Direct Line with Vladimir Putin
The annual special Direct Line with Vladimir Putin was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV, Public Television of Russia (OTR) and Mir TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. June 30, 2021, 15:50 Moscow
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Good afternoon.
We are broadcasting Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.
The moderators in this studio are Nailya Asker-zade…
Nailya Asker-zade: …and Yekaterina Berezovskaya.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Our colleagues, Tatyana Remezova and Natalya Yuryeva, are working with volunteers in the Message Processing Centre.
Last year we combined two projects, the annual news conference and Direct Line. The format of today’s event is different. The focus is on direct communication, only the President and the people, without unnecessary intermediaries.
Nailya Asker-zade: During today’s live broadcast, you will often hear about a special platform, the Moskva – Putinu mobile app. It is a kind of a guide or entry pass to this programme, which is available to everyone.
So, President of Russia Vladimir Putin is on the air.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Natalya Yuryeva: We are in the Message Processing Centre, the heart of Direct Line. As you can see, right behind me an editor is processing a call. You can see the numbers for your calls and text messages on the screen.
The only way to personally address the President is via videoconference with the help of the Moskva – Putinu special mobile application, and the President will possibly answer your call.
Tatyana Remezova: Hard and meticulous work is underway in the Message Processing Centre. As of now, we have received nearly 2 million questions. Whatever many people say, telephone calls and text messages remain the most popular means of communication; together, they account for over a million questions. But many people are also making use of the Moskva – Putinu application, which has been downloaded over 650,000 times.
Just like last year, we are being assisted by volunteers. They have been working with the questions for a second week now, and many of the people’s problems have been settled even before this programme began.
Mr President, considering my experience at other Direct Lines, I can assume that you will be able to answer no more than 70 or 80 questions. What happens to other questions, as there are already nearly two million of them?
Vladimir Putin: I would also like to begin our current meeting with this, and here is what I would like to say.
In 2019, over one million questions were received when the Direct Line took place in this full format. And many hundreds of thousands of questions were asked last year when the Direct Line was combined with the Big News Conference. I would like to assure you – to make what would seem to be a self-assured statement, but, nevertheless, I would just like to say that we try to make sure that not a single question goes unnoticed.
As I have already mentioned, over one million questions were received in 2019. Over 500,000 questions have already been processed today, moreover, specific answers have been provided. Work continues on some of them because, to respond properly and positively, it is necessary to amend the regulatory framework and to include the resolution of these questions in regional budgets or even the federal budget.
It would be impossible to conduct this large-scale job without the assistance of the Russian Popular Front and other public organisations that have joined this work and cooperate very actively with administrations at various levels, including local, regional and federal, in order to help people.
This, of course, helps me because I receive all the questions. But I would now like to address the volunteers and people who are processing these questions, and I would like to thank them on behalf of the citizens because, of course, I receive the questions, but you help ordinary Russian citizens, and I would like to thank you very much for this.
I hope that we will organise the same productive work following today’s event, although I hope that we will be able to address the problems that interest people the most during our direct conversations, and we will try and resolve some of them during our current conversation.
Thank you very much.
Nailya Asker-zade: People with hearing impairments can watch a special sign-language version of our programme on the Public Television of Russia (OTR).
I suggest moving on to specific questions.
Of course, people are mostly concerned about the new COVID-19 wave. New virus mutations appear, and people want to know whether there are any clear rules. Why is it that the authorities stipulate an allegedly voluntary vaccination, while two-thirds of people working in certain sectors have to get vaccinated in Moscow and some other regions? Why are mass events allegedly banned but it is possible to hold the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship? What should be done so that governors, officials and ordinary citizens get to know what the exact rules are?
Vladimir Putin: This is very simple. As for the UEFA Euro 2021, of course, first of all, we had to fulfil the obligations that the state had assumed regarding hosting these major sporting events.
But, in general, it is very simple to understand what is happening in this sphere. All you need to do is have a look at the law. As you may recall, I once said that I do not support mandatory vaccination, and I continue to adhere to this point of view. We need to look at the law of, I believe, 1998, about the immune protection of the population which comprises two main parts – a national immunisation schedule, which is mandatory, this vaccination is mandatory. Some of our colleagues suggested transferring vaccination against the coronavirus infection to this nationwide immunisation schedule, the nationwide programme. But the State Duma deputies did not support this motion, so, COVID vaccination did not make it to this section of the nationwide vaccination programme and is not mandatory nationwide.
However, the second part of this law says that in the event of an increase in the number of cases and in the event of an epidemic in separate regions of the Russian Federation and upon the recommendation of chief sanitary doctors, regional heads can introduce mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people, especially risk groups. The heads of 10 constituent entities of the Russian Federation used this regulation to introduce mandatory vaccination for certain risk groups. This was carried out under the 1998 law.
Therefore, there is no confusion in Russia, and everyone is acting in accordance with the law that I just mentioned.
Nailya Asker-zade: So, there will be no nationwide lockdown, right?
Vladimir Putin: This is a different question. Our colleagues’ efforts in 10 regions aim to prevent the need for a lockdown, when entire enterprises are shut down and people find themselves out of work or without income; small and medium-sized businesses go bankrupt and individual incomes decline. Certain regions introduced these mandatory vaccination-related rules for certain groups of the population to prevent this from happening.
As you are aware, experts have already mentioned this many times on television, online and in many media outlets, on all television channels, that vaccination is the only way to put an end to further spread of the pandemic. We can do this since we have four high-tech, safe and very effective vaccines. So, I hope some of our citizens who are still biased about the vaccines will change their minds as the vaccination continues. Over 20 million – I believe, 23 million people – have been vaccinated. As you can see, everything is okay and, thankfully, we do not have any tragic vaccination side effects as is the case with AstraZeneca or Pfizer.
Nailya Asker-zade: You have reassured me regarding the lockdown.
Vladimir Putin: I hope so.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we know that you know about the vaccine from your personal experience, and you have become an example for the whole country. However, we have a question. If I may, I will read a text message we have received.
Vladimir Putin: Please do.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: “Tell us the truth: Did the President get vaccinated or not? Why is there no video?”
Other people are asking which vaccine you received; there are many similar questions. Everyone wants to know.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
I was indeed asked not to reveal which vaccine I received so as not to give it a competitive advantage. But I can see that there are very many questions regarding this.
As for the video, I do not believe that showing it is so important. What if you receive the jab not in the arm but in some other part of the body? Would I be obliged to show the video nevertheless?
Look, there are many crooks around who pretend to be getting vaccinated. Regrettably, the medics often play along, making the shot with some unknown substance, maybe not even a medication.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Just saline?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, just saline or nothing at all.
I hope that the majority of our people understand that when I say that I have taken the jab this is indeed so. I believe that cheating is unacceptable at this level.
As for me, when I got the shot back in February, there were only two vaccines available commercially: EpiVacCorona from the Vektor Centre in Novosibirsk and Sputnik V, as you know. Both vaccines are good. The third one was barely created then and was not available commercially at the time.
Of course, I could have taken any of them. But, strange as it may seem to some people, I did not even consult the doctors. I just looked at what shots my acquaintances had received. As I said, both vaccines are good and modern. The one from the Vektor Centre is wholly synthetic and, as they say, more advanced. But as I could see from the example of my acquaintances – maybe I should not say this, but I nevertheless want to explain my reasoning – the duration of effect of the Vektor vaccine is a bit shorter, although it has other advantages, such as the absence of any side effects at all, specifically fever or any other side effects. But I believed that I needed to be protected for as long as possible, and so I chose to be vaccinated with Sputnik V, especially considering that the military are getting vaccinated with Sputnik V, and I am their Supreme Commander, after all.
I have already talked about this, but I can repeat. I did not feel anything after the first jab, only slightly sore in the shoulder after about four hours. I had my second jab at noon and took my temperature at midnight, it was 37.2. I went to bed and when I woke up it was 36.6. That was it. In about 20 days, I think, I had a blood test that showed that I had a high level of protection. I recommend you do the same.
Did you get vaccinated?
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: No, actually. I had COVID-19 not so long ago; it is too early to do it. The Healthcare Ministry recently issued recommendations on vaccination for those who have had COVID-19. If I am not mistaken, they should wait six to 12 months for their natural antibodies to wane.
Nailya Asker-zade: There is time to think.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Now things are clear.
Vladimir Putin: You know, the Healthcare Ministry issued its recommendations, and the World Health Organisation also released its guidelines, only a few days ago.
Normally, when there is no pandemic, it is recommended to get revaccinated in 12 months but when there is a peak or rising morbidity, it is recommended to get inoculated again in six months. These are WHO recommendations.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: My time will be in the autumn, then.
Vladimir Putin: Was it mild?
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, I would say so. But what we see on the news and online, so many stories are just terrifying.
Vladimir Putin: People get infected even after they have had the vaccine, in about 10 percent of cases. However, they recover fast and with no serious consequences, which is important. This is what matters, I think. Without a vaccine, this illness may result in quite severe long-term consequences. That is why you, too, should watch your health and go through rehabilitation, if necessary.
Nailya Asker-zade: After hearing your account, many will probably decide they just want Sputnik V – but not everybody. Vaccine hesitancy is explainable: people have doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines. Do they protect against new strains? You probably know that some people have still fallen ill after getting vaccinated and the incidence rate among such people is high.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I have just mentioned that, about 10 percent, on average. Again, in their case, the illness is mild. Some very famous people have become ill even after getting the vaccine. I do not want to disclose names. After all, it is their private matter. But they are quite famous in Russia. Last week, one of my colleagues got ill. Yesterday I was told he was already back at work. Some people close to me were vaccinated too but still got the coronavirus, unfortunately. But they recovered fairly quickly and did not need any strong medication. I am talking about people in my immediate circle. What I am saying is vaccination makes sense.
I had meetings recently, as you may know, in the Kremlin, we were awarding the Hero of Labour stars and State Prizes to our scientists, including those who had invented the vaccine. Let me reiterate what I heard from them, they speak in public continually: the disease may take a severe turn, but what is worse, it might have remote consequences. This should certainly be considered.
You know there are, there have always been people who believe that no inoculations at all are needed. There are many people in this category.
Nailya Asker-zade: The anti-vaxers.
Vladimir Putin: And not only anti-vax dissidents, there are enough of them both in this country and elsewhere.
What is happening in the world? What are specialists saying? When a sweeping vaccination campaign against the main infections is afoot, it seems that everything is fine and there is no need, as some people believe, to get vaccinated. “Why get a jab? Almost no one is sick.” But as soon as the vaccination level drops to a certain threshold – bang, all of a sudden there is an outbreak and everyone is scrambling to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
We should take our cue from the specialists, not people who do not know much about this matter and listen to rumours. After all, this is happening all around the world. You know, the things I heard: that there is nothing at all, that in reality there is no epidemic. Sometimes I listen to what some people are saying – they seem to be grown-up, educated people. I do not know where they are taking this from. When you tell them that this is happening all over the world, they reply: “Right, country leaders have come into collusion.” Do they have any idea of what is happening in the world, of the contradictions that are plaguing today’s world, where all leaders allegedly upped and conspired with each other? It is all absolute rubbish.
Nailya Asker-zade: But some people believe that the virus has been artificially created.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: This is a point for discussion to this day, a very active discussion, by the way.
Vladimir Putin: This is a different matter: artificial or non-artificial. The question is, how to get protection from it? Wait, like you, until taken ill and then feel cheerful and merry? You are a very young person and in good form, but there are people with a different constitution, with chronic ailments and advanced in age. These are the so-called risk groups, let me repeat it once again. This is dangerous, a danger to life, while being vaccinated is not dangerous. We have not had a single serious complication, nothing: I had a fever of 37.2 [Celsius]. So what? True, my daughter (she was also vaccinated with Sputnik V) had a temperature of 37.5.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: This is also normal.
Vladimir Putin: Also, for just one day, and that was all, nothing more.
Nailya Asker-zade: Let me go over how our work today will be organised.
We have received 2 million appeals, and people continue to write, call and send messages. We collect them and group them by topic. Please note that these are the main topics of people’s appeals. We can choose any, for example, Communications and Internet, and find out what our viewers are interested in.
Vladimir Putin: Ok.
Nailya Asker-zade: Or, for example, healthcare. Of course, everyone is interested in how the fight against COVID is being organised, how the vaccination is going, primary care and availability of medications.
Vladimir Putin: Please pick the one you like best.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, let us focus on the sub-topic “Vaccination and fighting COVID.” Please note that the federal districts are shown at the bottom of the screen. We can choose any and see the cities from which people are sending their questions.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Please also note that we have different types of appeals: some are in video format, others are written text, and there will also be telephone calls and live broadcasts. I propose launching a video call from Moscow. Shall we?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, please, any one of them.
Yevgeny Tsvetkov: Yevgeny Tsvetkov, Moscow.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Yevgeny.
Yevgeny Tsvetkov: My wife is a teacher at a Moscow school and has a medical exemption due to a long-standing chronic illness. However, the head of the school does not accept this exemption and wants her to bring a vaccination certificate by July 15. My wife cannot comply, but if she does not, they say they will fire her. Is that legal at all?
Vladimir Putin: I can tell you right away that this is illegal. If there is a medical exemption, no one can ask a person to take the vaccine. I think that the head of the school where your wife works is unaware of this. I hope that he or she hears this and lifts these illegal demands.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let’s continue to take questions on this topic.
I see we have a message from Omsk. A person, who had recovered from the coronavirus, was discharged from the hospital and was told that free rehab was available at one of three institutions. One of them had run out of places, and the other one asked for a payment of 50,000 rubles for the service. What do you have to say to this person who recovered from the coronavirus? I was ill as well, and I know that patients need some rehab time.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is true, and we are now busy trying to organise this. Actually, there has never been any rehabilitation system as a factor of improving health after illnesses in Russia.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: But we had health resorts back during the Soviet era, did we not?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, we had health resorts, and we still have them. Incidentally, they usually worked as holiday hotels or ordinary hotels. But this was back in the Soviet times, when we had many things and did not have many others.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We did not have COVID.
Nailya Asker-zade: Yes, there was no COVID, thankfully.
Vladimir Putin: But there were other diseases. Incidentally, the vaccination system was quite strict in the Soviet Union, nearly all vaccinations were mandatory. Did anyone ask the parents’ permission when their children were vaccinated at schools? Nobody did, everyone was vaccinated.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Were you vaccinated like that too?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, why not? I was from a simple workers’ family. My parents were workers. Who asked them? Nobody did. And nobody asked me either. We were simply lined up in the school’s medical room, were given our jabs just like that and off we went. But we had stability when it came to combating infections. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the social system almost disintegrated as well, including in the areas we are discussing now.
We will now invest some serious money; funds have been earmarked in this rehabilitation system, and we will shortly sign contracts for the delivery of the necessary equipment. The trouble is that special equipment is necessary for post-coronavirus rehabilitation, because COVID hits the vascular and respiratory systems, as well as other organs. We are allocating these funds; they are being transferred right now, and we will start working on this project.
As for any paid services, I do not know the reasons for this, but, as I have already mentioned, this case must be looked into. We will do so, if the required information is available.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: If you wish, we can contact the person who asked this question. He is from Omsk.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, let us do it.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We will do this later during the programme. We can do this.
Nailya Asker-zade: Let us move on now to the Message Processing Centre.
Vladimir Putin: Anyway, the funds for the creation of a post-coronavirus rehabilitation system have been allocated, and the system is being established.
Nailya Asker-zade: We are moving to the Message Processing Centre. Natalya Yuryeva, go ahead please.
Natalya Yuryeva: Our Message Processing Centre is being literally bombarded with questions. There are almost two million questions. Let us find out where people are calling from. For example, I see a message from Moscow. The person who wrote it has not yet introduced himself. Naturally, there are plenty of questions about vaccination. I know that there is one video question. Where from?
Remark: From Moscow.
Natalya Yuryeva: It is also from Moscow. From Yekaterina Kachailova. Let us see a video she sent us.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead please.
Yekaterina Kachailova: Good afternoon, Mr President.
I planned to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but unfortunately, doctors at vaccination centres could not tell me if my illnesses were contraindications for getting a jab. I can check my temperature and blood pressure at home as well, and, of course, I would not go for a jab if I feel sick.
Could you please tell me where I can get qualified aid and an answer to my question: What are the risks and consequences of this jab? Thank you for your help and answer.
Vladimir Putin: Katya, the answer is very simple. It is out in the open. If you have some illnesses, chronic or recent, you do know about them. You are bound to visit your doctor, a specialist who monitors you as a patient. This is the doctor you should address. He must tell you whether you should get a jab or not. Nothing is easier.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: As far as I understand it, she did not get an answer to this question.
Vladimir Putin: No. However, she said she asked about it at vaccination centres where they may not necessarily know the answer. Who works there? Medical nurses and the like. But probably this is a question for narrow specialists who monitor their patients. It is necessary to ask them whether a jab is all right or not. They must know the answer.
Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest returning to the call centre. Do you have more calls or messages?
Alexander Maksimov: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Hello.
Alexander Maksimov: My name is Sasha Maksimov. I study in the third form of school No. 2070 in Moscow. We will start a new academic year in two months. Please tell us how it will be: at a school desk or at home? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Sasha, I cannot give a definitive answer to your question because we do not know how the coronavirus situation will develop in the country and in the place where you live.
That said, the question is clear, but most likely, children in junior forms will go to school. After all, we hardly ever shut them down during the worst times of the past year, spring and summer. So, most probably, for elementary school, the academic process will be organised in the usual format.
As for the senior school, as I have already said, this will depend on specific circumstances. But I hope that we will eventually reach the level of herd immunity we are talking about, in part, owing to active vaccination, which will allow schools and universities as well as small, medium-sized and large businesses to operate as usual.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, we understand that you are now immune to the coronavirus and, probably, to some unfriendly countries.
We have received the following question as an SMS message via the number 04040 from Igor Oboimov in Moscow: Why is Ukraine not listed among these unfriendly countries? Here is another message on the same subject: Will you meet with President Zelensky?
Vladimir Putin: Why is Ukraine not listed among unfriendly countries? This is because I do not regard Ukraine as a country unfriendly towards Russia. I have noted many times, and I can repeat once again that, in my opinion, Ukrainians and Russians are a single people.
See for yourself: The Jews come to Israel from Africa, Europe, and other countries. Black people arrive from Africa, right? Those arriving from Europe speak Yiddish, rather than Hebrew. Although they are diverse, the Jewish people, nevertheless, cherishes its unity.
Well, Israel is far away. We have the Mordvins, one of Russia’s indigenous ethnic groups. This people is subdivided into the Erzya, Moksha and Shoksha ethnic groups, and there are three other ethnic groups. However, all of them consider themselves part of the Mordvin people. Although they speak the language of one ethnic group, the Erzya and the Moksha do not understand each other. Their respective languages are more different than the Russian and Ukrainian languages, but they cherish their unity. There are several reasons why. First, they are smart, and they realise that a breakup yields no positive results and simply weakens an ethnic group. There are also external factors to consider. What do I mean? Since the Middle Ages, efforts have always been made to divide and break up the Russian people. Rzeczpospolita launched this policy because Poland itself wanted to become a great power. Consequently, it tried to split up all nearby ethnic groups around itself. Austro-Hungary continued this policy in the run-up to World War I. But we have to understand this.
How did this country interpret ethnic aspects in the past? There were the Great Russians, the White Russians and the Little Russians. Sometime later, they started dividing the single Russian people under the influence of external factors, and the Bolsheviks also contributed to this process. Unfortunately, we cannot discuss this matter in great detail. By the way, I have thought it over, I will write a separate analytical article, and I will set forth my view of this subject. And I hope that people in Russia and Ukraine will read it.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Because people just do not know many things, do not know the history.
Vladimir Putin: Of course, people have no interest in that; they are living in a world of their own. But this is important for all of us.
So, I do not regard the Ukraine people unfriendly. Nothing of the kind. Russians and Ukrainians are a single people. But the Ukrainian leadership, the current authorities of modern Ukraine are clearly unfriendly to us. This is perfectly obvious. Otherwise there is no explanation for the draft law submitted by the Ukrainian President to the Verkhovna Rada, the law on indigenous peoples under which Russians are not an indigenous people in that territory. It defies comprehension. Russians have lived there for centuries, and now they have been declared as non-indigenous people. What can this lead to? As a result, part of these people could emigrate. But where would they go? They have flats, jobs and so on in Ukraine. And so they will have to reregister [as Ukrainians], because they would be second-class citizens otherwise. This would reduce the overall number of Russians. This effect will be comparable to the negative impact of weapons of mass destruction. This is serious. This is pushing the Russian language out of everyday life.
You see, there are narrow-minded people and far-right nationalists everywhere; they exist in Russia and also in Ukraine. They are acting in all sincerity, but not wisely. The results of their activities will be destructive. This also concerns the suppression of the opposition in Ukraine.
Viktor Medvedchuk, whom I regard as a Ukrainian nationalist, was seized and confined to his apartment ahead of the election campaign, and they also ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet. Absolutely illegal and unconstitutional decisions have been taken. But nobody is paying any attention to this. This shows people in the country that there are no legal opportunities for the forces which want to develop and strengthen their country, including by developing normal relations with Russia, that they have no chance. They are nipped in the bud: some are jailed, others are placed under house arrest, and still others are simply killed in the street.
Why meet with Zelensky if he has accepted the full external management of his country? The main issues concerning Ukraine’s functioning are not decided in Kiev but in Washington and, partly, in Berlin and Paris. What is there to talk about then?
Nevertheless, I do not refuse to hold such meetings, but I first want to understand what issues we can discuss.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, our editors tell me that we have Yevgeny Tsvetkov on the phone. He is the one who told us about his wife, who is facing dismissal for refusing to get vaccinated because of a medical exemption.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Ecxuse me, but let us first take another call on a related subject, post-COVID rehabilitation.
Vladimir Putin: Fine.
Nailya Asker-zade: Vladimir Vasilkov from Omsk. The caller is unavailable.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We did not get through the first time, but I think we will reach him during the programme.
Vladimir Putin: Maybe we will get back to this subject later.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, certainly.
Nailya Asker-zade: Let us get back to the Message Processing Centre. Tatyana, do you hear us?
Tatyana Remezova: Yes, colleagues, I do, thanks a lot.
We have already processed tens of thousands of questions, analysing them and calling people back to ask for details. The top five most popular subjects include the economy and price hikes. If you enter the word “price” or “prices” into the question database, you get tens of thousands of questions.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Tatyana Remezova: I can see that one of the video addresses was recorded in a grocery store. Let us see it.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.
Question: Mr President, tell us, please, why bananas from Ecuador – here is the price – are cheaper that carrots grown in neighbouring regions – this is the price tag. Another question is about potatoes: why are they so expensive? How can people, for example, my mother, who lives on a subsistence wage, survive with such food prices? Does anyone control prices in Russia, or do they just appear out of the blue? That is, do people simply think up a figure and then write it on the price tag?
Nailya Asker-zade: If I got it right, carrots cost 110 rubles per kilo and bananas, 70 rubles.
Yekaterina Berezovskya: And butter costs 500–600 rubles.
Vladimir Putin: Look, the global food price indices are the highest in 10 years. Regrettably, this is a global trend; food prices are increasing everywhere.
Of course, this affects us as well, considering that Russia is part of the global economy. There are many reasons for these increases; I will not list all of them, but they include the printing of currency by the main currency issuing countries, the consequences of the coronavirus, the decline in production and jobs, and so on and so forth.
We had the biggest price increases on food last year and early this year. Sugar increased the most, up 41 percent. Sunflower oil followed in its wake.
You probably know what the Government and we said about this. The Government made a number of decisions to control food prices.
Regarding these measures, the first was an agreement between producers and retail networks. The second was subsidies for producers of the final product for the purchase of raw materials at high prices. Later, export duty increases were introduced on foreign trade. Other regulation measures are being discussed, so in general the state is tracking this problem, though maybe sometimes the response is delayed. I spoke about this problem at one of the meetings with the Government. Let me repeat that the above measures are being taken.
Now regarding butter: you said 500–600. Prices on milk are generally stable and, as you know, butter is made from milk. This is why prices on that have increased between 3.5 to 5 percent recently. I would like to emphasise that this is below the inflation rate because the inflation has almost reached 6 percent, 5.9 percent, to be exact. So, this is less than the inflation rate.
That said, there are problems in this respect. This is what I think Valentina was talking about – the so-called borsch basket: carrots, potatoes, etc.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: She asked why bananas cost less than carrots.
Vladimir Putin: Just a moment. Not only carrots but also potatoes. This is because we ran out of some domestic products. Last year, we produced over 19 million tonnes of potatoes. This year we will have about 22 million – I hope this is more than enough. That is a million tonnes we missed. They bring vegetables not from a next-door region but usually from abroad, from Belarus, or Turkey where it is warmer. Naturally, in this context it is important to look at logistics. How much will it cost with this kind of shipping, and so on.
Naturally, we must keep an eye on this as well, but let me say again that we will soon take in the vegetable harvest, and I hope it will affect prices. That said, the development of agriculture also includes vegetables and fruit, but now we are not fully meeting domestic demand for them.
For instance, we have practically resolved the problem of chicken meat and pork. We produce enough to meet domestic demand and even export them. In fact, we export a lot. By the way, last year agriculture made a record $30 billion on exports, over $30 billion. This has never happened before.
Incidentally, a decision was also made on grain with a view to curbing prices on bread and bakery products inside the country by introducing export quotas and export customs duties.
Recent price hikes on bakery products and sunflower oil have been a mere 0.1 percent. Prices on sugar have also increased by about 0.1 percent. In other words, regulating measures are being taken and are resulting in the desired effect but, unfortunately, not on all food items. We will press on.
Nailya Asker-zade: I suggest we get back to the topic of agriculture a bit later because we have finally gotten through to Omsk.
Vladimir Vasilkov. Let us have this call on air.
Vladimir Putin: Of course.
Vladimir Vasilkov: Hello.
I worked for more than 40 years and was awarded the title of Omsk Region Labour Veteran. I recently received a small increase in my pension but the Labour Veteran title was withdrawn along with my benefits. They used to pay me 550 rubles, which was at least something, and now I am nobody. It was a slap in the face. And I know more people like me.
Nailya Asker-zade: Excuse me, but your question was about your COVID-19 recovery and the rehabilitation you need.
Vladimir Vasilkov: Yes, that is another question that I have.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please, Mr Vasilkov.
As concerns the Labour Veteran title, I know that, unfortunately, it has been an issue in the regions. It is up to regional authorities to award the Labour Veteran title and to withdraw it. I think it absolutely unjustified. They should not take away what has already been given.
Vladimir Vasilkov: I am not the only one.
Vladimir Putin: I know and I believe that this decision was wrong. That is my opinion and I hope Omsk will hear me. There is a general rule, which is stipulated by the Constitution, no less: you cannot deprive people of the benefits they already have. This aspect of the matter must be reviewed carefully by officials at all levels.
Nailya Asker-zade: As I promised, shall we get back to the topic of agriculture?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.
Nailya Asker-zade: Let us see what questions arecoming in from those who till the land, as they say. What shall we choose? Let us go to Ufa. Here is a message: “All the crops are dying due to drought in Bashkiria. Cattle are dying. Irrigation services used to be available. This is a global problem. Please look into this. When will irrigation services be available again?”
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to say that we are proud of our agricultural workers and their results. I have already said that even their export results are outstanding, no less. Productivity and production are growing fast. Vegetable and fruit cultivation could be better, but additional support is necessary.
Overall, support for the agricultural sector is quite substantial, around 350 billion rubles. We support other areas as well. For example, we will allocate 35 billion for the social development of rural areas. We also allocate 70 billion every year for farmland reclamation. That is 70 billion every year for this purpose.
Irrigation services are part of these efforts. We allocate more than 7 billion a year for this purpose and will continue to do so. Irrigation is very important, considering climate change. We will be ramping up these efforts across all the areas I have just mentioned.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, to follow up on agriculture, I would like to quote a few text messages. “Mr President, they say there will be a tax on livestock. Is it true?” someone from the Rostov Region is asking. In fact, not everyone is aware that there may be such a thing as a tax on livestock.
Nailya Asker-zade: Horned livestock.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, horned livestock. As far as I understand, agricultural producers have been exempted.
And one more follow-up question from Izrail Murzabekov in Ingushetia, who engages in selective sheep breeding. He is asking for help with the lease of land and writes the following: “Any kind of land, even wasteland, at least something.”
Vladimir Putin: Where does he live?
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Nazran, Ingushetia.
Vladimir Putin: Ok. With regard to help, I will definitely have a word with the head of the republic. Land in the North Caucasus is worth a lot; it really is a valuable asset. But since this person engages in real business, an important business – selective breeding, right? Sheep breeding?
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Yes, selective sheep breeding.
Vladimir Putin: This is very important. This is something that we have been increasingly focused on lately. It is true of seeds and livestock. This is critically important. We are only taking the first steps in this direction.
We have resolved the chicken meat problem, but not everyone is aware – no, this is a serious matter – that we mainly import eggs in order to raise chickens. We need to have our own eggs to begin with. The same applies to cattle and sheep breeding.
To reiterate, we are moving forward towards this goal. Of course, people who engage in this business deserve special support. I will definitely have a word with the head of the republic.
The first part of your question was…
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: The first part of the question was about the tax on livestock. Is it true that…
Vladimir Putin: We should impose a tax on those who spread such rumours. No, no one is going to impose any tax on livestock.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: People are worried. This question comes from the village of Chaltyr, Rostov Region, apparently, a small place.
Vladimir Putin: I hope that I will be heard not only in the Rostov Region, but other regions of the Russian Federation as well.
Nailya Asker-zade: Most importantly, the Finance Ministry should hear you.
Vladimir Putin: No, no, no. Take my word for it, no one is planning anything like that. These are just rumours.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, I suggest we move on. The Economy section has a sub-section called Industry and Production. Let us see if we have received any messages or calls on this topic.
Troitsk is on the line, we have a video call, that is, people can go on the air. And Nizhny Novgorod is also calling.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Which one will we choose?
Vladimir Putin: It does not matter.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us listen to Troitsk.
Vladimir Putin: Troitsk – where is it?
Nailya Asker-zade: It is in Moscow’s immediate suburbs.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Hello, you are on the air.
Vladimir Putin: Good day, Svetlana.
Svetlana Mironova: Mr President, good day.
Here is my question. My name is Svetlana Mironova. I want to ask about the surging prices of building materials. I will give you an example: my family lives in a small flat of 33 square metres. The children are growing and now there is not enough room for everyone, so this year we planned to improve our living conditions. We bought a plot of land and started to think about building a house. I will use the fence as an example: three or four months ago it cost about 150,000 [rubles]. Today we will have to fork out 260,000 for a fence made of ordinary corrugated iron. It is quite a sum for our family. We want to understand – my family and those families who have found themselves in the same situation – if prices will remain the same or if they will increase or, maybe, with your assistance, they will be more affordable to us. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Hopefully, I can also help to make them affordable. I will explain what I mean.
First, of course, this was caused by inflation and the price increases in the consumer market across the board. The inflation rate in our country has gone up to 5.9 percent, or almost 6 percent, from about 4 percent. Of course, our objective is to push it down. That is why the Central Bank has increased slightly its key interest rate to avoid an excessive money supply in the economy.
I believe the current inflation rate will get back to its target indicator – 4 percent. This year, we will hardly achieve this, but I believe we will be able to bring it [the inflation rate] down to 5 percent and, generally, make sure that inflation holds steady at this level, yet, thinking of making it lower. This is my first point.
Secondly, regarding the reasons behind it, in my view, there will be more questions like this during our meeting today. This was caused by the changes in the situation in many world markets for commodities, in particular, metals.
Prices on metals have increased sharply on world markets. Incidentally, this includes foodstuffs. Prices on sugar went up on world markets and so our producers began selling it abroad. As a result, we had a shortage of sugar, and prices jumped. The same happened with metals. Metal prices increased on world markets. Here, they are trying to raise them to global levels, and so everything linked with this instantly gets more expensive.
Action is being taken now to curb prices on these basic goods, which includes construction goods. I hope this will affect you as well. We know all this and are taking the necessary steps to keep the situation stable.
By the way, maybe this is worth considering: are you selling your flat or are you keeping it?
Svetlana Mironova: We would like to keep it, of course.
Vladimir Putin: For those who are selling their flats, people have probably noticed this, but I would still like to repeat once again. I recently talked about this at the United Russia congress: if a person sells a flat within five years and buys a new one, he has to pay personal income tax. Considering growing housing prices, people were losing a fair amount of money. They could have at least made a down payment.
I suggested then that if a person buys a new flat within a year, he should not pay this tax when selling his flat. This may concern you less, but it has a direct bearing on all those who want to improve their housing conditions by selling their old flat and buying a new one. I believe this is how it will be. We will work to stabilise the situation in the construction market as well.
There are a number of other measures, but we will discuss them later. They are related to infrastructure loans, utilities loans and the like, but I believe that together these measures should promote stabilisation in the construction market.
In the meantime, I would like to wish you success. I hope you will manage to carry out your plans. I would like to wish your family and you personally all the best.
Svetlana Mironova: I was happy to see you.
Vladimir Putin: The pleasure is mine.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Thank you, Svetlana.
Mr President, besides our TV viewers, your colleagues in the Government are obviously listening to us.
Vladimir Putin: I am 100 percent sure.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: We just received a message. Tatyana Golikova said that not even 10 percent (you noted that 10 percent of vaccinated people could fall sick after a jab) but more like 2.5 percent could get it again. Whom should we believe?
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Ms Golikova, of course, because she is dealing with this professionally every day. She was the Healthcare Minister and knows what she is talking about.
Nailya Asker-zade: Let us read a question that was texted to us: “Why not have the governors hold direct lines like you do, annually or quarterly? That would reduce the number of questions for the President.”
By the way, heads of some regions, such as Moscow, Tatarstan and St Petersburg, to name a few, are already doing so, mainly through social media.
Vladimir Putin: I think this would do no harm to anyone, because direct communication is important not only because people have the opportunity to ask the head of state or region questions. What is more important – and I have said this many times – is that the most pressing issues that concern our citizens are selected in the process. This is critically important in order to fine tune our practical moves in the most important areas such as social policy, healthcare, housing construction, etc. That is why I would encourage regional leaders, my colleagues, to listen to what our citizens have to say.
Nailya Asker-zade: Occasionally, even simple issues cannot be resolved without the President or the Governor. It happens.
Vladimir Putin: It does. Perhaps, we should strive to make sure that things get addressed automatically, but we still have a long way to go. In any case, this feedback is always very helpful.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Mr President, speaking of feedback, if your colleagues could spend more time talking to the people, they would hear questions, including those coming from small and medium-sized businesses. Clearly, this year is difficult for everyone, and this segment was hit hard, but at the same time it received support. Just several days ago, you instructed the Government to exempt small businesses in the catering sector from VAT.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, but under certain conditions: there must be receipts for everything, so that everything is transparent, not just their services, but there should also be receipts for the goods that they purchase and use in their work and this should be transparent.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Let us hear what the businesspeople have to say about this. Let us hear from Surgut, which has also joined us on this direct line.
Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.
Yekaterina Berezovskaya: Please, you are on the air. Mr Kharlov, can you hear us?
Vladimir Putin: We are listening to you.
Maxim Kharlov: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Maxim.
Maxim Kharlov: Here is my question. As a representative of the business community, I have repeatedly applied for financial support – loans for expanding my business – but the terms offered by the lending institution preclude effective development. The interest rates are high, 18 percent and up, and loan terms are under three years, that is, very short, and they also want collateral. These terms preclude obtaining any effective financial support and prevent the channeling of funds into business expansion and, as a result, the development of entrepreneurs who can become the driving force of our economy.
To be continued.
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