President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Medvedchuk, I am pleased to have you here.
I have known for a long time now that despite the many challenges you maintain a straightforward position on restoring Ukrainian-Russian relations at all levels, including state, non-governmental, and in the economy.
We are pleased to know that there are political forces in Ukraine that openly and honestly hold this position. For our part, we are ready to contribute to restoring Russian-Ukrainian relations in every way. We hope that you will have more supporters in this regard over time. To reiterate, for our part, we will do our best to restore our relations.
I would like to note that we in Russia also noticed how the 75th anniversary of Victory over Nazism was celebrated in Ukraine this year. I am aware that this is largely due to your efforts, and the efforts of your associates and your party. I am confident that many people in Ukraine are grateful to you for this.
Since this is our common victory, I would like to express our gratitude to you on behalf of the Russian people.
Viktor Medvedchuk: Thank you very much, Mr Putin.
You are right about the celebration of the 75th anniversary of our common victory, the victory of the Soviet people and the Soviet Union. This is exactly how Ukrainian veterans see it. Indeed, we did our best despite the political crisis, despite the fact that the ‘party of war’ is still strong in Ukraine, and despite the fact that the radicals tried in every possible way to disrupt the May 9 celebrations.
We gave our veterans the respect they deserve. We owe a debt of gratitude to them. Ukraine is home to 13,243 veterans of the Great Patriotic War. This number includes both those who fought and those who worked on the home front. We are talking about elderly people who need assistance. We did our best to bring the holiday to their homes under the current circumstances in Ukraine, and we wanted to pay tribute to them.
Incidentally, on May 9, we announced the creation of the social movement The Front Line in the Struggle to Perpetuate Historical Memory. In Ukraine, it has been a long time coming, because radical nationalists, and former and current authorities are trying to erase these greatest heroic actions of the past century from people’s memory.
We will continue to do all we can to make sure that our veterans are held in respect. We organised these celebrations not only in Kiev but across all of Ukraine – we paid tribute to the fallen and acknowledged those who are still alive. We were guided by our party’s ethics, as this is the ideology of the Opposition Platform for Life party. This is also our position as the second largest parliamentary faction and as the second – for the time being – party in the country.
Mr Putin, if you allow me, I would like to ask you two questions regarding my country and, primarily, Ukrainian citizens and, if possible, discuss them with you.
First, I want to congratulate you on a great victory, as Russia has become the first country to create a vaccine, the Sputnik V vaccine, at the Gamaleya Centre. I know that another vaccine is in the pipeline. The Russian Federation has yet again demonstrated its potential and scientific prowess.
It is clear in this context that all countries, including my country, Ukraine, have been plagued by this scourge, this great tragedy. The Ukrainian people are demanding protection and vaccination is the most reliable and, to all appearance, the most viable means of protection.
I would like to ask you to consider the possibility of distributing this vaccine to Ukraine, among other countries, so that in the future Ukrainians can be protected against this terrible disease, given that Russia is the first country to have created a vaccine and has started mass vaccination on its territory.
Despite the fact that relations between our countries are in crisis, I would ask you to consider this possibility in the future.
Vladimir Putin: I can say right away that this is possible. This vaccine has already arrived in all our regions. Unfortunately, it is not yet being produced in sufficient quantity. We need millions of doses.
As you may know, we are now working on it with our colleagues and friends in Belarus. We recently discussed this matter with Mr Lukashenko. The work there is on schedule as well.
Indeed, many research centres worldwide are working on it, and we wish everyone success. Some of our major institutions in St Petersburg and Novosibirsk are researching it as well. In Moscow, work continues at the Gamaleya Centre and other places. I hope that another Russian vaccine will be registered in the middle of October, just ten days from now. It is almost finished, and the work on it has been completed. I am referring to the Novosibirsk centre Vektor.
With regard to the vaccine you mentioned, yes, of course. Indeed, why not? If we started working with Belarus, we could work with Ukraine as well.
We would need to implement this plan in conjunction with the specialists from Ukraine. The official Ukrainian authorities should formulate their requests and needs accordingly. We are ready to do this regardless of the political difficulties. After all, this is a purely humanitarian matter, a healthcare issue, a matter of caring for the people we care about be it Russia or Ukraine.
So, we are ready to do this work. To reiterate, the corresponding authorities must come to an agreement at the official level.
Viktor Medvedchuk: I tested this vaccine on myself. My wife Oksana, our son Bogdan, and I took the vaccine during our holiday in Crimea in August. It went well, and I think it is the most effective remedy to date to fight the coronavirus.
Vladimir Putin: Did you have a fever?
Viktor Medvedchuk: No, no fever, no complications whatsoever. Neither my family nor I had anything worth mentioning. We took it very easily. In fact, it simply went unnoticed.
Vladimir Putin: We here in Russia are discussing this topic constantly. Our people are aware that there may be fever or body aches.
Viktor Medvedchuk: This is probably a natural process. It is a vaccine after all.
Vladimir Putin: This is natural for some types of vaccination. But it does not happen when some types of vaccines are used. At any rate this happens sometimes and it is necessary to know this. Many of my associates and close relatives have already been vaccinated, as well as employees working around me, dozens of people, about 50. Maybe seven or eight people had a fever. Their temperature was not too high but still higher than normal. But, reliable protection has been created. So again, we are certainly ready to do this with Ukraine.
Viktor Medvedchuk: Blood samples show that there are antibodies already, and in sufficient quantity.
Vladimir Putin: Do you mean yourself?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Yes, my wife and I both have them. My wife has even more than our son and I do. In other words, everything is normal. Therefore, naturally I would like to congratulate Russia on this high achievement because it is the first country in the world to have done this.
Vladimir Putin: Almost all top-ranking officials at our Defence Ministry have been vaccinated.
Viktor Medvedchuk: Well done.
Vladimir Putin: As well as those from other security services.
Viktor Medvedchuk: And one more question, if I may. I would like to ask you the following.
Obviously, Ukrainian-Russian relations have been difficult in the past few years. First, this involves economic and trade relations. This is partly due to the sanctions that were introduced by the Ukrainian authorities under Mr Poroshenko when Ukraine joined the EU sanctions against Russia. This move did huge damage to or industry and our economy as a whole. Many companies, dozens of thousands were shut down in Ukraine because their exports were primarily oriented to the Russian Federation.
Russia was Ukraine’s main trade partner during all these years, literally up to 2020. Ukraine’s biggest exports in the world went to Russia. Likewise, Ukraine’s biggest imports in the world were from Russia. This chronology and order only changed this year. At this point, Russia is our second largest partner because now China is on the fore.
We have the League of Industrialists and Employers, an association of 240 companies. They are involved in heavy equipment manufacturing, radio technology and agricultural engineering. All of them appealed to our party and me personally to try to partially cancel the sanctions and some product codes because a number of companies were oriented towards exporting to the Russian Federation.
Naturally, there was a loss of jobs because these companies, even those that addressed me for help today, including companies in the pulp and paper industry and winemaking, employ over 150,000 people. In fact, today these people are either without jobs or lead a life that does not allow them to support a family.
I have a good grasp of Russia’s policy. I think it is fairly objective when it comes to sanctions. The one who imposed them should lift them. Still, if I may, I would like to have these specific proposals, which I have put together in writing and which I want to submit to you, reviewed. Perhaps the Government could look into it and find a way to create conditions conducive to at least a partial lifting of the sanctions. If it is possible at all, of course.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Medvedchuk, the first issue you touched upon, fighting the coronavirus, is a purely humanitarian matter.
The second issue has more specifics to it, which you have just touched upon. These specifics boil down to the fact that we did not impose the sanctions. Everything we do, we do in response and with regard to the states that have taken certain steps with regard to Russia, against Russia.
I know what you are trying to say. And my heart aches from knowing that people in Ukraine who worked at the enterprises that sent their output to Russia found themselves in a difficult situation. This is the most important thing. I would like to fix this, of course. We are ready to do this. We want this situation to go back to normal. But we cannot make any exceptions from the list of the countries that have imposed sanctions on us. This is the main problem.
Nevertheless, we still need to prepare for this. Someday, I hope, this will come to pass. In this sense, of course, we probably need the Government to work on it as well.
You just mentioned a public organisation.
Vladimir Medvedchuk: Yes. The League of Industrialists and Employers.
Vladimir Putin: We could work on this with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other associations of entrepreneurs and, of course, the Government. I will ask my colleagues to set up a meeting with you and get this work going.
Viktor Medvedchuk: Thank you very much. I really would like to meet with the Prime Minister and discuss this issue in as much detail as possible, and to consider and study it. As you correctly said, we need to focus on restoring trade and economic relations, including in this area.
Vladimir Putin: I will let Mr Mishustin know.