I am happy to welcome you all. This is my first meeting with the personnel of the Moscow cruiser. In 20 years of service, your ship has performed a great deal of useful tasks for the Russian Navy, for the Russian Armed Forces. It has taken part in difficult campaigns, tried out the newest types of equipment, and even taken part in diplomatic effort. International meetings of the highest level have been held on board. I would like to thank both you and the previous generation of sailors who served here. This is the first visit in recent Russian history of Russian military ships to Sardinia. Although generations of Russian sailors probably know and remember that in their time, Russian sailors took an active role in saving Italian citizens during an earthquake in 1909. But today we must not talk about what happened a long time ago, but focus on what is happening today.
Today, unfortunately, a tragedy has taken place in the Barents Sea. A Northern Fleet submarine sank. It is already clear that there are fatalities among the sailors. This shows once more that the sea requires discipline in the strictest sense of the word. The sea never forgives any negligence, and certainly not mistakes. It still remains to clarify the reasons for this tragedy, but what I just said is an old truth – the sea never forgives mistakes. They always have to be paid for dearly. There will be a thorough investigation in connection with this. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy is already there. I think that the Defence Minister will go there this evening as well. And sad as this may be, you have your own service, and it is equally responsible or dangerous. I greatly hope that you and your commanders will perform your duty and represent the Russian navy with dignity, in both Italy, and, as the Commander told me, in Greece, and then at the base in Sevastopol, where you will have a complex training programme. I wish you every success.
Question: Will Russia have the opportunity in future to have military ships permanently at sea?
Vladimir Putin: Of course it will. If you have noticed, the navy has become much more active that it was in previous years. Training has just finished in the Far East, and recently training was held in the Indian Ocean. We are planning training here with our Italian partners, in the Mediterranean, with the participation of submarine and surface vessels. One of the main training sessions will be developing sea rescue procedures. Work will be done with Italian and Russian ships and submarines. You have already organised similar training with the French navy. We will definitely plan and carry out such training.
I agree with you absolutely that a boat that stays in port loses it military readiness. Specialists do not gain any skills, they may even lose them; and this situation is unacceptable. The navy will perform the tasks the Defence Ministry and the country’s leadership give to it.
For any state, especially for a naval state, the significance of the navy is great. It is not just a sign of active foreign policies, in today’s world it is a significant part of the state’s security. We will definitely work in this direction in future. We will also continue to work on a programme to revive the Russian navy. There is a programme which includes construction of surface and submarine vessels. In 2004, the funds for these goals in the country’s budget will be allocated.
Thank you for your attention.