President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Congratulations on the start of the new working year.
I propose we begin this meeting by discussing several issues, in particular our performance during the period of extremely cold weather.
Let us start with Mr Puchkov, and after that I would like to ask Mr Men to report on the operation of the housing and utilities system. Also, I would like the Energy Minister to speak about the performance of Russia’s energy system.
Let us start working. Mr Puchkov, go ahead, please.
Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief Vladimir Puchkov: Mr President, colleagues,
Overall, the technology-related, natural and fire safety situation has been stable. On the other hand, a gas explosion and fire were reported at 10:55 am today at 11 Moskovskoye Shosse in Saratov. The fire and rescue teams arrived at the site within eight minutes, put out the fire on 250 square metres and saved 11 people, including two children.
Unfortunately, 10 people have been injured in the explosion. Immediate medical assistance has been provided to three of them, and the other seven have been taken to a hospital. One of them is in a serious condition. Healthcare Ministry teams are providing targeted medical assistance to all those who require it. An emergencies commission is working at the site and practical assistance has been organised for those who were taken to hospital and for the victims’ families. Temporary accommodation facilities have been set out, and the Struna specialised laboratory of the Emergencies Ministry will be dispatched there to issue recommendations already today on whether people should be resettled from the other two sections of the building, which were not damaged in the fire. The National Crisis Management Centre is monitoring the situation.
As for the winter holidays as a whole, the personnel of the Unified State System for Emergency Prevention and Relief have taken proper measures at over 43,000 facilities in all cities and towns. This has helped us ensure public safety at over 20,000 New Year parties, children’s matinees and other events held between December 25 and January 10. There have been no problems or losses. Proper protection and safety measures were taken at over 7,000 facilities on January 7. Thanks to this, people celebrated Christmas without any major problems. Also, other prevention measures have been taken.
Overall, we have put out 3,600 fires during the New Year holidays. The response teams of the Emergencies Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Healthcare Ministry provided relief during over 2,000 serious road traffic accidents. In general for the past 10 years, the situation during this New Year’s season has been rather stable. The number of technology-related fires and the number of those injured in them was smaller. We have reduced losses from natural disasters and industrial accidents, and took measures to protect public safety on the water.
Considering the severe cold weather, we deployed 140 warming centres that also offered food, where over 50,000 people received assistance thanks to the cooperation of the Emergencies Ministry, public organisations and volunteers.
There were 24 serious housing and utilities accidents that called for additional efforts from the fire, public order and healthcare teams, which helped reduce the losses and restore all vital service systems without delay.
Particular attention was paid to promptly responding to citizens’ complaints. All traditional winter holiday and domestic tourism spots have been covered. Over 1,400 ice fishing spots have been covered by professional teams. Ice crossings and winter roads were open to traffic under special monitoring. In general, the governing bodies and forces of the Unified State System for Emergency Prevention and Relief have done a fairly good job, which allowed us to improve the indicators of our professional activity. However, based on weather forecasts, we are now regrouping our forces and revising our priorities in the regions where we expect a sharp drop in temperature or unfavourable weather changes. We are stepping up the operations of all Roshydromet departments. The crisis management systems are in place, and we are providing direct assistance and support to local governments.
We are ready for Old New Year celebrations (to be held during the night of January 13–14), and have an additional division of rescuers and divers ready for January 19, the Epiphany. The governing bodies and forces of the unified system continue to perform their tasks.
That concludes my report.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Report to me later with an update on the gas explosion.
Vladimir Puchkov: Will do, Comrade President.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Medvedev, please have a word with the governor. Help them if they need help.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, of course.
Vladimir Putin: Cases of malfunctioning utilities are down 17 percent compared to the same period last year. However, there were quite a few violations.
Please go ahead.
Minister of Construction and Housing and Utilities Mikhail Men: Mr President, colleagues,
Prior to the New Year holiday, all Russian regions were instructed to monitor the emergency services’ operations and check the procedure for emergency responses. Lists with the names of the officials responsible for the proper functioning of equipment were drawn up for each day of the holidays in all Russian regions and all municipalities. Telephone hot lines for heat supply issues were open in all regions. We inspected the work of some of them and didn’t find any major issues.
Indicatively, accident rate is going down faster in those regions of the Russian Federation that practice public-private partnership rather than at state and municipal unitary enterprises. Here are some telling figures: in regions with public-private partnerships (35 in the Russian Federation), the accident rate for heat supplies went down by 47 percent on average, and by 21 percent for water supplies. There are good examples in the Tambov Region, the Pskov Region, and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, to name a few.
The well-coordinated work of the regional authorities in this season should be noted. For example, a drop in temperature to −32 C in the Orenburg Region disrupted its heat supply network and the boiler’s operation. Emergency services coped with this accident in a matter of hours. They launched a stand-by heat supply system and completely resolved other problems by the end of the day.
During the New Year holiday utility services effectively responded to several accidents that occurred for different reasons in the Moscow Region. There were no emergencies despite extremely low temperatures.
However, some regions were not up to the mark. In the Irkutsk Region we were informed at teleconferences and in written reports that all municipal units were fully ready for the heating season. However, an on-the-spot check in the city of Vikhorevka pointed to certain problems and eventually its boiler came to a stop despite all the reports on its normal operation. As a result, the governor fired the minister in charge.
However, on the whole there is a drop in the accident rate. Among other things we plan to continue developing public-private partnership agreements. In the housing and utilities sector we have 663 municipal and state unitary enterprises. In line with your instructions, the switch to public-private partnership is being made here.
People first turn to the managing company. This is the closest organisation to contact. Accidents often happen not only in the grid but also in residential buildings. Therefore, we will continue improving legislation on licensing managing companies. Today we are actively working in this field. Our next goal is to introduce a unified standard for managing residential buildings. It will take into account checks of utility equipment and, most important, response time following complaints. That concludes of my report.
Vladimir Putin: When do you plan to introduce this standard?
Mikhail Men: By the end of the year, as a priority project.
Vladimir Putin: Why so slowly? What stages do you have to go through?
Mikhail Men: The law needs to be amended. We will try to do this in six months.
Vladimir Putin: Of course. We must have this standard at least for next winter.
Mikhail Men: Will do.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Novak, tell us about the energy sector please.
Minister of Energy Alexander Novak: Mr President, colleagues,
Despite bad weather and abnormally low temperatures in some regions, Russia’s energy system coped with the situation fairly well without any system failures, as scheduled. The necessary amounts of fuel reserves, and even more, were provided for power generation stations; a power reserve of about 17,000 MW was made; the grid companies worked reliably.
In general, electricity consumption went up by 3.8 to 5 percent in the regions with low temperatures. The load on power plants during this period was up 10 percent to 143,970 MW. We had about 14 non-system accidents in the generating complex, which were immediately compensated for by reserves. They didn’t affect consumer supplies. The response to these accidents took place as part of routine operations, as in previous periods. Compared to the same period last year, which was warmer, the number of accidents in the generating complex has remained at the previous year’s level.
As for the grid complex, it also performed reliably. This period was unusual, because the temperatures went from positive to strongly negative readings leading to icing of wires and cables, which increased our wire de-icing operations six-fold.
We had 20 percent more emergency teams on duty than usual during the New Year holiday season – 9,554. Over 23,000 pieces of equipment were in operation (on an as-needed basis) and about 4,500 reserve energy sources, which were also used on an as-needed basis.
We didn’t have any system emergencies in our power engineering complex, and the New Year holidays were uneventful in that sense.
With regard to gas supplies, we covered the consumer demand in full. There were two emergency situations in Daghestan and the Krasnodar Territory resulting from traffic accidents, not the gas transportation system. The gas transportation system performed reliably.
In late 2016, you launched the operation of the gas transportation system for Crimea. On December 30, we began supplying gas via the Russian gas transportation system to cover peak demand. So far, we have supplied over 20 million cubic metres of gas to Crimea. In general, the situation is normal. We continue to work. The season is not over yet, and lying ahead is a lot of work pertaining to the autumn-winter period.
Vladimir Putin: There were technological mishaps in the Moscow Region, the Orenburg Region and Sakha (Yakutia). Has everything been fixed there?
Alexander Novak: Yes, Mr President, power transmission lines went out of order in these regions. There were fixed locally in the routine manner. I would like to note that electricity supplies to consumers were restored twice as fast as last year – in an hour and a half. This is half the annual average. We are improving this indicator with every year. Considering the heightened attention to the problem during the New Year holidays, the recovery was twice as fast.
Vladimir Putin: Okay.
Colleagues have already mentioned domestic tourism. It is growing with each passing year. It grew by 18 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2016. What is happening now, during the New Year holidays? This is also the time when people go to winter resorts. The number of people doing winter sports, including alpine skiing, is also on the rise.
Mr Safonov, go ahead please.
Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism Oleg Safonov: Mr President, colleagues,
Indeed, there is a marked trend towards growing tourist flows in our country in the past 2.5 years. In the past, consumers chose travel in this country mostly for economic reasons, whereas now fans of different types of tourism are offered the broadest choice of tourist products, and most important, they enjoy absolute security of travel in Russia. As a result, domestic tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the Russian economy. As you said, the growth rates were 18 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2016. The tentative results of the high tourist season (it is fairly long here and is not yet over) show that the tourist flow increased by nine percent on average throughout the country. It is very important for us that the occupancy of the regional tourist infrastructure is fairly high –80–100 percent in some regions.
I can cite resorts of Sochi, Moscow and its suburbs by way of example. Moscow and its suburbs were the most popular this winter with 2.5 million visitors, which is a five percent increase.
About 500,000 people went to the Krasnodar Territory – an increase of over eight percent. More than 390,000 visited St Petersburg, which is a very good trend – an increase of over 30 percent. Twice as many tourists came to Crimea although it is still a summer destination. Nonetheless, this is also a very important positive trend.
Cultural and educational tourism in Russia is popular with Russian and foreign tourists, and, of course, ski holidays are vastly popular as well. Importantly, our country has a major competitive advantage in this area, as we have long winters. The high tourist season lasts five to six months. As a rule, the snow cover is good and stable, which our competitors do not have. The infrastructure is well developed, and there is a large number of various exciting resorts in different Russian regions.
Over 4.5 million holidaymakers went to ski resorts during the 2014–2015 winter season, and 5 million in 2016. This year, we expect about 6 million people, that is, the growth rate is quite strong. The ski resorts of Sochi, the North Caucasus and Siberia are the most popular. There is a number of interesting ski resorts in the Altai Territory, the Kemerovo Region, the Urals and the Russian Far East. This is an important positive trend, because Russia is a northern country, and promoting winter sports is important in more than one way.
I would like to say that the regions have held a wide range of events, such as the Journey to Christmas Festival (Moscow), Tambov – the New Year Capital of Russia, tours to Veliky Ustyug, which is home to Father Frost, and so on. The events were held in different regions of our country, and enjoyed great popularity, which made our citizens’ and our foreign guests’ New Year holiday season fun and comfortable. Social media covered these events extensively with numerous postings and photographs.
I would like to say that an increase in inbound tourism to Russia has a great synergistic effect by promoting 53 sectors of our economy, creating new jobs, expanding small and medium-sized businesses, and increasing budget revenue of all levels. As an example, over the past few years, the Krasnodar Territory revenue generated only by the resort town of Sochi increased by 3.5 times. The development of tourism has a major synergistic effect on our economy.
Thank you. That concludes my report.
Vladimir Putin: This confirms that our efforts to develop Sochi as a year-round resort were not in vain, and we managed to accomplish a few good things. Anyway, the good result is obvious in Sochi.
How are things going in the North Caucasus, Mr Kuznetsov?
Minister for North Caucasus Affairs Lev Kuznetsov: Mr President, developing the tourism industry is one of the priorities of the socioeconomic policy implemented in the North Caucasus, and in this regard developing the tourism cluster is a key project. Of course, the statistics on tourists are probably the most important indicator of the correctness and efficiency of state investments and the priorities chosen.
I am glad to say that for a few years, our resorts have shown positive dynamics. Now two resorts are working: Elbrus, first opened in the Soviet era, and Arkhyz, which is a newly developing resort; and we plan to put into operation the third resort, Veduchi, in Chechnya. These positive dynamics are measured not in single-digit percent changes, but double-digit.
In the first eight months of this year, there was a 46 percent increase at Arkhyz and about a 40 percent increase at Elbrus, compared to the same period last year. What is extremely important, in our estimation, given the fact that we have a strong rival, Sochi, is that we really have an international resort. As Mr Safonov said, in previous years, economic factors influenced tourists, whereas now their choice depends on a resort’s quality. According to our statistics, our ski resorts in the North Caucasus are becoming competitive in terms of quality and carving out their niche.
For example, last year, we put into operation the unique cable lift at Elbrus, the highest in Europe, which is 3,847 metres long. Arkhyz, as a young resort, also attracts tourists. It is very important that the number of people who ski is growing. We do not drain tourists from other resorts but strengthen skiing. According to this year’s statistics, over 50 percent of tourists were skiing for the first time.
We also implement social programmes, including free lessons for schoolchildren and free ski passes. Every year, we choose an age category – this year it’s those born in 2006 – and provide them with free ski passes, thus creating new skills, culture and traditions.
It is crucial that despite the inflation processes, we have kept our resorts affordable. We have not raised the ski pass price compared to last year; moreover, we have improved the programme. We have a unique product – a seasonal ski pass that costs 15,000 rubles. As of now, we have more day-trippers, as we do not have ample accommodation even though there are many applications from the project residents. But this makes it possible for tourists to get a day ski pass for 500 rubles, which has no precedent even in similar Russian or international facilities. However, this does not damage the resort’s economy, as the turnover is improving thanks to the growing tourism. The project is proving to be effective. In our state-funded programme, we are planning further investments both for increasing the number of resorts and for creating opportunities for Russian tourists.
Vladimir Putin: Both you and I know that to make the North Caucasus a winter holiday destination, the major issue and task is the need to develop infrastructure. I hope that by 2021, and the major projects are scheduled to be completed exactly by 2021, I hope that they will be implemented, and that our citizens will have more opportunities for holidays in Russia, in the North Caucasus.
Is Mr Sokolov present? Mr Sokolov, how did transport perform during the New Year holidays?
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, colleagues,
The Transport Ministry also noted the growth of air and rail travel during the holiday season, and we can confirm that it is domestic routes that are most popular.
Traditionally, air travel is the most popular, and this year Russia’s largest airports served 20 percent more passengers than before, about 4 million people during the holiday season. Moscow airports served just under 3 million, as compared to 2.5 million in the previous period. Sochi had a great gain of around 10 percent, but the absolute leader was Pulkovo airport in St Petersburg, which during the New Year holidays saw an increase of 30 percent on last year. Overall, both Sochi and Simferopol this year have surpassed the 5.2 million passengers benchmark and have become the country’s largest airports following the Moscow airports and St Petersburg.
Thanks to the increase in the domestic flow, which set a record at 55 million this year, which is a 6 percent increase, we can say that air traffic by Russian airlines has not dropped too much, even though the major international destinations such as Egypt and Turkey, charter flights and Ukraine were shut down, yet the results are within the corrected results of the previous year. Russian airline companies have served 88 million passengers, even slightly more than that. And the leaders are not only Sochi, which was mentioned here, but also other airports in the North Caucasus and the Black Sea coast. For example, Anapa saw an increase of 20 percent, Kazan saw an increase of 30 percent, the Kaliningrad Region – almost 20 percent more passengers and tourists flew to Kaliningrad which certainly makes us happy. Tourism is really growing across the whole country. This also applies, among other areas, to the Urals and Siberia.
Regarding railway transport, here we are also witnessing a little growth, within five percent, both during the holiday season and throughout the year, especially for long-distance trains. This means that we have managed to reverse the downward trend of the past several years.
As for passenger traffic, especially to the Crimean peninsula, the Kerch ferry line has to be mentioned. On the whole, it also showed gains of around 30 percent during the year, with over six million passengers.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.