The President met with the Seliger-2013 forum participants and examined the best youth projects and public initiatives.
This was Vladimir Putin’s fourth visit to Seliger. He previously visited the forum in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
Seliger 2013 offers three theme sessions: the Youth Projects Forum; the Business Forum; and the Civic Forum.
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Excerpts from the transcript of the Seliger 2013 Youth Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, everyone, my greetings to you all.
Alexandra Chernyak: My name is Alexandra. I’ve been the host here for eight of the nine years that we have been holding this forum, and it makes me very happy that for half of these eight years you have been coming here in person, taking part, meeting with me and the other forum participants. I therefore think it only proper that on my behalf and on behalf of everyone taking part in the Seliger forum, I thank you for giving our young people so much attention. Don’t you agree guys?
Alexandra Chernyak: Thank you for finding the time to come here every year and answer our questions openly. I’m pretty sure there’s no other country with anything like this.
I want to say a separate thank you too. Last year, I asked you the first question when you came, and by September the question was resolved. This year, regional Seliger-style forums have taken place in each of the federal districts. That’s a cause for more applause. Everything was a success.
Mr President, let me give a brief outline of how we’ve organised things.
Currently underway is the Seliger 2013 Civic Forum, which has brought together a huge number of projects, youth movements, students and so on. For the first time, we have representatives of all of the parliamentary parties taking part in the Civic Forum. We decided it would be logical to start with them, so the first questions will come from the youth leaders representing these parties.
Vladimir Putin: Fine. Let me greet you all most warmly once more. I see hearts there. I love all of you too.
I’m very pleased to see that this forum has become such a powerful and effective event in terms of communicating, meeting people, building contacts, and initiating all kinds of big projects. I was told that there are more than 6,000 people here at the camp, and that 17,000 people from 138 different countries have taken part in the forum’s different sessions. This is really quite amazing. We are pleased to see the forum has become such a dynamic event. This is thanks to the participants above all, of course. Thank you everyone.
Alexandra Chernyak: Let’s not delay things, we have many questions, everyone wants their chance to ask a question of course, but let’s start with the representative of the Russian Communist Party’s [KPRF] youth section.
Vladimir Putin: Before we start with the questions, I know that you all have different views and opinions on Russia’s development and what we should do to resolve this or that problem, but I am sure that we all have one thing in common, and that is that we are all patriots of our country. Today is the professional holiday of those who are indisputably our pride, the pride of our military in any case. Today is Paratroopers Day, and so let’s congratulate the guys on their holiday. I see someone there in a striped top and beret, so, let me congratulate you once again on this holiday.
Alright, let’s begin.
Alexandra Chernyak: Our first question is from KPRF youth leader Alexander Ivachev.
Alexander Ivachev: Good afternoon, Mr President…
Vladimir Putin: As a Communist Party representative you ought to call me ‘Comrade’ rather than ‘Mr’ President.
Alexander Ivachev: I’m very pleased to see that you know this communist tradition. On July 16, during your visit to Sakhalin Region, you gave a very critical assessment of the Government’s work, and in particular said that 80 percent of the instructions you issued regarding the Far East region hadn’t been carried out. We all know other cases too, when you have been very critical of the Government Cabinet. In this context, my question is, what do you think of the Communist Party’s officially proposed initiative, which has already been signed by more than 100 State Duma deputies, calling for the Government Cabinet’s resignation? Do you agree with us that this Cabinet has not proved itself up to the task and should step down? Thank you.
”My duties include organising the process of governing the country. In carrying out this constitutional duty I always have to be strict but fair towards my subordinates. To be fair, I must say that overall, the Government is carrying out its duties conscientiously.“
Vladimir Putin: My duties include not just presenting state decorations and medals, but also organising the process of governing the country. In carrying out this constitutional duty I always have to be strict but fair towards my subordinates. To be fair, I must say that overall, the Government is carrying out its duties conscientiously.
We have managed to keep up economic growth despite the very difficult situation in the global economy. Yes, the figures are lower than what they were, and lower than what we had forecast. We forecasted growth of 3.8 percent, and now have a figure of slightly more than one percent. But overall, our economic situation is still far better than in many of the developed economies. We still have a substantial surplus in our trade balance. Last year, it was around 108 billion. This year, it is around 91 billion, but this is still a sizeable figure. We still have a budget surplus. In other words, revenue exceeds expenditure. This is one of the key indicators.
The most important indicator is unemployment, which reflects both economic development and the social sector’s development. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. I am sure that we will probably talk more about this subject. Unemployment levels in some of the developed European economies are as high as 12, 15 or 25 percent, but last year we had a figure of 5.2 percent. It is slightly higher this year – 5.5 percent – but this is day and night compared to 25 or 30 percent.
If individual members of the Government or the Government in general are not doing all they should be, not doing all of their work, they get criticised accordingly. This has always been the case and always will be. But it would not be right to heap blame on the entire Government and doubt its every action.
You are all young and well educated people, and I am sure you know, for example, that during the Weimar Republic, Germany had more than 20 successive governments over just 14 years. We all know only too well how this ended up. The Nazis ultimately took advantage of the chaos and public discontent to take power. Of course we do not want events to take this kind of course.
At the same time, I give credit to the legal opposition, and the Communist Party, one of its strongest components, for reacting to what the authorities do. This is the opposition’s constitutional right, after all, as the saying goes, it’s knowing there’s a pike in the river that keeps the carp alert. I therefore give credit to the Communist Party for its persistence. I hope that everything will stay within the bounds of the law and the Constitution. But if you’re asking me, would I vote for the Government’s resignation, my answer would be “no”.
Alexandra Chernyak: The next question comes from the United Russia Young Guard.
Maxim Rudnev: Hello, Mr President. I am Maxim Rudnev of the United Russia Young Guard. At the beginning of the year, we launched the MediaGuard project, to join the efforts of Internet users in order to block illegal online content. We have already shut down 1,700 websites that promoted drugs and suicide, as well as some child pornography. We received a lot of help in this work from the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media.
”The Internet has practically outgrown some of its initial borders, and is becoming a form of mass media, a part of public life, then certainly, here as in any other public place, we need to observe certain rules and abide by the law.“
We continued along this path and began to look for websites with extreme content. We forwarded two thousand URLs of such websites to the Justice Ministry. But the sites are still functional and have not been shut down. This is due in part to the fact that the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office do not have the mechanisms, the instruments to shut them down. And as a result, 1,920 rulings are essentially unable to be executed in respect to online content.
Mr President, we ask you to issue instructions to the corresponding agencies so that the function of blocking websites with extremist content is transferred to one department. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. I have no doubt that people have many questions on this topic and, I imagine, many critical remarks: are we doing the right thing in trying to regulate it, or are we wrong here? Our overall position certainly remains the same, and it is no different from the position of the online community. It is as follows: the Internet is a free space. Our entire society needs to be free, and it is, but if the Internet has practically outgrown some of its initial borders, and is becoming a form of mass media, a part of public life, then certainly, here as in any other public place, we need to observe certain rules and abide by the law.
Every nation – I want to stress this, every one of them without exception – is implementing certain rules to regulate online activity. This includes the United States, which mainly imposes civil and administrative penalties. Some European nations, for example the United Kingdom, even stipulate criminal penalties for certain infractions in this area.
But we need to be extremely careful to ensure that no unscrupulous persons take advantage of these rules and put limits on content that should not be restricted, but at the same time, society must be safeguarded against extreme content: extremist propaganda, for example, or the promotion of paedophilia and suicide, or the circulation of drugs. This is important for all of us, for preserving our nation; that is why we are doing all this. But, of course, we must act very carefully.
And the idea you brought up clearly requires additional thought. We need to analyse our practices with the general public and the Internet community, and develop these mechanisms for implementing the regulations we are currently trying to create. Thank you for this question. I will certainly keep it in mind. I think you are probably right.
Alexandra Chernyak: Many thanks to the Young Guard.
Vadim Dengin: Hello, Mr President. My name is Vadim Dengin. I oversee youth policy for the Liberal Democratic Party and I am a State Duma deputy.
Our nation is having a hard time with youth unemployment. Young people are unable to get jobs because they do not have the experience, and they cannot gain experience without getting a job. This is probably the problem of the departments in charge of this policy.
A year and a half ago, the Liberal Democratic Party came up with the following initiative. A young person under 25 years with a relevant college degree should be offered a chance to spend exactly 6 months working in a public agency or a private company that is interested in this initiative, in return for tax incentives. For six months, the recent graduate will have a chance to demonstrate his or her skills. Even if he or she does not show a high level of competence during that time, he or she will have gained the corresponding pension contributions and the chance for future employment, especially since everyone throughout the nation will be aware of this initiative. How do you feel about this idea? Do you think it is feasible? And how do you actually feel about the problem of youth unemployment? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to say that this is, of course, one of our most difficult problems.
Second, the situation in our nation is not as bad as in others that I have mentioned, including Spain, Italy, and other major, developed nations. Some of them have youth unemployment rates as high as 40%. Can you imagine?
Our worst youth unemployment difficulties are in the North Caucasus. And overall, throughout the rest of the nation, we must be constantly aware of this issue and think about ways to resolve this problem. So first of all, I am grateful to you for thinking and talking about it. It is certainly important and necessary.
On the other hand, you see, it is basically impossible to force businesspeople to employ a young graduate for three or six months in today’s circumstances. I am telling you honestly, I couldn’t even imagine how this could be done.
Remark: We could make recommendations.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, we could recommend, but it’s a question of whether they will follow those recommendations. If we want to simply show that we are concerned by this matter, that we are initiating something and not considering whether it will actually come to fruition, we could do that. But that is not our objective. As a political party representative and a State Duma deputy, you have high standing in our nation. I am confident that you want to somehow make progress or resolve the problem.
We can and must consider what you have said, but I think that it’s not enough to recommend or offer tax incentives, because these incentives may not compensate for the expenses those businesses or enterprises would incur. Whereas creating conditions for companies to take in and train student interns by signing relevant contracts with educational institutions before their graduation, so that they pay stipends and participate, financially or otherwise, in the process of educating future professionals – we can and should develop all these aspects of working together with businesses.
”We want our human rights organisations to work as independently as possible from the state, but naturally to have the opportunity to enjoy support.“
I must say that we have been working on exactly that and overall, employers, and especially the nation’s main business associations, completely agree with us. It would be great if you could think through the details of this type of cooperation at the State Duma level. However, all of us, including everyone present here, should think about how to deal with this important, difficult problem. If you have any ideas, then please share them. That is the right thing to do and we will think about it together.
Alexandra Chernyak: Thanks very much to the Liberal Democratic Party.
We also have a few questions and suggestions from A Just Russia. Let's give them the floor.
Ilya Sviridov: Hello, Mr President. Ilya Sviridov, A Just Force (the youth section of A Just Russia), municipal deputy.
First of all I would like to thank you for facilitating our presence at this forum. We are here for the first time, and we really do love it; it’s a very positive, creative and unifying platform. I hope that we will continue to come here.
There is also a personal reason that my mood is so positive. Yesterday my wife Olga gave birth to our daughter, so I have two reasons to be happy.
Vladimir Putin: Let me congratulate you and your wife.
Ilya Sviridov: Thank you.
We have a few projects and, if possible, I have a project and a question. The question I would like to ask follows on from the topic that Vadim mentioned. A new law on education is coming into force, and there are many open questions. Since we represent young people and students, we see some of its gaps and ‘holes’.
Vladimir Putin: Gaps in the law?
Ilya Sviridov: Yes, in the law.
First, there is the issue of scholarships. Currently, academic scholarships in Russia are very low. There are plenty of them: presidential scholarships, which are substantial, and government-financed ones, which are also quite good. But in general, publically funded scholarships amount to 1,100 rubles. In current conditions this is low. And the new law transferred responsibility for scholarships to the Ministry of Education; the Government will enact a rule, and they will increase scholarships to 1,340 rubles. Maybe we should think about increasing scholarships to minimum wage levels? We collected signatures on that account here, and we already have 1,500.
Vladimir Putin: Yes. And how many signatures did you collect?
Ilya Sviridov: 1,500.
Vladimir Putin: You could collect one and a half million: who is opposed to distributing funds? Everybody is for it.
Ilya Sviridov: I agree.
But there is a subtle point. If the government spends money on students then it should receive something in return. There is a proposal on this account from representatives of the ruling party, United Russia, and from the Liberal Democratic Party. We think it might make sense to create a recruitment section within the Federal Service for Labour and Employment, which would take on very talented and promising people, precisely from an academic point of view.
And the last thing. We came here with a project that we have been working on for six months now, namely a Red Data Book of Russian monuments. We are gathering information about sites that are threatened in every region in all parts of the country. We believe that this work must continue and are expending efforts on it, but our communication with the Ministry of Culture and regional authorities is insufficient.
Vladimir Putin: Let’s start with the second point, if you’ll allow me.
This is an extremely important thing. We have a lot of omissions and deficiencies in this regard, and we lack a proper regulatory framework. Many such sites are federal property. Federal officials have neither the necessary means nor the capacities, yet they transfer responsibilities very slowly to the regions. And all of this results in the destruction of monuments. So what we really need in this respect is teamwork.
It is extremely important to bring these issues to the public’s attention, and to ensure that nothing is forgotten or overlooked, because bureaucratic offices fail to notice a great deal. And so I would strongly support any initiatives in this field. Certainly, what you are suggesting requires careful consideration. I'm simply not ready even to react at present, but the system itself is extremely important and can be addressed effectively by working together. This is the first thing.
As for scholarships, we all know very well and often talk about how essential education is: the future of our country depends on effective policies in that sphere. This is without any undue exaggeration – it’s simply true. The question is how to organise the sector.
We are all well aware, and you probably know, that in the vast majority of countries there are no scholarships; they simply do not exist. And in the vast majority of countries the recipient pays for all higher education and specialised secondary education. There are several reasons we still have scholarships – they are not just a tradition we inherited from the Soviet era – namely, the need to create the conditions in which people who have limited funds, or whose families have limited funds, still have a chance of getting higher education or specialised secondary education. Because in general our citizens’ incomes are still quite modest, and this is what guides our policies.
If you noticed, and I hope it is already fairly well-known, one of the 2012 May decrees deals with scholarships, specifically for first- and second-year students. But for such students – those that have passed their first semester, and therefore are doing well – in both first and second years, such scholarships really are in demand. If I remember correctly, their scholarships should be slightly over 6,000 rubles. By and large, this is even higher than the cost of living you are talking about.
You know that distributing money to all will come at the expense of other aspects of the education system, by cutting money for building student housing, for internships, and so on. You understand, I think, that this must all be critically analysed. As a rule, simply handing out money is ineffective. But what we can and should do is to give student organisations and student councils the right to participate directly in distributing funds for scholarships.
”Every individual has the right to express themselves. Every individual can and has the right to express their point of view, their position, including a critical one, with regard to anybody in the nation. What’s important is for all of this to be done properly, in compliance with the law, and it must not violate the rights and interests of others. This is extremely important.“
You mentioned presidential and government scholarships – let me remind you what they are: presidential scholarships for undergraduate students are 7,000 rubles, and 14,000 rubles for postgraduates; government scholarships for undergraduates and postgraduates are 5,000 and 10,000 rubles, respectively. After all, when I suggested raising scholarships for successful first- and second-year students who needed them to 6,000 rubles, I proceeded from the fact that the first two years of university are very difficult, perhaps even the most challenging ones. And then if a person does well in university, and shows potential during his or her third, fourth and fifth years, they can invest in their future and get a higher scholarship, either a government or a presidential one. Or they might start to work in one of the innovative companies that are increasingly sprouting up within the Russian Federation’s universities. Of course, I would also like to see our scholarships simply increase, and this will be possible as our economy grows. Naturally, we will accomplish this too.
Ilya Sviridov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Pressing questions. We have a group of young people here with some pressing questions.
Alexandra Chernyak: You can decide for yourself whom you like best.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Anton Demidov: Hello, Mr President. I am the head of the Young Russia movement. We are representing here the Young Anti-Drug Special Forces project. A year ago, we began dealing with the problem of so-called legitimate drugs distribution, including “spices” and “salts” that are sold openly in the streets of our city. You see, because of problems with the legislation, it takes six to seven months to outlaw the newest synthetic formulas. And in that time, clever drug dealers think up new formulas, new narcotic compounds, and sell them openly in the streets. We have conducted hundreds of raids and confiscated an enormous volume of compounds together with the police and the Federal Drug Control Service. The compounds have been destroyed, but the drug dealers, the people who are selling them to young people, including on city streets, are simply let go. Here, we have made suggestions on amending the Federal Law. We propose that an agency, for example the Federal Drug Control Service or the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare, should have the authority to quickly – in one or two days, maybe in a week – ban the new compound, for one year, for example. And during that year, the people who are selling synthetic drugs would be issued administrative penalties. We feel that a repeat offence could even merit an administrative arrest.
This would make our work significantly easier, because right now, we just come, make a test purchase, deliver this individual to the police station, and he is released almost immediately. One such drugs outlet can bring in up to 200,000 rubles a day and thereby corrupt the law enforcement agencies. Most of these drug dealers operate near schools. Overall, this is a very serious problem, so we would like to pass on our suggestions. And we hope that this problem will be resolved.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to thank all of you – those who are here today and those who are not – for the work you are doing. I say this very sincerely, because this is one of the most difficult problems in the world today, particularly for our nation. Perhaps it is even worse in our nation than in others. Why? Because we were not prepared for the kind of drug aggression we are now facing.
Our borders burst open after the fall of the Soviet Union; they were entirely unequipped. And the former republics were not capable of effectively protecting their new state borders to the south of our former Fatherland. For example, it is very hard to close the border with Afghanistan with the help of the small forces those states have at their disposition. So there was an enormous influx. You see, we are unprepared for this in terms of protecting our state borders, law enforcement and legal framework. This is a kind of disease that can only be overcome if the entire world works together.
I shouldn’t say this, but sometimes, even when you face the problems that you are up against, it is still better to do something than to do nothing in the fight against them. Naturally, we need to improve our laws, but we must assure that we do not provide an additional instrument to potentially corrupt officials for the excessive, unacceptable infringement on citizens’ rights. So we will certainly look into this more carefully. Thank you for your initiative and your work.
Who is asking for help? The capital of Siberia. Please, let's hear your question.
Alexander Sychev: Hello, Mr President.
I am addressing you on behalf of all young people in Novosibirsk Region. My name is Alexander Sychev and I finished school just recently. I am well aware that it is practically impossible for schoolchildren from Siberia to attend children’s camps, whether Smena or Orlenok [large year-round children’s camps in the Crimea, Ukraine, and Moscow Region respectively].
Currently, there are plans to build a modern children’s centre in Novosibirsk Region that would help solve this problem, and give people who are 18 and younger the opportunity to see their ideas come to life. But the project is expensive, and we have now found part of the funds we need with the support of the Federal Agency for Youth and Governor Vasily Yurchenko. We still need financial support and help with the land that we have – we need to change it from regional to federal property so that we can continue to receive financing. Mr President, please do not forget this issue.
Vladimir Putin: Usually we are asked to transfer federal property to the regional level, but this is from the regional to the federal level, in order to receive federal funding.
Alexander Sychev: According to estimates, the region is not able to manage a project like that.
Mr President, please do not overlook this issue; help us with it.
Vladimir Putin: Alright, I’ll be sure to look into the issue. What I wanted to say was that there really are very few youth centres such as Orlenok or Okean in the Far East. Now we are creating another one based on Olympic infrastructure, a year-round sports camp where boys and girls from all over Russia will do winter sports: snowboarding, skiing, hockey and figure skating. But naturally, we also need regional centres. We will discuss with the [regional] Governor what the federal authorities’ role should be. Thank you.
Yana Lantratova: Yana Lantratova, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights, and head of the organisation Union of Russian Volunteers.
Mr President, you have created all necessary conditions for non-governmental organisations to operate effectively in our country. A lot of money has been allocated to this effect: 300 billion rubles [$9 billion], and 500 million [$15 million] just recently.
Vladimir Putin: No, not 300 billion – you are mistaken, there was not that much money. It was three, two and some odd billion.
Yana Lantratova: Right, and 500 million in support of human rights organisations.
Vladimir Putin: Exactly.
Yana Lantratova: But the fact is that we are faced with an injustice: some organisations that receive money from foreign countries further the political agenda of those countries here in Russia, and engage in destructive activities. Now these organisations, non-governmental ones, have the opportunity to receive funding from our country too, but they do not want to register as foreign agents.
My question is: if such precedents continue to exist, would it not be wise to tighten the legislation and prevent such organisations from receiving grants in Russia? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: As I understand it we are talking about the equitable distribution of public funds. We agreed that human rights organisations will create a structure where the government will transfer these funds. And this structure will distribute money among human rights organisations regardless of whether or not they receive money from abroad. But those that do and are involved in politics will have to register as foreign agents. It seems to me that this is the fairest way to distribute public money in order to avoid accusations that we – the government – both pay the piper and call the tune.
We want our human rights organisations to work as independently as possible from the state, but naturally to have the opportunity to enjoy support. Is there something to improve in this system? Most likely there is. But not with regards to tightening, and neither, it seems to me, to liberalisation, but rather with regards to imposing order. There must be clear and precise criteria for what political activity consists in as well as other components of this work. Let’s think about this together.
Let’s keep going. There are people at the very back over there who don’t believe they will be able to ask a question. Please go ahead.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Artem and I am a volunteer in Moscow. First of all, I would like to thank you for this truly amazing camp. Mr Putin, look at the background here. The nature around us is amazing, and it is a great place to realise opportunities for all young people. So first of all I would like to thank you: thank you very much for this forum!
”Everywhere, nations are joining forces to achieve better economic and socio-political results. This is certainly a major priority for us in the Eurasian space, in the former Soviet space. Why? Because this would provide us with very clear advantages. What are they? They include a common language, the Russian language, the language of international and even intergovernmental communication; a common transport system; a common energy system; and the common desire to achieve major results.“
My question – and I hope that all volunteers in our great country will support it – is as follows. We are now coming to the end of the Year of the Family, and we recently celebrated the Day of the Family, Love and Faithfulness. At Seliger we pay a great deal of attention to demographics and family issues. Even if you walk through the camp today you’ll see the installation Seliger with Many Children; be sure to take a look. We would like to invite you to designate next year in Russia the Year of the Volunteer.
Vladimir Putin: Good idea.
Reply: We have many volunteers after the great University Games [in Kazan] where our country won a landslide victory, and the same will occur after Sochi, where I hope our country will win another such victory. Hundreds of organisations across the country will be grateful to you, and we suggest channelling the energy of thousands of young people in a proper direction for Russia, and designating 2014 the Year of the Volunteer. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Your suggestion gives me a good opportunity to thank all volunteer organisations and the movement as a whole for the work that you do. And naturally, we will think about what additional support we can provide you with. Thank you very much.
There’s a very expressive poster: the Valley of the Poor. Who are the poor? Please go ahead.
Yekaterina Rovinskaya: Hello, Mr President. My name is Yekaterina Rovinskaya, I’m from the city of Balashikha, Moscow Region.
I came to the forum believing that it is my last and only chance for justice. For the past 13 years I have been struggling to survive, incidentally, just like you yourself. Only you were fighting for the entire country’s survival, and I was fighting for my own survival, and for that of my relatives, loved ones and friends.
Vladimir Putin: What happened?
Yekaterina Rovinskaya: We have a very serious problem. I live two kilometres away from the Moscow Ring Road in barracks built by German prisoners in 1950. 85 percent of the house is decrepit. It is dangerous to even enter it, but we live there because we have nowhere else.
My mother, Valentina Rovinskaya, worked for emergency services during her entire life, and saved a lot of people. During the past three years she was very, very sick, and her only wish was not to die in the barracks. In 2000 we were promised relocation. Unfortunately, my mother passed away in April 2013. For the past 13 years I have been knocking on doors: trying all the authorities, pleading, begging, invoking moral conscience, but to no avail. And you, Mr President, represent my last chance. The 85 families who sent me here are relying on me. I am 30 years old and do not want to lose hope. Please help us. I have documents, and if possible I’ll give them to you.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.
I’m afraid to misquote figures but it’s true that, unfortunately, we have a great deal of dilapidated housing. Not merely uninhabitable but downright dangerous, and not only in Moscow Region, but throughout the entire country. Seven years ago we first began allocating federal resources for relocation of people from such housing and for thorough renovations of homes that had not been maintained for 50 years. We decided to extend the programme beyond 2015; I think it was originally designed to last until then.
But of course there are cases that are completely out of the ordinary. If this is your case, then of course we will do our best to help you. You have a very active young Acting Governor [Andrei] Vorobyov. I am sure that he will pay attention to this too. We will see this very soon.
Here’s a question from South America. Please go ahead.
Question (re-translated): My name is Rosa, I’m from Chile and represent the Simon Bolivar organisation. Young people from Chile, Colombia and Venezuela take part in it. We came here because we would very much like to give you a book by the Chilean philosopher Dario Salas Sommer entitled Morals for the 21st Century, dedicated to you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Reply: You are the leader of a great country in which there are a great many young people as represented here. You devote a lot of time to young people and to developing their values. That’s why so many youth from different countries attend the Seliger forum. Thank you very much.
Ksenia Savvina: Mr President, my name is Ksenia Savvina, from Savva Group in Novocherkassk. I develop instruments for early-stage cancer diagnosis, using an analysis of one drop of blood. The test takes 10 minutes. At the moment, 90% of people with cancer just go through routine medical check-ups and only find out about their illness at a very late stage. I would like you to help us to make out tests a compulsory part of general medical check-ups and in this way save millions of lives.
Vladimir Putin: Where do you work or study?
Ksenia Savvina: I study at Novocherkassk Polytechnic University. I have my own group of companies developing new technology in medicine and electrical energy.
Vladimir Putin: Well done! What year are you in now?
Ksenia Savvina: I’m doing my masters year now, and also post-graduate studies.
Vladimir Putin: And you say you’ve got your own group of companies?
Ksenia Savvina: Yes, I’ve been involved in business since I was 18. I’ve got four companies in my group now.
Vladimir Putin: How many people do you employ? What’s your turnover?
Ksenia Savvina: We employ around 50 people and have a turnover of more than 10 million.
Vladimir Putin: What’s the EBITDA?
Ksenia Savvina: Sorry?
Vladimir Putin: EBITDA, you haven’t come across this term yet?
What can I say? We’d need to conduct analysis of course, see how effectively the instrument you’ve developed works. Is it your own invention?
Ksenia Savvina: Yes, it was developed by my group of companies. We are currently carrying out the experimental studies and going through the certification process.
Vladimir Putin: You probably know that we have started implementing a system of compulsory medical check-ups lately. The next question is what to do with the results. But there’s no question that detecting tumours and cancer at an early stage is the key to treating these kinds of serious illnesses. We have considerably reduced the mortality rate and increased the birth rate, and we have also achieved positive results with cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The results here are still lower than for other kinds of illnesses however, and so instruments such as yours would certainly have a lot of use.
Give me all the necessary information so that we can organise a professional analysis of the instrument’s effectiveness. I need your contact information too, so we can pass it all on to the Healthcare Ministry.
Ksenia Savvina: Thank you. We will get it ready and give it to you.
Roman Labin: Hello.
My name is Roman Labin. I live in Brussels and am here at the moment with a project. I want to set up a headquarters in Brussels to support practical youth policy initiatives.
My question is, are there Russian organisations working with youth in the West? I would like to join efforts with them.
Vladimir Putin: Well, there’s one for a start. You’re here, so that shows that they’re working.
”Of course, we are never satisfied; we will never be satisfied, with the quality of the work of our government offices and the political system itself. What does this mean? It means that we must all work together to bring these problems to light and suggest effective ways of resolving them. I hope that is exactly what will happen, especially with participation by young people.“
Roman Labin: But are there any such organisations actually present in the West? I’d like to join my efforts with theirs, work together in this area.
Vladimir Putin: I can’t really give a full answer to your question. For a start, we don’t have many such organisations. Unlike our Western partners, we have not been very active in developing work abroad. We have thousands of organisations, including NGOs that receive financing from abroad. According to the official statistics, our NGOs working in various fields, in domestic politics and other areas, received over 30 billion rubles this year from abroad. We have not been active about developing work abroad, but we are certainly interested in working together with talented young people, especially our compatriots, who for whatever reason are now living abroad. This would require establishing direct contacts with business groups and organisations in order to present your proposals and through them start working on the practical implementation.
What area is your proposal in?
Roman Labin: I want to set up an organisation in Brussels, one that would be based in Brussels.
Vladimir Putin: I see. Leave your contact details. I will pass them on to my colleagues and they will get in touch.
I want to hear what the young woman with a doll there has to say. Go ahead.
Yulia Senkevich: Hello.
My name is Yulia Senkevich. Our project is called Vanechka. We have set up Russia’s first database of adoptive parents. You have already talked about it with [Children’s Rights Ombudsman] Pavel Astakhov. We have set it up and it is working successfully. We are working together with the parents and the official authorities in this area. You signed a law on July 2, 2013 abolishing housing restrictions for prospective adoptive parents, providing for 100,000-rouble payments to people adopting children with disabilities or children older than 7, and banning single-sex couples from adopting children. I want to thank you for this.
But an amendment was made to Article 127 of the Family Code that complicates adoption of children with disabilities or children with illnesses that can endanger others.
Vladimir Putin: Why?
Yulia Senkevich: The amendment states that people living with individuals suffering from illnesses that can endanger others are not allowed to adopt children. In other words, if I have an HIV-infected child, for example, I cannot adopt another child because I have this HIV-infected child living in my home, in my family. But practice shows that these kinds of children are usually adopted by people who already have children with similar illnesses living in the family because they know how to help them and how to socialise them and help them adapt. But this amendment means that I would not be able to adopt a child with an illness of this kind or take another child into my family.
A lot of families are very concerned about this situation now and worry that the children they have already taken into their homes might have to go back into care. We therefore ask you to look at the possibility of amending this article so that the list of illnesses it contains does not apply to children but only to adults living in the family.
Vladimir Putin: I think we all realise that this article was probably written as it was in order to protect children’s interests, but I do see the point you are making. The people drafting the law probably simply didn’t realise all the implications these provisions would have. We need to look into it and perhaps revise it. Thank you.
Question from “red beard”.
Question: Hello Mr President,
My name is Mikhail and I’m the administrator of the first big fan group of your real supporters on Facebook. We’ve got more than 30,000 subscribers now.
Vladimir Putin: I didn’t know. That makes it all the more a nice surprise. Thank you.
Question: Thank you. This is a big figure for the Russian segment of Facebook. We have quite a few foreigners too, who are more than happy to take part in our various events. You can see the messages of congratulations that our foreign subscribers send you. You have quite a few supporters among them too. Your fan site can thus also help to promote Russia’s image abroad.
I know that you are extremely busy and therefore do not want to join all the social networks. I respect this choice and am not making any appeals, but at the same time, I want you to know that we exist. And so, if possible, I’d like you to make our page official. It would be easy to do – just say that this is your page. May I also approach you so that you could send your fans your official greetings? Can you do this? It just takes one push of a button.
Vladimir Putin: Sometimes one push of a button can come at a very high price. Let’s not forget that Russia is a nuclear power. Push the wrong button and there might be no undoing the consequences.
(Sign in German) Wir lieben Russland.
Who loves Russia?
Mikhail Tantsura: Hello Mr President,
My name is Mikhail Tantsura, and I’m Russian, not German.
Vladimir Putin: Why did you write in German?
Mikhail Tantsura: Because I have an international project. My project is about encouraging foreigners to visit Russia. We have an Internet site and organise all kinds of tours.
But we have a problem, Mr President. Let me tell you something: people are telling you lies.
Vladimir Putin: That goes without saying.
Mikhail Tantsura: People are lying to you about why Russia gets so little foreign tourism, only 2.5 million tourists last year, and the figure should be more like 10 million. You’ve no doubt been told that bad infrastructure is the reason.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, that is indeed what people say.
Mikhail Tantsura: Mr President, before they actually set out for Russia, people look up Russia in Google, in the Internet, and what do they see? We hope they will see our site now, but there are other sites too. Let me tell you what foreigners are writing about Russia, since most of the guidebooks about Russia are foreign.
Take TripAdvisor, for example, which comes up first in Google: “If you’re hungry and in a hurry, go to McDonalds, you can be sure you won’t get food poisoning there.” Or take my favourite, Lonely Planet, they come up fourth in Google: “Don’t drink in Russia if you’re not prepared. After a night in a bar in winter you might stumble into a snowdrift, fall fast asleep and never wake up again.”
Vladimir Putin: Well, there’s truth in that really. It all depends how much you drink, but such cases do happen.
Mikhail Tantsura: Yes, such cases happen, but I don’t think it’s worth writing such strange things. People should write positive things. We have our own national cuisine, and our cities are safe, unlike what they write about us. The problem as I see it is that independent projects such as mine don’t interest the city and municipal authorities. I contacted the Moscow City Department of Culture and the Committee for Tourism about the Moscow project, but they showed no interest. Everyone is only interested in their own projects. I don’t really know now who to turn to next, to [Acting Mayor of Moscow Sergei] Sobyanin maybe, since the project is about Moscow. I’d like to meet with Mr Sobyanin. Can you help me?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I can help you there of course, if this will help you. But remember that tourism is a business. It’s not just about business of course, but it is business too, and business plays an important part here. What we really need to do is develop domestic tourism. Of course it’s a good thing to have visitors from abroad, but those who say that we don’t have the necessary infrastructure aren’t really just making it up, you know.
You have probably seen the pike I caught. I’m sure people don’t believe it but I really did. But I was able to catch such a pike because I went to where it lived, where it grew up. And you get that kind of fish out there because for 300 kilometres around there are no people, no roads, no way of getting there except by air. Very few people have this kind of opportunity. There are thousands if not millions of unique places such as this in Russia. We must develop these opportunities for tourists, for people who want to spend their holidays in our country and have the chance to see and enjoy its beauty. We have established a whole programme with substantial funding to develop tourism. Of course it would be good if our business in this sector concentrated not just on taking Russian tourists abroad, but on working within Russia itself. If you are involved in this sector, I wish you success. It’s not an easy business to break in to. If you really need to meet with the Moscow Mayor, this could be arranged.
Question: Hello, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Hello.
Question: You supported me and my Khryushi Protiv project at Seliger three years ago.
Thank you for your support. This is our third year fighting for access to high-quality products for consumers, and just as you advised us, we are not giving up.
Today, if I may, I would like to tell you about my second project, and if you support me in this new venture, I will begin implementing it in September.
Manufacturers take us for fools, and we often pay ten rubles for things that actually cost one ruble. We will make it possible for every individual to use photos on their phones to see whether there is a Russian equivalent of a given product, and maybe that product costs less somewhere else.
My goal is to tell everyone how they are being hoodwinked by advertising, to tell people about comparable products that cost less. After all, anyone can invest the money freed up through conscious consumption in themselves, their development, their growth, rather than the growth of a European brand. Mr President, we will create an information system that will motivate people to buy domestic products. In addition, we have prepared a video clip for you, but unfortunately, the format of this meeting does not allow me to show it to you. If I may, I will give you the flash drive that contains it. Perhaps you might have a minute to view it in the helicopter as you fly to your next meeting.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
This is clearly a good project. It’s a wonderful idea. Almost every nation organises movements supporting domestic producers. We have more and more high-quality products; they are becoming better and better. But we also have many problems. Still, I will take advantage of your question and the proposals you have presented.
After all, we have joined the World Trade Organisation precisely for the purpose of providing free access to our market of high-quality, inexpensive goods. This isn’t just for consumers’ benefit (although that, too, is important). Mainly, we want to give a boost to Russian manufacturing, so that our own companies produce goods which are better and cheaper than their foreign equivalents. And this is possible; Russian products will always be lower priced because there is no delivery mark-up. Many production components are cheaper here. I hope that is exactly what will happen. Although following our accession to the WTO, some sectors will also face certain problems; we need to support them, and we are developing that support policy. We are working on this and will continue to do so in the future. Your initiative is brilliant. Please continue, and good luck!
Vladimir Putin: Normal Media, go ahead, please.
Roman Kovrigin: Hello, Mr President.
My name is Roman Kovrigin, I developed the Sdelano u Nas [Made Here] Internet project. We are an online community tackling an important challenge: we are trying to balance out the information field being created by our media. You see, it veers very strongly toward the negative, particularly when it comes to Russia. You turn on the television or open the newspaper, and you’ll see that something sank, exploded, fell or was stolen, for example.
Vladimir Putin: And do you have a suggestion or a question?
Roman Kovrigin: We are working to publish the news stories that Russian media are not publishing – in other words, about new factory openings, the construction of new roads and bridges, and so on.
Vladimir Putin: Your publication will have limited readership. You won’t earn much.
Roman Kovrigin: Perhaps, but the project is quite popular.
My question is this: isn’t it time for the government to get involved? We have federal media, whose goal, in theory, is to show things objectively, to talk about Russia objectively. Nobody is saying we need to hide the nation’s problems or keep them secret. But we also need to show the other side of the coin.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, it is certainly great to have people like you, who are doing this. But I want to note the following. There is one very important aspect to bear in mind: if this work is done exclusively using government funding and with government support, then trust toward this kind of information will be very low. You see, that’s the thing. We need to do this in a talented, interesting way, inspire people, make this information attractive to people, and at the same time, receive minimal support from the government, even though this is certainly a noble cause. What you are doing is absolutely vital. But the more money you receive from the government, the more you will be labelled a certain way, and the less your information will be trusted. Let’s think about it together.
I see someone with a sign “I want an Oscar.” What do you want an Oscar for?
Question: Hello, Mr President.
My name is Sergei. Two years ago, I created a comic strip about you called Super-Putin, which has become the best-known Russian comic strip in the world. I believe it has been seen by 20 million people. There were reports about it on every TV channel, ranging from the BBC to Al Jazeera. It just so happens that I am a creative person and you inspire me. So this time, I’ve decided to make a feature film about you; I have put together a team of young but talented filmmakers.
Vladimir Putin: What for?
Reply: It is a kind of challenge. I’m sure that many people have tried to make films about you, and I am sure you get plenty of offers to appear in films, but not many people know how to make them truly popular online. But I definitely do. My team and I went to St Petersburg, filmed nine hours of material, met all of your neighbours and most of your colleagues. They told us stories.
Vladimir Putin: What a nightmare.
Question: For example, Alexander Kostrikov from City Hall talked about how your office was organised. The secretary had this elaborate lamp on her desk, and everyone thought it was there just for decoration, but it actually had a secret button, and when it was pressed, the door to your office was locked. So anyone who tried to barge into Putin’s office was unable to do so, and you had a second door through which you could exit. Thus, we learned that even back then you were the Putin that we know today.
Your neighbours from Sredneokhtinsky Avenue, the Tyurin family, told an even more touching story. They talked about how once you brought your parents a holiday tree for the New Year; they went to see their neighbours and said, “Why do we need this tree? We are old already, but you have children, why don’t you have it.” The neighbours said Mr Putin probably didn’t know about the fate of that tree.
We have already started filming. This movie will be released, whether you like it or not, and it will be popular. But I would nevertheless like to ask whether you would cooperate with us. Would you agree to give our film crew a brief interview, at a time that would be convenient for you?
Vladimir Putin: I wish you success. With regard to giving an interview to your film crew, I will have to think about it. Since you are already doing this, I cannot forbid you from going forward with it, but you should do it independently from me so it is unrelated to my work.
Question: Hello, Mr President. I am Nikolai from Moscow.
Recently, many political organisations and their leaders have been calling on the public to take part in unauthorised rallies, to fight with the riot police and kick up a row in various ways.
Vladimir Putin: I thought you were going to talk about agriculture, but apparently, you want to discuss politics.
Question: The people who do not want to join these rallies are being called vegetables. So we have come here today dressed in vegetable costumes. This is a question from the “vegetables,” so to speak.
On July 18, there was another unauthorised political rally in front of the State Duma. Many people wrote on the walls, glued posters to buildings, and were arrested. I know that criminal proceedings were initiated against several people, but most importantly, the individuals who gathered these people via the social networks and incited violence got off scot-free. My question is, how do you feel about this, and will they be punished?
Vladimir Putin: The first thing I want to say is that every individual has the right to express themselves. Every individual can and has the right to express their point of view, their position, including a critical one, with regard to anybody in the nation. What’s important is for all of this to be done properly, in compliance with the law, and it must not violate the rights and interests of others. This is extremely important. If we do not grasp this, if we descend into chaos, then we will face the same kind of chaos as certain other nations, say, in the Middle East. Who needs that? Nobody needs that.
Now, how should we regard these individuals? Our nation knows its history; it should know its history. And I hope we will not have any more activists in our history like Father Gapon, who organised a rally and disappeared along the way. Thank you.
Question: Hello, Mr President.
My name is Saidat, I represent the I’m the President’s Helper movement. We come from Dagestan. Our group was formed less than six months ago thanks to you and the head of our republic, Ramazan Abdulatipov. During this time, Dagestan has undergone many changes; you, like no one else, are aware of this.
First of all, thank you very much for the fact that we are here in Seliger and have the opportunity to ask you some questions.
With regard to the changes that have taken place: in the past, young people who were trying to realise their potential did so mainly through sports; today, thankfully, we have new directions and new opportunities. We thank you for this.
And more on the topic of changes: we would very much like for you to visit Dagestan. You know what is happening there today better than anyone else. And right now, we need your presence and your guidance more than ever because we are at a threshold and need to understand which way we should go next. So Mr President, your helpers await you in Dagestan.
Please come visit.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Dagestan, and the North Caucasus overall, is home to many highly talented individuals. You have a deep, long-spanning history and a very rich culture.
The most important issue there today is unemployment, especially among young people, as we already mentioned here. I am very pleased to note that many republics in the North Caucasus are moving forward on this matter. So far, unfortunately, the progress has been very slow.
We have programmes for the south of Russia and for individual regions in the southern part of the country. We will implement all of these programmes and we will certainly think about how to improve them further. So I am confident that together, we can achieve a great deal.
Thank you very much.
Over there there’s a poster that reads “Good question”. What is this good question?
Aslisho Akimbekov: Friends, I believe that thoughts are material things. So good afternoon, Seliger! My name is Aslisho Akimbekov and I am a student at Moscow State University of Culture and Arts.
When I came here and heard that the President would be our guest, I got an idea. I thought for a very long time about how to raise the largest possible amount of money to save children suffering from very serious diseases, for example by setting up an auction. I propose that we collect the most treasured things belonging to top leaders and presidents, and hold a very big auction to sell them. If you support my initiative, you’ll be the first President to have done so. To be honest, I thought that the President of Tajikistan would support my idea, because I am a citizen of Tajikistan, but as you see I reached you first.
Vladimir Putin: It’s true that we need to think together about ways to tackle these problems. But I think for people in my position to put their most expensive things up for auction is probably the simplest thing they can do, but not the most effective one. Together we need to look for the most effective ways to address the problems facing our country, or both our countries, if we are talking about yours too. Yesterday I met with the President of Tajikistan, with whom I have very good, friendly relations. Your country is facing many challenges. Only now, after many years of civil war, can the situation be more or less stabilised; various state agencies that ensure security are being set up, and the first steps towards developing the economy are being taken. We wish you good luck.
Vladimir Putin: Let’s have the “astronauts”, please.
Pavel Khimchenko: Hello, Mr President.
We are trying to give a certain slant to the patriotic education of our young people by drawing on our famous astronauts. We believe that space science is Russia’s core strength. We were the first to send a man into space, the first to do a spacewalk, as well as the first to send a woman into space. And we believe that all this is essential for our country’s identity as strong and powerful. In general, we believe that people like [Yury] Gagarin, like [Sergei] Korolev [leading Soviet rocket engineer], who said: “There is no such thing as an unsolvable problem”… We believe that it is precisely space science that should constitute the basis of young people’s patriotic education.
Today we heard a variety of interesting lectures, and one of the lectures we attended was given by our famous astronauts. We were simply marvelling at how these people – the heroes of our time – truly are heroes! And young people should look up to such people. Not to Western culture, but to precisely these people. We believe that this should constitute the foundation of our young people’s education.
Mr President, how do you feel about this initiative and what would you say to it?
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: My answer will be very short: I am certainly glad that you are focusing on our country’s best aspects and most striking achievements. We certainly do have a lot of things to be proud of. So go ahead.
Vladimir Putin: That there – the “creative class”.
Question: Hello, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Hi.
Question: My name is Gleb.
I don’t know what the creative class is; I was just trying to get your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Well done.
Question: My question is about [Alexei] Navalny. I think he’s quite an interesting character, and a lot of things work out for him. He is arrested and released, arrested and released. This has been going on for such a long time now.
Vladimir Putin: Maybe he is also attracting attention to himself.
Question: There is a rumour that last time you personally ordered his release. There is also a rumour that Navalny is a US State Department project. There is another one that he’s the brainchild of the so-called Team Medvedev. There are a lot of rumours about whose construct he is.
Mr President, my question is as follows. In all sincerity, can you tell me honestly: is Navalny your project?
Vladimir Putin: Every person, if they are indeed someone’s project, is only that of their parents.
In the light of my two previous terms as President and my work as Prime Minister, everything that happens in Russian politics – not everything, naturally, but some things – and all these people are partly the results of my actions. What is the meaning and purpose of my actions? To ensure that the public has the opportunity to get to know different people with different views of how to address the various challenges our country faces, and to help it evolve towards a better future. So, in that sense the answer is yes.
You made a sign saying “creative class” and attracted my attention, and you did so very well. You can start fighting particularly acute problems, such as corruption, and draw attention to yourself too. I believe that any person who starts to fight against a given evil must first of all set an irreproachable example. For example, if people want to fight alcoholism, they themselves must not drink.
Remark: Not even on holidays.
Vladimir Putin: Not even on holidays, do you understand? That’s very important. This is the first point.
The second. Everyone needs to learn to abide by the law, not just make a lot of noise and shout “Stop thief!” Rather, they need to put forward some sort of platform and promote it in a reasonable way without aggressiveness. As for the court verdicts, please believe me when I say that I do not follow the case on a daily basis. I do not deny that I thought it was strange when a defendant who cooperated with the prosecution got a suspended four-and-a-half-year sentence, and the second suspect, the one you referred to, was slammed with five years in prison. But it is up to the court to decide what happens and how.
But I think the most important thing, including when we decided to liberalise political activity and facilitate the registration of political parties, is the fact that everyone can express themselves. The public must decide what it all means and whether this or that individual deserves their trust. We will see what happens during the political campaign.
Question: Mr President, please tell us what you will do after the end of your political career?
Vladimir Putin: I hope my career is not finished yet.
The world is full of interesting things, and in general people should not limit themselves to any one field. When a person is only concerned with politics or their profession it inevitably leads to certain intellectual limitations and cuts down their opportunities.
I have a lot of interesting things going on, and I have many hobbies. I hope my future activities will be useful and interesting. But government work and public activism, for example, are slightly different things. I assume that I will continue to be involved in public activities.
Thank you very much.
Denis Fomin-Nilov: Hello, Mr President.
My name is Denis Fomin-Nilov. I am a professional historian at the Academy of Sciences.
We as young historians are very worried that Russia’s youth is not particularly inspired to study history. Unfortunately, the learning materials currently used in our schools are a big part of the problem; they are made of paper, and they are boring and unappealing. So we are very concerned that in carrying out your instructions on creating a single national textbook, we must nevertheless keep in mind that learning materials should be based on the latest technology. Basically, they should employ 21st century innovations, rather than using 19th century technology, which is how our educational process is structured today.
So first of all, we would like to give you some experimental learning materials. We hope that you will find them interesting to read. At the very least, they will augment your library.
And here is my question: what do you think, how can we transform history from something boring into a subject that is interesting for young people, so that they truly get engaged and realise that without understanding history, they cannot be true patriots or good citizens?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I could ask you the same question. After all, you are the history expert. And you must make suggestions on how teaching your favourite subject can be more effective, interesting and captivating.
Our history reads like a mystery novel or a love story. We just need to present it nicely and smartly. After all, most people know that Peter the Great married Catherine I, right? You know this, and the majority of our people know where she came from. She was – it seems indecent to say this today, but that’s the truth – she was a war trophy. And what happened? Let’s just think about it for a minute. I want you to hear this: Peter the Great was such a strong personality, he was such a “tough guy,” as people like to say today, and self-confident, that he took this woman, his soldiers’ spoil, and made her the empress of a great nation. So that’s a love story for you. It can be so interesting and captivating… and here, I’m only bringing up one segment of our history.
I don’t even want to get into the military victories now, or the grandeur of those victories, because clearly, if they hadn’t happened, there would have been no such nation as Russia. So it is up to the professionals to figure out how to teach this. I am prepared to help in any way I can.
Denis Fomin-Nilov: Thank you very much.
Can I give this to you?
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Question: Mr President, I represent the Kuznetsk Basin, which lies at the heart of Eurasia. And the Eurasian Youth Union has a presence there. For nearly a decade, our fighters, Eurasian Youth Union members in Moscow and other cities throughout Russia and neighbouring countries, have been asserting Russia’s sovereignty, asserting its might, and fighting for a multipolar world. So my question is as follows: do you feel that the Eurasian Union and its political prospects – as a player on the global arena – are the inevitable future of the entire Eurasian space and CIS member states, the former Soviet Union? Shouldn’t we stop referring to this space as the CIS or the former Soviet Union, and start referring to it as the future Eurasian Union?
Vladimir Putin: You know, this is a very important question concerning our past, if we are talking about history, and our future. The most important element in all these processes is to ensure it is entirely voluntary for all its participants, so that all participants in the process understand the political benefits, the benefits in terms of assuring security, and most importantly, the socioeconomic benefits. As far as we are concerned, they are clear.
You see, integration processes are happening throughout the world: in North America, in Europe, in South America, in Africa – everywhere. Everywhere, nations are joining forces to achieve better economic and socio-political results. This is certainly a major priority for us in the Eurasian space, in the former Soviet space. Why? Because this would provide us with very clear advantages. What are they? They include a common language, the Russian language, the language of international and even intergovernmental communication; a common transport system; a common energy system; and the common desire to achieve major results. Naturally, we will move toward this goal. We are facing the challenge of forming the Eurasian Union on the basis of the Customs Union, which we have created. This is a difficult challenge, and it is a two-way road that involves seeking and achieving compromises.
Question: What can we, as young people, do to help? The Eurasian Union and other organisations – how can we help, in the humanitarian sector, or elsewhere? What can we do to help you?
Vladimir Putin: You need to show other young people how promising this idea is. You can either stay confined within your national borders or move forward more efficiently together.
You are smart, modern, creative individuals; you yourselves will find arguments in favour of joint development. I am confident that you will do this, since you certainly understand how important this is.
Question: Mr President, we greet you on behalf of the Serbian delegation. We want to say that we are very happy to be here with you. Our goal is to develop cooperation between youth organisations in Serbia and Russia. We would like to present you with several gifts. One of them is an icon of St Basil of Ostrog, as well as a flag on which the citizens of our nation and the citizens of Republika Srpska have written some very interesting messages to you. We would like to ask to take a photo of you with our delegation.
That is all. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Question: The VKontakte social network questioned its users asking them: “What question would you ask Vladimir Putin in Seliger?” My question received the largest number of likes, so I am here to ask it today.
Here it is: you once stated that if a person is happy about everything, then he is an idiot. So what are you unhappy about in your life and in the life of our nation?
Vladimir Putin: There are many issues, there are many problems whose resolutions leave me unsatisfied. The first issue and problem is the fight against corruption, which is tearing apart our society and our state system.
The second issue, which is related to the first one, is the low income level of our citizens.
The third issue is the insufficient development of our infrastructure, which significantly affects the development of the entire economy. There are many, many issues pertaining to regional development. And, of course, we are never satisfied; we will never be satisfied, with the quality of the work of our government offices and the political system itself. What does this mean? It means that we must all work together to bring these problems to light and suggest effective ways of resolving them. I hope that is exactly what will happen, especially with participation by young people.
Thank you all. We will have to draw this meeting to a close.