President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues. Good afternoon, dear veterans.
We have come together in Volgograd. Of course this is a special place for every citizen of our country. It’s not just that the historic Battle of Stalingrad was fought here and became a turning point in the course of the Great Patriotic War; in fact, this was where a new stage of the war, one that ultimately determined its outcome, began.
Today we will be considering the progress made on the instructions I gave this year and last in preparation for the anniversary of the Victory, including the outcome of the last two meetings that I held in Moscow. I would like to hear how the work related to this subject is going in various regions, and discuss as well what remains to be done.
But before we begin, I should inform all those present that today I have signed executive orders concerning new Cities of Military Glory. On the eve of the 65th anniversary of Victory [in the Great Patriotic War] this honorary title is to be conferred on Volokolamsk, Bryansk, Nalchik, Vyborg and Kalach-on-Don, a town in the Volgograd Region.
The Victory, which was in fact a crucial event in the twentieth century, is without a doubt an issue that unites us, and so to celebrate this holiday is not just our challenge but simply our duty.
In Russia and in the CIS countries 2010 is the Year of Veterans. Its motto is “We won together,” and our common perception of the Victory could not be better summed up.
Government leaders from the CIS will be coming to Moscow on May 8 to attend the CIS informal summit and to celebrate this great [Victory Day] holiday with us. For us this is a very heartwarming fact and we look forward to also welcoming the leaders of a number of other countries who have expressed their willingness to take part in these celebrations, to Moscow on May 9.
Let me recall that in 2004 the United Nations General Assembly declared May 8 and 9 as days of remembrance and reconciliation. In March this year, at our initiative, the UN adopted a special resolution to hold a solemn meeting in commemoration of all the World War II victims. In addition, all the UN member-states, nongovernmental organisations and private individuals were invited to commemorate this date in similar fashion.
May 9 is Victory Day, our national holiday. This is how those born after the Great Patriotic War think of it from the time they are children, but it is of course primarily a celebration for our veterans. 65 years ago they achieved peace for our country, gave it a new life, and for this reason our challenge in the runup to this holiday is to create the best circumstances for them and give all our respect to those who contributed to the attainment of our Victory. I have made a number of decisions in this regard, of which you have been duly informed.
By May 9 this year, all veterans who registered [for housing improvement] by March 1, 2005, must be provided with such [improved] housing. There are a number of governors here and I would like them to inform us, to report to us on what has been done in this regard.
Besides, we also agreed that as soon as possible we will complete drafting the lists of veterans who [require better housing but who] registered [for that] after March 1, 2005. The drafting of such lists is underway. But I would like the governors here today as well as the presidential plenipotentiary envoys to their respective territories to take an individualised approach, that is, to help our veterans get the necessary documents together [for submission], which is a very difficult task [for the veterans]. I held a meeting recently in Moscow [at which] it turned out that there are a lot of such documents and that their selection varies quite a bit from one region to the next. In addition there is a federal list of [generally required] documents and a range of [common] criteria that arise from housing legislation. We decided to further amend the law [to simplify] dealing with such cases.
In general, there is still quite a lot to be done for these veterans. I can only say that on March 15 – this is the most recent figure I have – the number of veterans that had registered [for housing improvement] after March 1, 2005, was already more than 55,000 people. And the greater the number of such veterans, the better. Today I would not like to hear the words that I heard not so long ago: “unfortunately, this figure is growing.”
As well as addressing [their] housing issues, we adopted a set of additional measures to assist veterans. This primarily applies to the provision of [free] drugs, targeted financial assistance, outpatient examination and a variety of therapeutic treatments. I hope that all regional and municipal authorities will understand thoroughly [and satisfy] the medical needs of every single veteran.
As I was just saying to the Governor of the Volgograd Region, I would like this approach to be applied not only by the governors, but also by the heads of municipal districts and villages, so that every veteran is accorded personal treatment. Many of them do not need to be allocated housing. Those who have not received [improved] housing may have other problems, especially in rural areas. I have already given instructions on this subject and I would like to draw attention to this again here in the presence of the governors and other officials.
On Victory Day there will be a one-time payment to all [Great Patriotic] War veterans, bereaved families, former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps and workers in the army’s rear. For this purpose this year 10 billion rubles was set aside in the federal budget, and I also gave instructions to regional leaders to consider the possibility of additional payments to veterans. Almost all the governors represented here made such decisions, which is good. Certainly, [the scope of such payments] depends on the financial situation in a particular region.
I would also like to remind you that support for veterans should not be limited to things of a material nature, although that is very important. Our government now has the capacity and, most importantly, the political will to pay its debts. This needs to be done. But there are other things that need to be done as well, like completing the presentation of decorations awarded to front-line soldiers during the war. These awards are particularly precious. I myself have twice given out these awards, and you feel something special when you present military awards, awards that were initiated [as long back as] in the Soviet era.
Of course maintaining and building military memorials is particularly important, and the responsibility for this lies with the regional and local authorities. I just met with [World War II] veterans, who naturally are keen that such efforts be carried out and are specifically interested in the preservation of [war] monuments. Certainly, our job is to make sure that war monuments are maintained properly and therefore such efforts should be coordinated at the national level as well. I would like to hear a short report on this subject and I think that the Minister of Defence can do this.
Colleagues, there is another topic, a topic about which we have spoken quite often in recent times on the occasion of the Victory, and at other times as well. It is a question of how we assess the Victory and how we talk about this Victory.
In other words, our celebration should be part of a well conceived, serious, large-scale information campaign. Its mission is to speak the truth. Incidentally, I was delighted with our discussion with the veterans on this topic. No one is asking for some airbrushed version of the past. What we want is the truth, not a bunch of inventions. And this is our main goal.
We have an obligation and here I appeal to everyone — government members, the leaders of non-governmental organisations, representatives of various confessions — to do everything we can to enable the humanistic value of the Victory in Great Patriotic War, in World War II, to play a unifying role for our planet. We cannot allow the rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators, cannot turn a blind eye to the glorification of those who in effect fought against their own people. We must also protect the generation of victors from the cynical lies that appear from time to time in various places. And of course, this is a task not only for today but also a challenge that we must help our young people to face.
Let’s get to work. The Minister of Defence has the floor.