President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening.
Question: Good evening. What is your predominant emotion today? How do you feel, and what plans do you have for tomorrow?
Vladimir Putin: The predominant emotion is gratitude to the voters for their choice, for the trust they have placed in me. Gratitude for their assessment of our work in these past years and for the hope they have so clearly demonstrated that we will continue working, that our expanded team and I, their humble servant, will continue working as hard as before and that we will achieve even better results. We have every chance to achieve great practical results.
Question: We were closely monitoring the election campaign in Russia. The tragedy with Skripal happened at the height of the election race. How do you see Russia’s future relations with Europe? Is Europe a partner or maybe the main opponent?
Vladimir Putin: Regarding the tragedy you have mentioned, I learned about it from the media. The first thing that comes to mind is that, had it been a warfare agent, the victims would have died immediately. It is an obvious fact, which must be taken into account. This is first.
The second is that Russia does not have such chemical agents. We destroyed all our chemical weapons, and international observers monitored the destruction process. Moreover, we were the first to do this, unlike some of our partners who promised to destroy their chemical weapons but have not done so to this day, regrettably.
Therefore, we are ready for cooperation, as we said immediately. We are ready to take part in any investigations necessary, provided the other side wants this too. We do not see their interest so far, but we have not removed the possibility of cooperation on this matter from the agenda.
As for the overall situation, I believe that any reasonable person can see that this is total nonsense. It is unthinkable that anyone on Russia would do such a thing ahead of the presidential election and the FIFA World Cup. Absolutely unthinkable.
However, we are ready for cooperation despite the above things. We are ready to discuss any issues and to deal with any problems.
Question: The voter turnout across the country was high but, unfortunately, Ukraine restricted Russian nationals’ right to vote. What is your opinion? And how can Russia retaliate?
Vladimir Putin: It is a disgrace. It is a violation of all generally recognised international norms. But Russia will not retaliate. For us Ukraine and Ukrainians are a brotherly people. I have always said that. We will not respond with any restrictions; on the contrary, we will do everything for Ukrainians to feel at home in Russia.
Question: Mr President, yesterday you congratulated President Xi Jinping. You expressed confidence that bilateral relations will be filled with new content. What kind of new content?
Vladimir Putin: President Xi Jinping has set very ambitious goals for China’s development for himself and the country. We wish success to the Chinese leadership and the Chinese people in tackling these tasks. These ambitious projects include President Xi Jinping’s concept of the Silk Road and the economic component of the Silk Road.
I will not go into the details of our cooperation but we believe it is perfectly in line with our projects to build the Eurasian Economic Union and the Eurasian partnership in a broader sense.
Our interests here are the same. There are plenty of very practical joint efforts in this area. And we will continue this work.
China is our strategic partner. Russia and China enjoy an unprecedented level of relations. We value them greatly. We congratulate Xi Jinping on his re-election as President of China for another term and express confidence that China under his leadership and, on our part, Russia will by all means do everything to expand the Russia-China cooperation.
Question: When should we expect changes in the Government? Before or after the inauguration?
Vladimir Putin: Any changes in the Government should be made by the President who has assumed office for the next term. So, for now, I will be thinking what to do and how. I think the main changes will happen after the inauguration.
Question: A clarification follow-up to my colleague’s question: have you decided on a new Prime Minister? Could it be Dmitry Medvedev again?
And my second question is, do you have plans to carry out a constitutional reform during the new presidential term that could be related to a re-distribution of authority between the branches of power?
Vladimir Putin: I do not plan any constitutional reforms yet.
As concerns the Prime Minister and the Government overall, I have already said that I am thinking about it, of course, and I will think more specifically starting today because I needed to wait until the election results. But all the changes will be announced after the inauguration.
Question: What do you think about the return of the United States’ Monroe Doctrine to Latin America?
Vladimir Putin: We know the whole history of relations between the United States and Latin America. Those are complicated relations essentially forged by gunboats and certain political and economic pressure.
But I really hope that today’s Administration has the opportunity, and it will indeed take the opportunity to build relations in the 21st century based on equality and respect for each other’s interests.
We are interested in a positive development of relations in the world between states on all continents and the international agenda proceeding from this premise.
Question: I still would like to clarify. Do you allow the possibility of becoming President again in 2030 if you do not change the Constitution?
Vladimir Putin: Listen to me. I think what you are saying is somewhat ridiculous. Let us count. Am I supposed to be President until I am 100 years old? No.
Question: Do you plan to meet with other presidential candidates?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I do.
Vladimir Putin: I plan to meet with them. I do not know when yet, we will see. The Executive Office will contact them, we will agree and I will invite them to a meeting.
Remark: All of them?
Vladimir Putin: All of them.
Question: Mr President, in the next six years, will we see a new Vladimir Putin or the same one?
Vladimir Putin: Everything changes. Thank you very much.
Remark: Including you?
Vladimir Putin: We all change.