President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Pushilin, good afternoon.
Acting Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Pushilin, yesterday we had a talk on almost all the main issues, but nevertheless, we agreed to meet separately to discuss things that directly concern the Donetsk People’s Republic. Let us discuss them in greater detail. Go ahead, please.
Denis Pushilin: Mr President, I would like to report on the problems and how they are being addressed.
Of course, the main task on the agenda now is related to shelling, and we discussed this at our last meeting: I asked you to bolster air defence and counter-battery work. That was done. I can tell you that shelling has almost halved, according to the statistics that we have.
To be sure, there are districts in Donetsk, such as Petrovsky and Kuibyshevsky, that are still a problem for us …
Vladimir Putin: The goal of all our military formations, including the Defence Ministry, volunteers and everyone else, is to ensure that there are no shelling attacks at all. Since their number has decreased, we are on track to get there.
Denis Pushilin: Yes, the personnel is making the impossible possible, we see it, and everything is on a whole new level.
The next issue that worries our people is water supply. We had a very difficult, most difficult heating season, and utility workers did the impossible and filled the boiler rooms during water shortages, etc. … The sponsor regions helped us; Moscow helped with drilling wells and a whole range of other projects.
We are optimistic about the water pipeline. Thank you very much for this decision. It was not an easy one, but nevertheless, it helps us from being left without water at all. The standby reservoirs are almost empty. And the water line from the Don River, which is currently at the stage of being replenished. We understand that the pre-commissioning work is ongoing. We see it all, and it is all being done before our eyes. Again, it is being done in record time by military builders. Projects that took years to complete even in Soviet times get finished literally in a matter of months.
The next issue that worries us and is on our agenda is roads. Roads are always a difficult issue, we are well aware of that given that many of our roads have not seen repairs for a long time. Nevertheless, we repaired 279 kilometres of roads last year, which is twice as much as in previous periods. This year, we plan to repair even more, 350 kilometres of roads, plus 190 kilometres of municipal roads. Here, too, we are optimistic.
There is one issue where I would like to ask you to support us, because otherwise we will not be able to cope with it. We have the main road that connects us with other regions of the Russian Federation that goes from Donetsk to Uspenka. It is a two-lane road. There are certain difficulties. First, queues. Checkpoints are being expanded, work is underway, the Ministry of Transport has done its part, but it also takes time. We may end up with a bottleneck, which is already happening there, in fact, because it is getting warmer and there is more traffic and freight.
We would like to have this road widened to four lanes. We cannot do without this road. The number of accidents there is two or even three times higher than on other sections of the road, because drivers are trying to go faster and doing a lot of passing. This is a comprehensive project.
Vladimir Putin: Of course.
Denis Pushilin: Of course, this not only affects the delivery of essential supplies, the traffic, but also prices. This is the next question, because the logistics and everything else is a problem…
Vladimir Putin: Yes, it is a problem, which is why things tend to become more expensive.
Denis Pushilin: Hence, the request.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I discussed this with the Minister of Transport and with Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin. Our colleagues are working on it – both on increasing road capacity and improving the roads and even on building a railway (as we agreed, I will discuss this with our colleagues) in the Zaporozhye Region, and so on. Two or maybe three roads will need to be built to connect existing motorways and provide enough highway capacity for freight and passenger traffic.
Denis Pushilin: You are absolutely right and are looking at the root of the problem. It needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner: widen a road here, build a railway there. Then, there is the Port of Mariupol which should be put to full use for freight and passenger traffic.
Vladimir Putin: The depths there are good, so it can be done. Our colleagues from the Ministry of Transport and our companies are working on this. They have been given assignments.
Security is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a regime that is extremely cruel with regard to our people and their own people as well. Yesterday they reported to me that 14 Ukrainian servicemen surrendered at some point on the contact line. It was late, and several of our people stayed with them. They didn’t even guard them. The plan was to take them out of the combat zone the next morning. The enemy fired 300 shells in one spot killing all of its servicemen. Unfortunately, our guys were harmed as well. They don’t even spare their own. They act in an extremely cynical and cruel manner.
So, our goal is to move them away far enough in order to keep our people out of the harm’s way.
The questions that you raised are interrelated in one way or another. Even these transport routes – railways and roads – should be built in such a way as to increase the speed of traffic and to make sure they are at a sufficiently safe distance from the combat zone.
We will be working on this.