President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Please.
Yulia Bubnova: Good afternoon.
TASS Agency, Yulia Bubnova.
To be honest, I would like to start with some summing up. Clearly, it was not the easiest year, and not the most ordinary, but what are its main results for you?
What have we achieved, perhaps, what did we fail to achieve, and how do you see our future, where are we going and where should we arrive?
Vladimir Putin: There are no ideal situations. Ideal situations only happen in plans, on paper, and you always want something more. But in general, I think that Russia made it through the year quite confidently. We have no concerns that the current situation will prevent us from implementing our plans for the future, including for 2023.
Let me repeat once again, we believe – I want to stress this – that everything that is happening, and everything connected with the special military operation, is an absolutely forced and necessary measure. We should be grateful to our military, our troops, officers, our soldiers for what they are doing for Russia, defending its interests, sovereignty and, above all, protecting our people. They act with dignity and achieve what the country needs.
As for the economy, as you know, despite the collapses, devastation and catastrophe predicted for us in the economic sphere, nothing like that is happening. Moreover, Russia is performing much better than many G20 countries, and doing so confidently. This applies to the main macroeconomic indicators and the GDP. Yes, there has been a small drop. I said it quite recently: 2.9 percent, according to our and international experts. Now they are giving another figure, even smaller: 2.5.
The unemployment rate is a key indicator worldwide. In Russia, it is below the pre-pandemic period: let me remind you, then it was 4.7 percent, and now it is at 3.8–3.9 percent. That is, the labour market is stable.
Public finances are stable, there are no alarming details here either. This result did not just fall into our laps. It is the result of the work of the Government, regional teams, businesses, and sentiment in society, which is showing unity and a desire to work together to achieve common goals.
Therefore, in general, we feel confident, and I have no doubt that every goal we set will be achieved.
Konstantin Panyushkin: Good afternoon.
Konstantin Panyushkin, Channel One.
In the wake of the State Council, if you will. How would you personally assess the results of the implementation of youth policy this year, considering the dignified way Russian youth have conducted themselves since February 24?
Vladimir Putin: You know, we always talk about this – well, not us, but look at our classical literature: it is always about fathers and children, it is always a question of young people in any period of the country’s development – and, indeed, I think the same is happening all over the world – young people are constantly accused of being superficial, unworthy of something, that everything was better before.
On the contrary, I believe that young people are always better. Remember the hardest trials at all times in our history. Everyone said, “No, that was then, now they could not do it.” But what can they not do? Young people can do everything. There are different types in all age groups. But in general, our young people show, primarily, a striving for progress, they demonstrate a high level of education, training, understanding of the ongoing processes in the world, in society, and an understanding of where to go, what has true value, what you need to rely on.
I am talking about our history, love for the homeland, for our Fatherland. This is especially pronounced during times of trial.
Recall our difficult events in the North Caucasus. People did not think much of our youth. But recall the paratroopers from Pskov – this is an example of what young people can do, how heroically they can behave. And now look at how young people are fighting and how our youth are responding to what is happening in the zone of the special military operation, how they are supporting our fighters.
I went to the Manezh today, and I was close to tears when I saw how young people in their teens and a little older were collecting things, writing letters. There were also many volunteers that were young as well.
Yes, people are different. There are people who got into their cars and silently drove away, yes. But on the whole, I want to repeat that Russia’s young people – and I can say this with confidence – are demonstrating love for their land, a desire to fight for it and move forward individually and as a country.
Andrei Kolesnikov: Good afternoon.
Mr President, you did not give your Address to the Federal Assembly this year and, apparently, there will not be one. Like many others, I have written about this, noting that the issue of the address flared up in several formats recently, for instance, at the meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects. It seems, yesterday it was also mentioned at the expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board.
Could you explain why this is the case this year? And what does the future hold for your address?
Vladimir Putin: I think there was no address in 2017, either. I am referring to the calendar year. But there should be.
What is the problem? The problem is these are fast-moving events, the situation is developing very rapidly. Therefore, it was very difficult – probably not very, but rather difficult to pin down results at a specific moment and specific plans for the near future. We will do that early next year, without a doubt.
But the point of the address lies in what I have just said. It has been reflected in my statements one way or another. It was impossible not to talk about it. So, frankly, it was rather difficult for me and the Executive Office to squeeze this into a formal address without a lot of repetition, and that is it. In other words, I have already spoken about key things in one way or another, so there was not much desire to collect it all again and repeat what I had already said.
For something substantial, we need time and additional analysis of what is happening, what we are talking about and planning for the near future.
We will do this. I will not mention exact dates but we will certainly do this in the coming year.
Kseniya Golovanova: Kseniya Golovanova, Interfax.
Mr President, I would like to ask you about the agreement on supplying Patriot missile battery to Ukraine reached during Mr Zelensky’s visit to the United States. Is it possible to speak about full US involvement in the conflict in Ukraine? What about the consequences of this decision? For instance, can Russia bring its systems closer to the borders of NATO countries or deploy them in direct proximity to the US?
Vladimir Putin: You have asked whether it is possible to speak about greater US involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. I think we need to look at the problem more broadly. What do I mean specifically and why?
Because the United States has been doing this for a long time – it has long been involved in the processes taking place in the Soviet and post-Soviet space. Back in Soviet times whole institutes worked in Ukraine, and they fully realised the background of the issue. They have experienced, deep specialists who know this professionally. I will repeat, the ground was laid during Soviet times; people were selected, meanings were defined and so on. I don’t want to go into details at this point – this is not the right format where one can go deep into the history of the issue. That said, it is still clear where all this came from.
The unity of the Russian world is a very subtle issue. Divide and rule – this slogan was used in ancient times and is still being actively used in real politics. This is why our potential adversary, our opponents have always been dreaming about this and have always been engaged in this. They have been trying to divide us and then run the separate parts.
What is new here? The idea of Ukrainian separatism was born by itself long ago, when we were still one country. You know, I have always said that if someone decides that a separate ethnic group has formed and wants to live independently, for God’s sake, it is impossible to ever go against the will of the people.
But if this is so, this principle must be universal and it is impossible to ever go against the will of people that feel like they are in a different reality, that consider themselves a part of the Russian people and the Russian world, that believe they are part of this culture, part of this language and part of this history and these traditions. Nobody can fight them, either.
But a war was unleashed on them in 2014. I mean a war. This is what it was about. What was it when the centres of million-strong cities were struck from the air? What was it when troops with armour were deployed against them? It was a war, combat operations. We endured all this, endured and endured, in the hope of some peace agreement. Now it turns out that we were simply fooled. So, a country like the United States has been involved in this for a long time. A long time.
In this sense, it is possible to say that by leading us to the current events, they achieved the desired goal. For our part, we had also no other choice than the actions we took late last February. Yes, that was the logic shaping the developments, but our primary goal is to protect people that – let me repeat – feel like they are part of our nation, part of our culture.
What did we believe at one time? We believed that okay, the USSR ceased to exist. But, as I said at yesterday’s Defence Ministry Board meeting, we thought our common historical roots, our cultural and spiritual background would be stronger than what pulls us apart, and such forces have always existed. We assumed that what unites us was stronger. But no, it was not so, due to the assistance of outside forces and the fact that people with extreme nationalist views came to power basically after the collapse of the Union.
And this division was growing worse all the time with the help of these forces and despite all our efforts. As I once said – at first we were pulled apart, separated and then set against each other. In this sense, they have achieved results, of course, and in this sense it has been something of a fiasco for us. We were left with nothing else. Maybe we were deliberately brought to this, to this brink. But we had nowhere to retreat, this is the problem.
They were always fully involved; they did their best. I do not remember now, but you can read up on it in history books. One of the deputies of the tsarist State Duma said, if you want to lose Ukraine, add Galicia to it. And this is what happened in the end; he turned out to be a visionary. Why? Because people from that part behave very aggressively and actually suppress the silent majority in the rest of that territory.
But again, we believed that the underlying foundations of our unity would be stronger than the trends that are tearing us apart. But it turned out this was not the case. They began to suppress Russian culture and the Russian language, tried to break our spiritual unity in totally barbaric ways. And they pretended that no one noticed. Why? Because, as I said, their strategy was to divide and rule.