Question: How do you assess the situation in the agro-industrial sector? How far is it from the ideal?
Vladimir Putin: We all know that there are more problems than achievements in Russian agriculture, although I have noted a very positive trend in grain harvesting when speaking at the Presidium of the State Council. The dynamics are as follows: 48 million tonnes in 1998, 55 million in 1999, 65 million in 2000 and 82.5 million tonnes this year. It is a very good indicator nationwide.
At the same time financial rehabilitation of the sector calls for particular attention, as we have just been discussing. The Government has already taken some steps in this direction. Apparently, they are not sufficient. And today we have agreed that I will formulate instructions to the Government, including setting up a mechanism for the financial rehabilitation of the sector. We must definitely discuss the material status and property relations, while approaching the issue of purchase and sale of agricultural land with care. We have already made this point today.
The social problems of rural areas are an important topic: above all, housing, education, culture, communications and transport infrastructure. All these issues are addressed in the Government’s programme of rural social development. It will shortly be finalised and its main parameters will be reflected in the 2003 budget. The social problems of rural areas must always get their share of attention, but the 2003 budget will address them on a large scale.
If all of this is implemented, we will gradually see favourable changes in that sector of the Russian economy, structural changes and, most importantly, the country will benefit from the sector and the people who till the land will live better.
Question: Some time ago Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said that you are not happy about the data provided by the Ukrainians regarding the circumstances of the crash of the Russian TU-154 plane. Could you comment on this?
Vladimir Putin: We agreed with the Ukrainian President that Ukrainian experts would join in this work. To the best of my knowledge they are already in the area of the tragedy in Sochi. Only the experts can draw the final conclusions. So, I don’t want to add fuel to the fire and foment some kind of mistrust among our Ukrainian partners. We have no doubt about the objectivity of the documents made available to us, but the experts are not satisfied with their volume and quality. So we will receive additional information and draw the final conclusion together with the Ukrainian colleagues.
But make no mistake, we will do everything possible for the true causes to be revealed and presented to the public.
The same is true of the Kursk submarine tragedy. You know that the submarine has been lifted. I hope that the operation to tow it to the dock will be successful. Prosecutor General’s Office investigators and doctors will be the first to board the submarine. So there too we will do all we can to reveal the true causes of the tragedy and make them public.