President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
The subject of today’s meeting is clear, so I will remind you without an unnecessary introduction of the requirements of the Executive Order signed following our meeting: instructions came first, then the Executive Order.
So, pursuant to the executive order, the flood was declared a federal emergency. For this reason, there were orders to employ the Russian Armed Forces, other troops and military units to provide flood relief in Irkutsk Region.
The Government of the Russian Federation was instructed:
- To allocate federal budget funds for major repairs of partially damaged property and to solve the problem of providing funds from the federal budget for building or purchasing new homes to the people whose residences were deemed uninhabitable as a result of floods in Irkutsk Region.
- To subsidise the Irkutsk regional budget so that it could compensate agricultural producers for the cost of servicing loans and leasing payments, and to provide support in their effort to restore cultivated land.
- To repair damaged roads, bridges, etc. as quickly as possible.
- To take exhaustive measures to prevent price increases on basic goods and services.
- To organise social payments and allocate additional funding from the Government’s reserve fund to compensate the federal executive authorities’ costs related to flood relief efforts.
There was also an instruction involving insurance companies.
I want to hear what has been done, and then we will discuss what still needs to be done.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
I began with the Executive Order. If it needs to be amended, please compile proposals following today’s meeting.
A 4,000-person task force was set up to work in the affected areas in the region including about a thousand units of heavy equipment. The task force comprises personnel from the Emergencies Ministry, the National Guard, the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry. I would like to thank everyone for their efficient work during the operation. I would like to thank the medics and volunteers.
Nevertheless, Mr Levchenko [Irkutsk Region Governor], you were with me in Tulun and heard what the people were saying. And I can say right away, in view of what I was told, that I cannot call the flood relief operation satisfactory.
What do people say? Firstly, a very poor job was done communicating with residents. You heard it yourselves – they do not know where to go, there is no information about what a person is entitled to and what they are not, or where certain certificates can be obtained and documents reissued. Reissuing documents was not organised properly, and many people are still unable to get them.
Our colleagues also said here that people across the country are sympathising, sending support, primarily humanitarian aid. You must have heard today about how the humanitarian aid is distributed. Regrettably, there were instances when it was just thrown into the water. Is this the way work has been organised on the ground? Is this a sort of gratitude to those people who cared about the victims?
They mentioned gardening. We have to decide on the fate of the houses that the people lost there. Please, coordinate it with the federal authorities and submit your proposals. People undoubtedly must be helped; we need to set out the process of how to do it, in what volume and so forth.
There are issues regarding titles to the land plots. Namely, a house is beyond repair, but it was on a plot of land that people used as a vegetable garden. The people are asking what will happen to it. It was their property. Will they be offered compensation, or will the plot be recovered? We must do what the people want. But in order to do that, we must work with the people – go there and ask the people.
Next comes rebuilding housing for large families. We speak a lot about them; we keep saying they need support. In this case, families with many children are also in trouble, and we must make an exception for them and provide them with housing not according to the exact floor area of their previous home but according to the standards and the number of people in the family, the number of children.
Finally, the money. It came from the federal budget, and it came rather quickly. But I was surprised to hear today that some of the victims did not get even the 10,000 ruble lump sum to say nothing about compensation for completely destroyed or partially destroyed housing. What is this? How should I take it? I ask you to urgently sort this out and straighten things out there.
All decisions regarding aid for the flood victims must be acted on as promptly as possible. Apart from routine matters – and they are important matters for the people – we must bear in mind that winter is coming very soon. I have already said and I want to repeat – the work must be done to achieve results, not for reporting purposes. Nobody needs those reports.
The housing, utilities and social infrastructure must be rebuilt promptly. We have to figure out the numbers, of course. I have just heard from the report that 9,068 houses were flooded, but my briefings say 10,890. We must have a clear idea of what we are speaking about. My briefing reports say, “10,890 houses flooded.” Are they in the flood area, or have they been flooded? We must get to the bottom of that, because, in fact, there are real people behind the numbers, their families and lives.
It is important to coordinate the relocation of residents and the construction of social facilities. By the way, when we speak about recovery efforts, one more problem should be addressed that the people have just spoken about. Unfortunately, it often comes up in such situations. I mean the work of evaluation commissions. There are not enough of them; there are apparently too few professionally organised commissions. And most importantly, people do not grasp how their work is organised. Different commission members come one after another, say something and sign something, yet people do not understand what is happening.
I will revisit this. The rebuilding of social facilities should run alongside the rebuilding of housing. The people must be aware that the facilities will be located where they are going to live.
Let me repeat once again: people must have housing before cold weather arrives regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent housing. The residents must be able to use normal roads, hospitals, schools – and it is good that you brought up kindergartens – and if these must be rebuilt rather than repaired, let us do it. Let us provide for that. Mr Mutko [Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the Government Commission on Flood Relief in Irkutsk Region], I ask you to take note. If additional funds are needed, do the calculations and report.
As agreed, all the children must begin classes on time, in September. If some schools are not repaired by then, we must provide transportation for the children, and it must be done in the most convenient way. I shall come in early September to see how it will have been done.
Next. We have already agreed on this, but I will repeat it anyway – agricultural land has been flooded, and part of the harvest was lost. The Minister has already spoken about that here. We have to make a final assessment of the loss of cattle and crops, as well as losses in private subsidiary plots, and streamline work in this area as soon as possible, including compensation payments. This is a joint task for both the Government and the regional authorities. An instruction has been issued on providing subsidies to Irkutsk Region to assist farmers.
During today’s meeting, some citizens raised the issue of supporting damaged small and medium-sized business, and not only agricultural producers, as I take it. We overlooked that – in both the Executive Order and the resolution, but there are such enterprises. It means we must make amendments to both the executive order and the resolution, and add aid to small and medium-sized businesses damaged by the flooding.
With regard to general matters. Unfortunately, we regularly face floods in Siberia and the Far East. I have already given instructions to research the condition of riverbeds and water facilities in the areas of potential heavy flooding. Such monitoring should be conducted on a permanent basis, which will lower the risk of such disasters and will make it possible to warn people in advance.
I also gave instructions to legally ban housing construction in flood-prone areas. The respective amendments have been made to the Land Code, but the relevant by-laws remain unchanged. The ban is ineffective in practice.
I ask the Government to promptly complete establishing the legal framework in this field and the regions – to speed up work on designating such territories and entering them in the territorial planning documents. I hope our colleagues in the regions will take heed of my instructions today.
By the way, unexpectedly for me, ordinary people today raised a crucial, state-level issue – forests must be better managed not just in the region but also in the whole country. Illegal logging leads to water-logged soil and increases the risks of flooding.
I ask the Government to set up a special commission to monitor the situation in forestry. We will have a more detailed discussion of it at the next meeting of the State Council in view of the significance of the topic.
To conclude. Colleagues and friends, I do not think I will reveal any new truth by saying that the key goal of any authorities, any level of power – be it municipal, regional or federal – is to create decent living conditions for the people, especially if people experience a hardship, as is the case here in the region where we are at present.
In this connection, arrogance and rudeness must be completely erased from all levels of power. Regretfully, people do face it. That is surprising, but it is a reality. I ask all leaders at all levels to bear this in mind and to do everything so that people never see it. On the contrary, people must be treated with care and respect.
Work should be properly organised in all the areas we spoke about today. The task force of the Defence Ministry, the Russian National Guard and the Emergencies Ministry shall remain in the region until further notice. And, as Mr Mutko suggested, a relocation plan should be drafted, I agree with that. It should be drafted in such a way that all facilities are listed with the names of the officials in charge of each group of facilities.
I hope our work today will benefit the people I met today, and there are many more of them in the disaster area. Regardless of all the hurdles we are aware of – I mean the scope of the tasks we are facing and the deadlines for addressing those tasks – we will manage to fulfil all those tasks.
I want to reiterate. I hope the municipal, regional and federal bodies of power will communicate well and properly coordinate their work. The end result of our work will depend on how effective the coordination is.
All the best to you.