President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Question: Could you tell us about your impressions, please. What did you see under water?
Vladimir Putin: You know, this is not the first time that I went under water, so my biggest impressions are not so much from the submersion but from the object we saw. I would say the impressions are vivid.
I would like to thank all those who are engaged in this excellent endeavour, who launched this programme and continues to pursue it – Bowing to the Ships of the Great Victory.
We have many sailors presumed to be missing not only here, in the Baltic Sea, but also in other waters. Almost half of the submarines that were lost in the Baltic Sea during the Great Patriotic War sank here as they passed through the minefields, making their way to the Baltic Sea for combat activities.
And today, on the eve of Navy Day, there is one crew less that was believed to be missing. And conversely, more people that all of us and their families rightly consider to have died for their Motherland.
This is vitally important. I will say what may seem a trivial thing: it is important not for the men who are here at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland; it is important for us, for the future generations.
Because everyone must be aware that Russia does not forget its heroes. It does not forget those who gave their lives for the freedom and security of our motherland, for you and me.
This is crucial work. I think it is very significant and symbolic, the ceremony we held for our submariners who died here, held on the eve of the Day of the Russian Navy.
Question: Did you manage to see anything?
Vladimir Putin: I did.
First, when we landed on the seafloor, a fairly large amount of silt floated up and the visibility was poor; however, later things settled down a little, and we circled around the submarine.
I would also like to thank the divers who worked there and installed the plaque.
Question: Mr President, you like going up to the skies and down to the deep sea. Will you tell us what you lack on the earth, what is wrong here?
Vladimir Putin: There are many problems on the ground. To cut their numbers, we have to go high up and deep down. And I do that because our people work everywhere – in the air, underwater and underground. I think it is my duty to go where Russian citizens, specialists work, to see how they do it so as to have a better idea of the value of what many of those people dedicate their lives to.
Question: Did you steer the submersible or were you a passenger?
Vladimir Putin: I was a passenger.
Question: When you submerged in 2013, people said, “Mr President, the whole region must be studied, not just the Gogland area.” You said, “We will decide when we look into the results.”
Today you have the results. Are you satisfied?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I am.
The people working here have already identified 17 objects, I think, among them a WWI submarine and several surface ships.
Of course, I have already said that it is one thing when people are believed to be missing in action, and it is a different matter when we know their names. And this is very important.
Question: Konstantin Bogdanov [head of the expedition Bowing to the Ships of the Great Victory] said that you had perfect knowledge of the mine situation during the Great Patriotic War. He even learned something new from you. Did you prepare in advance or did you know the situation in the sea as a St Petersburg resident?
Vladimir Putin: Of course, I knew, as I love reading and I love history. Besides, it is a known fact that I attend the [Immortal Regiment marches] with my father’s portrait, who performed his basic military service before the war as a submarine sailor.