President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Aksyonov, you and I have regular meetings and telephone conversations, so I am familiar with the situation in Crimea and the progress you are making. However, this is a good opportunity to have a detailed discussion to see how you assess last year’s results, what issues you anticipate this year and how you intend to resolve them.
Governor of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov: Mr President, I would like to begin by saying that an emergency situation was declared in Crimea on November 22 as a result of a terrorist attack committed on the neighbouring state’s territory. Nevertheless, despite the fact that there was a power outage in Crimea, the plans of the terrorists and the Ukrainian leadership were foiled. The Taman-Crimea power bridge was launched three weeks ahead of schedule. Currently we have managed to work out a schedule of electricity supply, with residential areas on the territory of the Crimean Republic being switched off for no more than 8 hours a day and with all industrial facilities operating properly. Their work plans have been coordinated with the regional headquarters.
Despite the emergency situation mode, in December all the Crimean taxpayers paid their taxes to the budget of the Crimean Republic. This consolidated effort brought 31 billion rubles to the Republic’s 2015 budget, which is 110 percent of the approved plan. Individual income tax accounts for the largest share of this revenue, with its overall amount going up by 40 percent compared to 2014, so we are seeing positive dynamics.
The economic crisis did not affect commercial facilities. The total damage to commercial facilities from the emergency mode amounted to around 480 million rubles; 540 million rubles were allocated from the budget of the Republic of Crimea for fuel, materials and servicing of diesel generators, which is not a critical amount for the Republic.
At the same time, industrial production in the republic has grown by 12 percent compared to 2014. The food industry has posted growth for the first time in seven years, and it amounted to 36 percent. As for agriculture, we managed to bring in 1.3 million tonnes of grain, which is 14.5 percent more than in 2014.
Thus, we can see positive dynamics. The local population is showing patience and understanding regarding what has happened, they are confident that you are giving the authorities the proper impetus, and that it was thanks to you that the power bridge was commissioned ahead of schedule. I am certain that now people will also bear with us in this situation because they love their country and have faith in it.
Vladimir Putin: Do you maintain regular contacts with the Energy Ministry? Do you know how their work is progressing?
Sergei Aksyonov: Yes, we do, we have a working relationship.
Vladimir Putin: When will they be commissioning the second stage?
Sergei Aksyonov: The plan says May 1, but I am sure that with your support they will again do it ahead of schedule. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I do know that work is in full swing. I have been there myself and I saw the teams working practically round the clock. The heads of our local companies are also helping in every way they can.
Vladimir Putin: You will have to bear with them a while longer. I am certain they will have it ready by May 1 or even sooner.
Sergei Aksyonov: Yes, we can wait. Crimea has faith in this country and in you.
Vladimir Putin: How do you assess your work overall?
Sergei Aksyonov: It is hard to assess one’s own work. I believe that the government and state agencies have done well in the emergency situation.
Vladimir Putin: How do you plan to organise agricultural work bearing in mind the changes that have occurred with water supply and the rest?
Sergei Aksyonov: We have already made changes due to the closure of the North Crimean Canal. We have replaced water dependent crops with draught tolerant ones. Last year agriculture in the Republic of Crimea received 685 million rubles worth of aid from the federal budget, and the plan for 2016 is about 2.8 billion rubles – the allocations have already been budgeted.
We are helping our agricultural workers. Those who suffered from the absence of water supply along the North Crimean Canal received compensation – a total of about 150 million rubles was paid to the producers. The situation is gradually stabilising; we are opening two more dairy farms with 3,000 heads of cattle, which are to almost double milk production on the territory of the Republic of Crimea.
There are problems caused by the African swine fever virus and the resulting quarantine. As they say, trouble never comes singly. However, now all the services are cooperating with the federal authorities to make sure the virus does not spread beyond the initial area. But we did have to limit the sales of pork. The Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision, jointly with our Crimean services, is monitoring the situation and among other things, they are preventing an unwarranted growth in the price of pork.
Vladimir Putin: How are you cooperating with federal authorities? On your initiative, we amended the procedure of forming various state agencies, including federal ones. Change may often lead to setbacks. How do you assess this?
Sergei Aksyonov: I believe the dynamics are positive. I would like to thank Mr Kozak [Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation] for providing timely assistance; we are in close contact. The Economic Development Ministry very promptly considers practically all the documents coming from Crimea. We have good contacts and at this point, I would describe our cooperation with the federal authorities as positive.
Vladimir Putin: Are you preparing for the summer season?
Sergei Aksyonov: Our main job for the summer holiday season is to meet the expectations of Russian tourists: we need to provide reliable information, including about the functioning of resort facilities given the power deficit. We have already developed a schedule so that all resorts and hotels have a regular power supply without outages. This should not affect the tourist season. Thanks to your instructions to the Energy Ministry, they sped up their work. We will not have an excessive power supply, but we do not expect any problems during the season.
Vladimir Putin: Good.