The meeting was attended by Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, deputy prime ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Tatyana Golikova, Marat Khusnullin, Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Alexander Kozlov, Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev, Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov, Minister of Energy Nikolai Shulginov, Acting Minister for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Natural Disaster Relief Alexander Chupriyan, Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergei Ivanov, and heads of several regions and federal agencies.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today we will discuss the situation concerning fires in Russia and revisit the range of issues related to the prevention of forest fires. It is important to have an in-depth discussion and take additional action, if necessary, to alleviate the current problems. Generally, we should discuss improving the fire prevention efforts.
At the moment, several regions are fighting fires in residential places, with significant material damage becoming apparent. Unfortunately, victims have been reported as well.
I am talking about wildfires, landscape and man-caused fires. Regardless of their origin, these fires pose a direct threat to people’s lives and health, causing tangible and often irreparable harm to nature and wildlife, as well as adversely impacting the economy and social life.
Colleagues, I would like to ask the Acting Emergencies Minister to start the meeting with his report on the current situation. Governors of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Kemerovo Region, the Omsk Region and the Kurgan Region, please report on the state of affairs in your regions. I have already discussed the matter with several colleagues, and I believe it is necessary to have a discussion involving a broader range of participants. Please tell us what kind of additional help you require from the federal government and report on what kind of assistance is provided to local residents.
Please note that we must not allow a repetition of the situation last year, when the wildfires were the longest and most intense in several years. Fire management requires a complete overhaul where it is necessary. I will tell you later what decisions have already been made. Still, if we see that something is not working or is not sufficiently effective, changes must be made. Firefighting efforts must be more efficient, better organised and consistent, with all preventive measures being raised to a higher standard.
I have already spoken about the substantial damage that fire causes to our citizens, the economy, the social sphere and wildlife. There is another extremely important aspect. I have already noted – and everybody understands this – that forests act as an environmental shield for our country and the entire planet. This plays a key role in absorbing global greenhouse emissions. Therefore, large-scale fires undermine our climate change efforts. This is a matter of principal importance for our country and the entire world.
I want to stress that, as I have just said, all the decisions necessary for effective action against wildfires were made at the federal level in the past. For example, the law specifies the authority, responsibilities and liability of government bodies and forest land lessees when it comes to eliminating fires and restoring forests.
The law also regulates matters concerning landscape fires, which are fires breaking out on open land, in fields, meadows and steppes and which often spread to forests. Since January 1, 2022, regional and municipal authorities have been responsible for eliminating such fires. As per your request, funding is being allocated.
As part of the Environment national project, the regions are upgrading specialised fire-fighting equipment. The main issue that representatives of our federal constituent entities have been raising repeatedly is insufficient funding for the wildfire fighting effort. I understand that this matter has been resolved.
In this context, I would like to note an important decision made following the XX Congress of the United Russia party, which instructed the Government to additionally allocate at least 8 billion rubles every year to regional authorities for wildfire prevention efforts. These funds were calculated and agreed upon with the constituent entities and fully included in the federal budget for this year and for the planned period of 2023–2024.
Essentially, the regional officials currently have all the necessary authority, equipment and funding to prevent wildfires. Clearly, it is a complicated issue as force of nature is force of nature. But today I would like to hear from you: are you making use of the funds that were allocated? And what is preventing you today from promptly responding to new fires?
I would like to stress once again: all the proposals from the constituent entities have been supported and money allocated. Tell me if this is not the case but as I understand it, the federal centre has created all the conditions for you to reduce the area of active fires multiple times and ensure that they are eliminated quickly and effectively. It is the responsibility of the regions to achieve that.
Again, it is the heads of regions who are in charge of ensuring that fires are extinguished. When the situation gets out of control, you must not keep it to yourself. This is why this board is meeting today, to speak openly. You are to request assistance as promptly as possible.
Senior officials of the federal government bodies and specifically the Emergencies Ministry must note that a well-coordinated wildfire response system must be built and operate, while involving additional funding, equipment and workforce must not be just a formality. If there is a real threat of a fire spreading, help must arrive – for the respective region or municipality – immediately and not just formally. It is important to assess the real threat, potential risks and to use the forces and means where they are most needed – and, I should stress, regardless of the subordination of a specific territory or land.
At this point, I would like to hear detailed reports from the heads of Yakutia, the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Irkutsk Region, which had the biggest wildfires last year, on how the decisions on this issue have been implemented, how the allocated funds were used and how it affected the territories’ preparedness for the risks in this year’s fire season. And I would like to know how the number of wildfires can be reduced this year and in the future, given the resources and capabilities provided.
I would also like the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment to comment on the reports by the heads of the constituent entities of the Federation and to report on the systemic steps to drastically change the situation.
I would also like to add that I think it is necessary to set a benchmark to assess both the efficiency of this effort and a specific result, that is, a decrease in the wildfire-affected areas of each constituent entity of the Federation and in the country in general.
I suggest we include this indicator in the presidential executive order to be drafted following today’s meeting. Let’s think about, of course, what other items the executive order should include to be more effective. Let me stress that this document is to objectively assess the efficiency of the steps taken to protect our forests from fires as well as the efforts of the regions of the Federation and the Government in this area.
An extremely important issue is rebuilding residential structures. I talked to some colleagues today – tentatively, some 700 buildings that had been used by people as permanent residence and that were destroyed by fire, need to be rebuilt. I am not talking about dachas, that is a separate subject.
Let’s get to work. Head of the Emergencies Ministry Alexander Chupriyan has the floor.
Go ahead please, Mr Chupriyan.
Vladimir Putin: This is what I would like to say in conclusion. There are several aspects, traditional ones, but we have been improving the results from year to year. I hope this will eventually bring a positive outcome, despite climate change.
What I would like to emphasise is, first of all, the restoration of housing.
(Addressing Marat Khusnullin) Mr Khusnullin, I would like to ask you to join in these efforts, if the assistance of the federal government becomes necessary. Of course, this issue should be addressed above all at the regional level with support from municipalities. But if federal assistance is necessary, I would like to ask Russia’s construction sector to contribute and to respond accordingly.
The second issue concerns payments. This is very important, especially for those who have lost everything, who have lost their personal belongings and their properties, who have become homeless. We must organise these payments, and this must be done quickly, without undue administrative red tape, especially since many people have lost their documents as well, as we all know.
The next issue has to do with children. We must do all we can to help organise summer holidays for the children in the families which have been affected by these fires, at the regional, and if necessary, federal levels – I am addressing this to Ms Golikova.
Next, the relevant commission must start working now. One of the main tasks is to address the evaluation of one square metre of housing realistically, because prices differ from region to region, and we must take this into account to determine the necessary funding.
Incidentally, some of our regional colleagues, as we have learned now, do not need federal assistance in this matter, despite the large amount of housing which they are repairing or will need to rebuild, as our regional colleagues have indicated in their reports. Some of them said they are managing on their own, while others said they need our assistance. This matter must be clarified as soon as possible.
As for consumer loans, of course, we should consider what can be done, and how much funding can be allocated to help the people in terms of their mortgages and other loans.
A relevant Presidential executive order must be prepared to ensure so that we do not forget about this issue and so that proposals are made on amending the regulatory framework.
(Addressing Viktoria Abramchenko) Ms Abramchenko, I would like to ask you, together with the Presidential Executive Office, to prepare a draft executive order without any delay and to submit it to me for signature.
Thank you, and all the best.