Yekaterina Andreyeva: Hello. This is the Direct Line with President of Russia Vladimir Putin – a special programme broadcast by Channel One and television channel Rossia.
Sergei Brilyov: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin].
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Sergei Brilyov: Eighteen months have passed since the last Direct Line broadcast. And eighteen months have also passed since the beginning of your second term in office. How do you assess this time?
Vladimir Putin: I’m not going to name a lot of figures now and list all that has been done and all that has not been done – and yes, there is enough that has not yet been done. I’ll go straight to what is most important, and that is that our economy continues to grow stronger and show positive growth. Over these last years the Russian economy has been growing at a rate of around 7 percent a year. This is a much higher growth rate than that of a large number of developed countries and countries in transition. We are not the absolute leader for economic growth but we are among the leaders. Last year our economy grew by 7.1 percent and this year we are expecting a figure of 5.9 percent. This is a good result and it is a condition for other positive developments in our country, above all, rising living standards for our people. Indeed, real income growth, minus inflation, stands at around 8.5 percent – 9–10 percent a year.
Sergei Brilyov: That is growth of people’s real incomes?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, growth of people’s real incomes. Growth of pensioners’ real incomes is lagging somewhat and is around 5.5 percent. Pensioners will see their real incomes rise by a bit more this year – 7.9 percent. We have a trade surplus and a primary budget surplus. The Central Bank’s gold and currency reserves are growing and have now reached $155 billion. Just as a reminder, in 2,000 they stood at only $12 billion. We are paying off our foreign debt — 16 percent of our country’s gross domestic product — here we have one of the best results in Europe. We have created the Stabilisation Fund, what some other countries call a fund for future generations. I imagine that we will come back to this fund, the question of whether we need it or not and what we should do with it. In any event, all of this together creates an absolutely stable situation in the country. People can plan their lives. They can better plan their business and family lives. And what is very important is that this all helps to put in place the conditions for being able to find broad solutions to pressing social problems and resolving the problems some sectors of our economy still face.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you for that answer. You are here not to talk with us, however, but, through us, to talk with our viewers. Which city will we begin with?
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Yes, we have our TV cameras in 12 different places – in large cities and small towns. First on the line we have the Far East, Sakhalin Island.
It is 7 p.m. in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk at the moment. Our correspondent, Igor Kozhevin, is there right now. Igor, go ahead, we are waiting for questions for the President.
Igor Kozhevin: Greetings to Moscow from the capital of the only Russian region entirely located on islands.
Good afternoon, Vladimir Vladimirovich,
Good afternoon, Yekaterina,
Good afternoon, Sergei.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Igor Kozhevin: Everything here in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is ready for the Direct Line with the Kremlin and we just need to decide now who will put the first question. Who would like to go first? Please introduce yourself.
Irina Kiselyova: Irina Kisleyova. I’m an accountant.
Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Irina Kiselyova: I have been living on Sakhalin for more than 20 years now. I work outside the city and to save time I have to drive my car to work. The sharp jump in petrol prices lately has me and all my friends in shock. Here on Sakhalin, 95-type petrol now costs 21 roubles, and this is here, in our oil-rich region!
So, my question is, what situation can we expect to see regarding petrol prices in the new year?
Vladimir Putin: This is an important issue at the moment not just for the Far East and for Sakhalin, but for the entire country. This sharp jump up in prices is only recent and peaked at the beginning of autumn. It is due to a number of circumstances, above all to the fact that the Russian economy has become a part of the international economy. This integration has many obvious advantages, but it also brings with it some problems in the fact that the general rise in prices for resources such as oil and gas and oil products, this general rise in prices around the world, is also having an impact on us. There also some issues specific to Russia, however, and the government will have to look into them and will do so in the nearest future.
Above all, you know, there are agreements with the leading companies and there are not many such companies – and there is also a problem here because these companies are essentially monopolising the market. There are eight main companies that have divided up the country’s regions between themselves and are able to establish their monopoly prices. But there are also issues that the government must resolve.
What are these issues? Above all, there is the taxation issue. I want to tell you that of the earnings received by the oil companies, and by the fuel and energy sector companies in general, only 20 percent remains in their hands. The rest goes to the state in the form of taxes and other payments. This whole situation is quite complicated for consumers, of course. Why? Because a number of these payments and taxes – the mineral resources tax, for example, and import duties – have a direct impact on domestic prices. The government is therefore currently looking at how to change this system in order to make these taxes and payments more balanced so as to ensure budget revenue but not have a system that creates pressure on the market and leads to rising domestic prices for petrol and other fuel, including diesel, which is very important for the armed forces and the agriculture sector. The government should have decisions ready in this area very soon.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, we await more questions.
Igor Kozhevin: Yes, quite a few young people have come here today to put their questions to the President. I can see some hands raised. Please.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.
Question: Good evening, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Hello.
Question: My name is Denis. I’m a second-year student at the Sakhalin State University. I’m actually from Yuzhno-Kurilsk but I’m studying here. I’m not the only one here – a lot of others from my home islands are also here and we have a common question.
We are all students but we will soon finish our studies and will begin our future lives, hopefully bringing benefit to the Kuril Islands. Our question is, how will our islands develop and will we be able to have decent lives, decent professional lives there? And how will the Japanese problem be resolved?
Vladimir Putin: What problem?
Question: The issue of handing the islands, the Southern Kuril Islands, back to Japan.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, regarding the Far East’s development, we have a targeted federal programme for developing the Far East and there are no plans to end it.
As you know, at my instruction and the Prime Minister’s instruction, a group of government ministers recently visited the Far East and drew up the outlines for developing the region and set the priority areas for federal funding allocated to the region. All of these programmes will be carried out. This I can guarantee.
We understand all the problems the Far East faces. They include movement of people, high prices for air and rail travel and so on, and the decline in population. All of these issues are not easy to resolve in today’s conditions. But we will concentrate our efforts and our financial resources on tackling these problems.
I very much hope therefore that you and your friends and everyone who lives, studies and works in the Far East will have every opportunity to make use of your knowledge and your strength in your own region, in the place where you live, study and work.
Regarding the negotiation process with Japan over the four Kuril Islands, they are Russian sovereign territory and this is fixed in international law. This is one of the results of World War II. We have nothing to discuss on this particular point. Based on this position, we are ready to negotiate and we are negotiating. We would like to settle all points of dispute with our neighbours, including with Japan, a country with whom we have good-neighbourly relations. Our relations with Japan are growing stronger with every passing year. Both Russia and Japan have objective reasons for developing our economic, cultural and business ties and cooperating in a whole range of areas.
The issue you have raised is, of course, a very sensitive matter both for Japan and for Russia. I hope and am really convinced that if we show good will, and Russia does have this good will, we will always be able to find a solution that suits both parties, a solution that will benefit the people living on these islands and benefit the peoples of Russia and Japan. If we show that we are willing to accommodate each other we can find a solution.
Sergei Brilyov: It’s no coincidence that our viewer in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk wished us good evening, for it is 7 p.m. there. Let’s have one more question from the Far East before it gets dark there.
Igor Kozhevin: Yes, we still have questions to ask.
Maxim Borovsky: Maxim Borovsky. I’m the director of a dance club.
Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Maxim.
Maxim Borovsky: My question concerns the cars we drive. Will cars with the steering wheel on the right be prohibited? This is a question that worries us a lot.
Vladimir Putin: There are no plans to introduce such a ban. But I think that you will agree with me that safety problems do exist in this area. You know about the terrible accident in the Altai that cost the life of the Governor of Altai Region. A car with the steering wheel on the right was involved in that accident. The driver didn't even have time to notice anything, saw practically nothing. Unfortunately there are many such examples. But, as I said, no bans in this respect are planned at the moment, at least, I know of no such plans.
Regarding the overall development of Russia’s automobile industry, the government has made a number of decisions recently that have met with various reactions from the public. But I want to assure you that all these decisions aim solely at creating the conditions for developing the automobile industry here in Russia. Many companies have already come here and are working here now. You know that BMW and some Asian carmakers are already manufacturing cars here. We are currently engaged in talks with Volkswagen and Mercedes. But if conditions in Russia are such that it will be more profitable for foreign carmakers to produce their cars at home and then export them to Russia, we will not see any development in the automobile industry here.
Of course, decisions of this kind should be balanced so as not to cause any serious loss for the consumer. But I want to draw your attention to the objective of these decisions and I hope overall that they are already having a certain positive effect.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Thank you to the people of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Our correspondent in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was Igor Kozhevin.
Sergei Brilyov: We will have more link-ups with different cities today, but now let’s go to the call centre in Moscow where Natalya Semenikhina is working. I just want to say that we were just informed that 3,500 text messages and 10,000 phone calls have come in the first ten minutes of the broadcast. But let’s go to Natalya Semenikhina for statistics, news and calls, of course.
Natalya Semenikhina: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich,
Hello Yekaterina and Sergei.
Our direct telephone line has been working for five days now and the number of calls is rising every second, so I will give you a round figure. So far, we have received almost 845,000 questions, and that is only counting questions put by phone. But as you said, questions are also being sent via SMS and we have around 40,000 of them so far. For the first time this year calls have also been coming in from Russians living in other countries.
Regarding Russia itself, the greatest number of callers at the moment is in the Central Federal District and also Siberia and the Volga region.
As for the types of questions raised, as could be expected, the biggest number of questions is about social issues, but there are also a lot of questions on the housing and utilities sector, the healthcare system, a lot of questions too on housing credits, the work of law enforcement agencies and the courts and problems in the armed forces. Of course, as usual, there are also plenty of questions on private matters. But I won’t spend too long on statistics and will give the floor to our callers. Now we have the city of Yeisk on the line.
Igor Salnikov: Hello.
Natalya Semenikhina: Please introduce yourself.
Igor Salnikov: Salnikov, Igor Fyodorovich.
Natalya Semenikhina: Go ahead with your question.
Igor Salnikov: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Igor Salnikov: The number of homeless children on the streets has been increasing all the time of late. People say that, according to the statistics, there are even more homeless children now than there were after the Civil War. Is there a way to solve this problem?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, the problem is a serious one and a very sensitive matter for us. It is linked to the difficult times the country traversed during the early and mid-1990s and to the undermining of the family as an institution. Many of these homeless children, after all, have parents who are alive, unlike during the time that you mentioned, the years following the Civil War. Back then there were a lot of homeless children who had lost their parents during the First World War or the Civil War, while now we have homeless children whose parents are alive. This is where the problem lies. But whatever the causes, the problem exists and the state should perhaps be paying more attention to it than it has done so far, although, you know, I am constantly bringing up this issue with the government.
We do have a programme for addressing this issue and the required funds and resources will be allocated, including for strengthening the institution of foster families, although in this respect I also have a lot of similar questions regarding building up the institution of adoption, and for developing children’s homes. We have plans in all these areas and we will, of course, take action.
Sergei Brilyov: Let’s have another question from the call centre.
Natalya Seminikhina: I just want to say that we have received more than 10,000 questions already since the beginning of the broadcast. Now we have the town of Klin on the line.
Konstantin Nikitenkov: Hello.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Introduce yourself please and ask your question. KONSTANTIN NIKITENKOV: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
My name is Konstantin Nikitenkov. I want to ask the following question: The Stabilisation Fund is growing all the time, including as a result of oil prices. So far nothing has been done with it but now you have announced that social reforms will take place. Where is the guarantee that the money won’t just be stolen?
Vladimir Putin: This question also worries me more than anything else. It is one of the key issues that we have to resolve in carrying out our social policy plans, the plans that I announced at the beginning of the month – it was on September 5, I think, that I announced these initiatives. Yes, I did indeed say that we could launch these reforms thanks to economic development, economic growth and an increase in revenue, but this has nothing to do with the Stabilisation Fund. The Stabilisation Fund is a separate issue and I will come back to it if we have the opportunity during today’s discussion. The Stabilisation Fund has not been created for resolving these social problems. Its purpose is to maintain our macroeconomic indicators and keep the economy in balance so as to prevent prices shooting up, keep inflation in check and ensure that we have all the necessary conditions in place to be able to resolve the social issues within the system we currently have and which we plan to develop. It is true that social spending in the budget is increasing and that the economic growth we are experiencing gives us more opportunities to tackle social problems. We are talking about serious, considerable increases in spending here. Huge resources will be allocated to agriculture and the healthcare system. Some areas will benefit from an increase in spending of 63 percent and some areas will see a many-fold increase in spending.
Of course this raises the question of how to control how this money is spent. I very much hope that the State Duma deputies, who will make the final decision on the 2006 budget and on the budgets for the next two years, and deputies in regional legislative assemblies, will control this process along with civil society and various public organisations. Why do I mention regional deputies? Because some of the programmes will involve co-financing from regional revenue sources. We need, of course, a system of public control that works smoothly and effectively and I very much hope that this will be the case.
Sergei Brilyov: We will come back to the call centre today. I just want to remind you that number to call to put your questions is: 8–800–200–40–40. As was said, we have received 3,500 text messages during the first 10 minutes of the broadcast. The number of mobile phones in the country is starting to outstrip the number of stationary phones. A lot of people are using mobile phones now. You can send your SMS messages to this number: 040–40. We will be coming back to Natalya Seminikhina at the telephone centre but now we have Siberia waiting. Let’s go to the city of Tomsk where our correspondent Alexander Minakov is working. Alexander, the floor is yours.
Alexander Minakov: Hello. Tomsk sends its greetings to the President and to everyone in Russia.
One in five residents of Tomsk is a student, and that is why we have mostly students and teachers from Tomsk’s many higher educational establishments here in front of the Tomsk State University building today.
So, go ahead please with your questions.
Alexander Osanin: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Alexander Osanin: My name is Alexander Osanin.
I graduated from the Physics and Technology Faculty of Tomsk State University three years ago and I just defended my Ph.D. thesis last week.
Vladimir Putin: My congratulations.
Alexander Osanin: Thank you. As was just said, Tomsk is a student town and many of the students stay on to pursue graduate studies and do research. But there is a problem with applying the results of research and trying out developments in practice.
I heard about the plan to create technology incubation zones. I very much hope that Tomsk will be the site of such a zone. This would do a lot to make life easier for young scientists, but this is not what my question is about.
My question is about the fact that young scientists have greater opportunities working abroad. Foreign companies come to Russian cities and invite young people, young scientists, to go and work for them.
Why is the situation in the country such that it is easier to go abroad rather than realise one’s potential here in Russia? Why is it so hard for young scientists to apply the results of their research and development in practice in the Russian economy, in the real sector of the economy?
Vladimir Putin: The first point I want to make is that your question shows both concern and preoccupation, but at the same time, despite the problems the ‘brain drain’ causes, we can see nonetheless that there is demand for graduates of our higher education system.
The second point is that our country guarantees its citizens freedom of movement and freedom of choice. This, I think, is not a bad thing in itself for individuals, and that goes for young graduates too. Of course, it would be better and more advantageous for our country to ensure that young people, young scientists, students and schoolchildren can realise their potential here in their own country. This is what we should be striving for, of course. We most certainly do need to create the conditions needed for people to make best use of their intellectual abilities and knowledge here in the Russian Federation. We should be competitive when it comes to providing these conditions.
The government is undertaking a whole number of steps in this area. One of these steps you already mentioned – the creation of technology incubation zones and other special zones that will offer the conditions for applying knowledge and developing advanced technology. We plan to create several such zones throughout the Russian Federation and will ensure the necessary financing and create the necessary administrative, legal and tax conditions. You spoke of this yourself and I can confirm that these plans are well underway and will be implemented as from January of next year.
But that is not all. One of the programmes that I outlined at the beginning of September is precisely about education. What is involved and what specific steps are being prepared?
First, we plan to select several innovative higher educational establishments that will receive additional financial assistance from the federal budget in order to buy laboratory equipment and attract top-level teaching staff or promising young teachers, and not only from among people here but also from among those who have left Russia to work abroad or from among people from other countries who would like to come here to work. Additional money will also be spent on introducing new educational programmes.
The plan is for these higher educational establishments to be chosen on a tender basis. The government is currently preparing the selection procedures. I propose that you also get involved and put forward your suggestions on this matter to the Education and Science Ministry.
There are also plans to make additional grants available to promising young scholars, young people who have proven their potential. These grants will be given not only to those who have already defended their Ph.D. thesis. We will make 5,000 grants of 60,000 roubles available to schoolchildren, students and young scholars.
Regarding young scholars in particular, you have probably already heard that their wages will be increased to at least 30,000 roubles a month by 2010, taking into account the changes that will be made to the Academy of Sciences system itself as regards pay scale.
We also plan to open two completely new universities that will make use of the academic science resources, one in the south of the country and the other in Siberia. And we will open two completely new modern management schools, one in the Moscow Region and one in St Petersburg.
All of this together, and also taking into account the assistance that will be provided for school-level education, which I am sure we will talk more about today, gives us reason to hope that young researchers who get their education here and want to make use of their skills and knowledge here will have the possibility of doing so.
Sergei Brilyov: I noticed how the eyes of the other students lit up when you mentioned that grants would be available not only for those who have already defended their candidate’s thesis. Obviously, they have ambitious plans for the future.
Let’s have another question from Tomsk.
Alexander Minakov: Another question please. Let’s have a teacher put a question.
Galina Barysheva: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Galina Barysheva: I’m Galina Barysheva and I’m a teacher at the Tomsk Polytechnic University.
Plans to reduce the number of military departments in higher educational establishments will soon be carried out. In this regard, people in higher education are worried that this reform will just be way of meeting the Armed Forces’ conscription target by making higher education graduates do military service. And also in this respect, what is the army doing to prepare for this mass influx of young people with higher education coming to do military service?
Also, does it not seem to you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, that the foundation of military reform and the guarantee of its success should be raising the value of soldiers’ lives, especially in peace time. What is being done to make this happen?
Vladimir Putin: You are absolutely right. This is the moral foundation of any army, and especially the Russian army. Let’s remember Suvorov and our other outstanding military commanders who always instructed their officers to look after their men. This is the moral foundation of our entire Armed Forces and this is the way it should be.
You mentioned the plans to reduce the number of military departments in higher educational institutions. I don’t remember the exact figure but I think there are currently 229 such departments. This is more than there were even during the Soviet years when the Armed Forces numbered five million people. Today our Armed Forces count 1.3 million people but the number of military departments has increased sharply. The Defence Ministry says that it simply does not need all these graduates turned out by these military departments. But the Defence Ministry had also drawn up a list of higher education institutions where military departments will continue to function. I do not know if they have already published this list or not, but if they haven’t, they will do so very soon. The number of military departments that will continue functioning will be quite sizeable and the institutions of higher education that will have these departments will be spread evenly across the whole country. Young people who would like to receive a military education in these military departments in parallel with a civilian education will have the option of entering these higher education institutions, which, as I said, will be spread evenly throughout the country.
What else is being planned? For a start, everyone who is already studying at institutions of higher education that currently has a military department will be able to finish their studies there without any problems and, as graduates of higher educational establishments with a military department, will not have to do military service. The question of military service will arise only for students who enter the higher education system as from next year, and they will know in advance which establishments have military departments and which do not. It will be up to each individual to make his choice.
Finally, starting in January 2008, military service will be reduced to just one year. I think you would agree that this changes the situation considerably. Of these 12 months, the new recruits will spend six months in training centres and then will have the option of either joining the regular troops for the following six months or of signing a contract and serving at least three years on a contract basis. Incidentally, we also need to put in place the conditions for young people serving in the Armed Forces on a contract basis to be able to receive a higher education under preferential conditions. Preparatory courses for entry to the higher education system should be organised for these young people. While studying in these courses, the young people will also receive their wages as contract servicemen for another year.
That is a general outline of what we plan to do in the area of military reform with regard to the education system.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you Tomsk.
Which is the next city we will cross to?
Yekaterina Andreyeva: We now go live to the Komi Republic and the city of Vorkuta where our correspondent Ilya Kulikov is working. Ilya, go ahead.
Ilya Kulikov: Good afternoon and greetings from Vorkuta, the biggest city beyond the polar circle and the centre of the Russian north’s coal industry.
Our first question is precisely about the coal industry.
Sergei Burko: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich. My name is Burko, Sergei Nikolayevich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Sergei Burko: Now to my question: yes, we are indeed concerned about the development of the coal industry. Everyone knows that a lot of attention is being focused on developing the oil and gas sector, but reserves of oil are not great – enough for 30–50 years – while coal reserves in Vorkuta, for example, are enough for another 500 years.
My question then is does the state intend changing its priorities in the energy sector? We are worried, of course, for the future of Vorkuta.
Vladimir Putin: I understand.
As far as I know, the situation in Vorkuta is gradually improving and getting slowly closer to the situation in other coal basins, in particular the Kuzbass. There are still a lot of problems to resolve but positive trends are already visible.
Regarding reserves of coal, oil and gas, I think that our country’s oil and gas reserves are underestimated. In reality they are greater than we think and will last us some time yet. They will be enough for us and for future generations.
But we do, of course, need to use our resources wisely and you are absolutely right, it is essential that we gradually change the energy balance in the country. We need to ensure there is demand for other energy resources, and not just oil and gas, and that they be attractive for the economy and for consumers. And of course, an energy resource such as coal is very important in this respect.
We will continue supporting everyone working in this area, including by helping to finance the introduction of new technology. You specialists know better than I that technology exists for processing coal and turning it into an excellent energy product. This is modern but as yet still costly technology. We will try to plan our policy in such a way as to make it possible to introduce this new technology and create the conditions for developing business in this area.
I would like to wish you success. Thank you for your question.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Ilya, we have time for another question for the President.
Question: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Question: I am a doctor and have been working in Vorkuta for more than 20 years now. At the moment we are seeing an increasing number of elderly people living in the far northern regions. There are cases of 90-year-old people ending up in our city hospital. My question therefore is, what is being done to carry out the programme to help pensioners leave the Far North and settle elsewhere in the country? The programmes we have here, the local programmes, are not working because there isn’t the money to help people resettle.
Vladimir Putin: The money for these programmes comes from various sources, including from the federal budget. There is one problem in this area that the government has not yet managed to definitively resolve and that is the issue of maintaining the pensions at the same level for those who leave the Far North so that they won’t have an incentive to return, because some of the people who leave try to go back so as to benefit from the same pension they had previously. This is a question the government has to settle. We will come back to this issue and we will come back to it on more than one occasion. I understand you – this problem does exist. We will definitely come back to it.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Ilya, one more question for the President.
Question: Marina. I’m a student.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, my question is the following: a branch of the Leningrad Mining Institute has been working in Vorkuta for 45 years now. But this year, the rector did not take in any new students because the Komi Republic could not or rather is not financing students’ tuition. This is an important matter for us because many of our students studied at this institute as it is the only institute that gives the people of Vorkuta the chance to study for free.
Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I am not familiar with the details of this problem. I know the Mining Institute in St Petersburg is one of Russia’s best higher education institutions, and this is above all thanks to the rector’s work. I think the Mining Institute is a genuinely world-class establishment both for its equipment and, more importantly, for the quality of teaching it offers. As I see it, it is one of world’s leaders in education, a leader in Europe and in the whole world. It is a great pity, of course, that financial problems mean that not only can it not expand its activities, but that it is even cutting them back in Vorkuta. I do not know the exact reasons for this. I am ready to talk with the rector and with the governor. I promise you that I will put this question to them soon. I cannot guarantee that there will be a solution, because this depends on the rector and the governor, it is their area of responsibility. But we will raise this question with them. When I say ‘we’, I mean the government. And this matter will be discussed. I hope that you are happy with this proposal.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Thank you Vorkuta. Now let’s go over to the call centre.
Sergei Brilyov: Yes, I propose that we join Natalya Seminikhina again, all the more so as the call centre lets us cover a greater area. Natalya, are SMS messages still coming in? And are they coming in with smiles? What can you tell us about the content of the calls coming in?
Natalya Seminikhina: More than half the calls coming in now are from mobile phones. People can not only call for free from their mobile phones but also write and we have been getting SMS messages for several hours now. There are already 44,000 SMS messages. As is typical of this format, they are laconic in style and unfortunately, are not always signed.
Here is a question from a foreign student who is worried about the problem of neo-Nazi groups. To quote his question, “We are often attacked. How can we preserve trust, respect and friendship in such a situation?”
Vladimir Putin: This question also worries me, of course. And it would be no exaggeration to say that it worries not just me but all of Russian society. Russia is a part of the modern world and, unfortunately, these kinds of manifestations are on the increase in practically every country. This is an illness we all face. There is only one medicine for this illness and that is for the public to reject such manifestations. We will step up the law enforcement agencies’ work in this area and will do all we can to make sure that skinheads and fascist-minded groups are no longer a part of this country’s political landscape. We will make every effort in this area. As for the attacks that take place or have taken place, I am aware of them and I can but apologise to you for them.
Sergei Brilyov: Let’s have one more question.
Natalya Seminikhina: One more question, Vladimir Vladimirovich, this time from 19-year-old Ali from Dagestan. He sent an SMS asking why there is so much unemployment in Dagestan and yet there are also so many lavish houses.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, that is a very interesting question. Unemployment really is a big problem not just in Dagestan but in other republics in the south of Russia as well. Dagestan is particularly hard hit, however. The highest unemployment is in Chechnya, followed by Dagestan and Ingushetia. This is a huge problem. There are hundreds of people competing for every one job, and these are mostly young people. This is why the absolute priority for the southern regions is to develop their own economic base and develop production.
I discussed this problem with the leaders of the southern regions just a few days ago. There are some concrete plans but, as you understand, they can’t be implemented overnight, especially in a situation of destabilisation and security concerns. The security problem needs to be resolved. But we will go ahead with these plans nonetheless and will take a complex approach to resolving all these problems.
Regarding the lavish houses, this is a sign of another problem. It is a sign that the money allocated by the federal authorities is entering the region through other channels, is not always being spent effectively and not always being used exclusively for the interests of the entire public and the whole region. This, of course, is a matter for the law enforcement agencies to examine.
But, of course, we can assume that there are also people, including in the southern regions, in Dagestan, who have earned their money legally and have the right to build or buy comfortable housing. It is important only that this be done legally.
Sergei Brilyov: I propose that we leave the call centre now because we have the opportunity to pick up on this subject, as it were, as we now have a very interesting location ready to go live.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Let’s cross now to the Republic of Chechnya and its capital, Grozny.
Our correspondent Maxim Kiselyov is working in Grozny. Maxim, go ahead, we are waiting for questions for the President.
Maxim Kiselyov: Hello. Greetings from Grozny. So as not to lose any time, let’s go straight to the questions. I think there are plenty of questions.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Maxim Kiselyov: Please introduce yourself and ask your question.
Zainab Dzhambekova: Hello, Mr President.
I am Zainab Dzhambekova. My question is, when will the abduction of people end in Chechnya? My son was abducted four years ago and nothing is known about his fate since then. There are thousands of women in Chechnya in the same situation as me.
And one more question, will anyone bear the responsibility for this?
Vladimir Putin: Your question is a very serious one and it has been coming up all the time at every level over the last years.
We all realise where the problem lies – it lies with not being able to fully resolve the security issue and ensure security for all. I think you will agree with me that sometimes it is impossible to even identify just who is behind these crimes: is it bandits in disguise or is it law enforcement officers abusing their powers? Whatever the case, we will continue our efforts to find the people who have been abducted and to identify those responsible for these crimes.
You know, dozens of criminal cases have been opened against officials and servicemen from the federal forces, with the involvement of the local law enforcement agencies. But the main solution to the problem is to achieve political settlement in Chechnya and to involve the greatest number of people possible in this settlement process.
You know that law enforcement agencies have been set up in Chechnya itself, agencies that are staffed entirely by local people, by the Chechens themselves. This is one point.
And a second point, I place a great importance on the parliamentary election that will take place in Chechnya this November. I think that this election will bring to the fore people with all sorts of different political convictions so that all the disputed issues can be resolved in an open and civilised manner, through the political process and not through the use of force. In this respect, I very much hope for support, not only your support but that of everyone in Chechnya.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Let’s have another question from Grozny.
Amran Dzhamayev: My name is Dzhamayev, Amran Germanovich, and I am a People’s Artist.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Amran Dzhamayev: Good afternoon.
Mr President, when you visited our republic, you compared the state of Grozny to the destruction at Stalingrad. Several years have gone by since then but the rebuilding of the city is taking place extremely slowly and it is very difficult to obtain compensation. I lost my apartment in 2,000 and since then I have been gathering documents, waiting my turn in corridors and facing humiliation. For several years now my family and I have been living in other people’s apartments. In speaking of my situation I am also speaking for thousands of other people facing the same suffering. When we will be able to receive compensation? When will the payments begin?
Vladimir Putin: First, you say that compensation exists, and the money for it does exist and is provided for in the federal budget. How the compensation is actually paid depends on the authorities in the republic itself.
I must say, and this is an unusual phenomenon, but the original figure that the republic’s authorities stated as being eligible for compensation payments is rising all the time. Unfortunately, the federal authorities and the authorities in Chechnya itself have still not been able to put an exact figure on how many concrete people are entitled to these compensation payments. What I can say and what I can promise is that all of this money will be paid. I will speak again with the President of Chechnya and with the relevant organisations in Moscow and will give additional instructions for the money to be made available and for order to be brought to the payment procedures.
Regarding the rebuilding of Grozny in general, this is, of course, a problem that requires a complex solution. We need to ensure security, on the one hand, so that what is built is not then destroyed tomorrow, and we need to organise this work in the republic itself. As you know, unfortunately, it took a very long time to settle the question of transferring the construction management offices from Moscow to the Republic of Chechnya. Finally, with a bit of extra encouragement, shall we say, this issue was finally settled and the authorities in Chechnya are now organising the work locally. I hope that this will help improve the situation. The necessary funding will be made available for this purpose.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Maxim, let’s have another question from Grozny.
Maxim Kiselyov: Let’s take one from this side, from someone younger. The young people also have their questions, I’m sure.
Aishat Vashayeva: Good afternoon, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Aishat Vashayeva: My name is Aishat Vashayeva and I am a fourth-year student at the Chechnya State University.
As you know, our republic has the highest unemployment rate in Russia and a great many people of working age are without jobs here. Many young people graduate from our higher educational establishments every year but find no demand for their skills. To give you a small example, of 170 students who graduated with distinction from the Chechnya State University, only seven found jobs in Chechnya itself. As for finding work in other parts of Russia, this is virtually impossible for Chechens because of the negative image people have of us.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, what are the federal authorities doing to bring down the unemployment rate in the republic and to change the negative attitude towards Chechens as a people.
Vladimir Putin: I already said that Chechnya, unfortunately, has the highest unemployment rate in Russia. I think there is no need to explain that this situation is due to the difficult events of the last 15 years. It is true that there are more than 500 people competing for every one job. This is an absolutely unacceptable situation but the only way to change it is to expand Chechnya’s own economic opportunities and create new businesses. This process is underway, it must be said. I am afraid of making a mistake in the figures, but the number of people with jobs in Chechnya is rising all the time. We need to provide help, of course, to the agriculture sector, to the oil and gas industry and also help the development of Chechnya’s traditional businesses such as brick and stone plants and also develop high-technology businesses, because young people such as yourself who have received a good education need to have the opportunity of making use of your knowledge in your home region, and you should be able to do so.
As for the image the Chechens have in the country in general, this is also linked to the difficult events that I have mentioned, but I think this is a distorted image, distorted by the influence of events from the last years. Why is it distorted? Because few people know about the heroes in Chechnya who gave their lives to defend the interests of their own people and of all the people of Russia, the interests of Russia itself. There are many examples of such heroes but, unfortunately, little is said about them. I hope that we will be able to learn more about the lives and the feats of these people and gain a knowledge of greater depth and breadth. I hope that this will change the image of the Chechens in the Russian Federation. Of course, this will require the state media to also make an effort.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Thank you, Maxim. Thank you to all the people of Grozny who took part today in the Direct Line with the President.
Questions are coming in now and have been coming in for several days now on the Direct Line website: www.president-line.ru. The operators are trying to count them right now but so far thousands of questions have been registered. We will give the exact figure during this broadcast. Right now on your screens you can see the rating of the most popular questions that have come in via the Internet.
Sergei Brilyov: I have a question here that is doubly topical. I don’t like the fact that it hasn’t been signed, but this is not the most important thing. Just a few days ago marked one year since your memorable speech on September 13, 2004, when you proposed a new system for electing regional governors under a procedure that would see regional legislative assemblies vote on a candidate nominated by yourself. The person who sent this question recalls, in this respect, that twice during previous Direct Line broadcasts, the question of the difficult situation in the town of Ust-Kut was raised. This year, you nominated Alexander Tishanin to replace Boris Govorin as governor of Irkutsk Region [where Ust-Kut is located]. This was just recently. Was this the result of the Direct Line broadcasts?
Vladimir Putin: No. It was, of course, above all a result of looking at the situation in the region and taking into account the fact that Boris Govorin had already spent two terms in office as governor. That is a perfectly respectable term in office for a region such as Irkutsk Region. He has a lot of experience in both state affairs and economic management and I hope that we will find the opportunity to make use of his knowledge in another area. But I wanted to see in the region someone who on the one hand would know the local situation and at the same time would also be able to bring fresh ideas for the solutions that people in the region are waiting for. The candidate I proposed has administration experience in the region for having worked around two years there as head of the regional subdivision of Russian Railways and he knows the local economy and the local problems, and at the same time – let’s put it in this way — he is someone not connected by any circumstances to the local bureaucracy, which should be resolving some problems a lot more effectively than it has done so until now.
Sergei Brilyov: We will come back to the Internet, but now let’s find out which city we have ready to go live.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Now we have one of the main centres of our defence industry – Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia.
Izhevsk is now live and I give the floor to our correspondent, Maxim Bobrov.
Maxim Bobrov: Good afternoon, Yekaterina, good afternoon Sergei.
Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Greetings from Udmurtia, from Izhevsk, a city of many famous names such as that of the firearms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov or the skier Galina Kulakova. The people of Izhevsk have come here, to Pushkin Street in the centre of the city, to take part in our discussion today.
Please go ahead with your questions, but introduce yourselves first.
Andrei Nikolayev: Hello. My name is Nikolayev, Andrei Alexandrovich.
Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Hello, Andrei Alexandrovich.
Andrei Nikolayev: My question is, why is our defence industry surviving through orders from the West while our own armed forces can’t buy our newest weapons? I, for example, am a lathe operator at the Kupol Plant and we build high-precision anti-aircraft missile systems that are in demand all around the world. At the moment, we have practically no orders. When will our own state start paying attention to the defence industry’s problems?
Vladimir Putin: Andrei Alexandrovich, a few years ago, our army was buying practically nothing at all. I will say a few words now about what is happening in the army. I am asked a lot of such questions by military people.
First of all, I would like to say that a great deal has been done over the last years to improve the situation in the defence industry production enterprises. This concerns paying debts, placing orders, preserving jobs and developing high-technology production.
Exporting our products and making use of the opportunities export markets offer is, of course, a good advantage and gives us the chance to ensure financial and technical support for our defence industry. Competition for these export markets is very fierce. That our specialists are able to establish their place in these markets and promote our interests there is a very good result.
Sales came to around $5 billion last year. Last year we also broke for the first time what I would call a psychological barrier in that we spent more than this sum on defence procurement for our own Armed Forces. In other words, we are spending more on modernising and re-equipping our Armed Forces than we earn from selling arms abroad.
Of course, our arms have a justifiably good reputation in the world. This goes for our air defence systems, our armoured personnel vehicles, firearms and much more. This also goes for our navy, for our battle ships and naval weapons systems.
There is still a lot to be done in terms of re-equipping our army. This concerns modern tanks, for example – for the first time we will be purchasing a large delivery of new tanks for the army. We are now beginning to test new, modernised, missiles that can be used both on land and at sea. We are beginning to place orders for new ballistic missiles, including mobile systems. We are continuing work on developing high-precision weapons and they are being tested – as you probably saw, I took part in this testing recently. These are long-range high-precision missiles and, as I have said earlier, no one else in the world has such arms yet and are unlikely to have them before us. They are supersonic systems that can change trajectory and altitude and are practically invulnerable, including for the anti-missile defence systems being developed by certain of our partner countries.
Of course, it would be good to do yet more, but we have to keep in step with the possibilities our economy offers and also take into account the need to resolve social problems.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Let’s take another question from Izhevsk.
Maxim Bobrov: Yes, you were one of the first to come here and have been asking for the floor for a while now. Please.
Vera Ovchinnikova: Good afternoon. My name is Ovchinnikova, Vera Alexandrovna, and I am an accountant.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Vera Ovchinnikova: Vladimir Vladimirovich, my question is about housing. For most people, a home of their own remains a luxury. If you don’t qualify for the “Young Family” programme, the only thing you can do is take out a commercial loan, but the interest rates are very high. What can we do? My question is, why have mortgages not became a mass phenomenon? Why are they still unaffordable for people with middle or low incomes?
Vladimir Putin: They haven’t yet become a mass phenomenon for several reasons.
The first, and primary, reason is that people have low incomes.
The second reason is the state of the economy and the high inflation. Banks cannot offer low interest rates when inflation is high.
The third reason is the lack of an adequate legal framework for developing this kind of activity.
These and several other issues all have to be resolved. Given that opportunities are expanding and the state has greater economic possibilities now, affordable housing will definitely be one of the priorities for development. You rightly drew attention to the mortgage system. It is the most promising system. This does not mean that the state will forget about social housing – we will continue to build social housing. Incidentally, state funding for housing for World War II invalids will increase many-fold as from next year. I want to stress the size of this increase. I think we had allocated only 200 million roubles to this item this year, but next year budget financing for this will be increased to 3 billion roubles. I would like to draw the veterans’ organisations’ attention to this decision.
Coming back to mortgages, there are several issues to be resolved in this area. First, we will add to the Mortgage Loan Agency’s charter capital and will start by allocating around 15 million roubles – 14.8 million, I think – for state guarantees for these loans. The government expects that this should make it possible to extend the term of loans from 7–8 years as it is at the moment to 20–25 or even 30 years.
Second, this should help to make mortgage loans cheaper. This year only around 40,000 mortgage loans have been made, but we expect that by 2008–2010, more likely 2010, the number of mortgage loans made each year will be at least 1 million.
As part of the programme for rural areas and for young families, we plan to subsidise the interest costs of mortgage loans and make state funds available so that people can add their own money to the funds received and either buy an apartment straight away or use these state funds as a subsidy in order to make the initial payment on a mortgage loan. We plan to do this on a differing scale for the different regions. In some regions people will be able to receive up to fifty percent in the form of a state subsidy and the other fifty percent will either come from their own funds or from a loan. In some places, above all in rural areas and depressed regions, there will be 100-percent subsidies that will give people the possibility of being tenant in the property with the right to later buy it. This will concern depressed regions and the rural areas, young families and specialists in rural areas. That is a general outline of the programme.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Thank you, Izhevsk.
Our Direct Line continues. Just a few seconds ago, the operators told me that 38,000 questions have now been registered via the Internet. Now we go over to the call centre.
Sergei Brilyov: Yes, we will come back to the Internet a little later. Now let’s go over to Natalya Seminikhina. So, Natalya, are the SMS messages coming in with smiles or without?
Natalya Seminikhina: It’s a mixture. Our centre is working at peak capacity just now – 250 people are trying to call every second and 65,000 questions have already been processed since the beginning of the broadcast. In total, we so far have 910,000 questions for the President. Let’s try to take a caller right now with one of these questions.
Igor Guskov: Hello.
Natalya Seminikhina: Introduce yourself please and ask your question.
Igor Guskov: Guskov, Igor, 36 years old, from Ulyanovsk.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, my question is about a third presidential term. I know you have been asked this question many times in the past and I know what answers you have given. The reason I am asking this question is that in our recent history you are the only leader that has enabled the country to live through a period of stable development. After 2008, I would like to feel just as secure about the future, to live in a stable and wonderful country and have a strong and intelligent President. I am not saying this to flatter you – this is just the reality of the situation. Maybe it would be worth holding a referendum on a third presidential term? I’d like to know your view on this question.
Vladimir Putin: I don’t see my job as being to sit forever in the Kremlin and having channel one, channel two and channel three all showing one and the same face on the TV screens the whole time and for the head of the FSB to then say “put it on the first three channels”. I see my job as being to create the conditions for our country’s long-term development and for young, competent and effective managers to be able to take over the leadership. I do not think it would be expedient therefore, to make any sudden changes to our laws, above all to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
As for me personally, as military people say, I will always know how to find my place in the ranks.
Natalya Seminikhina: Just briefly on the statistics for SMS messages, we have received more the 14,000 messages since the broadcast began, some of them with smiles, no doubt.
Coming back to ordinary telephones, we have a caller now from Rostov Region.
Svetlana Dolya: Hello.
Natalya Seminikhina: Introduce yourself, please.
Svetlana Dolya: I am Svetlana Dolya.
Natalya Seminikhina: Go ahead.
Svetlana Dolya: Vladimir Vladimirovich, why can we not make it normal for families in Russia to have two or three children?
The people who set the amount for child benefits know that this isn’t even enough to buy disposable nappies. In Finland, for example, child benefits are 200 euros a month for one child.
How do you intend to combat the population decline in our country?
Vladimir Putin: The demographic situation in our country began to show negative tendencies starting at the end of the 1960s and this has continued over all the subsequent decades. In this respect, Russia is little different to other European countries. Despite the fact that many countries in Europe and North America spend a lot of money on supporting population growth they have not had any noticeable success yet. This is a very complex problem and there are a lot of different factors involved. It is, of course, a problem that we do need to resolve. Just because it is a complex issue does not mean that the state should not be giving it attention and increasing support in the areas that you mentioned.
Of course I think that we should resolve the problems connected to the payments you spoke about. But not only that. That is not enough. First of all, it is evident that we must think of maintaining the country's social and economic stability. This is the basic condition. I have already spoken about how people must have a longer-term view when planning their private and family lives. It is necessary to raise the population's incomes.
As for the immediate question, the State Duma is currently examining some initiatives, one of which consists in increasing the lump sum received at a child's birth from 6,000 to 8,000 rubles. Another initiative consists of increasing payments for children's upbringing from 500 to 700 rubles a month until they are one and a half years old. Certainly, I will support these initiatives. But that too is not enough. I think that we should help women who want to have children. First of all, we must create conditions whereby giving birth is free, actually free. There are various ways to resolve this issue, including issuing vouchers so that women could give their voucher to any clinic so that money would follow the quality of medical services provided in this field. Other options are also being studied and it is certain that we will introduce them.
S.Birlev: Natalia, are there any other callers on the line or shall we move on to other points? Let's leave it at that…
N.Semenikhina: Yes, we have a caller from Severodvinsk on the line.
A.Kutepov: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
V.Putin: Good afternoon.
A.Kutepov: Alexander Petrovich Kutepov, from the city of Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk Region. I have the following question. The mandatory car liability insurance is expensive and clearly does not work. As a result this is not a service, but a tax.
V.Putin: I agree with you that the quality of the current legislation and laws is not the best, and that they can be improved.
At the same time you know what a disgrace the situation on our roads is, how many people perish, and how many car accidents occur. I must say that the amount of money paid is a significant one. I do not remember exactly how much the insurance companies keep, but I do not think that it is more than 20 percent of the money they receive. They must pay all that is left as insurance payouts.
I repeat once again that this issue is constantly under consideration by the Government and State Duma. I believe it is possible that based on practice and experience we already have, we can make decisions to perfect this law's functioning. Certainly, this must start from reality, from the population's real incomes and specified groups of the population. Of course, this is absolutely correct.
S.Brilev: Well, thank you to the telephone centre, thank you to Natalia Semenikhina. We will come back to you again. Now, we have live televised communication with a very unusual place—Riga, Latvia.
Oleg Groznetski joins us together with visitors of his improvised studio. Oleg, you have the floor.
O.Groznetski: Hello Moscow. First I would like to explain why we are broadcasting not from the streets of Riga, but from here, on the territory of the ”Moscow House“. Riga's municipal authorities agreed that we could install our mobile television station in Old Riga, on Livonian Square, but then revoked their decision. They abruptly cancelled, referring to the fact that the local authorities cannot provide safety during air time. And as a result, we are here on the territory of the Russian cultural and business centre ”Moscow House“. Latvia's inhabitants have gathered here, and have many questions for the Russian President.
Please introduce yourself. Your question.
S.Savitskaya: Svetlana Savitskaya.
Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich.
V.Putin: Good afternoon.
S.Savitskaya: My question concerns Russian schools. You probably know that the Russian language is systematically being excluded from Latvian schools. At the same time, our schools, Russian schools, do not have the necessary teachers or materials in Russian. We know that Russia now has the means of helping us with this issue. We would like to know whether we have a chance of receiving this help.
Thank you very much.
V.Putin: First, I want to say that I regret you had to gather on roofs. It certainly is strange, unusual, and a shame that Riga's municipal authorities, under the pretext of inability to provide security, refused you permission to broadcast live from one of Riga's streets or squares. It would seem to me that such events should bring together all inhabitants of Latvia, regardless of their ethnic or linguistic background. I think that all of our actions, including today's, despite the fact that you are on the roof, should promote the solving of this issue, of this problem. But we shall not be offended by these people. We all come from one large common house which used to be called the Soviet Union. Apparently, what we used to call 'birthmarks from the Soviet past' still exist on the face of some authorities of some countries in the former Soviet Union; it is the desire to take hold and not let go, and to forbid everything. This is counterproductive. On the contrary, it is better to work with people, to prove one's point, to listen to others. This is what I shall now try to do, based on the question you just asked.
The problem with Russian schools and Russian language exists also outside of Latvia and the Baltic states. You know, I do not wish to demonize the position of Latvian authorities. At the UN summit in New York I just had the opportunity of talking with the President Vike-Freiberga. We had a very good conversation and the President understands many problems, including those of the Russian-speaking population. I very much expect that both on the national and regional levels in Latvia, a correspondingly positive reaction will result in normal conditions for people's development, independently of their ethnic or linguistic background, for all those who have chosen Latvia as their homeland.
Regarding our support for the Russian language in the former republics of the Soviet Union, we try to do this through many different channels, both through governmental ones and through social organizations. Of course the main burden on the Education Ministry and Foreign Ministry is to provide means for purchasing educational literature. We will continue to do this and what we have already done, namely inviting teachers from Russian schools and those that teach Russian to seminars in the Russian Federation, in Moscow and in other cities. We will try to have our researchers, researchers who could do something useful for the organization of teaching in Russian in Latvia, go to Latvia and to other countries. Meanwhile we very much expect that Latvian citizens and authorities will understand that Russia is not preparing to cause divisions within Latvian or any other Baltic society. On the contrary, we want them to have strong society in which people feel like full-fledged citizens of the country in which they live and which they have chosen as their homeland, regardless of their ethnic or linguistic origins.
Certainly Russia will be close by and ready to provide all possible help in resolving the issues which arise before you and which affect your life. But I repeat that we will not do so in a confrontational way and create new problems, but rather create conditions for your successful life in these countries and so that you feel like full-fledged citizens in the country you call your homeland.
S.Brilev: Riga, we are staying with you.
Oleg, please, one more question.
O.Groznetski: You wanted to ask another question. Please come closer.
O.Kalmykov: Good afternoon.
V.Putin: Good afternoon.
O.Kalmykov: Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am Oleg Viktorovich Kalmykov, a Russian citizen.
Can you please tell me why the Pension Fund examines our requests concerning the determining of our pensions for over a year?
V.Putin: You know that the corresponding decision and intergovernmental agreements have been made between countries of the CIS so that pensioners living in one of the CIS countries but who are actually citizens of another country will be provided for as if they were citizens of the country in which they live.
I cannot precisely tell you right now whether this setup is advancing in the Baltic states or not, but if you consider that the questions which need to be solved according to current legislation, are affected by too many bureaucratic delays, I promise you that I will pay attention to the relevant instances of this problem. Starting today.
S.Brilev: While we are still connected with Riga, on the roof, let us continue our dialogue. Please Oleg, one more question.
O.Groznetski: We just had a Russian citizen on air. And here we have a special category that is uncommon for Russia at large, the category of non-citizen—a non-citizen of Latvia. Are there any non-citizens among us? Please, what is your question?
E.Goncharov: Good afternoon! Edward Goncharov.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, you repeatedly mentioned that here we are not even foreigners, we are non-citizens. Nevertheless, we are your compatriots. What concrete help can you give us?
V.Putin: When answering the first question, I already spoke about this. This situation is definitely not a normal one. An impartial observer, analyst or politician including those in Latvia, or any person who believes that they respect human rights must agree with this. In the world, there exist definite legal and conceptual means to connect a person with the state and territory in which he permanently resides. All of these can be listed on one's fingers. This is either a citizen, a foreigner, an apatride, person without citizenship, or a person with dual citizenship. Non-citizen or as sometimes is written in the documents such a shameful word as ”alien“ is an invention of our colleagues from some of the Baltic states and absolutely does not exist either in the universal legal system, nor in the systems of rights in the European Union. But we very much expect that sensible people in the Baltic states will understand this and having realized the damage done to the legal system will do all they can to change these conditions. On our part, through diplomatic channels, channels of direct communication between our states, and in dialogue with the European Union we will arrive at a solution to this problem. Once again I would like to emphasise that it is necessary for those who make decisions at a national level to realize the necessity of accepting these decisions for themselves, for their own country. We will achieve this.
S.Brilev: Well, thank you Riga, Latvia and we will come back to Russia. Katya, what is next for us?
E.Andreeva: Now we have the village Golovchino of the Graivoronovskogo area, in the Belgorod Region online. The village is on the border between Russia and Ukraine and our correspondent Ilya Kanavin works there.
Ilya, we greet you and the inhabitants of Golovchino.
I.Kanavin: Hello! We welcome Russia and we welcome you too.
Good afternoon, Vladimir Vladimirovich!
Good afternoon, Ekaterina! Good afternoon, Sergei!
Indeed, the village is practically on the border. Moreover, at the entrance of one of the communities, there is a huge sign on which is written ”Here Russia Begins“. This is a rather typical thing.
What is not typical? In general, the village Golovchino is not typical for Russia. Not typical in that it is well built, comfortable to live in, and has an uncharacteristically high number of young people. Indeed, there are a great many youth here. 7,000 people live in this enormous village. You know, it is necessary to admit that the feeling of certain wealth was a great discovery for us and a very pleasant one. Nevertheless, of course people have problems, of course they have questions for the head of state. Who is ready? Please, do not forget to introduce yourselves.
L.Murakhovskaya: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am Ludmila Aleksandrovna Murakhovskaya. My husband and I live close to the Ukrainian border. Our daughter lives in Kharkov. To visit each other by train is very inconvenient because it only runs once a day, and after the ”Orange Confusion“ it is a very long way by car—instead of 60 kilometres you have to go more than 120 kilometres as it is necessary to cross at a central border point and pay to enter Russia. Car insurance is also very expensive. The conditions for crossing the border are becoming tougher. For this reason we cannot even bring our children a bag of potatoes. And it was very recently that almost every weekend, upon hearing the car horn, we greeted our grandchildren with joy. In turn, they jumped for joy to see their grandfather and grandmother. We fear that we will soon lose this pleasure. It would be even worse if some misfortune occurred, or maybe a relative's funeral. How would we reach them?
I have a very painful question to raise: can we expect that the crossing of the Russian-Ukrainian border will be simplified, if only for the inhabitants of the border region?
V.Putin: I understand your pain and concern and share it completely. I share it completely! It is absolutely inadmissible when two ethnically, culturally and historically close peoples, literally the very closest relatives in blood and in spirit find themselves divided. And this split is increased through the confusion you just mentioned.
At the same time I want to assure you that Russian leadership and—this is very important—Ukranian leadership—this I want to emphasize, in the course of many personal encounters with the President of Ukraine, Viktor Andreevich Yushchenko, we agreed that we shall work together to simplify the procedure for crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border. Moreover, the President of the Ukraine's position is consistent and firm. I am even ashamed to tell you this, but he himself put these questions to me, questions which both sides have not properly solved at the bureaucratic level.
This also concerns car insurance. I promise you that it is absolutely imperative that we return to this issue, and certainly we will aspire to simplify the movement of our citizens and in general those between Russia and Ukraine and our other former republics of the Soviet Union as much as possible. We will do this wherever it is possible and wherever we meet a reciprocal response. Of course, first and foremost this must affect those living in the border areas. As you know, we made the decision that Ukrainian citizens in or entering the territory of the Russian Federation can be here without registration for up to 30 days. This decision was made in reply to corresponding steps taken on the Ukrainian side. We shall search for further joint answers to these problems. This I can faithfully promise you.
Certainly, how effective we will be depends on both parties. But from the Russian side we are full of determination to solve these problems.
E.Andreeva: The village of Golovchino remains on the air. Ilya, another question.
I.Kanavin: Yes, certainly. Please, don't be nervous, easy.
L.Tolmacheva: No, we are not nervous.
Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
V.Putin: Good afternoon!
L.Tolmacheva: I am Ludmila Viktorovna Tolmacheva, a teacher.
Despite the fact that housing has already been a topic today, for us rural youth, it is a pressing problem.
My husband and I recently finished building our own house. Regional programmes helped us very much; we received land free of charge, and an interest rate reduced to one percent annually. As with each family in Belgorod that gives birth to a third child, we received 100,000 rubles from the authorities to complete construction of the house. However, despite all the help from the authorities, building one's own house is very expensive and takes a long time.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, please tell whether we, rural youth, can expect from the government to provide us with a finished house on credit. In that case, we would have already lived ten years in our own house. All of our children would have been born there, and our garden would already be yielding fruits. As someone who has a dacha, you understand as no one else can what happiness it is to have one's own piece of land and one's own roof above one's head.
V.Putin: The housing problem was probably one of the most acute during the whole history of the Soviet Union. For as long as we can remember, we have been talking about the housing problem and the necessity of resolving it. In any case, for as long as I have been aware, as long as I can remember, this problem has been discussed.
I can repeat what I have already said. First of all, there is programme for rural youth and it will be further implemented. But it will not only be implemented according to the former terms, its framework will be extended. I will repeat once again that rural youth and economically depressed regions can receive housing 100 percent economically due to government loans, but with the right of renting the housing with the possibility of subsequently having the house for themselves.
In some regions that are self-sufficient from a financial point of view, 50 percent is provided for by the grant, and 50 percent by their own means or mortgage credit, of course designed for the long-term and with good percentage terms.
This is what we propose to do, and hope that it will work and be really noticeable for those who live in rural areas.
E.Andreeva: Ilya, there is still time for one more question. Please.
I.Kanavin: That is wonderful, thank you. Please go ahead.
I.Goryagin: I am Igor Aleksandrovich Goryagin. I am a farmer.
Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich!
I have the following question for you. I have been engaged in this business for ten years, and therefore want to ask you such a question. Today, the production of agricultural businesses is not in demand. I have 3,000 hectares of arable land and today's crop is all lying in my warehouses. It is not wanted.
I.Kanavin: You cannot sell it?
I.Goryagin: That is right, I cannot sell it. My question is this: will the state pay attention to this?
V.Putin: I understood you. I understood what this issue is. I understood you perfectly and this problem is well-known.
First, I must say that the practice of granting reduced credits for farms and for those who work in private part-time farms will continue. This practice will continue. Additional financial resources will be allocated so that farmers and owners of private part-time farms could take advantage of the whole system which is designed for major commodity manufacturers working in this sector of the economy. It will mean that in the future you will be able to receive credits at subsidized rates. Moreover if major commodity producers will be subsidized at two thirds of the rate, for farms and private part-time farms this subsidy can reach 95 percent. This is almost a loan free of charge.
Regarding selling, we propose that the practice of state intervention be continued and improved.
We once again have spoken about this with Cabinet members, with the financial and economic sector, and with the Agricultural Ministry. These interventions must be determined not after harvest but rather before it, and an approximate figure for which the state must redeem your production to stabilize prices for both consumers of agricultural products and for those who produce them must be determined. This is the second point.
Finally, the third point. We have allocated the necessary money to create infrastructure for functioning farms so that, like any other village business, they can reduce the dependence on wholesalers in order to create enterprises that can in a timely and opportune fashion sell their products at the required price. I repeat once again, this would reduce the dependence on unscrupulous wholesalers. These problems are understood, and the Agricultural Ministry has now completed developing these measures. I hope that by next year they will become a part of economic life.
E.Andreeva: Thank you Ilya. We thank all the inhabitants of the village of Golovchino who took part in the direct line with the President of Russia. And now our programme continues.
S.Brilev: Let's go to the call centre; on the technical channel we can see how operators work. I have the impression that as soon as they have finished with one call then another comes in. Apparently, there are more and more calls.
Natalia Semenikhina has the floor.
N.Semenikhin: We are gradually approaching one million, as we have already received 960 thousand calls and more than 75 thousand SMS. This year telecommunication specialists increased our lines' capacity by a third, and operators receive help from eight and a half thousand answering machines. Absolutely all the calls get put in a unified data base, which we treat equally. We will now put the next question on air.
Hello, please introduce yourself.
Unfortunately, a caller was cut off. This happens when broadcasting live. Of course, we have a call, they tell me it's from the Sverdlovsk Region, on the other line. Hello and please introduce yourself. We are listening to you.
G.Semenov: My name is Gennadii Demyanovich Semenov.
Good afternoon Vladimir Vladimirovich!
V.Putin: Good afternoon.
Semenov: The law on monetary compensations has been in operation for almost a year, and caused such emotional reaction. But if the outcry caused by some of the law's aspects has quitened down, some issues such as providing those on beneficiaries from social security with free medicines, the situation remains unsatisfactory in my small town and in other Russian territories. I know that frequently, this is not the responsibility of the local authorities.
We consider that in many respects it is connected with the fact that the Russian government and the Health Ministry stubbornly maintain schemes and procedures, designed to provide medicines at a reduced price, that are so unclear and inconvenient for people. Vladimir Vladimirovich, what can you say on this issue?
V.Putin: I agree with you that the law on monetary compensations has excited many emotions, emotions that I think are justified because despite the fact that measures had to be taken, it was necessary to make decisions that were adequate for a developing situation. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that it frequently happens that such questions are resolved in a hurried way. I will not use strong expressions, as I do not have this right, especially on the air but, in general, you understand what I have in mind.
At the same time I would like to direct your attention to some circumstances that forced the government to make these decisions. Let's take transport provisions. As an example I will take a major city like Saint Petersburg that has a population of almost 5 million. Do you know how many people out of 5 million use free transport in Petersburg? Depending on the calculation, between 2,5 million and 2,6 million. More than half of the city's population! And in fact there are people who do not go anywhere because of their state of health, their age—people who are either very young or very old. And who paid at the time? Industry workers, doctors and teachers paid. That is to say people with modest incomes. And as only a small number of people paid, the prices for these transportations constantly grew. The governors of some regions of the Russian Federation expressly told me: ”Two more years of such a situation and public transport will simply cease to exist. There will only be one private transport“. In fact, this is even worse. Therefore it was necessary to resolve pressing questions. Yes, that was right. But of course, they should have been solved in a way that was much more thought through. They needed to be resolved by taking into account what would occur in some regions. In fact, many just abolished everything on the sly. And I have a lot of questions, for instance on reduced transport rates for students, especially in the regions of the Russian Federation. These questions were not addressed by Law 122. Simply on the sly, they abolished everything.
Or let's take treatment in sanatoriums and resorts. We have people who had the right to free treatment in sanatoriums. Millions of people, tens of millions, and up to 30 million people received this right and, as a matter of fact still have it. In 2003 the number of people who qualified for reductions was hardly more than 200 thousand. 30 million and 200 thousand. It is a complete disgrace. Now, over the eight months of the current year, there are already one million more people, and this is considered little. But understand the increase!
As to providing medicines here again there are a lot of gaps and many problems. But the nomenclature of these medicines increased significantly—up to two thousand names. Earlier people could simply read about these medicines in books, and today many of them have the opportunity to receive them.
Probably, to this day, a perfect system for the distribution of these reduced medicines has not appeared. I also agree with you that the Health Ministry, together with the regions of course, should look at what happens not on paper, but in real life. Of course, in these instances I shall formulate and send the appropriate impulses and signals.
S.Brilev: We are coming to the end of the second hour of our air time. It is fair that we include the telephone centre so frequently. This really provides a sense of the country's geography, but it is unfair that until now we have not included some cities which have direct link-ups with us.
E.Andreeva: We will now put this right. We now have the city of Engels, of the Saratov Region, in direct link-up. Our correspondent, Sergei Semenov, is in an elite division of long-range aviation.
Sergei, we are waiting for your questions.
Sergei Semenov: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich!
Hello Katya! Hello Sergei!
The Engels air division is the largest military base in Russia, and is where the strategic bombers TU-160 and TU-95 are deployed. Its pilots jokingly nicknamed the division ”the long hand of Moscow“. This is because with refuelling in the air the range of these rocket-bearing planes is virtually limitless. Now the air base works in the regular way: they are constantly prepared for action, pilots are ready to take off on order at any moment. And here, on the air field, officers who are not on military duty and their wives and children have gathered. Certainly, all officers have many questions for the Supreme Chief-Commander, as do their wives, for President Putin.
Let's move on to the questions. Who? Please.
Shaidulin: Deputy Commander of an Air Force Squadron, Guard Lieutenant Colonel Shaidulin.
Comrade Supreme Chief-Commander! Recently you have been often seen with the army and the navy. Not long ago you flew with our crew in a supersonic strategic bomber. Does this mean that the Military Air Forces, and the Army as a whole are becoming a governmental priority? The present situation is that many young officers and young lieutenants after finishing higher education and having served a five year term simply leave, resign. My question is this: what measures is the government preparing to take in order to raise the prestige of military service in the Armed Forces?
Vladimir Putin: You said that recently I have frequently been with the military. It seems to me that during all five plus years of work as the President of the Russian Federation I have regularly been there, since the very first year I took office. I intend to continue this, meaning it is not just working tourism, but concrete work, linked to checking the Armed Forces’ readiness to go into battle, their equipment, and resolving servicemen's social problems.
Concerning the Air Force, of course I did not participate by chance in the military exercises with your colleagues. The tragedy that happened not long ago was also part of my reason for participating. We all know that the airplane crashed and the crew died. And I believe that my participation in these exercises must be linked to the mobilisation of organizational, administrative, and, if necessary, financial resources in order to turn this page, and so that everything on which the safety of flight depends should be given utmost care and allow our strategic aircraft to function normally.
Now, regarding the Air Force as a whole. It is necessary to say—actually, I have already said this, but will repeat it—that of course I am very pleased with how the pilots worked. Even though many problems still persist, today our strategic aircraft are really up to standard. You know that I had private meetings with your colleagues, not only in a group but individual discussions. Not for long, but it was in effect possible for us to talk one-on-one for five or six minutes. And as a whole people were very frank, and worried about things. So for me it was a very useful experience to plunge not only into the problems of long-range aircraft, but the problems of the Armed Forces and the Air Force as a whole.
Certainly, in the possible future—God forbid—conflicts, we know that in today's world the Air Force occupies a special place. Unfortunately, I can say that up until know we have not given due attention to this aspect of our activity. Incidentally, some letters I receive from military pilots, even during the preparation for today's event testify to this.
But the plans for the development of the Air Force of course provide for the construction of new airplanes, including airplanes of the fifth generation. Of course, here I mean fighter planes. Plans for obtaining the newest technical equipment exist. I know about the oil problem and those of young pilots' training. I remember that many, and maybe some of those present here today, have spoken about simulators and other kinds of technical equipment required for young pilots' training.
The appropriate orders were given to the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister. Together with you, we are going to persist in working further in this direction.
To increase the prestige of the whole Armed Forces, of course we have to accomplish a whole range of tasks. This means providing material incentives and creating an image of a serviceman in the mass media and in the consciousness of the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens who corresponds to a defender of the Fatherland and each Russian family. I want to emphasise this point—the whole Fatherland and each Russian citizen. Here many different components are educational. There is no one magic pill that exists. There is a wide range of questions and problems that must be solved.
We are going to work on this whole range of issues.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Sergei, we are waiting for another question.
Sergei Semenov: Questions please. And please introduce yourself.
Eleonora Likhacheva: Good afternoon. Eleonora Likhachev, wife of Major Likhachev, the Commander of the group.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, servicemen leaving office receive a housing certificate. But its value is much lower than the cost of housing, even in the secondary housing market.
Will the state do additional work on this programme and will it somehow compensate for the difference that has arisen between the certificate and housing's real cost?
Vladimir Putin: You know that young officers who now enter the Armed Forces fall within a new system of housing provisions—the mortgage system—on terms that are advantageous enough. These terms are so advantageous that in other branches we cannot yet offer these conditions, neither for citizens nor for ministries and departments which are equal to the Ministry of Defence, nor for servicemen who are equal to those working in the Ministry of Defence. It is only the servicemen in the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation who will be able to take advantage of such privileges.
The servicemen who do not fall within this system should be provided for according to the Russian Federation's legislation that is in force as they arrive in service because they cannot simply save up the corresponding sums for a mortgage in today’s situation. But the amount of money allocated to solve this problem will be considerably increased, already in 2006. And the programme of certificates will continue to operate.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Thank you. We thank an elite section of long-range Air Force, an elite division. This is the city of Engels and our correspondent Sergei Semenov.
We still have questions from the internet.
Sergei Brilyov: Yes I shall start with a question which illustrates the battle over the law on citizenship. Compared to what they thought would happen, the law’s actual application varies widely.
This question reads like this: “I am a citizen of Kazakhstan and in the near future I will go to Russia to receive citizenship according to a simplified procedure. As far as I know, the law is in force until January 1, 2006. Will it be prolonged? When speaking in the spring, you declared that Russia is interested in attracting legal immigrants (why, incidentally, did the law change?). Different regions of Russia require different documents and there is no unification. This is the main problem. All the best to you. You make us feel proud”. I am quoting what it is written in this message.
But perhaps the key phrase is that different regions of Russia require different documents, and there is no unification of the requirements for becoming a citizen.
Vladimir Putin: To attract people who choose Russia as their homeland to live permanently in the Russian Federation is Russia's strategic choice. We will do this persistently and carefully so as not to create any problems for the indigenous population and people already living in their native land. The government should find methods of attracting immigrants so as not to create problems for the indigenous population already living there. This is the first point.
The second. I agree with you that the simplification and resolution of these problems and questions needs additional regulation. Generally, the preferential regime that exists as we speak whereby our compatriots and citizens of the CIS can receive Russian citizenship will be kept after 2006. I have already given the appropriate instructions to the Presidential Executive Office and to the Government of the Russian Federation so that this will be prolonged.
Besides this we plan to take some more steps towards improving the situation in this area, namely simplifying the procedures to receive the right to work in the Russian Federation and to receive the right to stay for a long time on the Russian Federation's territory without receiving citizenship. All of these steps should allow us to solve this problem.
But I should tell you about one more thing. I believe these measures are not enough and intend to formulate an order to the Government of the Russian Federation so that the government can create a separate special additional programme so that our compatriots can return to Russia.
One of the questions I received during the preparation for today's teamwork sounds like there are hurt feelings. I do not remember who asked this question, but if this person is listening, could s/he will be able to identify her/himself. In the same direct line in 2003 I said that all who wished to leave the countries of the CIS and return to Russia have already done so. And the question shows hurt feelings, because this is not the case. I apologize. This must be, indeed, not the case. If I said so, and I do not exactly remember how I worded the answer, then I was wrong. There are definitely a great many people who would be glad to leave but who do not have the opportunity to do so. And the Government of the Russian Federation will develop and adopt the programme I just talked about, the one allowing our compatriots to return to Russia.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Another question which comes through the internet reads: “As President, can you describe your priorities in several words and then briefly comment on the state of affairs in each one?” What a paradoxical question.
Vladimir Putin: Our number one and most important priority is improving the quality of life of the citizens of the Russian Federation. And there are many ways to arrive at a solution for this problem. The main condition is maintaining the Russian economy's high growth rates. It is on this base that we will resolve social issues and provide prioritized development of this or another branch.
I already spoke about how, based on the economic growth of the past few years, we are able to formulate priority answers to social problems—public health services, housing, education, and to support branches such as high-tech, agriculture, and others. All of this will be a priority in the coming years.
Sergei Brilyov: Those who use the internet are the advanced public, although you communicate with them indirectly, through us. Let's return to direct communication with the citizens of the country. We now have the opportunity to directly communicate with Volgograd.
Ivan Rodionov is working in Volgograd and has the floor.
Ivan Rodionov: Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich!
Hello Ekaterina and Sergei!
We are on Mamaev Hill. This is one of the brightest, and perhaps most bitter symbols of war and victory and probably does not need to be introduced separately. Here, as the link-up reaches us, many inhabitants of Volgograd have gathered wishing to ask the President a question, and among them I see a great many veterans. Let's begin.
Please introduce yourself.
Boris Gavrilov: Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Boris Gavrilov: I am Boris Illarionovich Gavrilov, veteran of the Great Patriotic war. I started fighting the fascists on June 22, 1941 and stopped in Prague on May 9.
The celebrations on the 60 th Anniversary of Victory this year were especially festive and exciting; it was a real national holiday. We felt proud of our homeland, we felt united and we understood the price of this great victory. But the holiday ended and life became the same again.
Vladimir Vladimirovich what can we do so that as Russians, we can always be proud of our homeland, our unity, so as to feel that great, free Russia is our real homeland?
Vladimir Putin: First of all I want to thank you for your question. Thank you for appreciating the organization of the 60th Anniversary of Victory. First of all, we owe this holiday to veterans of the Great Patriotic War, to you. Without your feats during the Great Patriotic War, this holiday would not exist.
Certainly, I will take advantage of this opportunity to thank all Russian citizens and the heads of administrative bodies in the municipalities and the regions of the Russian Federation. The holiday turned out to be a really national one. I would like to thank my colleagues and friends, the heads of countries who accepted our invitations and came to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Victory in the Red Square in Moscow, and celebrated together with us.
Absolutely, the holiday ended but the decisions which were made concerning the veterans of the Great Patriotic War and invalids (these two categories are for all intents and purposes the same) all of them have not only been accepted, but also implemented. Let me remind you, even though you most certainly know it, that the pension of invalids of the Great Patriotic War is now more than 8,900 roubles. Those who fought in the war receive more than 8,700 roubles. In today’s system of social security, this is not heaps money but an appreciable sum on which it is possible to live. In spite of the fact that the holiday has ended, attention paid to veterans’ needs must not cease. Once again I will address the heads of the regions and municipalities—it must be so in the whole territory of the Russian Federation.
I have already spoken about this during today's meeting but I will repeat once again that, for example, providing free housing for veterans and invalids of the Great Patriotic War will be increased substantially at the federal level. Substantially. Whereas last year, around two hundred million roubles was allocated for this purpose. Next year, 2006, this will already be three billion. This money goes to the regions to resolve the problems of the veterans and invalids of the Great Patriotic War. It also concerns treatments in sanatoriums and resorts, getting free medicines, and so on. And so that not only veterans but all of us can be proud of our country we must be competitive in the world, and achieve results not only in the economy but also in resolving social issues. The contribution of veterans and their organizations is very important because up until now they have been on duty, and their influencing youth's upbringing and the new generations is very appreciable and very positive.
Thank you very much.
Sergei Brilyov: Let's give one more question to Volgograd.
Ivan Rodionov: Yes, give them one more by all means, I think that we must give another question to representatives of another generation.
Please introduce yourself. And your question.
Nadezhda Maksimova: Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Nadezhda Maksimova, mother of two children, high school teacher.
I am worried about the following. Today in Russia we can see the collapse of the health system. Hospitals refuse to treat people free of charge, and the elderly are not fully provided with free medicines. Soon it will also affect children, as they are even planning to abolish paediatric medicine.
Don't we need healthy citizens in Russia?
Vladimir Putin: This is one of the most urgent problems in the social sphere of the last few years. Here I need not take away or add to anything you said. It is a correct sizing up of the situation, especially in primary care. For this reason I asked the Government to make primary health care one of the fundamental priorities in this sphere.
You know, I have already spoken about how first of all preventing diseases is impossible without improving material conditions, raising wages in this sphere, and without additional equipment for primary care hospitals. This concerns ten thousand establishments. Up until now we have not been able to do this because so far we have given everything to the municipalities who did not have the necessary funds. Practically no money from the federal level and no money from the national level reached this sector of public health services.
I will repeat it once again. The wages of average medical personnel should rise by five thousand roubles and those of doctors by ten thousand roubles. Around ten to eleven thousand clinics must be reequipped with new, modern equipment. The increase of operations performed free of charge in the high-tech centres of the Russian Federation must continue. Today we perform 60 thousand such operations and next year this should rise to 120 thousand and in 2007 again by 60 thousand, so that 180 thousand should be treated there as patients.
But so as not to increase the quantity of patients in these clinics and, on the contrary, try to reduce them, our priority will be to support primary care, including putting emphasis on vaccination. Next year, the national calendar for vaccination should be completely—a hundred percent—financed. Significant means will be allocated to the treatment of infectious diseases, including AIDS.
In addition to that, a number of new, high-tech centres that give medical aid will be constructed in the regions of the Russian Federation. At the first stage, during the first two years in 2006 and 2007, this will be in about six regions, and in 2007, 2008 this will be in about another nine regions of the Russian Federation.
Certainly, we should not forget about doctors who work in clinics which provide more qualified medical aid. This question exists and causes concern. But supposing that, actually not supposing, but stating that the primary care is catastrophically understaffed, staffed at no more than 50 percent, it is clear that today this must be an absolute priority for us.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you Volgograd, but we will not leave the Southern Federal District. We still have one point for direct link-up.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Yes, we are again in contact with the south of Russia and the Black Sea city of Gelendzhik.
Evgenii Rozhkov works in Gelendzhik. Evgenii, we are waiting for questions for the President of Russia.
Evgenii Rozhkov: Hello Katya! Hello Sergei!
Good afternoon, Vladimir Vladimirovich!
Our resort city, Gelendzhik, welcomes you.
And now for the questions. But before that I would like to say that although it is the end of September and autumn has arrived in the whole country, here it is still summer. We have enjoyed excellent air, excellent nature, and excellent water.
And now for the questions. It seems that you wanted to ask one—it is necessary to introduce yourself at the beginning.
Konstantin Papandopulo: Good afternoon dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! Konstantin Ivanovich Papandopulo, doctor and native of Gelendzhik.
I am very glad that over the last five or six years, and thanks to the city authorities, the city of Gelendzhik has been transformed from a country town into a European resort. We are also very glad that last year the State Council was held in our city. But, unfortunately, all the same, many Russians leave to holiday in Turkey. And here are the reasons for this. It is cheap charter flights and poor roads. And we hope that building a modern highway connecting Krasnodar with Gelendzhik will allow us to resolve many problems. It is like a “road of life.” Only the Federal Budget could cope with this. We hope that such a road will be built.
And the second question. As a doctor, its answer interests me. In your speech you promised to increase the salaries of local and family doctors by ten thousand roubles. When will this happen?
Vladimir Putin: This will begin immediately in the new year, as of 2006. These are not questions that will be put in a drawer for a long time. I hope that appropriate resources will be allocated so that when the budget comes before the State Duma there will not be any amendments which will impede the implementation of this programme. I know that key deputies, the majority of deputies of the State Duma raise these issues and demand that they be resolved, so I do not think there will be any problems here. But I will repeat once again that I think it very important that primary care clinics receive additional equipment, and that work towards disease prevention including ensuring that the country's children receive vaccination, examinations and medical check-ups must continue. First and foremost, this applies to children. All of this is high priority.
Sergei Brilyov: Well, one more question for Gelendzhik?
Evgenii Rozhkov: Yes all right. On the right, on the left? I think that you wanted to ask a question? Please introduce yourself at the beginning.
Polina Postnova: Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Polina Postnova: My name is Polina Postnova. I am a student of the Cuban State University. I have the following question for you.
You already mentioned the problem of reform of local self-government. I am interested in how that reform will affect our city of Gelendzhik, seeing as we are not only a small city, but also a resort.
Vladimir Putin: What in particular worries or disturbs you? Could you formulate your concern more precisely?
Polina Postnova: How will the given reform affect the development of our resort? Which measures and ways of implementing the reform will be undertaken in our resort?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to congratulate the inhabitants of the Krasnodarsky Region for having such beautiful female students. With the sea as background and good weather it looks simply wonderful.
Second, the whole reform of local authorities and local self-government is to ensure that the local authorities will not have any financial or social obligations which are not provided for either from their own financial resources and tax revenues or not financed from budgets from higher levels—either the regional or the federal level. We want to finish with the state of affairs where citizens know that they are entitled to something, but the local authorities say that they do not have the money to provide it. Such a situation should not exist. That is the first point. But this concerns all reforms of local self-government.
And secondly, regarding what directly affects resort zones. Our colleague who just asked a question, spoke about the development of infrastructure. We intend to further develop the infrastructure in the south of the Russian Federation. First and foremost, this refers to building roads and airports. The airport, the road, the railroad, including the road that links Gelendzhik with Krasnodar and Gelendzhik with Sochi, the road to Rostov, the road between Rostov and Moscow, and the development of the airports in Sochi, Gelendzhik and Krasnodar. All of this will take place, and there will also be the possibility of creating recreational zones with a special, preferential regime. The government envisages this possibility and together with the regional and municipal authorities must determine where these zones will be. Maybe in the Krasnodarsky Region as well. But if not there, then where? The question arises where in the Krasnodarsky Region? This problem must be resolved through dialogue with the governor and with the heads of municipalities.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Evgenii, another question please.
Evgenii Rozhkov: So, are we really going to get into it? You have such a bright shirt—it matches the scenery here. Please introduce yourself, and ask the President your question looking into that video camera.
Alexei Rastorguev: Good afternoon Mr President.
My name is Alexei Rastorguev. I am extremely happy and proud to live in the fine city of Gelendzhik.
You have been in our city many times. What was most pleasant for you, and what will you remember the most?
Vladimir Putin: More than anything, of course, the very amiable people who are both welcoming and amiable. Judging from the results in Krasnodarsky Region and Gelendzhik, here in particular people are very hardworking and able to organize their work. I know that there is also concern regarding the development of an oil and gas installation. This disturbs many people who would like to see Gelendzhik remain exclusively a recreational zone, a resort. But historical developments have turned out in such a way that an oil refinery was not constructed by us, but has already existed here for many decades. Unfortunately, during previous decades practically no attention was paid to ecological problems. With the arrival of the state's company—a company with state capital—and with the settlement of property problems and questions, places for additional capital investments were created. First of all, the plan was not to expand production but rather to improve production bases and resolve economic issues. You know how at the time so much stuff just got in the soil, simply ended up somewhere. Now, this is simply not possible. Of course, we will think of the resort's development and what I talked about just now.
In general sea, sun, people and the economy's development in the directions that are priorities for Gelendzhik and for southern Russia should make Gelendzhik and all of southern Russia even more attractive.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Thank you Gelendzhik. It is a pity to leave such a sunny city.
But we are going to Moscow. The weather here is not so good, but there are many calls to the telephone centre.
Sergey Brilev: Let's go, Natasha. Perhaps one last time during this live broadcast we will join the telephone centre. What news, what statistics and which calls?
Natalia Semenikhina: It is hot here. Several minutes ago we passed the one million mark and more than 130 thousand telephone calls have been taken during air time. And it is very nice to see that students and schoolchildren are very active today.
Regarding questions via SMS, we have already received one hundred thousand. During the live broadcast more than 60 thousand SMS arrived.
A big thank you to the operators who are already in their fifth day of communicating with all of Russia. And though we cannot put all the questions on the air, there is one important question that is being answered. What is the country living for today? Especially as calls frequently come in from places where there are no sociologists. But we will make conclusions after the end of the live broadcast.
And now they tell me that we are linked with Naberezhnye Chelny.
Alexander Tokmakov: Hello.
Natalia Semenikhina: Please introduce yourself and ask your question.
Alexander Tokmakov: My name is Alexander Sergeevich Tokmakov. I am calling you from the city of Naberezhnye Chelny.
I have the following question. Is Vladimir Vladimirovich confident that all of his orders are properly executed and that there is no sabotage done by officials or different levels of the country's authorities?
Vladimir Putin: I will answer one part of the question by saying that I am confident that no sabotage is occurring.
The second part I will answer in the negative. I am not confident that all my orders are being executed properly. The country is big, has many problems, has a legal system which lacks reglementation, chronic and unresolved social problems, and there is a rather low level of legal culture for those who are obliged to execute state functions both in the centre, in the localities and in the regions. In general, of course I do not have the confidence that everything is properly executed. But knowing this, I think that I should simply personally pay this question more attention and more carefully tackle the question of how all decisions are made, taken to their logical conclusion, and realized.
Sergey Brilev: Natasha, are there any calls right now?
Natalia Semenikhina: We will try to put one more call on the air. Hello.
Sharkan Seisha: Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am calling from Sochi. I am Sharkan Talibovna Seisha, 46 years old, an employee. I have the following question.
In this country, life expectancy is less than the retirement age. The question of raising the retirement age is now being discussed. Please explain on what basis the retirement age could be increased?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this really is a question that increasingly appears in the mass media and is discussed by experts. Of course the interest in this question is linked to demography, and whether the number of people working can support the increase in the number of retired people. This can create certain problems for the Pension Fund and for other structures involved in this question.
There is another argument, or rather not an argument but an element in this discussion. It is that the level of life expectancy in Russia is much lower than say, in Europe, where the decision has been taken to raise the retirement age. This is what I personally think the question is connected to.
First of all, our population's life expectancy really is lower, but it is not lower for people who have reached retirement age. The “life term”—this expression is not a pretty one, but is the one that experts use to describe this concept —in Russia is more or less the same as in the advanced countries, say in Europe or in America. Certainly a little lower, but more or less the same. But overall living standards and the length of life are much lower because many people die at an able-bodied age, young, and in the middle of their lives. And this is due to alcohol, drugs, work-place accidents, road and transport incidents and the badly organised systems of public health services that we have already talked about today. All of this combined creates these problems.
At the same time I want to draw your attention to the fact that I am against raising the retirement age. And while I am President, such a decision will not be taken. In general I think that it is not necessary to raise the age at which one retires. You must stimulate people who think that even after attaining the retirement age they can continue working depending on their health condition. To stimulate and create the conditions whereby people are interested in continuing their work is possible, but not to infringe on their rights as retirees.
Once again I will repeat that I am against raising the retirement age both for men and women.
Sergey Brilev: Well, thank you to Natalia Semenikhina and thank you to the telephone centre. But just because we leave the telephone centre does not mean that the questions have come to an end.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: Yes. Since we prepared this direct line, already now we can say that the first preliminary results were more than a million calls and, as Natalia said, more than a hundred thousand SMS came to the call centre and more than 50 thousand questions over the internet. It is gratifying to see that many sharp and clever questions come from young people. Clearly, it is impossible to grasp the immensity of this. And how many questions were you able to look at when preparing for this programme?
Vladimir Putin: A whole lot! But I did not count. I must say that yesterday for a long time I basically was reading these questions. And I can tell you at once that of course I could not look at everything, despite the fact that I sat until long after midnight with these documents. But there were many different questions, including those where “I am confident that they will not show you this question” was written at the end. No selection was made, and everything that arrived by the time of the broadcast lay on my table. But it was simply not possible to look at everything. If you consider that now is the time when it is possible for me to answer those that I have selected, then I will.
Yekaterina Andreyeva: That would be desirable.
Vladimir Putin: I too did not exactly select them, but I will successively read the questions which seem to me covered frequently recurring themes.
Irina Petrovna Cherepanov, the Ivanov Region. Widow, two young children, an adult daughter. Up until the monetary compensation law they bought reduced travel cards for pupils. Now these do not exist any more. This is a very long question and I will quote certain passages of it. “Pensioners also do not receive a transport supplement after the monetary compensation, and absolutely the same applies to reduced travel cards. The local administration told me that the regional budget does not provide for such services. There is no one else we can turn to but you. The governors begrudge rural school children their money. Yours sincerely, on behalf of all the parents of the village of New Leushino Cherepanova, Irina Petrovna”.
The first thing I would like to say in connection with this regards providing transportation at a reduced rate to certain categories of citizens and pensioners. The categories of citizens who should qualify for reductions should be clear—we talked about this, and of how people had the possibility of choosing whether to either receive money, or to get a transport card at a reduced price which does not exceed the sum which people are receiving as compensation. It was necessary to achieve the condition in which people would not see their situation in this area get worse. For pensioners who used reductions, but were not considered eligible for reductions as such, a decision was made to increase their pension by 240 roubles and there was an arrangement with the heads of the regions so that they will have reduced transport tickets that do not exceed this increase in the pension. If this has not been done in the Ivanov region then obviously the governor and all the people working in this area have not done their work.
Regarding the abolition of reductions for pupils' travel costs, it is completely their private initiative. They took this decision on the sly using Law 122, a decision which in my opinion is ill-advised and should be reconsidered.
There is a question from Sweden concerning the possibility of using the Stabilization Fund for both child benefits and for helping those who want to have children. I have already spoken about the State Duma's initiative that will be maintained. I simply do not think it is necessary to come back to this once again.
And now, Evgenii Ivanovich Norenko, Primorskii Krai. The question is about United Russia. It says: “At the present time the functioning authority does not have serious opposition. Do you not think that presently this creates the conditions for absence of control of functioning authorities and secondly, a step back for the development of a democratic state? All of us lived under the rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and all know how it ended.
Dear Evgenii Ivanovich, I want to remind you of the fact that the Communist party of the Soviet Union inserted their monopoly on power into the Soviet Union's constitution where it was named leader and the controlling political force. But strictly speaking, other political forces did not exist. As a matter of fact, there was only one legal opposition in the Soviet Union, and that was the Russian Orthodox Church. There was no other legal opposition in the Soviet Union.
Regarding United Russia, indeed today it is the dominant political force in the country and in the State Duma, but this is a normal phenomenon for all democratic countries. Those parties who win elections, who receive the greatest quantity of votes get to the power. It is hard to agree that they do not have opponents. Yes, they make their decisions based on the majority of votes, but they have enough opponents. This is Vladimir Volfovichem Zhirinovsky—the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Motherland which has broken up but actively criticizes the functioning authorities in general and United Russia in particular. Finally, there is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation which has been the opposition of the system during all these years. Therefore the danger of returning to a monopoly of authority does not exist.
Alexander Olegovich Zhuchenko, Sverdlovsk Region.
“I am a hearing invalid; I can't hear. Millions of deaf people, and there are 13 million of them, never learn what you are talking about today, tomorrow, in the news, or on New Year's Eve. Can you resolve this non-fulfilment of our constitutional rights at the governmental level.”
I entirely agree with Alexander Olegovich. Last night, having received this question, I discussed it with the head of state television. And it is being worked on. And at least in the state's mass media, this situation will be rectified.
Nina Ivanovna Vasileva, the Tver Region.
”I am a mother of four children. I have four grandsons. I am interested in when they will stop constructing slot machines in our city. All children and adults are already playing.” I don’’t think I need to read any further.
I completely agree with Nina Ivanovna. The question is a very pointed one and has already arisen many times both with the governors and the heads of the Russian Federation's regions. I gave the Russian government an assignment. I know that deputies in the State Duma of the Russian Federation are also paying attention to this matter. In the near future the appropriate decisions will be prepared. I hope that this will normalize the situation in this area. I agree with you that at the present the situation is developing in a way that is inadmissible from the point of view of the protection of citizens' interests.
M. L. Sporysheva, Nizhni Novgorod: ”Thank you to the President for the new governor“.
Thank you for this gratitude. The new governor has not done anything good so far. But he is an experienced, reliable leader who has proved that he can effectively work in Moscow. I hope that he will prove himself once again in Nizhny Novgorod.
A question about mortgage. I have already spoken about this a great deal. I do not think that we will go over this again in the interests of saving time.
“Is the President pleased with the school reform? He himself studied free of charge”.
If the question is about the unified state examination, this is presently being carried out as an experiment. As a whole, all the actions in this sphere are directed towards creating equal conditions for young people to enter institutes of higher learning independently of the territory on which they live. And I must say that the experiment seems to be justifying itself. But since the experiment is still being carried out I can only say this much. We propose that this be tried in other Russian regions as well.
At the same time I agree with those heads of institutes of higher education of the Russian Federation who believe that the obvious advantages of a traditional university education in Russia should be kept, despite the dissemination of the unified state examination.
I have already talked about the fact that we propose some changes in the sphere of education as a whole. It will be one of the priorities in the near future. I spoke in particular about education in the institutes of higher learning. I can say more about education in schools.
First: additional payment to teachers for class management in fully subscribed classes, an increase of a thousand roubles from what teachers currently receive. This is the first. I started with this because it will affect all teachers, almost all teachers.
Second: giving one hundred thousand rouble grants to the ten thousand best teachers in the country.
Third: determining grants for three thousand schools at a rate of one million roubles annually to purchase additional laboratory equipment, textbooks and maintain the educational process.
In addition to this, we expect to create five thousand grants of 60 thousand roubles annually for schoolchildren and students, those who are interested in long-range research work.
All of this, together with the opportunity and necessity of changing the system of payment in schools can result in—and in my opinion should result in—improvements. When I talk about change in the system of payment I mean the possibility of changing to a system of sectorial payment in the schools whereby the teachers' wages do not depend only and so much on the number of lessons they teach, but rather on the quality of their teaching, their experience, and other factors. But let me repeat that this would not be connected to the work load which will eventually also weigh on schoolchildren, on whom we consistently pile a heavier and heavier work load. In my opinion, in many cases this load has already gone over the limit.
I repeat that all these measures are directed towards improving the education system.
“What will change by 2008? Will the army be reformed? What awaits my 16-year old son? Elizaveta Viktorovna Slepneva, Kursk Region”.
Elizaveta Viktorovna, as of January 1, 2008 military service will be reduced from two years to 12 months. I will repeat once again that after six months in so-called training, each young man can make a choice whereby either he signs a contract and goes on contractual service for the next three years or he completes six months of service in the standing troops. We hope that the conscription contingent will also improve. Following from that, whoever signs the three-year contract will have the priority right to enter institutions of higher education. For those who cannot enter right away, they will keep the right to receive wages, a monetary compensation, for contract military service during the year in which they will study in classes that have been specially organized to help them prepare for college. Yes, and by the same time Rapid Reaction Forces will be completely formed, namely the marines, all ofthe paratroopers, and some parts of the land forces. Young people conscripted for military service will not serve in any “hot spots” including in the Chechen Republic.
Yes, and as to the army. As of this year there are no conscripted soldiers in the Chechen Republic. And as of 2007 there will not be anyone from the internal troops of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation.
Pensioner Ludmila Karachentsova from the Degtyarevsky hamlet of the Kochubeevsky area, Stavropol Region complained to the President that there is no water in their village. ”Alas, no water is present here“ was how Ludmila Alekseevna sadly described the situation in a quotation from Komsomolskaya Pravda “even though I heard that money for aqueducts has arrived in Stavropol. Where has it gone to? Villagers have to go two to three hundred metres for water”.
Naturally, it is clear that Ludmila Karachentsova is dissatisfied with the how the situation was handled or, to say it clearly, with the lack of a solution to this problem. I must tell you that it is just in these days that nominations for the position of Governor of the Stavropol Region are being discussed. I have prepared the documents for the governor in office, but until he solves this problem, they will not be sent to Stavropol.
Stanislav Veniaminovich Vengrezhinsky : ”Please tell me if pensions for military retirees will be increased? If so, when and by how much?
As of January 1, 2006 they will be increase by 15 percent, the same as all servicemen's. After this, according to the provisions in the corresponding law, the increase in pensions is envisioned during the period that follows, together with the increase in the monetary provisions for servicemen.
Anton Yurevich Zotov: ”Having heard your speech on television on the increasing of doctors' and teachers' wages, my wife and I cheered up”. And what follows is his disappointment since the author of this question is a doctor, a neurosurgeon and the increases don't affect him.
Yes, I understand your concern, but as I have already said, our primary care is staffed at 56 percent and in rural areas this percent only reaches 25 to 30. This is an absolutely intolerable situation and today, this is literally our main priority. But it does not mean that the state should forget people who work in the fields of high-level medical help, and providing high-tech help that demands special knowledge. Certainly, we are planning to move forward in this sphere as well. I have already spoken about the new hi-tech centres that we plan to open in the regions of the Russian Federation. Certainly, it is necessary to think of increasing wages in this sphere in general.
Alexei Leontevich Matveev. Kostroma Region. “It is known that as of January 1, 2006 all the recipients of the Hero of the Great Patriotic War medal will receive a pension of approximately 20 thousand roubles. What about us—the recipients of the Hero of Socialist Labour medal? All Heroes of the Kostroma Region join me in asking this question. Thank you”.
Dear Alexei Leontevich, I gave the order to the Government of the Russian Federation so that together with the State Duma they could prepare a bill supporting the Heroes of Socialist Labour. I expect that these decisions will be made in the near future. Perhaps it will not be of the same amount as those for the Heroes of Russia and of the Soviet Union but it will also be an exclusive decision regarding the merits of the Heroes of Socialist Labour for our country.
Vasilii Urov Sergeevich, Saint Petersburg. ”What do you think of the problem of the HIV epidemic in Russia? Why is so little money from the budget allocated for this problem?”
Many people are worried about this problem both within state structures, public organizations and in society at large. And it is correct to be worried. The last research on the topic and statistical data show that indeed, while the problem is very grave, it cannot be called an epidemic. This is shown by mass examinations of citizens at conscription age, women in maternity hospitals, and several other categories of the population. But you are right, this problem is a serious one. Therefore we will provide a sizeable increase in financing for these purposes next year. Whereas in the current year only 130 million roubles—and for Russia as a whole this is practically nothing—next year this will be increased by 20 to 30 times. To this effect, we plan to allocate up to three billion roubles so that all those requiring expensive medicines can be provided with them.
Viktor Anatolevich Ershov. “Between 1961 and 1964 I served in Sakhalin and in border troops for three and a half years. I became bald. I have done my duty to my motherland. So why (here I will leave out part of the question) have these three years not been included in my pension record? I think that this is theft on the part of the state ”.
Military service in the Armed Forces should be included in the record according to the Law on Labour Pensions. Dear Viktor Anatolevich, you should address the bodies of the Pension Fund. They are obliged to assist you in recalculating your pension.
Evgeniya Ivanova Zemlyanukhina. “I am a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. In 1968 my family and I constructed a cooperative apartment in a five-floor, apartment building”—here I will leave a bit out— “now we have to pay for the land on which our building stands. Many of our husbands died, and we are left alone. Please explain whether we have to pay the whole cost of the land or only pay the renewal of the documents? Saratov Region”.
Dear Evgenya Ivanovna and other inhabitants of the Saratov Region who find themselves in this position. If the situation described here is true, than the despotism of your officials knows no bounds. According to the current legislation, all apartments, and the land under these cooperative houses is already your property. They are obliged to renew it at their own expense. The question regarding the cadastral evaluation and the payment for this evaluation could still be asked, but I believe that both the regional and municipal authorities can solve this problem themselves, and are simply obliged to do so without demanding funds from the citizens. This question is very surprising to me. I will ask the Governor to pay attention to it.
Here is a question that arrived by SMS.
“The country is full of gas. We sell gas right and left, but half of Russia has no access to gas. Somehow this seems dishonest. Vladimir Vladimirovich, what do you value most in life?”
It is a question which demands big investments and time to solve. It is simply necessary to build. Certainly, we must build more.
Let me remind you that we are far from exporting and selling a major amount of the gas. But by virtue of the fact that abroad we can sell a thousand cubic metres for 160 dollars or even more, and inside Russia this price is a little more than 30 dollars and 40 dollars in certain regions, you can imagine the difference this makes. Gazprom exists because of this difference. If it develops, and discovers new deposits and has the opportunity to install gas distribution infrastructure and give those power resources to the economy and domestic consumers for low prices inside Russia, it is due to this export. But necessary efforts for further development of the gas infrastructure should be made.
For these purposes in the very near future Gazprom plans to allocate significant means exceeding 35 billion roubles (the amount it has been until now) many times over. I am confident that these plans will be implemented. We are now studying them together with the heads of the regions of the Russian Federation.
Kamil Tagirovich Mukhamedzyanov. Kamil Tagirovich completely reproduces one of my answers from 2003. It concerns providing textbooks to schools and the supporting whole scholastic process by transferring these issues from the municipal to the regional level because in our country, this is already state level. I must say that Kamil Tagirovich formulates this proposition very precisely and literally restates both what I said in 2003 and the corresponding citations from the Constitution which guarantee the right to education and so on.
Kamil Tagirovich talks about the low wages in the school system. He is about to get married to someone who, as far as I understand, is a young teacher. “At present the situation is such that I cannot even afford a pair of wedding rings”.
He asks what has been done lately, including what I have personally done to implement the plans that were already made in 2003.
Dear Kamil Tagirovich! At the beginning of 2003, according to the legislation in force, neither the regional authorities nor the municipal authorities had the right to offer their support to schools even if they had the possibility and desire to do so. In 2003, we changed the legislation and those changes came in to force in that same year. And now everything which affects the educational process in schools can be realized and supported at the state level. This is exactly the theme on which I have spoken and I will repeat once again that in this area the problem has been resolved. But it is resolved only from the point of view of creating the legal bases for resolving these questions. In some regions where there is enough money—in rich regions—the regional authorities definitely resolve a great many questions including purchasing textbooks. This is not the case in all regions. And unfortunately, in the majority of the Russian Federation's regions many parents still spend a lot of money procuring these textbooks. Therefore in this area, although some questions have been resolved, solutions are still being implemented. I hope that despite the fact that material difficulties exist, you will get married. I hope that this will not be a reason for you to not execute your vows.
Regarding teachers salaries, they are indeed very low. We must recognize this.
Just before this, I already spoke about what we propose to do in this sphere. Today the situation varies greatly depending on the region. For example, in Moscow the average teacher's salary can go up to 10,000 roubles. In some northern areas such as Taimyre, it is up to 15,000, and in the south of Russia it is very low. In some places it approaches 3,000 and sometimes no more than 2,000. In your region, and I understand it you come from the Amur Region, there the average wage is 5,200. But there is a problem for young teachers as they have absolutely inadmissibly low wages, and very bad starting positions. Of course this situation must be rectified. Let me remind you that in 2002 the average salary was 2,800. And today, according to measurements done in August of this year, the average salary was 4,860. Let me repeat that this average applies to the country as a whole. At the end of next year, the minimum will be 6,000. As I already said, changing to a new system of payment for teachers will take place in the whole branch.
And the last question. Ilya Ilyich Postnov, Moscow: ”As a student in tenth grade at high school and a potential recruit for the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation I cannot help be but excited about problems of the servicemen. My appearance is not one hundred percent Slavic, but on all other criteria I basically have exactly what it takes to become a Kremlin guard. My question is as follows: why does the Kremlin Regiment only accept people with a Slavic appearance? Do you not think this is discrimination along national lines”.
Dear Ilya Ilyich, I am not aware that the Kremlin Regiment only recruits people of Slavic appearance. After receiving your question, I asked the Director of the Federal Guard Service and he assured me that the Kremlin Regiment recruits basically in all regions of the Russian Federation, and that there are only two criteria. These are health and height. If you meet the criteria which are required to be a serviceman, then this problem is solved.
Sergei Brilyov: Vladimir Vladimirovich, today you speak and speak and speak but, on behalf of the organizers, we would like to permit ourselves one additional question.
Before this we usually met with you in December at the end of the year and developed the plans for the coming year. Now, it is possible to speak at the beginning of the political season which, incidentally, appeared somewhat rough. September is a rough political season. So I will slightly alter the traditional question for the plans for the coming year. Rather, my question concerns the plans for the current and forthcoming political season. What are your expectations?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I recollect one of the questions that was asked. We now have new possibilities to solve pressing social questions and to pay special attention to some sectors of the economy due to the economic results we have achieved, the fact that our budgetary expenses look solid, there is valuable support from the Stabilization Fund, as well as gold and exchange currency reserves of the Central bank. Huge resources are being allocated to this effect, in an area where the state has never allocated such resources before. And here it is necessary to fine tune our control over the implementation of decisions we have made. This is very important.
And of course, we must look to the future. In fact, please note that we are adopting the budget for three years. We do this expressly so that at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 when the country will clearly have to live through a period of political activity, that there will not be an explosion of populist decisions that would destroy the positive economic tendencies that we have developed. We want to eliminate this possibility, and coordinate our actions with parliament and within the framework of this corridor so as not to end up in a situation in which, after we spent a lot of time accumulating the money, it would suddenly all be distributed. Yes, it is possible to distribute all this money today. First, no one would feel it, because there is not as much as it seems.
And secondly, inflation will instantly appear. And this would be an absolutely nonsensical act of political populism that would harm the economy and, in turn, each Russian family. Our task is to keep these positive economic tendencies and to attain the priorities that we have set out for ourselves, so that these priorities will not only be described, but that actual financial, administrative and political resources be employed to accomplish these tasks.
Sergei Brilyov: As you see, I was afraid to ask about the whole year and confined my question to the political season, but the answer covered all three years.
Yekaterina Andreeva: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we thank you for participating in our programme. Our Direct Line with the President of the Russian Federation has come to an end. Our cameras were in 12 major cities and small towns. We thank all the people who took part in this Direct Line and all those who sent in questions via SMS, via the internet, and those who managed to phone in to the call centre.
Thank you very much.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you very much. All the best.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.