President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, friends,
It is a pleasure to greet you here at the congress of the United Russia party, the leading political force in our country.
In December, the party will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Over the years, it has successfully established itself and gained numerous supporters. Of course, being the biggest political force in such a large country for so many years entails a huge burden of responsibility, which means that you, colleagues, the people who work in the field, bear this responsibility to the people. Together with the country you celebrate its achievements, and you share the blame for what did not work out, you bear responsibility for that. This is a heavy burden. Our work and our daily life do not consist of daily celebrations, and all this is the responsibility of the people who have taken on the challenges that the country faces.
Nevertheless, the party withstood competition with dignity at all levels of elections and displayed an ability to renew itself and constantly develop. In routine work and in making decisions that are paramount for our Fatherland, the party has shown responsibility and patriotic commitment. Friends, I want to thank you for this.
Today United Russia confidently occupies a leading position, with a majority in almost all legislative and representative municipal bodies. Most importantly, I want to remind you that in every region, city and town, you need to rely on like-minded people, on people who strive to create and to benefit the nation.
This is undoubtedly a very powerful resource, and it is crucial that it serves practical purposes, the interests of our country’s citizens and of our state, and ensures the stability and sustainability of our political system. This is vitally important for present-day society and the country, and for solving the large-scale tasks we are facing today. They are, first of all, related to the preservation of our nation, improving people’s well-being and quality of life in all regions of the Russian Federation.
As you know, strategic goals and plans were outlined in executive orders and specified in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. I would like to note that all parliamentary parties take part in their implementation – I must highlight this – all parliamentary parties, public organisations and civil society structures. Such a consolidation around the national agenda is our most important asset.
But, of course, it is the United Russia as the majority party that plays a key role here. To take responsibility, to lead, to be in the forefront means to work harder and better than others, to act much more energetically and persistently, and to do that, both in the legislative sphere and in everyday work you need to quickly and clearly resolve issues of concern to our citizens, to achieve substantive results, value people's trust, preserve and constantly strengthen it.
The United Russia is primarily a socially oriented party. This is evidenced by the draft laws that you submit, support at the federal and regional levels, as well as by the initiatives of citizens and volunteer, environmental, human rights and other associations that receive assistance from the United Russia party.
I would like to note that United Russia has always tried to build its work based on feedback mechanisms, which is a key component of any political work. This is why I am certain that the proposals and suggestions voiced during regular meetings with the public, as part of the primaries, as well as the large-scale social online forum that was held last December, will certainly be reflected in your election programme. They will become the basis for it and, most importantly, will be implemented in practice, with your direct involvement.
Colleagues, this was the introductory part of what I wanted to say today. Now I will talk about the main thing – about what is part of life of almost every individual. This may seem routine to some, but it is at the core of the life of the country and our citizens. I will talk about the areas where special attention of the party and all its regional branches is required.
One of the top priorities – and you know this well since we have been dealing with this all the previous years – is to support families with children. We are consistently building a whole line of targeted measures here.
Thus, as of July 1, as you know, payments will begin for children aged 8 to 16, who grow up in single-parent families. Whatever happens in life, but there is a young person, there is a child, and we must give them our support. Assistance is also provided for expectant mothers who are in a difficult financial situation. Also, there will be an increase in the amount paid for parental sick leave to care for a child under eight years of age.
I said in this year's Address that the situation in the demographic sphere is complicated. There was a moment when we overcame a situation similar to the one taking shape now; we resolved a number of issues, but for a number of objective reasons, and you are well aware of this, due to two historical failures, we are now facing a demographic trough. The situation is difficult, we all know that, but in order to reverse negative trends, we need to focus all our efforts on this goal as we develop the economy and the regions, the social sphere, healthcare and education, strengthen traditional values, realising that a prosperous, strong family with children is Russia’s future.
We will regularly supplement, customise and expand the decisions we have already made. But what I would like to stress is that we must use this basis to establish a comprehensive and effective system of support for low-income families with children. This task has been assigned to the Government. I know that United Russia also has its own proposals in this regard. All the previous decisions were made by us jointly, but I know that in the course of working with the people directly you come up with ideas, formalised in proposals, as draft laws, and in the form of proposals for management solutions to the Government.
We must join our efforts and organise work in such a way as to significantly reduce the risk of falling into poverty for families with children by the end of 2026. In general, our task is to substantially increase the prosperity of Russian families, the incomes of our citizens.
Everything matters for the quality of life today, for people's confidence in their future: effective social support and a comfortable environment in cities and towns, availability of kindergartens and nurseries, and, of course, new jobs everywhere, in all regions of the country.
We must particularly focus on the youth. We know the situation on the labour market, and you understand why I am talking about this now. It is young people and conditions for the fulfilment of their abilities and ideas that require special attention. And here the party needs to establish more active cooperation with regional teams, with our local colleagues.
A permanent youth employment support programme will be launched shortly. We must help young people find jobs, find their place in life. I ask you to get involved in its implementation immediately, at its launch, to take into account the specifics of the regions and the fact that the needs of young people may also vary, so keep this in mind. The main thing is to understand them, to listen, heed, support their initiatives and provide, as I said, a reliable shoulder, to direct their activities where the country needs and wants them.
I would like to emphasise that in today’s world with its rapid social, public and technological changes, the leadership of a political force largely depends on how attractive, interesting and useful its programme, the party's programme, and its efforts are for young people, how in tune it is with their aspirations. But, of course, it is also necessary to shape their interests and their way of thinking – this also determines how the country will be built further. And in this, too, a great role is played by such a large political association as United Russia.
One more thing I would like to add here is something we often talk about, but I want to take this opportunity to remind you of this once again. It is inevitable that the party of power attracts all kinds of people who are not remotely interested in working for the benefit of the people; they end up in your ranks by chance and are often corrupt. They want to jump on the bandwagon and seek to benefit themselves. It is obvious that there is always a high a risk for the ruling party in any country of becoming ossified and freezing in its development. But I want to remind you: you need to remember and understand this. The previously deserved reputation, whatever it may be, will not work by itself. To turn into a bronze statue means to stop, and to stop is to lose. You should never forget that.
United Russia sees these problems and is not afraid to talk about them honestly, because people immediately feel any falsehood. This is all clear to you in the course of live communication with your constituents. Importantly, the party strives for renewal and expands its ranks not in line with a preapproved plan or surveys, but relying on those who prove their worth in action, in real work, including during the epidemic, those who take on responsibility, go where his or her participation, help, knowledge and desire to serve society are needed the most.
I know that you, many of you – in the regions, on the ground – have also joined the volunteer movement and, regardless of your position, were simply engaged in seemingly mundane work: delivering food, helping the elderly, and working in the red zones. These real support headquarters continue to operate, which is crucial now, as is the fact that you attract like-minded, caring people to the party. They join the party organically, and become its candidates in elections at various levels. I am sure that you will continue to pursue this line, which means that the party will strengthen its authority, people's trust, gain new supporters, and work to meet the demands and challenges of the time.
One of the party’s key priorities should be promoting young people who have proven their independence, responsibility in volunteer and social activities, in public administration and business, in the social sphere and science to the most responsible areas of work. Because we are talking about the future of Russia, about continuity in its development.
We all see how in the toughest conditions, in the most difficult period of the epidemic, young people show what they are capable of in all areas: at work, as part of teams, in the volunteer movement. Doctors and nurses who just recently graduated, young people, medical students from universities and colleges work as independently and selflessly as their older colleagues. Friends, tomorrow is Medical Worker’s Day, and I ask the United Russia party congress to thank our medics with applause.
The technological modernisation of the healthcare system, strengthening its human resources and making the work of all clinics and hospitals patient-oriented – these are our top priorities.
As you know, regional modernisation programmes for primary healthcare have been launched this year. This is not the first time we have taken this up, not the first time we get down to this task. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to push the schedule back a little, because some of the resources earmarked for this were channeled into solving urgent problems that arose unexpectedly. But nevertheless, this work has already begun and we will continue it.
We will allocate a total of 550 billion rubles for the purposes related to regional programmes for the modernisation of primary healthcare, just as we said earlier.
There are many issues that need to be addressed and that people are concerned about. Therefore, the Government, the Ministry of Health, the heads of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation should work tirelessly on this. I ask United Russia to join in, especially on the ground, in municipalities, where these programmes are mostly being implemented. A radical change in the operation of primary healthcare largely depends on your involvement, including strict public and parliamentary control. After all, we know that the level of accessibility and the quality of medical care in different regions, sometimes even in neighbouring regions, varies significantly. And we need truly high common standards in all medical organisations and throughout the entire country.
The most important task of healthcare today is not only to defeat a disease, but also to do everything so that a patient can return to an active and full life. Let us face it, the system of medical rehabilitation after surgery, injuries, cardiovascular and oncological diseases has to be improved. Today, this task is especially relevant, given that many of our citizens have faced serious complications after going down with COVID-19.
I am in constant contact with specialists. Just recently, during an award ceremony in the Kremlin, I spoke with them again. The consequences of the disease caused by the coronavirus are still being studied. This is not only damage to the lungs, but also vascular lesions, and specialists still have to figure out what this ultimately will lead to. Let me remind you once again that it is better to get vaccinated that to get sick. This is the opinion of the leading specialists in our country and in the world.
I agree with United Russia’s position and ask you and the Government to launch this year a special programme of medical rehabilitation up to 2026 and to allocate at least 100 billion rubles to this end. I am talking about this here at the congress because it is impossible to resolve a budget issue without parliament. The parameters of budget expenditures are ultimately determined by you.
I know for certain that there are never any opponents to allocating money to such needs. Nevertheless, priorities must be set, and I am trying to do that, albeit as a rough outline. But I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the bulk of the money – 60 billion, should be allocated for the period of up to 2024 so as to promptly start the work across the board.
The next key area of our joint efforts is establishing an advanced up-to-date educational space at universities and colleges in our regions and, of course, in Russia’s schools.
As you are aware, at least 1,300 new schools will be built by the end of 2024 using federal funds with financial resources from the VEB Bank of Development. Over one million children will attend these schools.
Meanwhile, we have a lot of currently working schools with wonderful teaching staff and good traditions. Oftentimes, today’s schoolchildren’s parents and grandparents studied at the same schools. Clearly, we must not neglect those buildings. As a rule, they need modernisation, renovation and establishing a teaching base, workshops, school stadium, and other infrastructure, reliable security and anti-terrorist protection because our children’s lives are at stake.
For reference, 72 percent of school buildings need routine repairs and 10 percent are in need of major repairs. A small number – yes, we do have such buildings – are in a decrepit state, which is completely unacceptable.
I know that both heads of regions and the United Russia party raise these issues as they follow up on people’s inquiries. I will certainly support any initiatives in this area. I ask the Government, together with the regions and with United Russia’s participation, to draft a special programme for school repairs with an emphasis – please, take note – on rural schools. And I ask the party’s regional branches to monitor the programme’s implementation and resolutely engage, and sound the alarm if there are any problems.
In addition, I suggest and ask you to consider allocating additional resources, at least 30 billion rubles until 2024, for the development of secondary vocational education, which is currently available at colleges and universities. These funds will be invested in upgrading facilities and equipment and retraining teachers and job training instructors. I would like to note that it is a crucial task, because skilled vocational workers constitute the basis of modern industry, agriculture, transportation, all sectors of the economy, and it is these professionals that we are short of.
The academic year and examinations at our schools, colleges and universities are almost over. I would like to wish every success to all graduates who are choosing their paths in life. Friends, our big country needs your energy and knowledge. We will do everything in our power to give you an opportunity to show your talents, fulfil your potential and apply them in your regions, cities and towns.
This is why during the past few years we have not just been actively helping the regions but have also launched new instruments of regional support and regional development. I spoke in detail about this in this year’s Address to the Federal Assembly. I would like to express gratitude to the State Duma and, of course, to the United Russia faction for supporting these initiatives. Their implementation will be expensive, but we need to do this.
In particular, a draft law on reducing the debts of regional budgets has been adopted in the third reading. The idea is to replace expensive and short-term loans from commercial creditors with long-term budgetary loans at a symbolic interest rate of 0.1 percent. Every region that had large commercial debts will be able to reduce this burden, to reduce the share of commercial loans to 25 percent of the overall debts.
I would like our colleagues in the regions to note that this limit will have to be maintained afterwards and that they must pursue a responsible and careful financial and debt policy. The relevant federal authorities – I will not enumerate them now – must supervise the situation so that they do not have to face the situation where a certain region has too many debts and needs assistance. And why did you sit on your hands? I know that you have functions that are set out in a law, but your inaction ultimately takes the problem to the federal level, and we have to start anew, to address this problem from the very beginning again. The Finance Ministry is actually providing financial assistance to nearly all regions on a permanent basis, and it should be coordinated with what is taking place in the financial sphere at the regional level.
We have also created a legal framework for restructuring the budgetary loans that were issued to the regions in December 2020 for combating the pandemic. I would like to remind you that these loans were to be repaid by July 1, 2021. But the deadline has been put off until 2029. As a result, the regions will be able to invest considerable funds into settling economic and social problems, as well as into infrastructure development, which is no small matter. I would like to say a few words about this sphere of our activities.
It is yet another ambitious task for the entire country. We must build roads, communications, engineering infrastructure and other facilities everywhere. This large-scale modernisation is needed above all for our people, our citizens, and it will also open up new vistas for our cities and towns and for the further development of our economy.
Already this year we will launch a programme of infrastructure budgetary loans. A relevant draft law has already been adopted by the State Duma. We are grateful for this. So-called long money, that is, long-term loans, can be taken out for this purpose for at least 15 years at a low interest rate of under 3 percent.
The Government is coordinating the criteria and procedure for the issuance of such loans. We must adjust all the details as soon as possible, especially since the first pilot projects are ready to be launched and are only waiting for the funding. I would like to ask United Russia to help the regions implement these infrastructure projects, to see to it that they are implemented on time and with good quality.
At the same time, I would like you to take note of the problems that usually arise with the allocation of large federal funds, so as to prevent a hike in tariffs and prices. I am asking you to closely monitor this in all Russian regions.
I would also like to warn our colleagues in the regions, federal agencies and large companies against trying to set deadlines that are convenient and comfortable for them, somewhere beyond the horizon, with a large time margin. The people need to see the results without delay. The new pilot infrastructure projects must be implemented and must create conditions for the development of our territories already in 2023–2024.
I would like to add the following. We planned to give the regions at least 500 billion rubles in infrastructure budgetary loans in the next two and a half years. But it turned out that the regions’ potential demand for this development tool is much greater. There are many in-demand projects spearheaded into the future in the regions. We must support them, help them take off, as they say.
I would like to repeat what I have mentioned several times before – everything must be thoroughly considered in an expert and professional manner. If a region lacks the capability for this, the federal agencies must not brush them off, promising jam tomorrow. Please, discuss the problem with them and help them adjust their plans.
In this connection, I suggest, first of all, that the programme of infrastructure loans should be extended to 2026. And secondly, we will increase allocations for these purposes when we see the regions suggest new but thoroughly considered projects.
I would like to remind everyone that the point at issue concerns the areas that must help improve the quality of life for our citizens. This includes improving our cities and towns, creating platforms for new facilities, industrial and tourism clusters, other business projects, and developing modern communications and municipal transport.
When it comes to transport, apart from infrastructure projects, we will allocate an additional 50 billion rubles to the regions for transportation development and modernisation. This way we will also support their industries.
Next, during the past few years we greatly increased the volume of construction and modernisation of federal and regional roads. Roads mean development and new opportunities for people; in fact, life is impossible without them. We must accelerate the confident speed we have gathered in this area. All of you know that when there are no roads life comes to a standstill, like in the taiga. But roads mean that areas come to life and give rise to small and medium-sized businesses or even large enterprises. Infrastructure is life.
I suggest that in addition to the approved funding we allocate another 30 billion rubles to the regions for road repairs. I would like the Government to take note that these funds must be transferred to the regions within the next few days. Yes, in the next few days, so that our colleagues in the regions will be able to make use of them during the summer and autumn months, which is the best period for making high quality road repairs.
And one more thing: to put it bluntly, many of our regions have a great number of problems in the housing and utilities sector. All of us are aware of this. Our utilities networks are decrepit and obsolete, and in some places there are no normal purification facilities, water discharge and sewage facilities at all. We know that the regions continue working to resolve this problem. It is not surprising, because this is one of their main tasks, obviously so. But they usually do not have enough funds to do this properly, to change the situation dramatically for the better.
And people do not care, and we are well aware of this, they do not care which level of authority is responsible for resolving a particular issue. What difference does it make to a person? People need comfortable living conditions.
In this regard I propose to support – starting next year – regional projects to modernise and build life support systems using federal resources and allocate another 150 billion rubles for these purposes as a first step, while at the same time paying particular attention to the construction of modern wastewater treatment facilities, in the Black Sea Coast, among others, including Crimea, since millions of people go there on holiday. These are traditional recreation areas of Russians, people from all over the country go to the Black Sea coast and we need them to feel comfortable there and for children to enter the water freely.
Infrastructure stimulates development of housing construction. Last year – a very complicated year – our construction workers commissioned quite a large volume: 82 million square metres of housing. And an important thing is that they are laying significant groundwork for boosting construction volumes. I had a conversation with my colleagues from the Government yesterday – we can achieve record-breaking housing commissioning levels this year.
As we all understand, the growth of supply on the housing market is an important factor for price stabilisation and greater housing affordability. New housing construction projects with an area of almost 15 million square metres were launched in the first five months of this year. I would like to stress that this is 78 percent more year on year. And such an indication is evidence that the industry has not only recovered, but is demonstrating stable development dynamics.
Of course, such a comprehensive solution as reduced mortgage interest rates became a major factor here. I would like to remind you that we will extend this for another year until July 1, 2022. Banks have concluded contracts worth more than 1.5 trillion rubles and, bearing in mind that buyers make a down payment, more than 2 trillion rubles reaches the construction industry and residential housing.
And, of course, new measures as part of the family mortgage programme will offer significant support in resolving housing problems of citizens and will increase housing affordability. As you know, I spoke about this at the St Petersburg Forum, nevertheless, I would like to remind you about the key point, which deals with extending the programme’s scope and now all the families where a baby was born after January 1, 2018, including their first baby – let it be their first baby, to begin with, we will hope there will be more children, a second and a third – these families with a new-born will be able to take out a mortgage at a rate of 6 percent in order to buy primary housing or to refinance their existing loan. The amount will range from 6 to 12 million rubles depending on the region.
Well, this might be a minor thing right now, but nevertheless this might make a difference for certain people. What do I mean? Sometimes a family purchases housing, and then another baby is born in the family and the flat becomes too small for it with not enough room for everyone. And today, when housing, which a family has owned for less than five years, is sold, income tax must be paid. And sometimes the amount is significant for a specific family, an amount that the family lacks to buy new housing when more babies are born.
I suggest that families with two or more children be exempt from paying income tax on the sale of residential housing if they use the funds obtained from the sale to buy new housing within a calendar year. Thus, colleagues, we will be able to provide people with more opportunities to improve their housing conditions. They will be able to use this money to buy a bigger flat.
Development of rural areas requires special approaches. I would like to stress that we are proud of our farmers’ impressive achievements, we understand how important your work is for the country. We will put forward our best efforts to make farmers’ lives better and more comfortable.
In this regard, I would like to ask United Russia to take under its control the implementation of a programme to support individual housing construction. Legislative resolutions will be required here as well. And I hope that the future composition of the State Duma with you in it – and I proceed from the fact that many of you will go on working with the State Duma – will pay attention to this and back up this initiative. Procedures for providing land plots must be simplified as much possible, we must also ensure the construction of roads and connection to necessary public utilities; we need to help people get affordable loans for construction of their houses.
And, of course, people living in rural areas must have modern social infrastructure at their disposal as well as facilities for active recreation and sports. In this regard I support the proposal of United Russia to create a network of modern sports grounds and prepare such a resolution jointly with the Government, without delay, primarily for rural areas, as I mentioned, and small towns.
The well-being and health of the people is our supreme value. This is why we have chosen a course to implement the strictest environmental standards. Without normal environmental conditions, only more health problems await us.
More attention should be paid to using so-called clean technologies, reducing the negative impact on nature. This direction of our work is of the utmost importance and will be implemented unwaveringly and thoroughly – I am positive this will be done with your active support and I am really counting on it.
Major funds to remove harm previously caused to the environment have been provided as part of the Ecology national project. We have many spots like this, there are problems all over the country. We need to increase the intensity of this work especially when dealing with complicated sites.
I propose to additionally allocate around 20 billion rubles to clean rivers and our territorial sea, Russia’s internal sea, to raise sunken ships, among other things, which pollute our rivers, to seal up and clean out spent deposits, old oil and gas wells, and so on and so forth.
Further. Last year forestry reform was launched at the proposal of United Russia. Some laws have already been approved – thank you for this – which define how forest cutting and forest regeneration will be regulated. The final details for re-distributing supervisory authority are being worked out within pilot projects in the Arkhangelsk and Irkutsk regions in order to increase the efficiency of timber complex management in general.
Incidentally, a new industry-specific information system is under development right now. It will allow all stages of timber use, from allotment to processing, or even to export, to be traced. This is important, among other things, for the prevention of unlawful cutting and the shady export of timber abroad. Experts say that a new special state information system of the Federal Agency for Forestry must be formed and be able to work at full capacity by September 1, 2023. I believe this is too long but I was assured that the system cannot be commissioned more quickly considering the scale of the country. I do not know. But I ask you to pay attention to this and go on working on the subject and constantly monitor this and maybe we will manage to do something earlier. But it is impermissible to miss this deadline.
We will definitely encourage the development of deep timber processing in Russia. This is a difficult, comprehensive issue dealing with the environment and with the creation of modern production facilities in Russia. I would like to emphasise that United Russia’s persistence in these issues was a defining factor. Colleagues, thank you once again. The export of unprocessed and unfinished timber from Russia will be prohibited as of January 1, 2022. I would like to turn the Government’s attention to the fact that all resolutions in this regard must come into effect in the near future. We are talking about customs checkpoints that must be equipped with modern control systems. And I would like to stress once again that any delays are impermissible.
Forest restoration and its sustainable management in this sphere are of utmost importance in combatting risks connected with climate change. Like I said already, Russia’s ecosystems have huge potential to absorb greenhouse gases. We need only to unleash this potential, including the use of such climate projects to help us. I believe that this is a relatively new direction, one which will in fact render us assistance in forming a modern industry in Russia that will ensure our environmental and climate welfare and become a priority in the present and future work of United Russia.
Your congress, in fact, starts the 2021 election campaign. You are well aware that recently, on June 17, I signed Executive Order setting the election date for the 8th convocation of the State Duma. All citizens of the country, society and the state are witnessing a very important and extremely responsible period. I would like to say this once again and refer to all Russians to understand that the formation of the main representative and legislative body of the country is a very important stage in the life of our state.
Yes, State Duma deputies – many of whom are present here now – are not engaged in very exciting work, they do not make management decisions, but deputies of all levels form our legal base, the foundation on which the entire state policy is shaped. Therefore, in this sense every citizen must approach the election of his or her candidates with utmost responsibility – I am counting on this.
While preparing for elections, all parties are busy defining their strategies and tactics, expecting to show maximum results. I am positive that United Russia is setting the highest bar to prove its leadership and achieve victory in the elections. And I also have no doubts that this is possible for you, but this is not a goal in itself. Since the trust of society is a colossal responsibility in the first place – and this is what I actually started my speech with at the Congress – your obligation to work diligently and effectively, put in every effort to achieve the utmost in the interests of the country and our people.
This is why I believe it is correct that United Russia starts the election campaign with a detailed report of its work. Electors must and have the right to know what their representatives in the government have accomplished. And if they planned something but failed, they need to admit this directly, frankly and honestly: yes, we set some goals, and we did not manage to accomplish this or that, and then explain why. If such an honest and open dialogue will be established with citizens, and our people are sharp, and even if someone does not understand something among the details this will still increase trust of those representatives, whom they elect to the supreme representative body of power, of those whom they consider their deputies in the upper-most echelon of the country’s power structure. This is an extremely important thing.
And I would like to reiterate – consulting with the people is a must. Not just hear them out, but also to understand, sympathise with their problems, concerns and occasional misfortunes, to feel with your very heart, if you will, what each individual citizen of the Russian Federation copes with. Put the interests of the people, interests of our citizens, undoubtedly, above personal interests, aspire to resolve their issues, help in each specific situation and, of course, set priorities in one’s work in accordance with the opinion of the people, since the programme of the leading party must truly be the people’s programme.
United Russia is in touch with electors practically all the time. This is how our way of working emerged, and I believe this is a very good practice. But a dialogue with people is a sphere where you cannot overdo. The more meetings, discussions, attention to the demands and needs of people – the better the mutual understanding with people and the greater the trust in you. I believe that the party has huge resources here, and you definitely have to be even more active as a result. This can be done as not all of your resources have been put to use.
It is gratifying to notice that the party is searching for reserves to improve, enhance the efficiency of its work and to turn its ideas into specific deeds, bringing into the fold more and more allies. The best proof of this is a preliminary voting procedure in which 12 million citizens took part. In 2016, around 3,000 people competed for the right to be nominated from United Russia, this year the number is almost twice as high. I would like to highlight that such activity, such intra-party competition sets a good example for other parties.
I would like to repeat what I spoke about today. It is very important that you pave the way to politics for volunteers, activists of the Russian Popular Front and other structures of civil society, for young people who have showed their worth in our career-oriented, educational projects such as Leaders of Russia, PolitStartup and others, allowing them to participate in the most in-demand projects and areas for development. We have a range of such programmes.
All of this means that the party is getting stronger, more lively and more effective, that with all of us in its ranks there will be more passionate, bright, active people who have first-hand knowledge of the problems that citizens and the electoral base experience. In such a team the work is very interesting and reliable, being able to communicate, move forward and achieve success, to deal with difficult challenges, but nevertheless achieve a much-needed result.
An election campaign is always a test, including for the political system as a whole, as it is tested for strength and effectiveness. United Russia also plays a special role here: the leading party must be a model in creating an atmosphere of an open and competitive political race. Our common task is to make every effort to ensure the election is fair and the law is observed, and the results reflect the true will of the people and are unconditionally trusted by the citizens.
You will naturally have to shoulder a special responsibility, which is only fair. You are an influential political force, an influential party, the majority party, which means that it is all your responsibility. This means you need to be ready to discuss more than just comfortable topics and achievements; you must be ready for some hard-hitting assessments. People are actually right most of the time. We need to talk to them, hear their concerns, draw conclusions, take criticism without dodging acute topics, especially because United Russia has something to report to the voters. I would like to note that a lot has been done. You need to confidently and reasonably defend your position, talk openly and honestly with the people – and that will work. This is what everyone running with United Russia’s support will have to do.
Rounding up, I would like to address those who are going to run. I have discussed candidates during a meeting with Mr Dmitry Medvedev, and before that, and also with other leaders of the party; we thoroughly discussed those planning to compete in single-mandate constituencies as well as those to work for the overall party result on the federal list. Of course, you, colleagues, this congress will put together this list of top candidates who will run. But, if you allow me, I will also say a few words on this score.
I believe this list, especially the top five lines, should probably include people who have been in politics for a long time – we usually call them political heavyweights – as well as people are relatively new, but still, in one way or another, represent the most important areas of our development, of our life.
What areas I am referring to? I just spoke about this – support for families with children, support for childhood in general; education in the broadest sense of the word, from school to university; healthcare; upholding national interests, defending our interests externally, in the international arena; and certainly, one of the fundamental parts of our work – strengthening our country’s defence capabilities.
In this regard – starting from the last one I mentioned, with defence – I would like to mention some people who, in one way or another, vividly represent all these areas.
One is Sergei Shoigu – one of the founders of the party, a man whom many of you know. I would like to say that he and I took the first steps to create the party. He is more than the current Defence Minister; he is also the creator of the Emergencies Ministry – I think it is the best rescue service in the world. The new minister is continuing what he started honourably. Mr Shoigu is now effectively addressing the most challenging matters to strengthen the national army and navy.
Sergei Lavrov is a brilliant diplomat who represents us with dignity on the international arena.
As for healthcare, we have many bright and interesting people who have inner beauty and are worthy to represent both our country and their voters at any level. But there are also new people, new heroes. I met one of them last year at Kommunarka hospital – Denis Protsenko. He was one of the first to fight the epidemic. He is a worthy professional and represents a huge community of Russian medical workers whom we are proud of and to whom we are grateful for everything that has been done in the past eighteen months and is being done now.
I am also delighted to have found Yelena Shmeleva, a co-chair of the Russian Popular Front (ONF). Here I will immediately note that more than 70 people – from the ONF, volunteers, the We Are Together movement, and other associations – will run with United Russia’s support. Ms Shmeleva has done a lot to establish a new and very interesting centre for working with gifted children, but it is not her only project. She is extending this experience throughout the country – a very important endeavour, I think.
And finally, with regard to children and support for families with children in the broadest sense of the word. We now have a new name that has become known to the entire country lately – Anna Kuznetsova. She has a large and close-knit family, with seven children. As you all know, she is children’s ombudsman, the Commissioner for Children's Rights. She has become known for returning our children home from the various hot spots around the planet – to the North Caucasus, but not only there, she returns them to the Russian Federation territory. Those children have ended up in very difficult and dangerous conditions, and not by their choice. She is very good at this.
We are faced with a lot of work to address urgent and strategic tasks in the economy, in the social sphere, to strengthen the sovereignty and security of our state, to build up our science and technology potential, preserve our culture, our historical and spiritual heritage and values. Everyone's contribution makes a difference in achieving these ambitious goals, frankly speaking. And I am sure that we all share a common responsibility – a common responsibility for Russia’s successful development, for the well-being of our people, for the future of our Fatherland and for Russia.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for this applause. I would like to wish you success – fruitful work at this Congress, and success in the election in the interests of Russia.
Here's to Russia!