Remark: Mr President, greetings on Volunteer Day!
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: The same to you.
Question: The number of volunteers has doubled over this year. Their projects received serious support from society and the state. But the Year of Volunteer is ending. You have just said that the state will continue to support volunteers’ projects. How will you do this?
Vladimir Putin: We have special support mechanisms for this.
As for the volunteers who take part in major international events, such as the Olympics or football championships, we have established a system of training at many educational establishments, which have been specially selected for this and which offer regular courses. The next event of this kind will be the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk. We started working with young people and the so-called silver volunteers [people aged 50+] who want to be involved in this, long ago, and we will continue this work.
Regarding volunteer work in other areas, all of which are very important and include helping those who need your help, protecting forests and wildlife, as I said in my speech for the volunteers at the award ceremony, we must provide administrative and financial support. The volunteers usually work for free, but the state must finance the creation of the necessary conditions for their work.
We have a system of grants, which we will continue to provide in 2019 and beyond. Moreover, we have been gradually increasing the size of these grants, and we will do this next year as well.
Question: I apologise for going off the subject, but the international frenzy over the Kerch Strait incident continues to grow, and we keep hearing President Poroshenko’s complaints about not being able to reach you over the telephone. He is complaining to Western politicians and to Western journalists. Could you perhaps tell us what kind of environment could make this conversation happen?
Vladimir Putin: The problem is not me avoiding or not willing to have a conversation with Mr Poroshenko; it is not that. The problem is that I do not wish to participate in his election campaign.
What do you think is really going on here? Mr Poroshenko skilfully masterminds crisis situations, which are, in fact, provocations – step one. Step two: he immediately shifts the responsibility for them to Russia. And then, step three – he instantly wants to show everyone that he is successfully dealing with problems – problems, for which “he is not responsible”. That is what this is about. That is one pretty unsophisticated routine. I do not wish to take part in these routines, and I will not.
Question: Mr President, back to the international agenda: yesterday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo basically issued an ultimatum, saying that Russia has 60 days to correct the alleged violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The Americans state that we created missiles that violate the terms of the treaty.
How will we react to these statements? How will we respond?
Vladimir Putin: It is very simple. First of all, it is obvious and known to all by now – Mr Pompeo’s statement is somewhat late. It was the American side that announced its plans to quit the INF treaty first; only then they started casting about for a justification for doing this.
The most important justification is that we violated something. At the same time, as always, no actual proof of violations on our part has been provided.
As a reminder, in 2002, the United States, just as in this case, unilaterally withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty. The ABM treaty is one of the cornerstones of the international security system. Nevertheless, they just walked out without any second thoughts. By the way, they did not even bother to invent any reasons – just withdrew, and that was that.
Now, in fact, the same thing is happening, only they are trying to find someone to blame for this decision – I would say a rather reckless decision.
The arguments cited are essentially clear: Russia and the United States are the only countries that do not produce weapons of this kind. This is actually true. Many other countries – probably about a dozen already – make such weapons, while Russia and the United States have limited themselves bilaterally. Now, apparently, our American partners decided that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have such weapons.
What will our response be? Simple: then we will do it too.
Allow me to remind you that this year, I think, the US Congress earmarked funds for R&D projects to create these missiles, even before they announced withdrawal from this treaty. That is, the decision was made a long time ago, only quietly.
They thought we would not notice, but we did – the Pentagon budget includes the development of these missiles. Only after that they publicly announced that they were withdrawing from the deal. Their next step was to look for someone to blame; “Russia” is the first word that comes to mind and sounds familiar to a regular Westerner’s ear.
This is not true. We do not agree with the destruction of this deal. But if this happens, we will react accordingly.