Host: Hello everyone, good evening.
This is a special programme – Vladimir Putin, Live – brought to you by Ukraine’s three national television channels – Inter, 1+1 and UT-1.
I, Alexander Kolody, am your host tonight and I am now at the telephone centre where your questions for the President of Russia have been coming in over the last few days and are still arriving now. A lot of questions have come in, but let’s look at the numbers a bit later. People have been sending questions from every part of the country.
On the screen you can see the telephone numbers that you can call if you have a question to ask. I remind you that all calls made within Ukrainian territory are free. We are broadcasting live and I would just like to say that at this point we have already received around 80,000 questions – a huge figure.
It is now my pleasure to hand over to my colleagues from the three national TV channels, Alexander, Vyacheslav and Olga.
Question: We are broadcasting live from central Kiev. The Russian President arrived here in the Ukrainian capital today to take part in the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from fascist occupation, and he has begun his visit by taking part in our programme, just as the salute is being fired, as chance would have it, almost right at this moment.
Thank you very much Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] for accepting our invitation, and thank you to everyone who has already called or who is calling our studio right now.
I remind you that you can put your questions to the Russian President not just by telephone. Our programme has opened a special Internet site at the address: www.vopros-putinu.com.
There has been a noticeable improvement in relations between Ukraine and Russia over the last year, especially in the economy. We no longer have any political problems of the kind that in the past have had people’s feelings running high. Could you tell us, why has this become possible only now, why is it precisely in 2004 that this breakthrough has come?
President Vladimir Putin: We’ve been working towards this for a long time. Just because positive developments in our relations have become evident now, it does not mean that this has all happened overnight as if at the wave of a magician’s wand.
I think that during the initial period following the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia had to come to the realisation that the states that emerged in the post-Soviet area were not quasi-Soviet formations but full-fledged, independent countries, and that they should be treated accordingly.
Also, I recently met with Leonid Danilovich Kuchma at one of the CIS events, and he gave what I would call a very accurate description of the situation that emerged in many of the countries in the post-Soviet area. He said: we thought it would be enough to stand up to Moscow, move away from Russia, and we would be showered with dollars, roubles and every imaginable pleasure and would be rich and happy. But nothing of the sort happened, and could not happen.
Both we in Russia and our partners, including Ukraine, have realised that we all have our own national interests, and that we can further these national interests by working with each other. The most effective way to pursue our national interests is to work together. Having realised this, we have begun to work, and to work more productively. If you look at what we have done over this time, we have built up not only our economic relations. We have also taken important political steps towards each other. We have settled all our border issues. What this amounts to is full and absolute recognition of and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, not only as concerns its land borders, but also its sea borders. There are still some details to be worked out at expert level, but on the whole, the main issues have been settled.
We have sorted out the debt commitment question. We have found a solution that both improves Ukraine’s balance, broadly speaking, while at the same time ensures that Russia’s economic interests do not suffer. We have found solutions to all the problems that had caused complications for our relations. Of course, there are inevitably some kind of disputes and problems between neighbours who work so closely together in so many areas, this has always been the case and always will be. But this is not the issue, the issue is how we go about settling these problems, even the most hotly disputed and complex issues. Today we have the kind of relations that enable us to find solutions to every problem to the benefit of both our countries.
Question: But why precisely this year? Why was it not possible to do this, say, five years ago?
Vladimir Putin: We were working towards this. As I already said, we settled the land border issue in January 2003, and later we signed an agreement on the Sea of Azov. We cleared up the debt question two years ago and agreed on the principles. It’s not possible to say, therefore, that we have done everything just this year. That would not be correct. We worked towards this, dealing with one problem at a time, showing persistence and the will to achieve our objective, and we did achieve it. Now this is clear, also from the economic perspective, we can see it in how we have united our efforts and in the integration processes taking place.
But all of this was built on a well-prepared foundation, a foundation that we spent the previous years building.
Question: We watch jealously what is going on in Russia, compare our wages, compare who is carrying out which reforms. In which areas do you think Ukraine has obtained the greatest success? And is there anything that you could take from our experience?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, there are such areas and they are among the biggest priorities. Above all, this concerns the economic sphere. Living standards may differ in particular areas of Ukraine and Russia, but over the past years, and especially over this last year, Ukraine has shown very impressive economic growth, reaching growth rates of more than 13 percent, 13.4 percent, I think.
This is not just a question of high growth rates. The government led by Viktor Yanukovich has gone further and has ensured that this is high-quality growth. In other words, development in the Ukrainian economy is taking place in many different sectors, the economy is diversified. This is something very valuable and it is a very good example.
The Ukrainian government used many recipes to achieve this result. One that specialists point out is that the Ukrainian government managed to bring state spending within reasonable limits and at the same time concentrate financial resources on resolving primary social objectives such as raising pensions, for example. This is a very successful step forward. Of course this all deserves closer attention and is an example to follow.
Question: You said that Russia and Ukraine needed time to see themselves as fully independent states, and time was also needed for them to realise their national interests. Now we have the concept of the Common Economic Space. How does Russia see this in the strategic perspective? Will it be something like the Soviet Union, something like the European Union, or something else again? What are Russia’s national interests here?
Vladimir Putin: No one is going to try to recreate the Soviet Union, no one is in a position to do so and no one makes it their aim. Any such attempt would be counterproductive and, unfortunately, would not bring any benefits.
Many people in the post-Soviet area regret the loss of the Soviet Union, and they are right to feel this way, but since it has happened, we now need to act according to today’s reality and look towards the future. We need to base ourselves on the situation in which we live today.
The Common Economic Space is a concept and an idea, an idea of integration, above all economic integration. Our main goal here is to achieve free movement of labour, capital, goods and services. In other words, we want to create the conditions we need to effectively develop our economies, lower infrastructure expenses, reduce bureaucracy and give our citizens the chance to interact freely with each other.
These are the objectives behind the creation of the Common Economic Space.
Host: The telephone centre is buzzing with action. Your questions are being taken and processed here. What’s unusual in this situation is that normally you only hear your interlocutor on the telephone, whereas here you can hear yourself speaking live and also hear, of course, the Russian President’s response. So do call. I remind you that we are broadcasting live on three national television channels, Inter, 1+1 and UT-1. I also remind you that we have already had some 80,000 calls and that 25 questions are coming in every minute, although I think this figure has risen considerably since we began our live broadcast.
We now have several people on the line and I know that we have a call from the Kiev region.
Question: A lot of people in Ukraine have stopped going to vote in elections. People don’t believe they can have any influence on events by democratic means. This is a serious problem here. What is the situation like in Russia in this respect, and can you give us any advice in this situation?
Vladimir Putin: Strangely enough, this isn’t just a problem in the post-Soviet – using a popular catchword — countries; it is a problem in all democratic countries.
In Europe, for example, voter turnout is somewhere around 55–60 percent. We have had, I think, a very good turnout for the presidential elections in Russia, especially the last election, where we had around 65 percent or even a little higher. That is a good turnout. You said that people don’t believe they can have any influence on events through democracy, but what other way is there to influence events? Democracy is the only way. I am absolutely convinced, therefore, that it is important to take part in elections. There’s a well known argument that says, if you don’t vote, someone will vote for you. I have absolutely no doubt, indeed, I am 100-percent convinced, that you should support the candidate whose views most appeal to you.
Host: Calls are still coming in at the telephone centre. Looking at the makeup of callers, we have half-and-half men and women. What is interesting is that more than 40 percent of calls are coming from people with higher education.
If I’m not mistaken, we have a call now from Dneprodzerzhinsk. Hello, please introduce yourself.
Question: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich. My name is Valentina Nikolayevna. There has been a lot of debate in Ukraine about whether President Kuchma will run for a third term in office or not. Has he discussed this matter with you at all, and will you run for a third term?
Vladimir Putin: Valentina Nikolayevna, Leonid Kuchma is older than me and he has more life and political experience than me. He was director of Yuzhmash, one of the Soviet Union’s major and much respected enterprises, a real giant of Soviet industry. So, if we’re talking of seeking advice, it would more likely be me turning to him for advice.
We do, of course, discuss various questions with each other. We have discussed the situation today in Ukraine. Leonid Danilovich has never, I repeat, never, raised the question of potentially running for a third term. He has always spoken only of ensuring that these presidential elections, in which he had no intention of taking part, are held in an atmosphere of law and order.
As for me, I think that in many countries in this part of the world, in Russia, at any rate, the most important thing today is to ensure stability, and stability can only be ensured by upholding the law. This includes upholding the law that forms the foundation of our country – the Constitution. The Russian Constitution allows only two consecutive terms in office, and that is the law I shall follow.
Host: We are still taking calls here at the telephone centre. We have received around 2,500 questions over the last not quite 15 minutes. You can see for yourselves what a volume of questions we have.
It looks like we’re now coming to a series of more personal questions, including questions regarding your relations with President Kuchma. We have one such question that came via the Internet, a personal question.
Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, this is a question from Svetlana Kibiyenko in Krivoy Rog: Who did you celebrate your birthday with? Is it true that you celebrated your birthday together with [Ukrainian Prime Minister] Viktor Yanukovich?
Vladimir Putin: I try not to make such occasions a public affair. I think I have the right to celebrate my birthday among my family and friends.
Yes, I did invite the Ukrainian President and Prime Minister, and they did both accept the invitation. We celebrated my birthday and they gave me interesting presents. Of course, we did make use of the opportunity to talk about our affairs as well. Yes, they did visit me on that occasion.
Host: Another question from the Internet, but a more political one this time. This is a question from Ivan Kazachok in Dnepropetrovsk: Mr President, Russia recently agreed to a Ukrainian government proposal to collect VAT on oil and gas products by destination country. This will cost the Russian budget almost $1 billion, while the Ukrainian budget only stands to benefit. So, the question arises, isn’t there some trap here for Ukraine?
Vladimir Putin: No, Ivan, there is no trap. When I was a student I had a friend from Ukraine, and when he didn’t understand something he would ask me, “what, have you lost your mind?”
I can say that no, I haven’t lost my mind. Russia is moving over to this system of collecting indirect taxes not only with Ukraine but with all the CIS countries. The Russian budget will lose more than $1 billion as a result. But this is a deliberate step that we are taking because we see it as a modern means of taxation and economic interaction that will help reduce bureaucracy in our economic relations and increase overall trade. This will ultimately facilitate the flow of goods from one country to another and will lead to increased trade and, ultimately, to increased budget revenue. We are sure that the Russian budget will eventually benefit. Initially, the budget will lose out, this is true, but in the medium term, given the rate at which our economies are growing – and with a growth rate of 13.4 percent, the Ukrainian economy is growing faster than the other CIS economies – our specialists calculate that within the coming years we will only stand to benefit from this policy.
Question: Let’s now move to the international stage. How do you see the world order in the near future? Will it be a unipolar, multi-polar or bipolar world? How do you see Russia’s relations with the United States and unified Europe, and what place do you see Ukraine having on the political map of the world?
Vladimir Putin: With major countries such as the United States we have relations based on a partnership, and in some areas of our work together, for example, the fight against terrorism, we are even allies. We share very close positions regarding non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The United States is a major trade and economic partner for us, as is the European Union. Almost half of all Russia’s foreign trade is with the European Union. This is a large share. There is no doubt that this is of vital importance for us.
Aside from anything else, Russia, like Ukraine, is above all a European country, even though its territory extends all the way to the Pacific Ocean. But in terms of its culture, mentality and way of life, it is above all a European country. And so, we naturally must make ourselves a part of the world humanitarian and economic space.
As for whether we will have a multi-polar or unipolar world, I for one think that the world can only be multi-polar. Nothing can have only one pole. If the world were to be unipolar it would not be able to survive because there would be no inner energy and no development incentive. The world is very diverse and we are seeing the emergence of many poles. Look at what is happening in Asia – China, India and Japan are all developing very actively, as are Asian countries in general. South Africa is showing visible growth and Latin American countries, Brazil and other countries are also developing effectively.
I think there can be no doubt that the we will have a multi-polar world. As for what place Russia, Ukraine and our other neighbours will occupy in this world, we are large countries, technologically developed countries with a high level of culture. I will say it again, it is hard to imagine the whole diversity of European culture without Ukrainian culture and Russian culture. They are both important. Slavic culture in general accounts for a large part of European culture, and we also have to be part of it in the economy and in the defence sphere.
I would like to see both Russia and Ukraine hold a worthy place in world civilisation, be influential states and be such countries that ensure their citizens a decent standard of living.
Question: Mr President, moving away now from the big world picture to more immediate, practical matters, at a recent meeting with Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovich, you discussed the question of introducing a harmonised living standard in Russia and Ukraine. How do you see this standard and how could it be introduced and reached in practice?
Vladimir Putin: I already talked about the Common Economic Space. In order to establish harmonised standards in the social sphere, we first need to harmonise application of economic laws. This is what the creation of the Common Economic Space is about.
I’ll reveal a secret here on live TV. I met recently with the leaders of the Central Asian republics. We were eating dinner when the President of Uzbekistan suddenly said, “If Russia were to agree to transfer some functions, part of its authority, for setting tariffs, standards, for example, to a supranational body, I would not rule out that Uzbekistan would also join”.
But this is precisely what we are planning to do. We want to find means of regulating some kinds of economic activity and economic relations that would be fair and would not depend on any one country. This implies having our parliaments approve a whole package of decisions. We need to harmonise our legislation and have it work to the same set of standards. If we do this, we can then work on introducing high European social standards for our populations, but the economy has to come first.
Host: The telephone centre has really hit a peak, I would say. We had 25 calls a minute at the beginning of the broadcast, but we now have around 520 calls a minute and the number is rising. We now have several people on line, and I know we have a caller from Kharkov. Please, go ahead.
Question: Good evening, Vladimir Vladimirovich. You have just been talking big-time politics, but this is not the issue. Perhaps it is better to help people have a normal life, a normal life for Russians in Russia and for Ukrainians in Ukraine. What are you doing to achieve this? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: This is precisely what we are talking about. We believe that we must at least ensure free movement of people, ensure that our economies function effectively, develop better and faster, become more diversified, and that this all contributes to raising our citizens’ living standards. I want to stress that this is what 90 percent of our work is all about. This is practically all I talk about when I meet with the Ukrainian leadership. The rest is not as important, although there are some problems that do, of course, have to be solved. I mentioned them at the very beginning, the state border issue, for example. I think the issue there was not in drawing the border, but in recognising it. That was the main thing. We had to establish a high degree of trust, a high level of relations between our countries. You will agree, after all, that without this it is difficult to develop relations between states. I think that we have reached this level of relations with Ukraine and that we can now focus our attention on resolving precisely the problems that you mentioned.
Host: We are still receiving calls at the telephone centre. I remind you that we are broadcasting live on three national television channels, Inter, 1+1 and UT-1. You have the chance to put your question live. Please call.
Now I think we have a call from Kiev Oblast, from the village of Matyushovka, if I’m not mistaken. Hello, please introduce yourself.
Question: (in Ukrainian) My name is Maria Todosyevna. Good evening, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I have a lot of relatives in Moscow and Moscow Oblast and I would like to go and visit them, but I do not have a passport for foreign travel. Why can I not travel to Russia on my Ukrainian internal passport as I used to do.
Host: Shall I translate the question for you?
Vladimir Putin: No, thank you, I understood. I looked through the questions that came in after this programme was announced, and there are a great many questions regarding travel between Ukraine and Russia. Obviously, this is an issue of concern to very many people. I must confess that I did not fully realise before all that this question involved and just how sensitive the issue is for many people.
The problem is that for travel today, including on Russian Federation territory, many documents are used, including documents issued by state bodies, various certificates issued by state organizations. It is enough to have some little stamp, and you can enter the country. But entering the country is only half the question. The problem is that some, not all, people from other countries who enter Russia use their time in the country for economic purposes. According to the Russian Federation Central Bank, for example, foreign citizens withdrew more than $10 billion from accounts in 2003. Just consider that figure. Of that $10 billion that was withdrawn, $2.5 billion was withdrawn by CIS citizens and $1.3 billion was withdrawn by people presenting documents attesting them to be Ukrainian citizens.
I do agree with you however, and I will discuss with my colleagues how to bring order to this situation. But we need order to be brought in such a way that the vast majority of honest people in Ukraine and Russia do not suffer. The list of documents accepted at the moment – there are five of them, diplomatic passports, service passports, foreign travel passports and so on – should be extended to include internal passports. In other words, Ukrainian citizens should be able to use their internal passports to enter the Russian Federation unhindered. Upon my return I will issue the relevant instructions to the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Executive Office. So I hope that our discussion today will have positive results both for you and for many other Ukrainian and Russian citizens who travel to each other on business and in order to maintain family ties.
Host: The telephone center is continuing its work. We are being swamped by calls – around 600 calls a minute, a very impressive figure.
We now have a call from Ternopol Oblast, but we are getting calls from every part of the country.
Please, don’t give up, keep calling and you might get the chance to talk directly with the Russian President.
Please, go ahead. Hello, can you hear us? Please introduce yourself.
Question: Good evening. My name is Galina Dolgela and I am calling from the town of Zaleschiki in Ternopol Oblast. I worked in the town of Salekhard for 20 years and I receive a quarterly additional payment to my pension from the Russian Federation, but for some reason my pension payments are always delayed. Why is Russia not paying pension top-ups to those who spent many years working in the Far North? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Concerning delays in pension payments, that is, of course, a sad situation. I will definitely signal this matter to the ministries responsible for this area. As far as I know, we now have only minimum cases of delayed pension payments in Russia.
As for pension payments for those who worked in the Far North and regions with similar benefits, there is still work to be done on bringing order to the Russian legislation in this area. For example, people who worked in the Far North, in the conditions of the Far North, are entitled to certain benefits, but these benefits cease to be paid if people leave these regions, and this is as if pushing them to go back to the Far North. This is a wrong decision and this situation needs to be corrected.
Your questions keep coming in to the telephone centre. At the beginning of the broadcast there were about 80,000, and now this figure is constantly increasing. I can only say one thing, not one of your questions is ignored. All these questions were processed by our operators over the last few days, and the most frequently asked questions were given to Russian President Vladimir Putin before the broadcast began.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, were you able to look at any of them? You have already said that you really did look at these questions? Which of them caught your attention most of all?
Mr. Putin: Yes, I took a number of them. I don’t know, we still have time, don’t we?
Aleksandr Evgen’evich Fadeev: “Why is it beneficial for Ukraine to cooperate more closely with Russia, what benefits can western de-industrialised regions of Ukraine receive from this?
Why is it beneficial for Ukraine to cooperate with Russia? I think that this is more or less obvious. Our corporative ties have been very closely developed since Soviet times. Several of our factories, Russian and Ukrainian, cannot exist without one another. Without Russian-Ukrainian cooperation, some factories would simply stop functioning. This is the first point.
Secondly, by combining efforts, especially in the research and development sphere, in the high-technology sphere, we can confidently conquer markets of third-party countries, which would have been very difficult to do separately.
As for such regions of Ukraine where agriculture, for example, dominates, Russia of course represents for them a good market for selling produce.
Yasyn Ivanovich Synokoev: “Dear Mr. President. I am a citizen of Ukraine, I respect this country and its people, but still in my heart I consider myself a citizen of the country where I was born, went to school, and served in the army, whose language I speak, where my relatives, friends and colleagues live, a country which, without asking me, or millions of other people like myself, was torn up into small independent countries. I want to live in a large orderly country, where there is one honest, strong President, one language, and where all peoples are friends. My question is: if people like myself are in the majority, then is it possible to restore the USSR or a country with another name, perhaps? Respectfully yours, Mr. Synokoev, Khar’kov, Ukraine.
Firstly, we have already talked about this subject. I think that it is impossible to create the USSR in its former state. As for speaking the same language, you know, Yasyn Ivanovich, in the Russian Federation we speak a lot of languages. True, there is one official language, but in general we try to support all the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation. And as for a large unified country, where it is comfortable and safe to live and feel dignified, I think that now it would be better to talk about unifying efforts and about integration, above all in the economic sphere. If we are able to do this, then many problems will solve themselves and will not cause the concern that is present today, will not infringe our national feelings, or our dignity, and will ensure the security of our countries.
I think that this is the path we need to take.
Vasily Mikhailovich Kaidannik: “Do you think it possible to have within a common economic space a system of common defence of countries belonging to this common economic space? If yes, then how soon and on what basis?”
Everything is possible. In the CIS, we have the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Ukraine is not a member of this organisation. But in creating a common economic space, we do not set any defence or political goals. Within this economic space, we only pursue economic goals.
Here’s a good surname – Grigory Pavlovich Boginya [“Goddess”]: “Do you plan to withdraw the Russian Navy from Sevastopol. If not, then how does this fit in with the Constitution of the Ukraine?”
We have a treaty on our navy to be stationed in Sevastopol until 2017.
How does this fit in with the Ukrainian Constitution? I may be wrong, but as far as I remember, article 14 of the Constitution says that military contingents must not be stationed in the Ukraine on a permanent basis. But in the transitional statutes of the Ukrainian Constitution, if my memory serves me right, article 14 of these transitional statutes say that the bases that exist at the moment can function on Ukrainian territory temporarily, in accordance with international treaties ratified by the Supreme Rada of Ukraine. We signed such a treaty with Ukraine. The Supreme Rada ratified this treaty. It took legal force. Thus, the presence of Russian seamen in Sevastopol, in the Crimea, is fully in keeping with the law and the Ukrainian Constitution.
Host: We are getting a huge number of telephone calls at the moment,
I have been told that there is this very question: is it true that from 1 January 2005, returning to the topic of our recent discussion, that we will have the right to enter Russia on an ordinary Ukrainian internal passport?
Mr Putin: Just 10 minutes ago it was planned to allow this only with foreign passports. But I promise you that we will change this position. It will be possible to enter the territory of the Russian Federation on internal Ukrainian passports, not foreign passports. The only problem is with registration. And I think that we can solve this problem by handing out a piece of paper with an appropriate mark when crossing the border.
Host: For Russians in Ukraine the duration of stay without registration is for 90 days, but only three days for Ukrainians in Russia.
Mr Putin: Yes, this is unfair. Unfair and wrong. It does not help for people to meet, it makes meeting difficult. And in fact, I must say that to be quite honest I did not even know this.
Host: This has been so useful then.
Mr Putin: Yes, it has, that’s true.
And I am certain that given the level of relations that we now have, we simply must create a procedure which is exactly the same, which gives citizens of Ukraine in Russia the same rights that Ukraine gives to Russian citizens in Ukraine. And so we will introduce this procedure on a reciprocal basis.
Host: Vladimir Vladimirovich, this is a question that you have essentially answered in part, or hinted that you answered when there was a call from the Kiev Oblast. The fact is that you understood it without a translation. Do you understand Ukrainian? Can you speak to people in western regions of Ukraine? Have you visited the Carpathian mountains? Do you have any plans to ski there in winter? Do you plan to visit any other Ukrainian city, perhaps in Western Ukraine?
Mr Putin: I can understand individual phrases in Ukrainian, of course, but when it is spoken fast, it is hard for me even to understand the meaning of what is being said. Although I like Ukrainian. I like it very much. I know a little of it. I tried to read “Kobzar” as a student, but there is only one thing that I remember, and that is probably because it was very close to my mood at the time. The quatrain goes like this: (reads aloud a quatrain of verse in Ukrainian).
I remember that I read it and thought: that’s very appropriate. I thought that I was just stupid because I couldn’t focus on my studies . And it turned out that great people, whom we all love, remember, respect and value, also had these feelings and concerns. So I remember it to this day. But unfortunately, of course, I don’t speak Ukrainian.
And as for Western Ukraine, I have been there. My wife and I drove to Western Ukraine on our honeymoon. I think we went to a town called Vinogradov, I think. Is there a town with this name?
Host: Vinogradovo, Beregovo.
Mr Putin: Beregovo, yes. It’s a very beautiful place, very beautiful indeed. I liked it a lot. And we went there for a second time, we skied there, we rented a room in a housein the village, a big room, and there were a lot of us, 10–12 people, and we all slept in the same room. I had very good impressions of this. We were treated very kindly and heartily, and I have very pleasant memories. I would be happy to go there again.
Host: Vladimir Vladimirovich, perhaps we should return to the questions you chose before the broadcast began?
Mr Putin: Galina Sergeevna Kovordina: “How do you feel about dual citizenship of Ukrainians and Russians? Is it possible for a Ukrainian to have Russian citizenship and vice versa? It is an annoying situation”.
On the whole, I feel positively about this. Unfortunately, after they gained independence, the so-called process of collapse of the Soviet Union, all countries, including the Russian Federation, used the so-called zero option, and everyone living on the territory of an individual country received the citizenship of the newly formed nation. This happened in both Russia and Ukraine.
Russia’s position is that one of the fundamental characteristics of citizenship should be a firm tie with the country of residence. Firm means that you need to live there permanently and so on. But I still think that Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are a special case. We should think about this. When I say “we”, I mean not just Russia, but Ukraine too. We cannot solve this on our own. This should mature, it should come from inside society.
I think that if we see that people want this in Ukraine, then we will not only examine this issue, I think we will actually make this step. But I am always scared of jumping ahead, because any action we make may be seen as an attempt to restore something. We do not have this goal, I repeat, but from the point of view of making it easier for people to meet, to visit each other, to do business, or simply to go to a theatre in Moscow or Kiev, or to come and watch the Kiev team Dinamo, or something like that, I think that this would be right.
Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, Khar’kov, Ukrainian, Ivanov street. I think Mr. Ivanov is hiding his identity. It’s hard to see why: “Whose decision is to introduce travel into Russia on foreign passports – Russia’s or Yanukovich’s?”
I have already answered this question. It was Russia’s decision. On the contrary, both the Ukrainian President and Prime Minister Yanukovich directed our attention to this and asked us to change this decision. I have already said that it will be changed.
Vitaly Vladimirovich, Ordzhonikidze: “Mr. President, why do people want to introduce a visa system between Ukraine and Russia? Who is the initiator of this? Who benefits from this? In Europe, for example, they are moving away from this”.
There are no plans to introduce a visa system between Russia and Ukraine.
Dmitry Vyacheslavovich Chistyukhin, Donetsk Oblast: “When will the shameful practice of registration in Moscow be abolished, which humiliates people from other cities and countries?”
I have already answered your question. Dmitry Vyacheslavovich put the question correctly.
Arkady Yur’evich Shipko, Novomoskovsk, Dnepropetrovsk Oblast: “Bismark once said that to weaken Russia as much as possible, it was necessary to strengthen Ukrainian separatism. In today’s realities, it is not hard to see the West’s interest in the Ukrainian question. Does the Russian leadership plan to create or support a political force whose main aim is to bring the two brotherly nations together as much as possible?”
We would be happy if such forces in Ukraine established themselves, developed and achieved their goals. But it is very dangerous to initiate and support political forces inside Ukraine from abroad, especially on the part of Russia. It is counterproductive and may lead to the opposite result. This process should take place on the inside, it should be born inside Ukrainian society.
Tat’yana Mikhailovna Yefimenko, Fastov, Kiev Oblast. “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, in Ukrainian and Russian history textbooks there are many contradictions and different interpretations concerning the past relations of our peoples. Do you think it is necessary to create a joint Russian-Ukrainian group consisting of scholars and history teachers in order to remove these contradictions? The burden of problems from the past should not…” and so on.
I agree, Tat’yana Mikhailovna, the burden of problems from the past should not slow us down in our moving forwards. I can tell you that just before coming here, I met with members of the Presidential Council for science and education, and Academic Chubaryan informed me that agreement have been reached with Ukrainian colleagues on creating such a group.
Yury Ivanovich Yeremenko, Chernigov Oblast: “Mr. President, do you have any Ukrainian heritage in your family tree?”
No, Yury Ivanovich, I do not. As Vysotsky once sang: “If there’s anyone that got into my kin, he was a Tatar.” But seriously, all my relatives are from the Russian Tver province, about 200 kilometres from Moscow. And over many years, many centuries, they not only lived in the same place, in the same village, but went to the same church, because all these facts were gathered from church documents.”
But if I suddenly found out that I had this heritage, I would be proud. I like Ukraine.
Vadim Vasil’evich Balanovsky: “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, it is well-known that you are a sporty person. Do you like football, and which of our players impresses you the most?
It’s hard for me to talk about this.
Host: Shevchenko, probably?
Mr Putin: It’s not hard because I don’t know anyone, but because of the recent tragic events in Russian football. And I can’t call these recent defeats anything but tragic.
Of all the outstanding football players I like Pele the most, and some German and other European players. Of course, today Shevchenko is better known than others.
Sergei Nikolaevich Yepishev, Khar’kov: “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, 350 years ago Ukraine was united with Russia. Our ancestors were probably no stupider than we are. And many years of history shows that it is better to be together in all respects.
What do you think, will we be united soon again? How do you feel about this issue?”
I have already answered this question, Sergei Nikolaevich. And I feel positively about this process. I repeat, everything has to go through its own processes. I think that despite all the minuses that have arisen, and there are a huge number of them – they were mainly faced by ordinary citizens of our countries, they suffered the most from the collapse of the Soviet Union – despite all of this, there is also something positive.
This positive aspect will allow us, if we want to – and this process is gaining strength today – to find forms of interaction and integration that are supported by the vast majority in both Russia and in Ukraine. This is the most important thing. It is important for the vast majority of the nation to support this process. And in conditions of independence, this will force us to look for compromise decisions in relations with each other, and to find the most acceptable solutions. This is the path that we should take.
Anatoly Abramovich Yeyes: “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, can we expect that the common economic space of four countries will in future become a union of nations after the model of a unified Europe? This does not just concern a common economy, but a common parliament, government, and unification of legislation.
We have already started on unification of legislation. There are a series of documents, a series of bills which should be agreed upon, approved and then be submitted to the parliaments of both countries. There are 62 laws at the first stage. This is the first necessary step in unification of our legislation. And then we intend to create a national body to regulate tariffs, without which it is impossible to carry out several types of activity for our economy, and for the Ukrainian, the Belarussian and the Kazakhstan economy. The issue is for us to delegate certain authorities on regulating, for example, the tariff on iron, and tariffs in other sectors of the economy. And our partners – not us, but out partners – insist that decisions there are passed according to certain rules, and that national governments, including the Russian Government, should not influence the decision of this body. The idea is that the decisions should be fair and suit everyone. These are the first steps towards this integration. What will happen further with the parliament and government – this is a very distant prospect, and it is not being examined at the moment. But if one day our peoples come to the conclusion that this is necessary and beneficial, that it will be useful – then I am certain that future politicians will make the appropriate decisions. But these issues are not on the agenda today.
Dmitry Aleksandrovich Nartov: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, have you thought about standing for the President of Ukraine after your term expires as President of the Russian Federation? It is no secret…” and so on.
No, Dmitry Aleksandrovich, I am not planning to do this. And as you and I both understand, it is impossible.
Aleksandr, Kiev. The question is in Ukrainian. I don’t know how successful I will be, but I will try: (Reads the question in Ukrainian.)
As you can see, we still chose your question. I must say that our ambassador in Ukraine is not a great specialist on linguistics, but he has other positive qualities. I think that you will agree that, for example, solving the problem of the Ukrainian gas debt is a very serious issue in intergovernmental ties and for the Ukraine economy. Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin, as a person who created Gazprom and also participated in creating this debt, knew this area better than anyone. He played a direct part and achieved a solution to this problem in the interests of both Ukraine and Russia, just as he continues to advance many other issues of economic interaction quite effectively, not only in the sphere of energy, for example creating a gas consortium and so on, but also on many other issues. And using his authority within Russia, having the opportunity to speak directly to the President and the Prime Minister, with all the ministers in the Government of the Russian Federation, he can effectively solve issues of this interaction at an intergovernmental level. I think that he is working effectively.
And as for the purpose of my visit, it is well-known – to take part in the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from the Nazi invaders. I think that this is a sufficiently serious occasion for the Russian President to come to Kiev to commemorate this date with his friends.
Andrei Aleksandrovich Sen’ko: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, do you believe in dreams? What good things do I need to do to have my photograph taken with you? I am studying at school, as for obeying my parents, it is not always easy. Andrei, Class 1 A, School 125.” This is a letter from Kiev.
There’s nothing easier. I will ask our colleagues if they can find Andrei Aleksandrovich at Class 1 at School 125 in Kiev, there’s an address here and telephone number.
Host: He doesn’t even need to do anything good?
He doesn’t need to do anything. I will be happy to have my photo taken with you today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, at any time that is convenient for you, Andrei Aleksandrovich, except when I am busy with official business.
Polina Konstantinovna Rudenko: “We want to feel that you remember us, as we fought for Russia once”.
Polina Konstantinovna, just now, when I was answering one of the questions, I said that I came here to take part in the 60th anniversary of the expulsion of the Nazis from the territory of Ukraine, the liberation of Ukraine from the invaders. And I want to assure you that wherever veterans are living: in Ukraine, in Tajikistan, in Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan, in any country, even outside the former Soviet Union – we will always remember you and will ask our children to remember you without any limits in time or space. We are in debt to you and will never forget this.
Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. It was fitting that our programme today began with a salute. Thank you for making sure that after this broadcast, residents of Ukraine will be able to travel to Russia, like they do now, without visas, without foreign passports, and on their ordinary internal Ukrainian passport.
Thank you very much, Vladimir Vladimirovich, for finding the time to meet with us and our viewers on this live broadcast.
Mr Putin: Thank you very much for your attention.
Host: And that marks the end of the special project of the three national Ukrainian television channels “Inter”, “1+1” and First National television, “Vladimir Putin. Live Broadcast”.
Thank you to everyone who asked and sent us questions. We hope you understand that the Russian President was simply physically unable to answer all the questions you asked, as the time of our live broadcast, of our programme, is limited only by the time of our live broadcast.
Thank you very much once again, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Mr Putin: Thank you.