Results with president: when Putin will get married, meet with opposition and his attitude to Wagner Group
10 facts from the Big Press Conference of the president of the country
How will the country make a breakthrough with the economy in stagnation? How much have the Russians' incomes grown and how have sanctions helped us? Is there any threat of a nuclear war to the world? Why is Russia augmenting its military presence in Crimea? Is the guarantor's health good? Is he proud of his cook in the Wagner Group? Finally, when will Putin get married? Will he meet with oppositionist leaders in the regions? The president of Russia had a traditional final Big Press Conference on 20 December and answered different questions. Realnoe Vremya brought the most interesting ones together.
Breakthrough and Russians' incomes
Everyone has heard many times Putin to promise Russia a breakthrough. But how to do it if economists and Kudrin think the real economy of the country grows just by 1% a year? In fact, it's stagnation. The president says: ''We need a breakthrough. We need to jump into a new technological paradigm. We need to find resources. We hope for consolidated work of both the federal centre and the regions.''
''GDP grew by 1,7% over 10 months this year. The Ministry of Economic Development forecasts 1,8% this year. Investments in the fixed capital totalled 4,1% for three quarters. A rise in consumer demand is noticeable, of course. It's a positive factor,'' Vladimir Putin noted at the beginning of the press conference.
Later, this data raised questions, and the president explained. For instance, the country's doesn't manage to provide necessary GDP growth pace without changing the structure of the economy. National projects are designed for it. Putin called plans to increase GDP too: 2% a year is expected in 2019-2020, already 3% from 2021 and then more: ''I hope very much we will manage to do it all.''
According to him, the Russians' incomes grow ''insignificantly'', but grow. He also added that real salaries also increased – by 7,4% for 10 months and by about 6,9% a year.
VAT and utility tariffs
Putin also explained the rise in VAT from 1 January 2019: ''VAT is 20% and even higher in many countries. It had been higher in Russia too, we decreased it, so now we're back to 20%. But the so-called effective VAT rate will actually be lower than 20% because we saved almost all benefits: benefits on drug production, benefits on production of goods for kids and so on, many different benefits for IT companies also remained. This is why the effective rate will be lower,'' the president assured but didn't rule out some commodities and services might grow in price at the beginning of the year.
The Russians' utility bill will also become more expensive after VAT next year. Moreover, in two stages: by 1,7% first, then by 2,4%. So the growth is 4,1%. ''Why in two stages? Because growth in prices for services and goods due to the necessity of normal operation of the utility system is expected anyway because of the rise in VAT. This is why it's done not to destroy these organisations, and, in the end, for the citizens, it was decided to do in two stages. But the total volume mustn't exceed the 4,1,'' Putin explained.
''May they not squeak then'', nuclear war and sanctions of the West
Anton Vernitsky doesn't know how to calm his little son down that nuclear war doesn't threaten the world and he asked Putin to do it. The president admitted the threat of such a development of events in the world and complained it's underestimated: ''It seems impossible or something not so important any more. We have to reply to the exit of the USA from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by creating new weapon systems to cope with these anti-ballistic missiles. May they not squeak then that we try to get some advantage, we don't try to get an advantage, we provide our existence.''
For humankind in general, according to the president, it's very bad, it brings us to a dangerous line. Nevertheless, the president assured that ''we will provide our security. We know how to do it.''
It came to sanctions of the West. Vladimir Putin ''inspired hope'' that sanctions had always accompanied the country and, in general, there was nothing to surprise at.
''Russia has lived almost its life, all its history in some restrictions and sanctions anyway, throughout its history, in general. Why? I already said about it and hope that the majority of today's audience also understands that it's linked with growth in Russia's power, increased competitiveness. A powerful, strong player is appearing whom one should respect, but there is no desire. Look at the history of the 19 th, 20th century, always the same things happens,'' Putin explained the logic.
He confidently says the country's economy has already adapted to sanctions. He called the population of the country in the same answer – 160m people, which caused a surprise. The latest data of the Russian Federal Statistics Service says about 146,9m people.
''Your EuroNews channel doesn't twit about it'' and relationship with Ukraine
Vladimir Putin expressed his opinion about the situation in the Kerch Strait when the boats of the Ukrainian Navy were arrested this November. He reminded how Ukrainian military boats had been calmly accompanied by Russian pilots to the Sea of Azov meeting all requirements this year: ''Nobody impeded them, we only helped. This time it was different, it's Poroshenko's provocation during the pre-election campaign. We showed the logbooks that read ''Enter on the sly''. What does it mean? It's unclear what can happen without piloting. Today Kyiv publicly claims it's going to explode this bridge. We, of course, can't allow it. It would be stupid of us, that's it,'' Putin added.
''As for if the provocation was successful or not, from a perspective of increasing the rating of the current president of Ukraine, maybe. Because Mr Poroshenko's rating seems to have increased a bit,'' the president told.
The president is sure officials of Ukraine hoped the militants whom they sent in these boats would die. ''It will become clear what to do with them after the criminal investigation,'' the president added.
As for the arrested crew, Putin reminded that Ukraine is keeping Russian sailors: ''Our sailors were arrested in the common sea, and they are still detained. And your EuroNews doesn't twit about it. As well as about the arrest of our bulk carrier, the whole team is sitting there.''
In answer to the question why Russia was augmenting its military presence in Crimea, Putin reminded the peninsula was part of the country after the referendum: ''In our country, we think we have the right to create our military policy in a way we consider necessary to provide security.''
The transformation of the Church in Ukraine wasn't supported by the president. ''What's going on in Orthodoxy is just mind-boggling, as people say. It's a direct intervention of the state in the church, religious life. There hasn't been such a thing since the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, it's happening now in Ukraine, they created this united splitting church of the Istanbul parish,'' Putin is indignant.
Putin's cook and Wagner Group
Novaya Gazeta remembered Orhan Dzhemal and his colleagues killed in Africa and asked Putin what he knew about their death and the Wagner Group, which is considered to be implicated in the tragedy: ''It's said the businessman who's considered your cook chairs this group. What do you think of private military groups? Do you feel ashamed of this or, on the contrary, are you pride of it?''
''All my cooks are Federal Security Service employees who have different military titles, it's militants, nobody else. If someone wants to label, it's their business. There is a concept ''safe nutrition'', we don't give these functions to anybody. As for the Wagner Group, everything must remain legal. We can ban everything. I think they also come to you asking to protect them. If this group violates something, the Prosecutor General's Office should check them,'' Putin replied.
As for the tragedy, he reminded about other dead journalists, for instance, in southern Ukraine: ''Don't forget them too, please. Your colleagues came as tourists without notifying local authorities. According to the data available today, local groups attacked them. Reliable data isn't available at the moment. The investigation goes on, we control the situation. I express my condolences to both you and relatives of the dead.''
Tortures in prison, Tsepovyaz and reform of Federal Penitentiary Service
There have been many messages about tortures in prison. At the same time, not all prisoners live bad. For instance, Russians were in shock after knowing the luxurious life Tsepovyaz has in the cell. ''Doesn't it seem to you it's time to reform the Federal Penitentiary Service? So it won't be a recreation place for some and a legal medieval place of torture for others. What's going on in the system of the Federal Penitentiary Service now is too much even for our country,'' the president was asked.
The president admitted the situation in prisons left a lot to be desired: ''It goes without saying that the facts we see aren't allowed at all. Any violations of law, moreover, tortures, are crimes that must be punished. By the way, it happens so, including it comes to the surface thanks to the mass media. It's not correct to say we need to break everything down. We need to improve the system, increase the level of civil control, I completely agree with it. We created related commissions that will receive the support of the state and the president. I hope they will also play a positive role when solving these problems.''
Effectiveness of WIP
The topic of garbage disposal and its recycling concerned the journalists too. Vladimir Putin admitted waste incineration plants were needed.
''Some ecologists, for example, as well as some citizens on the spot are against the construction of even waste incineration plants. These plants need to be good and effective not to save money on them, these filters. Recycling and incineration are the most expensive parts of the plants. We need to make everything according to technology and a method,'' Putin says.
Presence of troops in Syria
Vladimir Putin believes US troops aren't needed there. And the president of Russia doesn't believe the USA withdrew them from Syria.
''Is the presence of US troops needed here? I don't think it is. Let's keep in mind their presence isn't legitimate. Our troops are there at the invitation of the government of Syria. As for the withdrawal of American troops, I don't know what it is. For instance, how long has the United States been in Afghanistan? For 17 years. Almost every year they say they withdraw their troops from there,'' Putin replied.
Persecution of musicians and Russians' potential for protests
The president was also asked about why it was needed to cancel concerts of alternative music bands. Answering the question, the president unexpectedly mentioned Timati.
''Rappers also were among my representatives. Timati. Why not? He has all his body full of tattoos. By the way, it's a wonderful person and a great artist,'' Vladimir Putin noted.
Andrey Kolesnikov asked the president how he assessed the latest events in France and the Russians' potential for protests. The Russian leader said he considered necessary to ''provide the citizens'' with the right to express their position in public events, but they must be legal.''
''As for what's happening in France. I think the events there are linked with oil prices, of course. But they likely were a trigger, after which the French's discontent poured out. In my opinion, it's incorrect to assess the actions of authorities of France. What's the difference between us and they in higher oil prices? The French government did it consciously, they did it themselves to redistribute resources, to allocate money on development of alternative energy. People didn't like it. What's happening in Russia: oil prices grew because of growth of oil prices. But the government immediately started to take measures to restrain the prices from growing. They agreed with oil companies to keep the prices. It makes difference. The agreement with oil companies is applied till next March, we will stay tuned for what's going on in the market. Though manually, it worked. We will keep working not to allow the prices to grow,'' he promised.
People couldn't help but ask playful questions. Vladimir Putin was asked when he would get married and to whom.
''He's married and wants me to feel like he does,'' the president replied to the correspondent. ''Okay, let's think I answered to the second question, though I will probably have to do it one day as a decent man.''
The reply made the journalists laugh.