President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening,
Let’s take your questions. Please go ahead.
Aysel Gereykhanova: Good evening,
Aysel Gereykhanova, Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Mr President, you took part in the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia yesterday, and the creation of a new international organisation was announced yesterday as well. How do you assess these plans and what purpose do they serve?
Vladimir Putin: We asked ourselves this question back when this organisation was being created 30 years ago, I think, and it appeared back then there was plenty of all sorts of other tools that could be used to compare notes on security issues. However, we realised today that this is not so, and these additional tools are needed and must be improved, especially for the Asian region.
This entity is the brainchild of First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. He is no longer active in this capacity, but the entity is alive, and Kazakhstan has proposed creating an organisation on its basis.
As a reminder, the OSCE was formed along the same lines and started out as a forum for discussing European security issues and then became an organisation.
I think this is the right thing to do, since there are many threats in Europe and Asia alike. I will not go over all of them, I am sure you know all about it.
So, in my opinion, it is an important and timely decision, and all the participants supported it.
Alexei Lazurenko: Good afternoon.
Alexei Lazurenko, Izvestia.
The first Russia–Central Asia Forum has ended just moments ago. Do you think Central Asian countries are still interested in Russia like before?
Vladimir Putin: I think they are even more interested now. Of course, our trade is growing and much faster than in previous years, for understandable reasons. I do not think I need to elaborate.
We are developing new logistics chains, many of which are running across this region. The regional countries are interested in this. And lastly, new opportunities for cooperation and for developing our own competencies are being created.
We are looking for ways to revive some enterprises which were shut down recently; we can do this on a fundamentally new technological basis, including in Central Asia, which would be interesting both for us and for our partners. This is the first point.
The second is that we need to decide how to do this, for example, in the financial sphere and services, transitioning to national currencies, the volumes involved, what exactly should be done, and how to organise the transfer of financial information. There are many specific issues which our Central Asian partners are certainly interested in.
That is quite apart from security issues, the fight against terrorism and, for example, the situation in Afghanistan. Yes, we discuss this at the CSTO and CIS platforms, but these issues concern above all the Central Asian republics. Therefore, we could use a separate format, which we need, in principle.
And lastly, as I said, we are working with our partners and allies at the bilateral level, but when we meet in such formats as today, five [Central Asian] countries plus Russia, we do not look at the issues on the agenda from a bilateral angle but, as I noted today, try to look for projects and spheres of cooperation that will be of interest to the region as a whole. The issue may be the same, but we look at it from a different angle that may be of interest to all of us. This is the next point.
And one more thing. For example, our colleague from Turkmenistan [President Serdar Berdimuhamedov] said that cooperation with Russia in a multilateral, Central Asian format was very important for Central Asian states, which have no access to the world’s oceans, and allows us to look together for such opportunities and channels. We are developing several projects with our other partners, which are interesting for us as well. It is very important, interesting and appropriate now to bring all this together.
Pavel Minakov: Good evening, Interfax Agency.
It is no secret that some countries within the post-Soviet space are apprehensive about the events unfolding in Ukraine. You met with your colleagues during the CIS summit and spoke informally with them. What are your impressions: amid the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine, has unity in the CIS got stronger, remained the same, or are there any negative trends underway?
Vladimir Putin: No. As you can see, all this is going on, all the formats are working, which means they are important, and our allies, our partners want to use these formats in their work. Nothing has changed in this regard.
However, we are paying attention to events related to Azerbaijan-Armenia relations and to what is going on between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We are well aware of all that. Of course, our partners are interested and concerned about the future of Russia-Ukraine relations. True, this is being discussed, and there is nothing unusual about it. I brief our partners in detail about it and make our point of view clear to them. But this does not in any way affect the nature, the quality, or the depth of Russia's relations with these countries.
Please go ahead.
Yuliya Bubnova: Good afternoon.
Yuliya Bubnova, TASS agency.
You held a meeting with the leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan yesterday. How did it go and what are the outcomes? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: It was a constructive meeting. No doubt, when relations are in a fairly hot phase, finding common ground is not easy, but I think we succeeded in doing so. At least, we have agreed that no effort would be spared to prevent the resumption of hostilities. This is my first point.
Second, importantly, the parties will take every step necessary to have the refugees return home.
Third, and also significant – without claiming to play any mediating role (although, truth be told, we were asked to do so), we agreed that both sides would make the corresponding documents and their vision for resolving this issue available to us, and we will assess their proposals and use the documents at our disposal to find a solution, which could be the basis for reaching potential agreements. What I am saying is that Moscow might have access to more reliable information about the borders between the republics than the republics themselves. We will go over these documents and the maps, and then look for a solution in cooperation with our colleagues.
So, the meeting was useful overall.
Please go ahead.
Pavel Zarubin: Good evening,
Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV channel.
I have a question that many people are now pondering in Russia.
I think the role of Germany in the conflict in Ukraine has not been discussed well enough. If Chancellor Merkel took a rather reserved position, Mr Scholtz has gone rogue, so to speak. Suddenly, Germany has forgotten with amazing ease what Russia did for the unification of the German people and did not think twice before turning over some very difficult pages of the reconciliation of the two nations, and now we are seeing what was unthinkable before –Russian people are again being killed by German weapons.
You are an expert on Germany. How can you explain what is happening, and how will this affect Russia-Germany relations in the future?
Vladimir Putin: This is the choice of the people who legally came to power in a particular country, Germany in this case. They must decide themselves what is more important for them – to fulfil allied commitments, as they understand them, or to ensure the interests of their own people, their national interests.
Judging by what you said, in this case the Federal Republic has prioritised its allied commitments in NATO. Is this right or wrong? I think this is a mistake, and businesses, the economy, and the people of Germany are paying for it because it has adverse economic consequences for the Eurozone in general and the Federal Republic in particular.
However, it looks like hardly anyone takes into account its interests or else the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 would not have been detonated. Although they were not operational, they still provided an element of reliability – they could be switched on in the worst-case scenario. But this is no longer possible. Although there is a line that still seems to be in working condition, as I said in Moscow, but a decision has not been made and is unlikely to be made. But this is no longer up to us. This is up to our partners.
As for the ideas that guide the leaders of different states, this is their own business. I have set forth my version. I think it explains the gist of the problem.
Maria Finoshina: Maria Finoshina, RT International.
Good evening, Mr President,
Before your trip to Kazakhstan, you met with the President of the United Arab Emirates and then with the President of Turkiye here in Astana. In what way was the situation in Ukraine discussed during these meetings? Perhaps, the leaders of these countries shared with you their insight into Kiev’s exclusive position that they are privy to?
According to the Turkish media, Ankara is trying to set up talks between Moscow and Western countries – the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany – in Istanbul. How realistic is the idea of holding this meeting today? If it takes place, how effective will it be without Kiev at the table? Does the idea to involve China and India in these talks seem plausible to you?
Vladimir Putin: We are aware that President Erdogan has played a fairly significant role in resolving a number of issues, including exchanges. He was personally involved in this work, and, as we know, got results. We are grateful to him, because we got our servicemen, including officers, back. This is my first point.
Second, he was deeply involved in organising grain exports from Ukraine. Unfortunately, this grain is not being shipped – or small amounts of it are shipped – to the poorest countries under the UN programme, but that is a different matter. I discussed it with him as well. During our talks yesterday he was in favour of structuring the grain flows and shipping grain primarily to the poorest countries. This is up to the UN Secretary-General. I am aware that he is working on it, but not everything is working out for him, either.
The United Arab Emirates are also willing to act as mediators, and the President of the United Arab Emirates is working on it, including humanitarian issues, exchanges, and so on, and not without success, for which we are also grateful to him.
India and China always talk about the importance of dialogue and peaceful resolution. We are aware of their stance. They are our close allies and partners, and we respect their position.
But we are also aware of Kiev’s position – they kept saying they wanted talks, and even sort of asked for them, but have now passed an official decision that bans such talks. Well, what is there to discuss?
As you may be aware, speaking at the Kremlin when announcing the decision on the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, I said we are open. We have always said that we are open. We reached certain agreements in Istanbul, after all. These agreements were almost initialled. But as soon as our troops withdrew from Kiev, the Kiev authorities lost any interest in the talks. That is all there is to it.
If they ever get ready for this, we will welcome it. At that point, the mediation efforts of all the stakeholders may come in handy.
Please go ahead.
Ilya Yezhov: Ilya Yezhov, Vesti FM and Mayak radio stations.
Continuing with international topics: Mr President, is there any certainty about your trip to the G20 summit in Indonesia? And if so, if you were to go there, would you be willing to hold talks with US President Joe Biden?
Vladimir Putin: You will have to ask him if he is ready for such talks as well. To be honest, I do not see the need for it. By and large, there is no platform for any kind of negotiations at this point.
The question of my going there is not decided yet. But Russia will certainly take part in this work, and we will think over the format of it. At this stage there is no question of direct talks with any of the G20 members, since we are in constant contact with some of them, as you know. We just talked about the position of Turkiye and the Turkish President – Turkiye is also part of the G20, and we are in constant contact with him, as well as with some of our colleagues. We have not discussed such issues with the President of the United States.
Konstantin Panyushkin: Good afternoon!
Konstantin Panyushkin, Channel One.
The Federal Security Service reported the other day that the explosive device that went off on the Crimean bridge was originally shipped by sea, apparently by cargo ship, from Odessa.
How will this fact affect Russia's stance on cargo shipping from Ukrainian ports: will we, perhaps, obstruct it now? And most importantly, as for the grain deal, because after all, the agreement was to export grain, not explosive devices. Won't this terrorist act ruin the grain deal?
Vladimir Putin: The Federal Security Service has stated that this so-called cargo, or more precisely, explosives, was probably sent by sea from Odessa, but it is not clear whether this was done with the help of grain carriers or not. This is a question, the answer to which is not yet available.
But if it turns out that humanitarian corridors for grain shipments to the poorest countries (although it does not go there, but this work was organised under that pretext) were used to commit terrorist acts, then of course this would raise a big question about the continued functioning of that corridor. But so far we have no such information.
Konstantin Panyushkin: Is a possible Russian response being worked out?
Vladimir Putin: You know what, the answer is simple: we can just shut it down and call it a day. But we must first find out for sure. There is no such information.
Alexander Yunashev: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Alexander Yunashev, Life.
Several days ago, a man was fined in Moscow for listening to Ukrainian music. This seems like a clear case of overkill, because soon the film “Only ”Old Men“ Are Going Into Battle” can be banned, because there are Ukrainian motifs there, and Gogol.
After all, just because Nazis listen to folk songs doesn’t mean the songs themselves become Nazi, what do you think? And what should the attitude to Ukrainian culture be now?
Vladimir Putin: I think we are constantly indignant at attempts to shut down Russian culture, to cancel it, and it is completely absurd. As one of our musicians said: ”Such fools.” But we must not behave in the same way. That’s first.
Second, Ukrainian is one of the official languages in Crimea. In one of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, Crimea, Ukrainian is an official language, along with Crimean Tatar and Russian. So it would be illegitimate in its own right.
Third, I think there are about three million citizens of the Russian Federation permanently residing here who are Ukrainians. How can we ban their language and culture? It is unthinkable for us.
And so I understand what this is connected with: it all has to do with the emotions of the moment. But I think that many of our families know, listen to and love Ukrainian songs and Ukrainian culture. Back in the Soviet Union, hits sung in Ukrainian were very popular. And I think that we should not be like those who, as I said at the beginning, answering your question, cancel any culture. Culture has nothing to do it.
If the current leadership in Kiev considers it possible to support neo-Nazis and support torchlight processions in the centre of their large cities, as well as people who walk around with Nazi symbols, this has nothing to do with Ukrainian culture.
Lyubov Lezhneva: Good afternoon,
Lyubov Lezhneva, Izvestia.
I have a question about mobilisation. You have already said that there are many associated problems, and now many companies do not understand which employees will be mobilised.
I would like to ask you if there will be another wave of mobilisation. Will there be total mobilisation. Is the figure of 300,000 people mentioned by the Defence Minister still up to date or not?
Vladimir Putin: To begin with, the Defence Ministry initially planned a smaller figure – not 300,000 people. This is the first point.
Second, nothing is planned additionally. The Defence Ministry has made no proposals about this and I don’t see any need for it in the foreseeable future.
As for the mess I mentioned, it is linked with old forms of accounting, which have not been updated for decades. The quality of these papers became clear only with the start of mobilisation. This database is now being updated and modernised and will be as accurate as possible. So I think the quality of this work will be improved as well.
That said I must note that this work is already ending. Now there are already 222,000 mobilised troops out of 300,000 people. I believe all mobilisation activities will be completed in about two weeks.
Go ahead, please.
Alexei Golovko: Alexei Golovko from the Rossiya. Vesti channel.
To continue the same subject. We are in Kazakhstan now. We know that there are very many people here who left after the announcement of partial mobilisation. There is a certain number of them in neighbouring countries as well.
Different things are said about them in Russia. Some people call them traitors and there were even proposals in the State Duma to impound their cars. What is your personal view of the people who left the country after September 21?
Vladimir Putin: I would prefer to base my assessment on the law, not emotion. It is necessary in each case to consider the legal implications of the actions of a specific citizen. Some left because they are scared of something, others because they want to evade mobilisation and still others for some other considerations. It is necessary to give a legal assessment in each case and take action with regard to each individual on these grounds alone. I believe it is impossible to act in any other way.
Go ahead, please.
Gleb Ivanov: Thank you very much.
Gleb Ivanov, Argumenty i Fakty.
Mr President, a follow-up question about mobilisation. The first deaths of mobilised soldiers have been reported. The Chelyabinsk Region authorities said several mobilised men had died. A Moscow Government employee who was mobilised on September 23 is being buried in Moscow today. He had no military training or military experience.
The question is: how is this possible? When the partial mobilisation was announced, it was said that all those mobilised would undergo mandatory military training. How did people end up on the frontline and die before even three weeks had passed since the mobilisation was announced? What do you think about the mobilisation process?
One more question, if I may, about the Crimean Bridge. After the terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge, what can you say about the security measures at strategic infrastructure facilities like railway stations, airports, gas pipelines, or power plants? Are we able to protect them?
Vladimir Putin: With regard to mobilisation, I can only reiterate what I said earlier. The line of contact is 1,100 kilometres long, and it is practically impossible to hold it exclusively with the contract soldiers, especially since they are taking part in offensive operations. This is the reason for mobilisation. This is my first point.
Second, all citizens who are called up as part of the mobilisation must undergo training which is provided as follows. I said that 222,000 people are now in the army, more precisely, the formation units, where they receive initial training that lasts from five to 10 days. Then, depending on the military specialty, they go to combat units for training for a period of five to 15 days. The next step is training with troops involved in combat operations, where they undergo joint combat training.
If you look at it from the time the mobilisation started to the present day, in principle, looking at the minimum values, in general, this is possible. And it is not only possible. Like I said, 222,000 are in the formation troops, 33,000 mobilised men are already in the units, and 16,000 men are in the units involved in combat missions.
Since questions like you just asked still arise, I will instruct the Security Council additionally. There are former Defence Ministry employees with extensive experience on the Council. They are good at what they do; they are high-level specialists. I will instruct them to inspect the training process for mobilised citizens.
With regard to security, after the terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge, the relevant services were tasked with stepping up monitoring in order to ensure the safety of critical infrastructure, and corresponding measures must be taken at all of them, including energy facilities of different levels and classes and at transport facilities. Our country is vast, so let us hope that the efforts in this area are effective. So far, we have managed successfully.
Please go ahead.
Andrei Kolesnikov: Kommersant daily.
Do you think Ukraine will be able to exist as a state after all this? What about Russia?
And a second question, Mr President. You don’t regret anything do you?
Vladimir Putin: No.
I want everyone to understand. What is happening today is unpleasant, putting it mildly, but we would have got the same thing a bit later but in worse conditions for us, that’s all.
So my actions were the right ones at the right time.
Andrei Kolesnikov: And what about my first question?
Vladimir Putin: Whether Ukraine will exist?
Andrei Kolesnikov: Will Ukraine be able to exist as a state? Will Russia?
Vladimir Putin: But we did not set ourselves the aim of destroying Ukraine. Certainly not.
Meanwhile, at one point they suddenly switched off water in Crimea where 2.5 million people live, 2.4 million to be precise. Troops had to enter and switch on the water for Crimea. This is simply an example of the logic behind our actions. If they had not taken this action there would have been no counteraction.
The bridge was blown up. Now we have to think hard. How important is it for the Russian Federation to ensure that Crimea is connected by land? Do you understand?
Pavel Zarubin: After the act of terror on the Crimean Bridge, massive strikes were launched on Ukrainian territory. Were they effective, and are more likely in the future?
Vladimir Putin: There is no need for massive strikes now. Other tasks are on the agenda because I think out of the 29 targets the Defence Ministry had planned to hit, only seven were not. But now they are dealing with them gradually. There is no need for massive strikes, at least for now. As for the future, we’ll see.
Is that all? Now the final question.
Sergei Dianov: Thank you very much.
Sergei Dianov, RIA Novosti.
NATO officials are saying explicitly that Ukraine’s defeat would mean the alliance’s defeat. Do you think NATO will send troops into Ukraine if the situation on the battlefield becomes disastrous for Kiev?
Vladimir Putin: You know this is a question of concepts, of legal technicalities. What does Ukraine’s defeat mean? It is open to interpretation. The fact that Crimea became a Russian region in 2014, is that defeat or what? It is necessary to understand what it is.
But in any event, sending troops into direct engagement, a direct clash with the Russian Army is a very dangerous step that could lead to a global catastrophe. I hope those who talk about this will be smart enough not to undertake such dangerous steps.
Thank you very much. All the best.