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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Shoigu, you raised some of the issues facing the Moscow Region, including one issue that concerns not just Moscow Region itself but also Muscovites and people in the central Russian regions in general. This is the issue of Moscow Region’s forests. What is happening in this area now and what proposals do you have here?
Moscow Region Governor Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, acting on your instruction, as from July 1, all Moscow Region forests were placed under the region’s supervision, and we have started working actively with the Federal Forestry Agency on cleaning up the forests and – most important — carrying out the culling needed to get them healthy again.
Vladimir Putin: Why, what was the problem with them?
Sergei Shoigu: There is an insect that destroys forests, mostly coniferous forests — fir trees. It has already spread to an extent that threatens the forests’ survival. This year, we had 34,000 hectares affected, and next year we forecast a figure of 47,000 hectares.
The only way to treat forests that have reached this state is to carry out sanitary culling, but this too is no simple undertaking. We will announce a call to mobilise everyone with the needed equipment to cut and remove the affected trees over the coming month. This concerns the Defence Ministry and Energy Ministry, for example, which, following your instructions after the ice storms, bought this equipment in order to carry out this kind of culling. It also concerns the Emergencies Ministry and the regional authorities of course.
This is a big undertaking that will require a lot of hard work, but if we do not do it we will see the area of diseased forest double every year.
Vladimir Putin: I am rather more concerned about the regeneration issue. Culling the diseased forests is necessary of course, and the affected area is huge, but what will you do to regenerate the forests?
Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, we are in the process of setting up two big tree nurseries so as to regenerate the forests. Our first measure will be to plant new trees. We have also appealed to the Government here. There is a big federal tree nursery not far from the Moscow Ring Road. It covers an area of almost 300 hectares and has been working for many years now, but this year it got put on the list of assets up for privatisation. We therefore appealed to the Government and our appeal was supported. We hope now that this will be followed through and the nursery will continue its work. We will use it to develop and regenerate the region’s forests.
Vladimir Putin: What you are asking for is that the tree nursery remain in the Moscow Region’s hands?
Sergei Shoigu: It is a federal asset at the moment, and we want it to be transferred to the Moscow Region’s ownership. We have also started developing aviation to work in forest protection and servicing agriculture sector needs, and this brings me to another request. Given that the Moscow Region town of Zhukovsky is an aviation sector centre with a number of production companies manufacturing experimental and serial production aircraft, we want to establish a small aircraft centre there so as to develop this segment of the industry.
A number of projects have been drafted for reviving Russia’s small aircraft sector and increasing service life of existing aircraft to 7,000 hours. There is demand all around the country for this, and our region has an interest in these projects as they would make use of our research centres and technical specialists. Moscow Region has entire towns that were involved in developed aviation and space equipment and you know that we have the capability for carrying out these new projects. With your support we would like to establish a big centre that would provide the country with small aircraft and aircraft for the Far North, aircraft that can land on water or ice. The Soviet Union had such models and we need them still today for our medical and polar aviation and for the needs of Siberia and the Far East. Of course we hope to put the Moscow Region’s scientific and industrial potential to work here.
Vladimir Putin: Excellent, let’s discuss this in more detail.