Dmitry Medvedev: Sergei Kuzhugetovich, you have just returned from Tskhinvali, and you were also in Vladikavkaz, carrying out the missions incumbent to you as Emergency Situations Minister. Please report on the situation there, what has been done and what still needs to be done in the humanitarian disaster relief effort.
Sergei Shoigu: I will start with the current situation, Dmitry Anatolyevich. The situation is gradually returning to normal. The main issues right now are the refugees, the injured, and rebuilding the city’s infrastructure. A group [of Emergency Situations Ministry personnel] has been sent to Tskhinvali in South Ossetia with 1,700 people and around 400 vehicles. Up to 120 tons of food supplies are being delivered every day. Construction materials are also being delivered now, mostly materials needed for rebuilding essential infrastructure. Restoring the water supply through the water mains is proving a lot more difficult.
Dmitry Medvedev: Have they been destroyed or not?
Sergei Shoigu: They have suffered considerable damage, but the main problem is that there are many unauthorised barriers and attempts to siphon water from these pipes, which cross through Georgian villages. Yesterday more than 50 unsanctioned pipes siphoning water from the mains were cut off, and more than 100 have been cut off today. I think this work will not be completed until tomorrow. The main damage was to reservoirs, 1,500 cubic metres, in Tskhinvali itself. We have been working on this today and will continue tomorrow. I think that all the work on restoring the water supply will be finished tomorrow. The energy technicians are getting the electricity supply up and running again. The electricity supply has already been partially restored to distribution stations in the northern part of the city. Through our channels, through Rosreserve, we had 128 kilometres of cable delivered yesterday because there are practically no power lines remaining within the city and a large number of transformers have been damaged. We have got a bakery up and running again, so the city now has bread. We are also supplying water, but from other sources. We have three wells operating. We are working on the gas supply. The gas also comes via Georgian territory. We are currently assessing the damage.
We have two hospitals in operation and are taking in the injured on a regular basis. The main task at the moment is, first, to transport everyone from the tent camps in North Ossetia tonight and tomorrow to proper shelter so that we have no more tent camps in North Ossetia. Second, we need to set up a centre in Tskhinvali where, in accordance with the government decision, we can start providing social assistance and paying compensation for loss of property, so that people can start getting their lives back to normal there and have the food and medical treatment they need. We have already begun setting up this centre. We will most likely locate it in the Tskhinvali Central Hotel, which we will make a big effort to get into proper order over the coming week, getting the generators and water supply working, so that normal life can resume there and people can start returning to the town.
Dmitry Medvedev: What is the situation with the power supply?
Sergei Shoigu: It has been partially restored. We also have 46 generators working at the main infrastructure installations: the hospital, the bakery and the pumping stations – where we have two systems of water supply, one from the well and the other a self-flowing supply. As far as security is concerned, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has its people at work restoring law and order in the town.
Dmitry Medvedev: Is there any need for additional supplies or funds for particular areas?
Sergei Shoigu: We finalised everything with Spetstroi today, and 200 builders currently engaged on building the Novorossiisk port in Krasnodar Region will be transferred to Tskhinvali tomorrow. More builders will be brought into the city at a rate of around 200 a day. As far as funds are concerned, all the financial issues have been settled with the Government. It is important now to set up a normal system for handling the funds. If Sberbank does not open an actual branch in Tskhinvali, they can at least set up a ‘field branch’. This is something we discussed today with the Finance Ministry and a branch will be set up.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, this is tried and tested practice.
Sergei Shoigu: As far as telecommunications are concerned, we have placed a retransmission facility at an altitude of 2,000 metres. We wanted to start broadcasting the three main Russian television channels today, but I think that transmission will start tomorrow. As for the telephone and mobile phone networks, we are also very hard at work. The Telecommunications Ministry is making a great effort in this area, in particular, it has made mobile phones available to every single member of South Ossetia’s government. Then a satellite system.
Dmitry Medvedev: Is the mobile phone system working?
Sergei Shoigu: It is working, but the problem is that there are two systems. One operates via Tbilisi, the signal is very weak and reliability cannot be guaranteed. The Telecommunications Ministry is working actively on this at the moment.
Newspapers have started coming in. In particular, the first issue of Rossiiskaya Gazeta arrived yesterday and the second came today. I hope that things will be more or less normal from now.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. We will call each other and continue work.