President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Madam Director General, friends, good evening.
I am happy for the opportunity to meet with you. I would like to ask you to pass on my best wishes to all participants in the convention on tobacco control that is underway.
Countering tobacco use is a very relevant task for our nation. We have done public surveys: around 2010, I believe 40% of our population smoked. We have passed a plan to counter tobacco use and are implementing it. In the past year, the number of people who regularly consume tobacco decreased in our country by 16 or 17%.
Overall, we will continue following this path: carefully, so as not to infringe on the rights of individuals to their freedom of choice on what to do and how to live. But we will certainly cooperate with you and appreciate your methodology recommendations.
Director General of the World Health Organisation Margaret Chan: Mr President,
I’m not going to tell them how many times I’ve met you. It’s a great honour once again to meet you, and I want to personally thank you for your leadership, for your commitment.
I still remember one of our earlier meetings. You mentioned to me, Russians – especially Russian men – die too early. You, as a President of this country, you want to improve their health, you want to do more, you want to continue to invest in health so that they can live longer, and drink less vodka and not smoke so much.
I am old but I have a very good memory. I still remember our earlier conversation. I did say to you, “Mr Putin, Your Excellency, the WHO will work with your Ministry of Health and support your work, but I will make sure I follow you and see whether you keep your promises.”
At that time, Ms Tatyana [Golikova] was the Minister of Healthcare. And I have to thank you personally for your commitment, for keeping your promises the people of Russia.
You have continuously invested in the health of the people in this country, and I was discussing with Ms Veronika [Skvortsova], and I am very pleased to see the improvement in the life expectancy, the growth in tobacco control, and your commitment to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Now, Russia has one of the most comprehensive tobacco control laws. You have already made good progress, but going forward, I’m sure you will continue to make further progress.
The Russian Federation is a leading country in investing in the WHO to support 24 countries in the world to reduce tobacco consumption, and at the same time, pay attention to non-communicable diseases. So I want to personally thank you, because you know, I want to show you a report card. For your investment, we have seen results in 24 countries in 6 WHO regions. And of course, these countries will benefit a great deal from your investment, and I hope to see more countries in the WHO like your good selves, setting an example to promote the reduction in heart disease, cancer, diabetes. So I come here personally to thank you.
I believe in results and producing report cards for my member states. A few years ago, you also talked to me about wanting to have more publications of the WHO translated into the Russian language. I told you I don’t have money. But you gave me $2 million. And I want to show you: at that time, the number of documents in the Russian language was going down, but with your support, we are coming up here.
So now we are at a very critical point. Without continuing investment, it will go down. I don’t want it to go down. Because many countries in the WHO also ask for documents in the Russian language, so I hope you will continue to support them.
Also, some people ask me: “You are so busy with Ebola. Why are you coming to the Russian Federation?” I say, “For two reasons.” As WHO Director General, I cannot focus only on one issue. Ebola is important, but there are other important issues, like tobacco control. And this is why I’m coming to the meeting hosted by the Russian Federation. Yes, Ebola is a very serious situation, and affecting especially three countries in West Africa. I thank you for – already – the Russian Federation’s commitment. You provided a laboratory in Guinea. You also provided resources and other material support. But I know that the Russian Federation is a big power and you can do more. And so that’s the reason I’m also coming to see you and hope that you will continue to do more.
So, Mr President, I talked too much. I’d like to hear your reaction.
Vladimir Putin: How many countries are already parties to the Convention on Tobacco Control – 179?
Margaret Chan: Close to 184 countries signed up to the Convention. And many, many came to the meeting.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to say that we will certainly support these efforts, and together with other participants in the process, we will certainly provide support for your work within the framework of the WHO.
As far as Ebola is concerned, as you already stated, we are participating in the fight against this virus. Several European countries have asked us, if necessary, to provide them with special aircraft that our European partners do not currently possess. We have the means, including the so-called capsules for transporting infected individuals, and experts are now looking into the possibility of joint work.
It would be my pleasure to talk with you about other opportunities to help people. Naturally, we must act very carefully to protect our own population.