goal is clear. I want our country to be successful, powerful, stable, balanced and forward-looking.
Olga Timofeyeva: Would you like to know your future? What will happen in five or ten years from now?
Vladimir Putin: No.
Olga Timofeyeva: Have you ever walked unrecognised in city streets, and generally, is this something you dream of?
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
Olga Timofeyeva: Could you please be more specific – have you walked or not?
Vladimir Putin: I have.
Olga Timofeyeva: So, colleagues, you can meet the President in the street. The key is to keep your eyes open.
Vladimir Putin: It is unlikely.
Olga Timofeyeva: How do you raise your spirits when you are feeling down?
Vladimir Putin: I work.
Olga Timofeyeva: Do you have an idol among great statesmen of the past?
Vladimir Putin: I think it is wrong to make idols for oneself. But I admire the work of many Russian public figures, cultural figures and statesmen. Together they make up the glory of our country.
Olga Timofeyeva: Which historical period would you like to visit to see what things were like back then?
Vladimir Putin: Today.
You see, in the past all my ancestors were serfs, and I am the President. (Laughter, applause.)
Olga Timofeyeva: Which event in the Russian history would you like to undo?
Vladimir Putin: The collapse of the Soviet Union.
Olga Timofeyeva: What is your priority in life?
Vladimir Putin: The result.
Olga Timofeyeva: And last question from our colleagues, the journalists: where does the power of Russia lie?
Vladimir Putin: In its people. (Applause.)
Friends, colleagues, I know there is a sea of questions. We will never be able to finish. I do not want you to be angry with me. This is not the last time we meet, we will surely continue these discussions.
I would like to thank you for coming here and for your work. Thank you very much!