President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
First, I would like to congratulate you on the upcoming Human Rights Day. By tradition, our meetings are timed to this event. It directly concerns each of you, as well as the council's experts, consultants, and office staff.
Your joint work to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of the people is a continuing operation. For many of you, these multifaceted activities – it would be no exaggeration to describe it like this – have essentially become your destiny, a calling and a life-long mission that inspires others. You are putting your heart into this work, sparing no time and effort to help those who need care and support. I would like to sincerely thank you for this very responsible and noble mission.
It is gratifying that you do not relax your activities in the areas that the council continuously keeps in focus. These include education, healthcare, environmental protection, children’s rights and digitisation – there are many questions here.
I know you have finished working on the draft concept of the protection of human rights and civil freedoms in the digital space of the Russian Federation and a plan of measures on implementing it. Your interested, persistent participation is also important in resolving problems of providing medications for all categories that need them, but primarily, of course, cancer patients.
Both the federal Government and the regional authorities implement the majority of the council’s recommendations. This shows that the analysis of conclusions and expert examinations you suggest has become more thorough.
Today, we are planning to discuss the development of legislation on non-profit organisations, ensuring citizens’ rights in the legal process, preservation of the cultural heritage and many other issues.
A big bloc concerns the special military operation (SMO). Since the first day, Mr Valery Fadeyev and the majority of the council members have held an abundantly clear civic position. They have been explaining the true reasons and need for the SMO, countering overt racism and aggressive Russophobia, blatant lies and mean, very mean and sneaky fake stories that are spread by foreign media and other propaganda resources.
Your work on upholding the rights and the truth, the rights of our people, the residents of Donbass, our cultural heritage and traditional values is of great significance.
Importantly, you continue exposing the crimes of the Nazi regime that has asserted itself in a neighbouring country. We have emphasized many times that for eight years the rights of the residents of the much-suffering Donbass were completely ignored by the international community, the so-called international community.
In the meantime, our council has addressed this issue many times. It sent information to the corresponding international institutions that are called on to ensure, support and promote human rights, but they, at any rate most of them, that are now acting as accusers, pretended to have become blind or deaf all of a sudden.
It was only after the start of the SMO that the UN HRC, the Council of Europe and other so-called human rights organisations suddenly “saw the light” and began to shamelessly demonstrate what I would call their cynical bias, and to attempt to shift the blame ‘from a sick head to a healthy one’, as they say in Russia.
All this meant that these organisations were unable to perform their chartered tasks. Due to their obvious bias, Russia has had to cancel its membership in a number of them.
I believe that our council, as an institution dealing with a broad range of public organisations in Russia and abroad, could become an efficient international platform for discussing human rights issues and the protection of these rights in the modern world.
The existing approaches require a comprehensive analysis because they are being used to achieve quite different goals, far from constructive ones. Thus, we are seeing that human rights doctrines are being used to destroy the sovereignty of states and justify Western political, financial, economic and ideological dominance.
I would like to thank you for your active assistance to our citizens living on the new territories. Some of you have become a true voice of the people there. Thus, journalist Marina Akhmedova has worked in Donbass since 2014. With the start of the SMO, she has visited the frontlines more than once, I know this, and organized humanitarian aid to the residents of liberated Mariupol and Volnovakha.
I would like to note that this year the membership of the council has changed significantly. It includes well-known people, such public opinion leaders as Yelena Shishkina, member of the Presidium of the Free Donbass public movement, and Olga Demicheva who heads the Doctor Liza’s Fair Aid Charity.
This organisation – we know it well – provides treatment for critically ill children from Donbass and helps the evacuated. At one time, Doctor Liza – Yelizaveta Glinka – was the first to raise this issue at council meetings. She was also the first to take these Donbass children for treatment, literally during shelling, to put it straight.
I hope your experience and knowledge will be helpful for our new territories in developing civil society institutions and a modern non-commercial sector.
I consider it important for the new council to continue contributing to the tasks facing the country and society, to work persistently and boldly, to raise problems that concern people and to resolve them in cooperation with the authorities.
These times are really not easy, and your opinions, positions, public speeches and statements must certainly be verified. They must work to unite our society. In fact, this is what is taking place now.
Let us start our work, please.
Mr Fadeyev, you have the floor, please.
Chair of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Valery Fadeyev: Thank you, Mr President.
Mr President, colleagues,
The council has been focusing on the main and most complicated circumstances in the country.
The special military operation. Many council members have repeatedly visited the SMO zone, and you, Mr President, have just mentioned this. Our colleagues are working with refugees in the Russian regions. The council has established working interaction with the authorities and civil organisations in the new regions of Russia. Today, council members will share their impressions with us.
Both before and especially after the accession of the new regions to Russia, the council recorded evidence of crimes committed by the Kiev regime as regards civilians. The council is sending relevant notices to over 1,800 addresses – international human rights organisations, European parliament deputies, and editors of leading Western media. As of today, they have recorded 4,334 VSU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) shells and rockets in Donetsk, Ilovaisk, Gorlovka, Makeyevka, Rubezhnoye, Svatov and other residential areas. This shelling was not part of the hostilities. It was targeted not at military facilities but at civilians, residential buildings, schools and hospitals.
In autumn, we sent information to human rights organisations about harassment of civilians in the Kharkov Region, executions in Kupyansk, the shelling of a crossing in Kherson, and executions of Russian POWs, and we have not received an adequate response so far. There are some letters from the Vatican, the Red Cross, and some European parliament deputies, but international human rights organisations remain silent.
The lack of response shows that international human rights institutions are politicised and biased and that actually they are not performing their functions. The Western community renounced any defence of the rights of Donbass residents in 2014, but the urgency of this problem has become even more obvious with the start of the SMO. Our council will continue seeking the fulfilment of their charter tasks by the UN Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe and other international institutions.
However, at the same time we have launched an international dialogue on the need to modernise and reform these institutions. At the Petersburg Judicial Forum in June of this year, we held the first roundtable discussion on this issue. Despite the statements by our German partners about their intention to discontinue the work of the Petersburg Dialogue Forum, we are trying to preserve these contacts. We have just held a conference in Yaroslavl, in November, on humanism and human rights, together with our German colleagues, as well as representatives of China, Argentina, Uzbekistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iran.
Next year will be 75 years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a fundamental document. It was important for building the postwar world order. However, now the West often uses it to impose its values. New Western values that are in vogue have been brought to the point of absurdity. They are simply destructive. They will hardly be accepted in other parts of the world but they can do much harm.
The source of these values is not accidental. The Western concept of rights and freedoms is based on the understanding of a person as an autonomous individual. But individualism is not the main value for many peoples and civilisations, for most of them. National models must take into account religious, historical and cultural peculiarities.
At one time, conceptual regional human rights documents were created, for instance, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Note the word “peoples.” The charter deals with sovereignty, the freedom of peoples from external oppression – Africans have not forgotten colonial times. There was the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. It codified, in part, a certain view on family values and these are, of course, traditional family values.
However, instead of welcoming this approach, this diversity – democratic diversity – Western political institutions are ignoring these documents. The West is demonstrating its scorn for the countries of the so-called Third World even though the bigger part of the world population lives there.
It is necessary to seek genuine universality, to seek what unites people rather than separates them. All participants in this work must enjoy complete equality.
Mr President, I would like to ask you to support our joint effort with the Foreign Ministry in this area, in part, on the sidelines of the BRICS and the SCO summits. I have already held preliminary consultations with the Foreign Ministry, with Sergey Lavrov.
Partial mobilisation. At the beginning of the partial mobilisation, there was confusion within military enlistment offices. In the very first days, the council outlined the problems and demanded strict adherence to mobilisation rules. Thus, citizens were mobilised not in accordance with the Executive Order and Law on Mobilisation. Fulfilment of certain plans cannot justify violations of the law. Mistakes were corrected, including individual mobilization cases.
In October, the council drafted a report on implementing the Executive Order on Partial Mobilisation. We received a detailed reply from the Defence Ministry and the relevant State Duma Committee on each item. The council retains control over all of these issues.
Legal gaps were revealed. The council looked into the ambiguous opportunity for alternative civilian service under mobilisation. In November, this ambiguity was removed. There were complaints about the remuneration of mobilized personnel – there was a considerable difference in the amount of payments depending on the region of the Russian Federation. Mr President, you corrected this situation with your decision.
However, our colleagues are reporting, including our new council member Alexander Kots, that nothing was deposited on the accounts of some people for four months, and some others did not receive their regional supplements. This is not a mass phenomenon, but it is necessary to deal with these things on a case-by-case basis.
There were quite a few cases where gear was overpriced – both when mobilised personnel bought it themselves and when the regional authorities bought it on a large scale. In general, this problem was resolved as well – the interested government institutions acted promptly. That said, some units still face problems with providing mobilised personnel with winter gear.
Currently, our focus is shifting to the families of our military personnel. A nonformal approach with a human touch is very important in these efforts. I have no doubt that the new members of the Council – Yulia Belekhova, Head of the Committee for the Families of the Soldiers of the Fatherland; Yelena Shishkina from the Free Donbass public movement; Olga Demicheva representing Doctor Liza’s Fair Aid Charity; the Children’s Rights Ombudsman [for the Ulyanovsk Region], Yekaterina Smoroda and others – will be actively involved in these efforts. They are already seriously engaged in this work.
Now I want to brief you on several other areas of our work.
Digitalisation. Mr President, on your instructions, the council jointly with the Government has developed a concept for protecting human rights and freedoms in the digital space, and work is underway to prepare a draft executive order on this concept. However, already now, without waiting for approval of this concept, several measures could be taken to protect people’s personal data. My colleague Kirill Kabanov will provide more details on this issue.
The law on probation. The council traditionally pays attention to the conditions created for inmates in penitentiaries. The council and the Ministry of Justice have developed a draft law on probation. We are studying the positive experience of re-socialising convicts by involving them in work through penitentiary centres. One positive example is in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Area – Yugra; we went there to study their experience.
The memory of the victims of political repression. The council continues to take part in implementing the Concept of the Government Policy of Perpetuating the Memory of the Victims of Political Repression. Last November, an interdepartmental working group held a meeting in Tomsk: the NKVD Detention Prison Memorial Museum opened in the city. We continue to work with the Moscow and Moscow Region authorities to create a museum on the Butovo memorial site.
My colleagues will talk about other problems and the council’s efforts to help resolve them.
My report is finished. Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Fadeyev, thank you very much. You noted several things, I will not comment on all of them.
As for the problem with military gear, it seems to have already been resolved. Nonetheless, if anything requires special attention, please give me more information and we will sort things out as soon as possible.
A second important topic is providing support to the families of the mobilised people. Of course, this should be a matter of concern for everyone, and the state and I, of course, am counting on your support and your assistance in this work in the regions. This is the sacred responsibility of all authorities at every level, as well as of civic organisations. Of course, this involves several issues from the timely payment of salaries to simply offering help with household chores that many families of mobilised men need. So, I strongly hope these efforts will be cooperative and effective.
As for perpetrating the memory of the victims of political repression, we should not forget by any means about this work. This is a complicated and hard page in our history. History is what it is and nothing should be hidden; I have spoken about this many times. But nothing should be allowed to be used as a tool in a struggle against Russia in general, and today, in particular. However, in objectively appraising everything that is part of our history, we must respond appropriately, including where the efforts to perpetuate the memory of the victims of political repression are concerned.
I fully agree with you.
Vladimir Putin (commenting on the speech by REGNUM news agency editor-in-chief Marina Akhmedova on the shelling of civilians in Donbass and the assistance to wounded soldiers in rehabilitation and prosthetic treatment): I will start with what you began with and will answer point by point.
You spoke about the shelling of Donbass and the cities of Donbass and the lack of reaction from certain and even almost all our – we should put it in quotation marks – ‘Western partners.’ These human rights organisations – as we have finally seen for ourselves – were created not as a tool to protect human rights, but as an instrument of influencing the domestic policy of Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
Yes, there are various human rights organisations in the West, but they were mainly created for this purpose. In order to look neutral, they spoke about human rights in their own countries from time to time, but it was an exception. They were mostly in charge of professional work in the Russian and post-Soviet space, this was obvious. This is the first point.
Second, the fact that they have been turning a blind eye to the tragedy in Donbass over the past eight years is the best confirmation to what I, Mr Fadeyev and you have said.
As for the shelling of Donbass cities, you mentioned that your colleague was killed there. Yesterday, Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin telephoned me. It is true, residential neighbourhoods are being shelled. It is impossible that they do not know about it. Everyone is silent as if nothing was happening there. This is horrible.
You said that people in Donbass are treated like second-rate people. You know, I would like to say in this relation: to those who are engaged in protecting human rights – and I just said why, in my opinion, the so-called human rights organisations in the West were created – to them, people mean nothing. They do not really consider these people second-rate; they consider Russia to be a second-rate country that does not have the right to exist. This is the problem and a disaster. This is what we are dealing with right now. We have been dealing with it throughout our history, and it is especially obvious now.
We will proceed from the current reality. There can be only one answer from us: Russia will consistently fight for its national interests. This is what we will do, and let nobody believe otherwise. Yes, we will do it using various means and ways, first of all, of course, focusing on peaceful means. But if we have no choice, we will defend ourselves with everything we have.
With regard to demobilising students in Donbass, indeed, these territories, these republics became part of Russia, so Russian legal regulations should apply to them in full. It is not so straightforward, and is rather a lengthy process that requires a transition period, but there are things that must be done right now, and demobilising students is one such thing. Truth be told, not all Donbass students took advantage of their right to demobilise.
Literally a day ago, I had a meeting with volunteers – perhaps, you took note of it. The winner of the competition is a resident of Donetsk. I had a brief conversation with him after the meeting, and he said that this news was very positively received in Donetsk and Donbass in general, but he knows people, his comrades, who chose not to be demobilised and continue to take part in combat action.
We should definitely look into demobilising some specialists, including medical doctors and prosthetists. But we need to approach matters of support and assistance more seriously. As you may be aware, I met with the mothers of the servicemen who are taking part in the special military operation, and some of them brought up questions of helping wounded and disabled soldiers. What we need to do in this regard is to arrange for up-to-date prosthetics production, to expand the capabilities of specialised enterprises and companies, since we already have them in place. Time has come to expand their operations. This is the first point.
Second, we need to upgrade the equipment and to provide medications to everyone in need. It is necessary to put a rehabilitation system in place and cover travel expenses to the place of rehabilitation and back, because a wounded person, especially a person with a disability, will find it difficult or even impossible to get to a place of rehabilitation on their own. This issue needs to be addressed in a number of ways.
I think we will need to create a special centre within the Government’s social block that will deal with these matters. Also, this kind of work must be done at the level of deputy governors in charge of social issues in all regions. Next, a support system for the people who need state help must be put in place. All of that must be done as soon as possible. We will definitely see to it.
Thank you for raising this issue. The Government will receive corresponding instructions literally today or tomorrow.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin (responding to Commissioner for Human Rights in the Sverdlovsk Region Tatyana Merzlyakova, who shared information about her trip to the special military operation zone, discussed the SMO zone problems, and asked the President about the likelihood of another mobilisation wave): Ms Merzlyakova, first of all I would like to thank you for what you are doing. Your work is extremely important. This kind of work is important at all times, but it is particularly important in the current circumstances.
I am not going to share my assessments of those who, as you said, left the country during the mobilisation drive. It is a separate issue, and we can talk about it at length. You said it was ”not their life.” It may well be that some of them even think that this is not their country. But, again, I would leave it at that.
As for the issues in the special military operation zone, they certainly existed. They are probably still there. And they can arise anytime and anywhere in the operation zone. It is important to keep an eye on these matters, to constantly analyse the unfolding developments and have feedback. This is beyond doubt. Everyone needs this, including our men on the frontline, society, and the state, because that would improve the quality and efficiency of our combat work.
About leaving positions. You are aware that soldiers who try to do that in Ukraine are shot on the spot. More than that, they even conduct mass executions in public, in front of the troops. This is common knowledge. We do not practice anything of the kind, and we do not even have any, as you said, camps or incarceration facilities, or the like. This is all nonsense and fake claims and there is nothing to back them up with.
Here is what I would like to say in this regard. Are there soldiers out there who have left their combat positions? Yes, it has happened. Less and less now. What is the problem? After all, a person who finds himself in a war zone – even after certain training – cannot avoid experiencing certain feelings, which is absolutely normal.
The vast majority of these people return to combat duty of their own accord. The vast majority do so, even after recovering from wounds. Why? Because there is a period of adaptation to the circumstances in which they perform their military duties. To reiterate, we do not see this happening in mass proportions. All you need to do is work with people. What we need here is delicate, calm, and balanced case-by-case work with each individual. Overall, people from the Defence Ministry who are doing this professionally are getting better at it. We do not have any problems with soldiers leaving combat positions. There is no such problem as desertion in the zone of the special military operation.
Yes, there have been such cases and we should not shut our eyes to them. I have already explained and said frankly what it is about. In a situation when there is shelling or bombs falling, all normal people cannot help but react to it, even on the physiological level. But after a certain adaptation period, our men fight brilliantly.
I have repeatedly said that they are true heroes and deserve, as you said, to be treated as such after they fulfil their military duty and upon their arrival from the combat zone. It is absolutely obvious. The country and society, including public organisations, must create the right environment and conditions for these guys. I have already said it and want to reiterate: this also applies to the support and assistance to the families of our military personnel. We must treat them, as you said and I wrote down, as the defenders of the Motherland. This is the environment that must be created for them.
Now about the possible mobilisation and the rumours surrounding it. Look, we have mobilised 300,000 people, our men, our defenders of the Fatherland. Half of them, 150,000 men, are located in the zone of the special military operation; these 150,000, half of all those mobilised, are in the troops. Of those, 77,000, only half, are members of tactical units. The rest of them are at the second and third frontiers and perform the functions of territorial defence, or undergoing training in the operation zone.
Another 150,000, that is, the second half of all those mobilised, are still at the Defence Ministry testing grounds and training centres where they are undergoing additional training. They are the combat reserve, if we can call them that. These are half of those mobilised, 150,000.
In this regard, talk of extending mobilisation does not make sense, and there is no need for it either for the state or the Ministry of Defence at this time. This is what I wanted to say in response to your question.
(Yevgeny Myslovsky, Honourary President of the Anti-Mafia Regional Public Foundation to Combat Organised Crime and Corruption, began his remarks with the statement that “people are expecting results.” He drew attention to the following aspect of the special military operation: the investigation of war crimes by the enemy and the political significance of this investigation. He noted than over 10,000 peaceful civilians had been killed in Donetsk alone. Mr Myslovsky suggested establishing a state commission to investigate these crimes. He also discussed the deployment of law enforcement officers in the newly incorporated territories. For example, he suggested involving experienced veterans.)
Vladimir Putin: Mr Myslovsky, did you mean the results of the special military operation when you said that everyone is expecting results?
Yevgeny Myslovsky: No, I did not mean the special military operation because this is a lengthy process. I meant specific results following the investigation of criminal cases. People say that we are investigating, but that only one verdict has been passed.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Regarding the lengthy process and the results of the special military operation, this process could be drawn out. You also noted that newly incorporated territories have appeared. Indeed, this is a significant result for Russia, and this is a serious issue. To be honest, the Sea of Azov has become an inland sea in the Russian Federation, and these are serious things.
Yevgeny Myslovsky: This is all correct, but we need to develop this.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, but this is a different issue. In his time, Peter the Great fought to reach the Sea of Azov.
The people living on these territories are the most important thing. The results of the referendum show that people want to live in Russia, and that they consider themselves part of this world, this space, our common culture, traditions and language. This is the most important result, and these millions of people have re-joined us. This is the most important thing.
Regarding criminal investigations, you are right, of course, but to be frank, all of us understand the realities of current developments. It is important to investigate, to record these crimes, especially strikes against civilian and residential areas. You are probably right: perhaps it would be appropriate to set up some joint agency that would address this issue and a state commission.
Let us think about this. I will also ask the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Investigative Committee to think about this issue. They should consider recruiting veteran law enforcement officers who would like to deal with this issue as mentors or as officials who can look into the available materials. I will instruct the Prosecutor-General’s Office to do this, and we will certainly think about this issue. I completely agree with you that it is necessary to record all this in a professional manner.
Vladimir Putin (commenting on the questions raised in a speech by Doctor of Medical Sciences Yan Vlasov, co-chairman of the Russian Patient Association. These questions concerned, first, doctors’ salaries and raising their professional status, as well as the lack of specialists in field medicine, and the supply of medicines and consumables to the special military operation.): Thank you for the questions raised. They are all important, all of them, without exaggeration.
I will start with the question you ended your speech with, training specialists, especially for field surgery and field medical activities.
Of course, the Defence Ministry believes it is doing well in general. Nevertheless, I will talk to the Ministry’s leaders and the Minister himself about the issues that you raised, and if something needs to be done, I will encourage my colleagues from the Defence Ministry to do it and ensure that it is done. This is the first thing.
The second. Regarding the use of consumables, including those that, as you say, may be sitting in company warehouses, especially if they have not yet expired. Of course, we should deal with this issue, and I will definitely tell not only the Defence Minister, but also the Health Minister and Ms Golikova about this. They have the whole site in front of their eyes; let us find out what can be used and how. We will definitely do this. Especially if something is missing.
Now, regarding the improvement of the medical education system as a whole. I think it is quite serious and thorough. Probably, in modern conditions, in the modern world, everything needs constant attention and constant improvement, this goes without saying, because life is developing at a very fast pace, and new opportunities, technological opportunities are emerging. We constantly talk about this, and this is constantly in the field of vision of the Health Ministry.
If you think that something more needs to be done, additional steps should be taken, including the connection between medical practice and theoretical skills, then, of course, I would ask you to present your considerations in a specific form. I promise you that I will issue this as an instruction to both the Ministry of Health and the Government as a whole, and my colleagues will definitely work it out.
Regarding training and re-training, the Ministry of Health has built an advanced training system. Mr Vlasov, again, if you see that something is not organised here the way it should be, or you have specific proposals on how to fix things or to improve this work, I would be grateful to you if you could submit an outline that can be used to draft a presidential instruction to the Government. We will do this by all means.
It may well be that some professors are detached from reality and from clinical practice. But I know a lot of doctors who teach and engage in practical work and perform surgeries. I am sure you are aware of this; there are many specialists like that. They deserve praise and God bless them. Without a doubt, they need support in order to create and expand their own schools.
Now, regarding what you started with, salaries.
I agree that the remuneration system absolutely needs to be improved, especially in primary care. The Government was tasked with developing common approaches to all regions nationwide to make sure basic principles of remuneration were properly lined up. I completely agree.
Of course, subsistence levels vary across regions. I mean that the cost of living varies and salaries are different, not only in public health, but in other areas as well. This must be taken into account, but in general it is important to make sure that the experiment to level incomes in the healthcare system that the Government has begun to carry out is not forgotten. This is for the future.
I must agree with you that it is important to take steps to support medical workers now, without delay. In this regard, I instructed the Government to draft corresponding proposals.
I would like to inform you that we have agreed – and I supported these proposals by the Government – we need to start from primary care and up. Starting January next year, I asked the Government to start making additional payments to primary care medical staff in central district hospitals, district hospitals and in the EMS system. The additional payments will range from 4,500 to 18,500 rubles depending on the position and job description.
I asked the Government to start accruing these payments from January 1, 2023. If it takes some time to cut through the bureaucracy, then probably they will not be able to do it from January 1, since we are almost in the middle of December, but all the same, the technical issues should be resolved in the first quarter, and the extra payments should be calculated retroactively, from January 1, 2023.
(Kirill Vyshinsky, Executive Director of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, was the next to speak. He spent a year in a Ukrainian prison for his activities as a journalist. In his remarks, he spoke about a wave of Russophobia, primarily in Europe, and cited many specific examples. In his opinion, it is time to assess this phenomenon politically and legally. He believes it is worth either supplementing a relevant article or introducing a new article on Russophobia to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He said this phenomenon should be classified in legal terms and liability for it should be determined.)
Vladimir Putin: Mr Vyshinsky, with your permission I will use your remarks to re-emphasise one idea. The point is that we did not start the war – you know this better than anyone else. It was started in 2014 after the state coup in Ukraine. It was started at that time by the Ukrainian authorities that came into the corridors of power with the help of this state coup for suppressing the will of the people living in Donbass.
At that time, also in 2014, three foreign ministers – of Poland, Germany and France – came to Kiev and signed a conciliatory document between the then government in Ukraine and the opposition. They signed it as guarantors of peaceful developments. After the state coup was staged, these guarantors forgot that they were guarantors. What were they supposed to do as guarantors? They were supposed to return everything to the legal field and urge everyone to attend general elections and resolve this domestic political crisis by peaceful means. But no, nothing like this was done. Everyone seemed to have forgotten all about this document. When I remind my colleagues about it, including in telephone conversations, they are all silent – they have nothing to say.
After this, hostilities began in Donbass with the use of heavy equipment, heavy weapons and aviation. This was when some European and North American countries could have developed not Russophobic but other phobic attitudes towards those who used force against civilians, against the civilian population. However, nothing of the kind happened. But what was happening all these years? The lawful interests of the people who lived there and the lawful interests of Russia to protect them were ignored. We only got spat in the face in response to all our demands.
This is exactly a covert form of Russophobia. Unfortunately, it has always been present in some Western circles and our neighbours – I am referring to the nationalist circles of Ukraine. It has always been there and you talk about this very vividly. Sometimes I have time, either by chance or otherwise, but sometimes I watch your programmes. They are very convincing and profound, and I would like to thank you especially for this.
Strictly speaking, this is precisely about ignoring our interests, the interests of the people who live in this land. This is Russophobia. They turned everything upside down and do not admit that they failed to fulfill their obligations as guarantors of the agreement between the government and the opposition in Ukraine in 2014. They do not admit that they trampled on these agreements or that the Ukrainian authorities who took power as a result of a coup started these hostilities. They do not talk about the killing of civilians in Donbass. They do not say anything. They only got involved when the special military operation began.
And it started only because we were left with no way to resolve the situation peacefully. Leaving things the way they were was absolutely not an option. However, it was used as a pretext for fomenting anti-Russia sentiment. There is nothing surprising here from the point of view of history. Russia has often been confronted with situations like this.
With regard to the authorities of some of our neighbouring countries, Poland in this case, you are aware of it as a former resident of Ukraine. Polish nationalists are bent on returning their so-called historical territories, that is, taking back the western territories that Ukraine received as a result of Joseph Stalin’s decision following WWII. As you may be aware, these territories were taken from Poland and given to Soviet Ukraine. Of course, the nationalist elements in Poland are determined to take these territories back, and they will strive to make it happen no matter who says what. We see this even in their literature, their reasoning and public speeches. This is what they will eventually try to do; I have no doubt about it.
I have said it before, but I want to say it again: Russia could be the only real guarantor of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its current borders. Russia was instrumental in Ukraine obtaining these territories after the World War II. Under Stalin's policy, of course. But it is up to the Ukrainian politicians of the future to decide on this. In my opinion, current politicians understand little about it and are not thinking about it. Although some appear to have begun to think about this. Any kind of active involvement by Ukraine’s Western ally or neighbour in Ukrainian affairs will ultimately be aimed at taking parts of western Ukraine. One can only wish they thought about it and realised what is going on. Well, again, it is up to them to decide.
I agree with your proposal. Let us work it through, and thank you for wording it that way.
We cannot be surprised by isolated elements of Russophobia, including influence on children. We are aware of the fact that in some Western countries, zoo animals are killed, cut up and so on, in front of children. This is something that is absolutely not our culture, the culture of the peoples of the Russian Federation, not only the Russian people, but other ethnicities as well. But these things happen there. They work with the minds of the public in brutal ways. May God be their judge, but I think this will turn against them sooner or later.
(Remarks by director of the GRANI Centre for Civic Analysis and Independent Research Foundation Svetlana Makovetskaya, an expert in Russian civil society institutions’ performance, including with regard to legal issues, covered the problems of institutional building of non-profit organisations. Svetlana Makovetskaya highlighted contradictions between the basic legislation on non-profit activities and the Civil Code and asked the President to instruct the Government together with the Presidential Council for Human Rights and expert organisations specialising in NGO experience to identify a single approach to further legislative progress in the non-profit sector.
However, at the end of her remarks, Svetlana Makovetskaya turned to an issue which she believes to be of concern for a great number of people in the country, namely, the fact that at present the threat of nuclear war appears real.)
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Concerning the threat of nuclear war. Ms Makovetskaya, you are right, the threat is growing, to be honest.
Regarding Russia never using [nuclear weapons] first under any circumstances. Well, if it does not use them first, then it will not be the second to use them either, because in the case of a nuclear strike at our territory, our capabilities will be significantly limited.
Nevertheless, our strategy of using means of defence – and we view weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons as a defence – is entirely centred around the so-called retaliatory strike, that is, we strike back when we are attacked.
There are also tactical nuclear weapons, much talked about recently. The US has large stockpiles of nuclear weapons in Europe. We have never given anyone our nuclear weapons but it is natural that we will defend our allies with all means at our disposal, if needed.
What is the issue here? The point is that as much as in the previous case, when we talked about Russophobia, nobody takes notice nor wants to notice and see what is being done and talked about in the neighbouring countries, in Western countries. I reiterate that we do not deploy or have our nuclear weapons in other countries including tactical weapons, whereas the Americans do – in Turkey and a number of other European nations. They conduct drills on the possible use of these countries’ carriers for American nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, we have never done this so far. This is point number two.
Number three. Have we ever spoken about the possibility of their use? No, we have not. Whereas the former UK Prime Minister, God forgive her, said publicly that she was ready to do that. In response, I had to highlight some issues. Her statement was disregarded by everyone whereas whatever we say is immediately overemphasised, and our statements are used to scare the world.
Therefore, we have not lost our minds, we are well aware of what nuclear weapons are. We have them, and they are in a more advanced and up-to-date condition that the weapons in the possession of any other nuclear power. It is obvious, it is an obvious fact today. Yet we are not going to wield these weapons like a razor running around the globe. However, we proceed from the fact that we have them. This is a natural deterrent which does not provoke an escalation of conflicts but is rather a deterring factor. I hope everyone understands this.
And now regarding your proposals on improving legal regulation and the legal base for non-profit organisations.
I would like to note first that activities of non-profit organisations are vital for our country because – I have spoken about it many times, and I say absolutely sincerely that non-profit organisations are often more efficient in matters where decent, well-trained and sincere officials work hard to get the best result in their work. I mean that NGOs do not operate for money, they primarily work answering the call of the heart, and such motivation to help people, to achieve results in utterly crucial and sensitive social areas is extremely important for the end result.
Therefore, we are interested in laying an effective legal foundation. I will pass on all of your proposals – I take it you have them ready – to the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry will probably start with analysing them with the Legal Directorate of the Presidential Executive Office. I will definitely issue such an instruction and I ask you to hand over your proposals and suggestions to Mr Fadeyev. You are obviously right: it should be done together with the Government, the Human Rights Council and experts like you.
(In his remarks, Chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee public organisation Kirill Kabanov raised issues of human rights protection in the digital space. He spoke about personal data leaks from different digital platforms, the leaks which may entail quite concrete negative repercussions for citizens, and about fraud and theft of money. Kirill Kabanov thinks it necessary to set turnover-based fines for companies which allow for leaks of personal data to happen, and also to criminalise illegal turnover of personal data. He also believes that there must be a mechanism for retrieving money stolen by criminals, because the state, including law enforcement agencies, responds to such and similar threats ineffectively and too slowly. Kirill Kabanov asked the President to issue instructions on this issue to the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, the Interior Ministry and the Central Bank.)
Vladimir Putin: It is undoubtedly a very urgent issue, you must have heard me talk about it when we discuss the development of modern technologies, artificial intelligence and so on, because many of them are impossible to use, impossible to apply without such data, including personal data. The question is, of course, how to protect this data. It is clearly one of the key questions for progressing on this track which is crucial for the development of the economy and social sphere.
However, as of yet, not everything – I absolutely agree with you, Kirill – has been regulated and, and more regulations are needed. Also, penalties for violations in this sphere should probably be toughened.
Regarding turnover-based fines and criminal liability. As I understood you, you were talking about criminal liability for illegal turnover. But those who use data must know and realise that they are using stolen data, that is certain, because even a good-faith buyer, a bona fide buyer of stolen property, does not know that the property was stolen. The same applies here.
Of course, this must be thoroughly considered. But overall, you are absolutely right, this must be scrutinised and prompt balanced decisions must be taken which will at the same time protect citizens’ rights and will not hamper the development of information technologies which are vital for the state.
Turnover-based fines or something of this kind must certainly be given consideration. There is good reason you mentioned turnover-based fines because for some companies these may be huge, and it is definitely a serious matter. Nevertheless, let me stress again that you are right and corresponding decisions to protect citizens must be worked out and taken.
As to the recovery of assets lost by citizens due to fraud with the use of cutting-edge technologies, there are certain problems here since oftentimes such assets are stolen or people are swindled in such ways and with such means, including with the use of modern technologies, that a person seems to have given something or signed something of their free will. There is a fine line here of responsibility for what is going on. But however fine it may be, it is still there, and in such cases they are fraudulent actions which hurt citizens and violate their rights.
We know that most banks compensate such losses to citizens in most cases. But you are also right in saying that there must a certain system in place, a common approach to solving such issues. Today, most financial organisations set aside approximate amounts to compensate citizens their lost assets. However, these matters should be considered and systemised, therefore I agree with you. Respective instructions will be given to the Ministry of Digital Development, the Interior Ministry and the Central Bank. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: (commenting on remarks by Moskovsky Komsomolets columnist and human rights activist Yeva Merkacheva, who spoke about conditions in pre-trial detention centres for women who have children, on excessively long pre-trial detention before a verdict is brought in, quoting a number of such cases she has knowledge of. Yeva Merkacheva also asked the President to voice his position on bringing back capital punishment since, according to her, many officials have expressed their support for this idea.) Regarding the death sentence. a short while ago Chairman of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin spoke about it at the congress of judges. Responding to those who favour the return of capital punishment, he said we would have to change our Constitution to do that. That is why my position has not changed in this regard. This is the first point.
Second, concerning what you started with: women with children and everything related to them, to arrests etc. Ms Merkacheva, you then proceeded with other categories, and this is quite right. Why? Because as soon as you mentioned women with children, honestly, we feel pity for women behind bars, and even more so for the children who were left without their mothers, this is obvious. But we also have other categories of people, of course. Just women without children, are they any worse? Or people with disabilities? There are social justice issues, and we need a uniform treatment of all those categories of citizens. This is the first point.
Second, it is quite obvious that if a person spends five years behind bars in the pre-trial detention centre waiting for the trial, it is an obvious violation of human rights. We have talked about it repeatedly, and I told the leadership of the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies that such practices must be terminated.
There must be deadlines for investigating any criminal case; cases must not drag on indefinitely citing insurmountable objective difficulties. And if an investigation of a case is not completed by the deadline – true, there are some very complicated cases – then either the case must be dropped or at least the suspect must be released without applying other pre-trial restrictions.
There are many different situations in life, Unfortunately, women with children are sometimes used by drug dealers, say, for stashing drugs and so on. There are many real-life situations. Therefore, we must strive to avoid extremes and to have a generally just court and law enforcement system. That is what we must be striving for.
I will definitely issue instructions both to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry, and I will ask the Supreme Court to analyse practices of this kind.
Concerning the fact that some people are taken to interrogation in handcuffs, especially in cases involving economic crimes, I have no words to characterise it. But I promise you that we will not only focus our attention on that but we will make sure that this practice is definitely stopped.
Will you please write your proposals down on paper and submit them. We will certainly work on that. As I said, I will ask both the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Supreme Court to thoroughly analyse all these issues, and the Investigative Committee, too.
(Olga Demicheva, President of the International Charitable NGO Doctor Liza’s Fair Care, who recently returned from Donbass, said that doctors from the Republican Trauma Centre in Donetsk asked her to tell the President of Russia that they are working, that they will continue to work, that they have considered themselves Russian citizens since 2014. They work under constant shelling, with power cuts, no water, often in cold rooms. They go to work in the morning and do not know if they will return home alive. And yet they do not ask for anything. Ms Demicheva stressed that those people who have been in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics since 2014, who made their choice and who stayed there to live and work, are special people, they are Russia's special value.
Olga Demicheva spoke about the most pressing problems facing Donbass in providing medical care during the transition period. For example, before the special military operation started, humanitarian missions of the World Health Organisation, which entered the territory of the DPR and LPR, provided these republics with diagnostic tests, preventive medicine, medications to treat tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis C and so on. Now they have left, and the chief doctors of the relevant clinics say that these resources are now insufficient and it is necessary to close this gap. Olga Demicheva also spoke about the assistance needed by Russian non-profit organisations that are now helping Donbass. In addition, she noted that over almost nine years a wealth of experience in treating mine-blast injuries has been accumulated in Donbass and Russian surgeons and traumatologists need to make use of it).
Vladimir Putin: First of all, thank you for continuing the work that was started by Elizaveta Glinka [Dr Lisa]. But the issues are certainly no less urgent, maybe even more acute, compared to the period when your predecessor was heroically engaged in this work.
Regarding the doctors in Donbass. Yes, of course, they have great, serious experience in treating certain patients, especially with mine blast injuries and so on, and we should use this. But at the same time, it is clear that they need to be retrained, to get more knowledge, to gain experience with modern equipment, which needs to be provided there.
Of course, for the most part, doctors, especially those who work in such difficult conditions, are a special kind of people, with a special character and special, noble motivation. They are not asking for anything, but of course, they must soon fully enter our legal field, the field of social protection, salary levels and so on.
All of this, of course, must be done, and we have spoken about it many times. I have talked repeatedly with both the Healthcare Minister and Ms Golikova, who as Deputy Prime Minister oversees this sector. And the relevant plans for work with our colleagues in the new territories are now being finalised and will be implemented. And now, as you know, work is already underway.
Unfortunately, one of their Russian colleagues has just died in one of these territories. It is tragic: it happened as a result of a car accident; the driver could not negotiate a slippery road. But she was there for a reason, not on a tourist trip. She was assisting the local doctors in rendering medical aid, first of all to children, checkups for children. She had been working there for quite a long time.
This ongoing work needs to become systematic. You are absolutely right, thank you for pointing this out, and especially for saying that we need medications for treating socially significant diseases, meaning HIV, tuberculosis, and so on, which used to come from various organisations. Yes, many of them are apparently gone, and this niche needs to be filled as soon as possible, if indeed it has appeared. Judging by what you say, this niche exists. And we will certainly deal with it now, we will by all means.
As for the conditions in which people live and work, this is also an answer to the topic we have just discussed with your colleagues. You mentioned the lack of water in proper quantity and of proper quality. It is the water supply facilities that are controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces that are preventing this water from reaching the million-strong city. This is genocide, this is just a continuation of genocide. No one is paying attention to this, no one. And this is further proof that we are doing everything right. We simply have no choice; we cannot act in any other way.
But in carrying out the special military operation, we certainly have to address current issues, and above all social issues, to support, including, in this case, medical workers in all the areas I have mentioned. We will certainly do it.
Thank you for your attention to these matters, and thank you for continuing, I want to emphasise it again, what your heroic predecessor did.
Thank you very much.
(In his statement, Shota Gorgadze, Managing Partner of Gorgadze & Partners Law Firm, touched on the narrow professional issue of protecting the rights of people who have been declared by a court to be either of limited legal capacity or deprived of such. He stressed the need for a lawyer to be involved in such cases, including by appointment, with the possibility of this lawyer being paid from the budget. He asked the President to recommend to the State Duma that they amend the civil procedure accordingly.
However, Mr Gorgadze went on to raise an issue that, in his words, worries any reasonable Russian citizen. It is not just rabid Russophobia, attempts to turn the image of a Russian into an enemy, but also attempts to ban Russian culture. For example, Mr Gorgadze mentioned the scandal at the opera house of La Scala with the season opening with Musorgsky's opera ”Boris Godunov.“ The Ukrainian ambassador to Italy protested against this. Mr Gorgadze said that Russian culture, which has become part of world culture and which some rather foolish people are now trying to remove from the world's treasury, requires protection.)
Vladimir Putin: Mr Gorgadze, the first thing is to restore the legal standing of those of our citizens who have been declared incapacitated. Of course, I will instruct the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and other relevant agencies to think about this and propose solutions.
This is not about money. Probably, not that much budget money will be required – how many such appeals could there be? This mandatory participation of a lawyer by order of the state and at the expense of the state, this practice is widely used, and court appointed lawyers are paid, it is true, by the state, but they must protect the interests of the client on behalf of the state. All this can be done.
All we have to think about is the details, which have to do with the following: we do not want this to limit the capacity of those people who need legal protection. What do I mean? I mean that if we are going to make any decision on this, including at the legal level, we cannot restrict the ability of people to, for example, turn to lawyers whose services they themselves would like to use, including lawyers from the very same human rights or non-governmental organizations or specialized organizations. We must certainly think about this. This is the first thing.
Now, the second part of your question on Russian culture. We say “Russian culture” but does Rasul Gamzatov represent our culture or not quite? Or take Gogol. Is he a Russian or a Ukrainian writer?
Of course, this is nonsense. As our famous musician put it, anyone who introduces such restrictions is simply a fool. They are depriving themselves of a part of world culture.
Frankly, I do not even know whether we should counter this in any way. Why? Because anyone doing this is obviously an enemy of our country, and yet they are only hurting themselves. Should we prevent them from hurting themselves? This logic seems convoluted, but I do think it makes some sense. Let us think about it. That said, sensible people, including those abroad, certainly understand the stupidity of what the ruling circles are doing in some countries.
The President of Turkiye, Mr Erdogan, also noted this. He recalled that only the Nazis burned books by classic writers in squares in the 1930s, and he compared it to what is being done to Russian culture today in some states. This comparison makes sense. When people from the outside, not to mention politicians at this level, draw public attention to what is happening, their actions seem to me more poignant than us trying to point out this stupidity that flourishes in some countries.
Meanwhile, what is happening is perplexing; it is surprising but it is true. They are only hurting themselves. We will keep this in mind, as well as what and who we are dealing with. This means that our opinions of their moral qualities are correct. This reaffirms that what we are doing is indeed the right thing.
Valery Fadeyev: Mr President, if we may, another speech; it is very important to us. You recently appointed Yelena Shishkina, a member of the presidium of the Free Donbass social movement, as a representative of the new territories at the council.
Please, Ms Shishkina.
Yelena Shishkina: Good afternoon, Mr President, colleagues.
Mr President, I would like to convey the appreciation of the people in the new Russian regions for the opportunity to return home. We have been moving towards this for many years, and finally, this year it has happened. For us, this is a celebration, so far, with tears in our eyes, unfortunately.
Regarding the regions’ support for the special military operation, nothing needs to be discussed here; our men have been defending Russian territories with weapons in hand since 2014, and women have been forging victory in the rear, and in general, because of the daily shelling of the regions, we are losing civilians every day, we are losing children, we are losing old people. Every person living in Donbass is now a hero. Maria Pirogova was such a heroine. I am grateful to you for noting her contribution to the development of Russia with a state award.
There is a systemic issue, Mr President. On April 7, 2014, Donetsk and Lugansk were declared republics, but in the world community, we remained territories under Ukrainian jurisdiction.
From April 2014 to September 30, 2022, when we became part of the Russian Federation, the people in the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics, as well as the other new territories, were prosecuted by Ukraine for especially serious crimes. This included doctors, teachers and civil servants who did not accept the coup in 2014 and did not agree with the ruling Nazi regime. These people were convicted, and their sentences came into force under Ukrainian civil codes for crimes like high treason, espionage and the financing of terrorism; these are very serious charges. After reunification with Russia, after returning home, information from the databases of law enforcement officers of Ukraine were listed in the databases of the law enforcement system of the Russian Federation.
This means that today thousands of Russian citizens, people living in the new regions, have a record, convictions for especially serious crimes, which violates their rights as guaranteed under the Constitution. They cannot be engaged in entrepreneurial activities, be foster parents, be elected, be civil servants, and so on.
We cannot file an appeal with the Russian court because, according to Russian law, the courts in the Russian Federation only have jurisdiction over persons who have been illegally prosecuted and convicted by Russian Federation courts. We are dealing with the so-called state of Ukraine here.
Mr President, I kindly ask you to consider the issue of adopting a legal act to not recognise Ukraine’s criminal records or sentences for residents of the new regions who were convicted on political motives.
And regarding sentences, Ukraine has not hesitated to imprison, to hold and torture Russian-speaking residents for the past eight and a half years just because we are Russians.
In 2018, people's tribunals were held in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, which found top political and military leaders of Ukraine guilty of war crimes. We have notified many international human rights organisations of these convictions, but at that time we did not have the instrument for executing them, since the republics, as I said, were not recognised.
Since 2014, war crimes have been recorded in the regions; they have been recorded by law enforcement agencies, and then this work was continued by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, which also involves the Public Commission, by analogy with the commission in the Soviet Union [in 1942 an emergency state commission to investigate the Nazi invader’s crimes was established in the USSR].
Mr President, an international tribunal against the Nazis was widely announced this summer. Mr Fadeyev came up with a proposal to create an international commission to investigate the Nazis’ war crimes. I kindly ask you to return to this issue. The people of Donbass demand justice, they demand that this justice be restored. We are not asking you to wipe the cities of Ukraine off the face of the earth, we know what this means, we are all experiencing it. We ask that a tribunal be held as a kind of vaccine against Nazism, so this brown plague can be stopped in its march around the world.
The consequences of the crimes committed by the Ukrainian authorities – we are talking about the crimes of the collective West that is fighting against us with Ukrainian hands – include damage in addition to killed and wounded civilians. Public commissions on assessing the damage done by Ukraine’s armed aggression have been operating in the regions for many years. As of today, this estimated sum exceeds 321 billion Russian rubles and this is not a final figure; it grows every day. Moreover, we could not inspect all facilities because there is constant shelling along the frontline and there is no physical access to them.
One of the damage assessment sections includes damage done to the housing of our citizens. For eight and a half years now, many people have been without housing because their buildings have been destroyed by Ukraine and our people have been fighting Nazism. They are homeless. They have to live in temporary accommodation centres, rent flats or go to neighbouring regions. These are working dynasties of miners, teachers and doctors. Donbass is a hard-working region in general.
Here is another point I want to make. According to international legal standards, the state that is guilty of this damage must compensate the state that suffered from it. That state is Ukraine in this case. Since 2014, over 10,000 complaints have been sent to the European Court of Human Rights from the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. The state of Ukraine was listed as the defendant in all cases, as represented by Poroshenko and then by Zelensky. However, our own experience has made it clear that this court is too politicised, it does not fulfil the functions outlined by its charter and is not a fair instrument of international justice. These lawsuits were not reviewed for a long time and were then returned on unrealistic formal grounds.
Mr President, in this context I would like to implore you to consider the possibility of restoring the peoples’ housing in the region. I am referring to the areas we call historical – before February 24, 2022. These people have been fighting the Nazis without a roof over their heads for a year and a half now. They want to go home, work for their homeland, and to simply live and have children.
It is true that Russian citizens are also in a serious situation, but the residents of these regions are subjected to daily shelling. We are working and fighting for victory on the home front while our men are defending our homeland at the frontlines. We will not let you down. Our fighters asked us to tell you that you can count on them.
Thank you, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: You know, first of all, I would like to say that your men are fighting very worthily, they really set a good example for everyone else. It is amazing! Strong men, real men, this is true. This is the first thing. I cannot help saying it.
Now, regarding the questions you raised on citizens convicted for political reasons, residents of Donbass. Of course, it is necessary to put a stop to these cases and put an end to this in the absence of any actual corpus delicti. I will certainly give such an instruction to the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia. I am sure that this issue will be worked out in the shortest possible time and a decision will be made.
With respect to public tribunals, you said that since 2018 such decisions have been made by public tribunals. Even if something is not implemented today, such decisions would not go amiss, and the neo-Nazi regime and its activities should be judged.
The same applies to compensation by Ukraine for the damage caused to Donbass, the citizens of Donbass, all these territories that are now Russia’s new territories. This would not go amiss. But I agree with you: it is pointless to wait for something from Ukraine and we need to help the people who have lost their homes since February 24, 2014, when these difficult, tragic events began there. I think it may be necessary to create a separate programme to help people – a programme to restore housing.
We are now working in those territories where the hostilities took place not long ago. For instance, there is active work underway in Mariupol, we need to do everything we can so that people do not end up on the street; the Government has received instructions on this. This work is progressing quite quickly. I hope that people who live in Mariupol can see this.
This is happening at the expense of the federal budget, through the federal government, as well as at the expense of some regions, including St Petersburg, whose specialists work in Mariupol and are working hard at it. But we certainly need to launch a programme to support and restore housing in general in these new territories. We will definitely do this and will help people through various channels to restore their rights, including, and above all, the right to a normal life, to housing. We will do all this calmly, in working order, there can be no doubt.
(Alexander Brod, chairman of the NGO Lawyers for Human Rights and a Decent Life, touched on several topics in his remarks. He primarily mentioned the situation in the border regions that are under fire, such as the Belgorod, Kursk, and Bryansk regions. Mr Brod suggested drafting a federal law providing for additional government funds to support the budgets of the regions bordering on Ukraine for rebuilding and repairing the damaged facilities.
He also briefly touched on the problem of Transnistria – an unrecognised territory that ended up under an embargo due to the aggressive actions by Ukraine and Moldova. Over 200,000 residents of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic have Russian passports. They sometimes have problems travelling outside of the republic; they are subjected to humiliating searches at the Moldovan border; at the Ukrainian border, they can be either arrested or denied entry. Moldova has also introduced restrictions on gas distribution to Transnistria.
The next issue he brought up concerned justice. Alexander Brod reminded listeners that Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova and experts are working on a regulation to create a new international court after Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe. Russians can no longer use the mechanisms of the European Court of Human Rights. In addition, he said he would like the Supreme Court to have more interaction with the Presidential Council and with human rights organisations and experts to discuss proposals for improving Russian justice
Mr Brod also noted that civic election observation has been an effective tool in Russia, and proposed considering further development in this area and expanding civic observation to all stages of elections in Russia.)
Vladimir Putin: I will start where you left off.
I think public control can be used at all stages of the electoral process. Why not? It would make the election process, as you said, more transparent, and the outcome will be more credible, which, in turn, would enhance the standing of any level of government authority that has made it through the election process.
I agree, we need to work it through. I will ask the Government and the Executive Office to consider your proposal and to come up with their proposals.
As for improving the justice system, this is an ongoing process. In this regard, I would like to say the following: indeed, many people have applied to the International Court of Human Rights. But we have the Constitutional Court, and we are not limited to just one justice system. True, we have a single judicial system, this is clear, but the Constitutional Court is a separate entity and people can appeal to the Constitutional Court.
Constitutional Court President Valery Zorkin shared with me the sheer number of cases, even on very specific matters, that reach the Constitutional Court from individuals. However, this does not mean that we cannot consider other institutions to protect individual rights. Of course, we can give this some thought. Please, put your proposals in writing. The Executive Office will review them, and I will issue instructions to other agencies that deal directly with the judicial system.
Regarding the people of Transnistria, the citizens of the Russian Federation and their rights, our actions must be based on reality. We have invariably stressed the importance of respecting the rights of the Russian citizens living in Transnistria to our partners and colleagues.
The socioeconomic situation there is anything but simple, in terms of energy supplies, among other things. After all, we have been shipping gas there for free for many years now. Free of charge. But lately, since the gas lines run through Moldova, we have had issues there because Moldova is dealing with its own difficulties, which are substantial; we can see that in the economy and in the social sphere.
Alexander Brod: Moldova is just blocking gas supply to Transnistria.
Vladimir Putin: Not exactly blocking, because if they did that a portion of Ukraine would stop receiving gas for its power plants. So, the fact is not that they are blocking it, but they themselves do not have enough of it. True, given these circumstances, it is not clear why they store some of that gas, as they say, some of their Moldovan gas that they get from us, in Ukraine. We need to figure this out, and I want the Ministry of Energy to take a closer look at that.
By all means, we will consider your other proposals. Thank you for taking note of that.
Valery Fadeyev: Mr President, thank you.
We have been working for almost three hours now. Thank you so much for the hard work. Together with the Government and the Presidential Executive Office, with the relevant subdivisions and departments, we will prepare all the instructions that have been outlined.
On behalf of everyone, the entire Council, I want to thank you very much. And I hope that we are useful to the country and its people.
Leonid Polyakov: Mr President, may I make a personal request?
Valery Fadeyev: No, no, gentlemen, we are done. The President has another event, and we are already taking advantage of his time.
Vladimir Putin: Go on, please.
Leonid Polyakov: This is a very important issue.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, no doubt. Please
Leonid Polyakov: Mr President, 15 years ago, at your personal request and direction, I participated in the creation of a new social science textbook. Back then a set was being developed: a social science and a history textbook. It seems to me that today there is an urgent need to create a new set. You noted quite rightly who started the war and when it started. All this should be in school textbooks.
I have a huge personal request for you. Let us start again – the initiative should come from you. Please do it. Let new history and social science textbooks be created as soon as possible, without any delay, bidding or other things. I think there is demand for this in schools.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: All right.
Mr Polyakov, this is a very important issue. You are absolutely right. Thank you for insisting on asking it. The question is indeed of national importance.
History is important for any nation, especially at difficult moments for the country. For us, the time has come for us to be very attentive to history and to the formation of public consciousness using reliable historical data, and it all starts with school, of course.
Therefore, I agree with Mr Polyakov and ask the Presidential Executive Office, relevant government structures, and appropriate departments to not only pay attention to this, but to take the necessary steps together with experts and specialists in order for this proposal to be incorporated in the processes that are underway in this area.
I would like to thank all the members of the Presidential Human Rights Council for the work you are doing. It is always important, but especially now for Russia. I would like to repeat what I said at the beginning: it is of particular importance today, because people who feel called upon to work on issues that are important to society and each individual achieve the best results in the most important areas for society and the state, precisely because it is their calling.
Thank you very much. I would like to express my hope that we will continue this work next year as well. Well, of course, my colleagues from the Presidential Executive Office and those relevant departments you are in contact with one way or another are always at your disposal during this daily joint work.
I wish you all the best and once again I want to thank you for your work.
Thank you very much. Good luck.