Excerpts from transcript of meeting with people affected by wildfires in Siberian Federal District
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Have they started clearing the fire locations?
Head of the Republic of Khakassia Viktor Zimin: Yes, Mr President, clearing operations have started in about 70 percent of the villages. There is one thing, however – we cannot chlorinate fast enough everywhere, though it has to be done.
We have the necessary resources. The Emergency Situations Ministry has provided significant resources, and the Defence Ministry is building up its grouping in the area to help us.
Besides, practically all the construction workers are on their way – we will be meeting them later today. We are working under special economic conditions, so we do not need any formal contracts. Everybody understands that in this situation the most important thing is to go on site and get to work.
We would like to thank the whole country – we started receiving humanitarian aid from neighbouring areas in as little as about 4 hours.
We are grateful for this. This feeling of support was very important.
(The regional head went on to answer the President’s questions regarding support payments to wildfire victims and re-issue of documents. According to Mr Zimin, fires destroyed some 1,400 homes, with 90 percent of the victims being rural residents. One of the main tasks is to restore the cattle numbers and provide fodder. The conversation also touched upon the need to give children the opportunity to attend school classes.)
Vladimir Putin: Fine.
You know about the scope of aid, I spoke about it during the Direct Line. Here practically everyone lost all of their property; so there will be 50,000 rubles for partial loss of property, but since in your case it all burned down, the amount is 100,000 rubles. The houses will be rebuilt. Those who suffered bodily harm or injury will receive 200,000 or 400,000 rubles.
Remark: Mr President, we are very grateful to you for being here with us. The situation is very complicated here, but we are together like family, in the warm atmosphere that we have found here.
I would like, on my own behalf and on behalf of all those affected to thank our authorities and all the people who helped us. Everybody is helping us. We are already receiving financial support from the federal authorities, as it was said before.
The most important thing for us now is that we are all alive, thank God. There is concern, of course, about when and how our homes will be rebuilt. However, we know for sure that it will be done.
We are warm and comfortable here, and they are taking good care of us. However, I heard from the village of Shira today that the chief of the fire brigade Viktor Zenkov was detained – this is very unpleasant news.
You know, and we all know how awful the fire was, it was not coming from a single place, it stretched out for kilometres. I believe that first we have to resolve the problems of the people rather than put the blame on any single person. We know it was impossible to prevent this because the fire was so powerful – homes burnt down in 15 minutes.
Vladimir Putin: So we have to find out whether it was possible to prevent it or not. We have to see what the individual responsibilities were.
As for those responsible for fire protection and what they did wrong or failed to do, well, nobody is going to be held liable for nothing. However, if someone is to blame they will have to take on the responsibility.
And do not worry about the reconstruction.
Remark: Mr President, I would like to follow up on that. The thing is that we have to go to the authorities with our problems and questions rather frequently.
I have heard from many local people, and I saw this myself: you come to the office of the Administration Head for a meeting, and they tell you he has been summoned for interrogation. I believe this is not the time for such things. There are more important matters now.
Vladimir Putin: Do not worry about the authorities. They will be fine: if a person is innocent, nobody will persecute them.
The answer here is very simple. If a person occupies a post and does nothing, that is one thing. If, however, they perform their duties in full but the elements have proven stronger – this is a completely different situation, and nobody will hold them liable only for the sake of doing it. Do not worry.
Remark: We simply think that this is a time to unite.
Vladimir Putin: We will unite, do not worry.
Remark: Mr President, you said it is the people who matter most, and you support your words with deeds. However, we would like to ask you to help us rebuild our villages.
Vladimir Putin: We will do it. That is exactly what I am here for: to have a detailed discussion with the Head of the Republic, with the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy (he will supervise the entire reconstruction process) and with other colleagues who came from Moscow and are working here today. We will decide what should be done and when, to make sure that by winter you can have proper homes, a roof over your head, so you can get back to normal life and work.
Remark: Thank you very much for responding to our pain and sorrow.
Vladimir Putin: How could I not?
I have to say that the Head of the Republic responded at once too and got down to work; therefore, we will be resolving the situation together. Do not worry.
In about 4 to 6 weeks, I will return to check the progress. I will come here even before the work is done to see how things are organised.
We will create the necessary infrastructure for the reconstruction operations to make sure everything is done properly, so that quality homes are built on schedule, as the climate here is harsh and by the end of October it will be quite cold.
Viktor Zimin: Yes, it does get pretty cold.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Zimin, we have to assess everything. The initial funding has been allocated, this is only enough to give the people first aid: 680 million rubles is only the first step in this direction.
It will take much greater resources to rebuild the homes and restore the infrastructure. There is a lot of work to do. However, to do it we first have to complete the assessment quickly, so the work can begin without delay. This is something we will discuss with our colleagues now.
I would like to wish you all the best. Do not worry – we will get everything done.