Question: One of the chronic problems for Tver residents, or rather, a headache in the literal sense of the word, is the fumes, smoke, and stench from the city dump. The old dump is coming to the end of its service life this year, construction of the new one is progressing at a rather mediocre pace, while a waste recycling plant is still only on the drawing board. The city officials in charge of sorting out these problems always find a thousand excuses for their inaction, but in the meantime, the problem continues to assail our eyes and noses. Of course I realise that it is not the president who should have to sort out these things, but tell me please, who can we turn to for answers?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: You’ve asked me the question, and so I will give you an answer. How can I leave you without an answer, all the more so as I am here in Tver and have not only your beauty but also the things that need to be done before my eyes? I always find it a difficult thing to know that the authorities are dragging their feet on a decision. This is usually quite simply a sign of their inadequacy, though of course financial problems can also play a part. What can I say about your problem with rubbish, dumps, and their fumes and stink? If the problem exists it has to be solved. When? When the money is found, and so, we need to find the money. Actually, this was one of the matters I discussed with the governor today. He said that the problem will be dealt with relatively soon – not in the next two-three months, but over the course of the year — by building a new waste recycling plant, in this case the only one in the city. My comment in this respect is that this plant, if it goes ahead, must meet the highest standards and use the best technology possible so that the problems you have today do not turn into future problems with this plant. Difficulties and problems are not unknown in this area after all. In general, it is time to put an end to 15 years spent fooling around and close this subject without further delays.
Question: Following on from the ‘extended government’ idea that was mentioned today, could you tell us, Mr President, how much this ‘extended federal government’ will take into account the regional aspect, and how young, talented and active people can get to play a part?
Dmitry Medvedev: The regional aspect is one of the most important elements. Our task is not to shuffle the deck in Moscow and then say, “Now you have new faces who will be governing you in the same old way.“ The goal is to bring in and promote healthy and modern forces from the regions, from Tver Region, and from all of our 83 regions. How will we find them? By looking at the results they have achieve of course. At the same time, we need to give new people the chance to show what they are capable of. We cannot wait until a promising person reaches the age of 50 and then decide that he seems to have proved his suitability. We need to be bolder about bringing in people from below, bringing them to Moscow and giving them a chance to work at the federal level. Only if we do this will the ‘extended government’ be effective, and I hope that this exactly what will happen.
Question: Mr President, you said you have visited every region in our whole huge country…
Dmitry Medvedev: This is the truth — I really have visited them all.
Question: How do you see our country now? Has your perception changed? How does our Tver Region compare to other parts of the country?
Dmitry Medvedev: I did indeed say that I have visited all our regions. I think this is essential for any leader, all the more so for the President. There is now not a single region that I know only from books or television programmes, for I have visited them all. It gives you a different degree of experience when you’ve seen something with your own eyes. Of course I did not walk every street. People often say, “You didn’t visit our building, didn’t see what a mess it is in.” Of course I cannot get such a detailed knowledge of every place, but I can get an overview of the particular merits and problems in the different regions, their leaders, the atmosphere there, the mood of the people there in general. As I said, this is essential, and yes, this has had a big impact on the way I look at Russia. Russia is a vast and very complex country, a very beautiful country, and I am sure a happy country too, in the future at least, if some do not see such happiness now.
As for your region, I first visited the region back in 1990 or 1989, and even then, frankly, Kalinin, [as Tver was called during the Soviet period] did not strike me as a flourishing place, though all of our cities looked different then. That was a very difficult time: it was hard enough just finding food let alone thinking about other things. To be honest, Tver Region has huge potential but also a huge number of problems that have built up over the years. I am not going to name any names, but I have the impression that some of your past bosses could have been more active in their work. It is partly a people problem, and so I hope that the new leadership will have the strength and will to change this situation.
Talking with the governor before, I said how important it is to put the competitive advantages of Tver and the whole region to maximum use. You are very close to Moscow and, though many Muscovites make their way here, they do not seem to bring their money with them for some reason. This is not right. Look at the other regions close to Moscow, they have far more Moscow businesses working there, and this is normal. St Petersburg is also not so far away. These opportunities, plus creating a good climate for foreign investment and attracting big new investors should change the situation. But in short, Tver is a wonderful place. The sun is shining today, the air is cool and fresh and without even any smoke and fumes, by the way.
I wish you all the best of spirits.