Putin in Kazan: ''We can’t delay solving people's problems''

A long conversation with social activists, a warning to developers of green spaces and possible concessions to equity construction

Vladimir Putin's visit to Kazan began with a meeting with social activists and a discussion of the execution of Housing and Urban Environment national project. The problem of hoodwinked investors, a new waste disposal system and the development of urban environment became key topics of the dialogue. Moreover, the head of the country met with KAMAZ-Master team and congratulated it on its recent victory in Dakar. Later he had an extended panel session of the Russian State Council on improving living conditions of citizens and creating a pleasant urban environment and, in the end, a working meeting with Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov. Realnoe Vremya tells the details about the tasks the Russian leader gave in the republic and if residents of Tatarstan were satisfied with his replies.

How Fishman went to bat for towns

Putin's discussion with social activists was in Moscow culture and sports centre (former Uritsky House of Culture). In the beginning, Putin claimed it was opening a series of such meetings with the public on execution of national projects. The conversation in Kazan was dedicated to Housing and Urban Environment project. Before the talk began, the president was shown the upgraded centre. It's a pilot project to transform Soviet houses of culture into multifunctional culture centres for creative, intellectual and physical education of children and adults. The Moscow centre has a concert hall and a gym, dance classes (one of which Putin visited while children were in class), rooms for singing, drawing, a conference hall and co-working have opened. Putin was accompanied by Plenipotentiary Ambassador in Volga Federal Okrug Igor Komarov, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, while the Tatarstan president's aide Natalia Fishman was giving explanations.

''I think Kazan was correctly put as an example to other regions when working on public spaces. In addition, I heard Mr Putin saying a very important reassurance for me because I was concerned about discussions in the government on this issue, if towns should be divested of funding, and that it should be prohibited spending money from federal programmes. I drew the president's attention to the fact that it's a very important issue for towns. If parks in a big city compete with a shopping mall, a cinema, in towns, it's hard to overestimate the importance of such public spaces. He replied he wasn't aware of such discussions and promised, of course, that wouldn't happen,'' Natalia Fishman told Realnoe Vremya after the meeting.

''I think Kazan was correctly put as an example to other regions when working with public spaces.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

The park chief was also glad that the president noted how important it was to augment the number of educational programmes to train young architects: ''Because big money is spent on improvement, but if there are no smart specialists, it's spent incompetently, and we get bad vibes instead of good.'' In the talk with the president, Fishman met with support to go on holding the Youth Architectural Biennale, the forum will become regular. In addition, she expressed hope the work on a republican cancer treatment centre would continue (later in a discussion with Putin, her employee Anastasiya Yeryomenko would offer to create more positive design of the clinic for patients with cancer).

''This problem didn't arise on its own, not because there are many swindlers''

Switching to a dialogue with the social activists, Putin delivered a brief speech about the development of national projects that have ''a very big amount of money'' and ''everything should work like a charm''. Moreover, the major volume of the work will be done in the country's regions. For this reason, it's important to arrange joint work between the federal centre, regions, municipalities, social activists, businesses and the professional community. The president noted the significance of Housing and Urban Environment project, which has many complications and at times contradictory tasks:

''Why? Because we need to solve one of the fundamental problems linked with so-called hoodwinked investors. But this problem didn't arise on its own, not because there are many swindlers but also because the state hasn't so far regulated this sphere in a civilised way.''

The president noted the significance of Housing and Environment project, which has many complicated and at times contradictory tasks. Photo: kremlin.ru

To solve the problem, Russian authorities, according to him, ''have to make decisions that formally restrict the work in this sector of the economy, create certain complications to the transition to banking support and banking financing, to cut off attracting people's money and not to create conditions to deceive people''.

Everything is fraught with many complications and financial loads. On the one hand, it's necessary to reach up to 120m square metres of dwellings a year, on the other hand, the restrictions linked with the transitions to a new construction site financing system contract the market, Putin admitted. He urged the social activists to express their ideas and concerns to discuss with colleagues at the panel session of the State Council.

Moderator of the meeting Sergey Kogogin introduced the participants: representatives of public organisations – the All-Russia People's Front, regional offices of OPORA RUSSIA, Business Russia, members of the Civic Chamber, developers and related self-regulatory organisations.

They proceeded to questions, Co-Chairman of the All-Russia People's Front's regional headquarters and Kazan Federal University's Rector Ilshat Gafurov took the floor first. He drew attention to a new waste disposal system and noticed that people's bills for waste disposal had doubled and even tripled in some places since 1 January. Over 700 complaints have been received by the All-Russia People's Front's hotline. Gafurov asked to define the responsibility of regional operators, introduce subsidies for low-income large families due to the new way of calculating the service (not depending on a living area but the number of residents).

In answer, Putin indicated that the waste disposal problem hadn't been paid attention at all for many years and they wouldn't do without social activists' control. He says the problem is ''costly'', requires unity of efforts and citizens, and the state – everyone, but it ''should be done wisely and with the minimal damage, the minimal load on citizens.''

''Generally speaking, the president commented saying that responsible centres were chosen, everything is written down. Part of the problems can be solved at the level of the republic. Though the new waste disposal programme has been launched, I think at the moment it raises many questions, we haven't been prepared for it fully.''

The president told about Yaroslav Oblast where a regional operator did everything in advance, invested both in sites and containers, that's to say, there are positive examples anyway,'' Ilshat Gafurov noted in a talk with Realnoe Vremya.

Ilshat Gafurov noticed that people's bills for waste disposal had doubled and even tripled in some places since 1 January

Vologda's citizen Nadezhda Snigiryova told the president she came to Tatarstan to work with public spaces. The woman complained not all cities ''listened to their citizens and saw the value of it'', which brings to conflicts in city planning. She asked to reconsider legislation so that social activists could make and send their proposals to the Ministry of Construction and a working group of the State Council as well as create a platform with experts where different specialists could consider city planning initiatives. Putin promised to consider the proposals.

125m for aviation legend's museum

Rector of Kazan National Research Technical University named – KAI Albert Gilmutdinov also asked the president a question. He asked to help with the creation of an interactive museum in the Tu-144 plane. The issue, which was almost approved, remained up in the air after the Russian Ministry of Education and Science was divided into two ministries. Moreover, money to reconstruct the museum building to the plane is needed. Mr Putin liked the idea, he promised to have a talk with colleagues. He says they need to go back to the topic of superfast, supersonic passenger planes. As an amazing project has already been implemented in Kazan – the upgraded Tu-160 for Armed Forces – why not make a supersonic passenger plane? The project's price is the only thing the president paid attention to: ''Former Chairman of the USSR Council of Minister Aleksey Kosygin was once asked: 'What's the price of the Tu-144?' He said: 'Only I know it, but I won't say it to anyone'. What am I aiming at? The execution of your project should have a common sense.''

''The president's reply not only inspired hope but fully satisfied both me and our big team. As for the price, indeed, the creation of a plane at that moment, over 60 years ago, was an expensive project for the country. The reason is that the project started to be implemented two years later than its rival, Concorde, which was created jointly by France and Great Britain, did. These two countries certainly invested no less than the USSR, but we began two years later, and the plane took off two months earlier. It's an outstanding victory of our Soviet engineering school, technological idea and so on. This is why it can't be cheap by default because it was the first supersonic passenger plane in the world. As for the museum, its price will be adequate, of course. There won't be big numbers, not to mention astronomical. It's about 125m rubles in total,'' Albert Gilmutdinov commented on the results of the discussion with the president for Realnoe Vremya.

According to him, more than 30m rubles from non-budget money of the university and donations have already been invested in the project from this sum. Moreover, the construction of the building for nearly 40m was approved by the Tatarstan president. In a word, they already have two-thirds, they just need to organise the interactive part of the museum with unique educational complexes.

Albert Gilmutdinov asked to help with the creation of an interactive museum in the Tu-144 plane

''Rustam knows for sure, right?''

Mayor of Innopolis Ruslan Shagaleyev asked the president to help to reduce the concessionary rate for insurance premiums to 7,6% for five years. Otherwise, the constantly growing rate (from 14% in 2017 to 28% in 2019) scares the residents who already account for 86 companies in the smart city, while it could be more. Putin recognised the SEZ's work effective and promised to think.

Representative of Business Russia Artyom Kuznetsov asked if ''building cooperatives could be reanimated''. Mr Putin wasn't against: ''Why not?''

Director General of Audex and member of the Tatarstan Civic Chamber Ayrat Gimadutdinov offered to spread Popular Control project to other regions. Putin supported and noted that ''feedback from people is an extremely important issue'' when performing tasks of Housing and Urban Environment national project and even jokingly admonished the Tatarstan president who was distracted by a talk with a colleague at that moment:

''Rustam knows for sure, right? Mr Minnikhanov, stay focused''. But the Tatarstan president heard everything and promised to share the experience of implementation of Popular Control with other regions.

''Mr Putin was in the mood for work, he was constructive, benevolent and open. He heard out, including those who were at the back of the hall. I liked the format of the meeting: both officials and people with their hot-button issues were here, some problems were solved on the spot, at least, there were given instructions to start work on. I think the conversation was positive and very useful. Of course, a lot of confusion left in equity construction and the transition to escrow accounts, especially with social facilities. Money isn't allocated on these facilities according to new rules, it's unclear at the moment how this problem will be solved, it's up in the air,'' Ayrat Gimadutdinov noted.

As Ayrat Gimadutdinov noted, Mr Putin was in the mood for work, he was constructive, benevolent and open. Photo: tatarstan.ru

''And what a player am I. Perhaps, I will go to a professional hockey league later''

A citizen of Yelabuga asked the president to oblige constructors with conserving historical buildings, make them ''museums where people live''. But Putin considered this an extra load on business, which is waiting for serious changes from 1 July. This is why it would be better to expand the programme supporting historical cities.

A representative of the construction sector – director LSR Andrey Molchanov – was next to take the floor. He started to talk about the transition of equity construction to escrow accounts. According to him, plenty of complications await for developers, and not only in new documentation. According to the new law, developers won't be able to spend investors' money on social infrastructure for a residential complex: kindergartens, schools and so on. Some of the constructors are ready to build at their own expense, but then they at least need support of municipalities – these facilities are to become their property.

Putin agreed that ''nobody should away from solving the problem of hoodwinked investors'' and reminded that 60 banks signed up in the new system, of which 32 opened 600 escrow accounts. This year there will be another 34,000 and more than 220,000 in 2020. The president noted that the efficiency of banks' performance is the problem and also urged not to make constructors' life more difficult by reissuing documents.

One of them continued the topic of hoodwinked investors – Ilgizar Zaripov from Dynamo sports school. The man noted that even if the republic had the Foundation for Support of Investors, abandoned construction sites lack federal financing and asked to help: ''I'm saying to you as a former hockey player – help the hockey player as a hockey player! I will always give you the puck, and you will score a good goal.''

''And what a player am I. Now I'm doing a bit different job. Perhaps, I will go to a professional hockey league later when I have fewer obligations in my current workplace,'' the president joked and reminded there was help from the federal level anyway. In addition, the housing development reform was aimed to warn the appearance of new hoodwinked investors.''

The talk opened a series of such meetings with the public on execution of national projects. Photo: kremlin.ru

Director General of Unistroy company Radik Salimgarayev noticed that the reform will affect not only new facilities but those underway, while the financial model isn't designed for it. The Russian leader assured he understood the developer and the government would have to solve these problems in the short run – additional conditions will be chosen for companies that are already building on old conditions until April not to create problems to their projects. In particular, there are proposals to permit to finish the construction of houses that began with the old rules and provide with certain benefits in the new ones.

''If people's respect disappears, capitals can be consequently lost''

Andrey Medvedev from the regional office of the All-Russia People's Front asked Putin to protect from building in green spaces. As Tatarstan still lacks a corresponding law, and a new plan general of Kazan will be sent for approval in the short run, the city is running a risk: ''We will lose the green shield!'' Medvedev was sure and put several examples when recreational areas became private property for housing development. It seems that the conveyance of a parcel to create a residential complex on the Kazan River bank on Gavrilova Street was meant.

The president agreed and noted that such parcels usually ''fell into hands of owners of companies run by respected and not poor people'', though businesses' task is to make a profit, ''it's no less important to save not only their own capitals but also respect if it's respected people. If people's respect disappears, capitals can be consequently lost – not only those who want such projects but also those who make decisions in this kind of projects should keep it in mind,'' Putin made a meaningful warning.

Director of Business Russia in Chelny Maksim Fyodorov complained that residents of Chelny were a bit overlooked not only in public spaces but also in theatres. There is a decision to build Tatar and Russian drama theatres in Chelny. But if the first case is making progress, there are delays in the second one. ''I want to ask you to complete the construction of the Russian drama theatre simultaneously with the Tatar one,'' Fyodorov asked. And the president assured he would come to an agreement with Mr Minnikhanov on it: ''Rest assured''.

Not everyone managed to ask a question. For instance, Director of Alpari charitable foundation Natalia Gilazeva wanted to ask the president to help her wards – disabled children – to provide them with special bicycles for rehabilitation: ''So that they will get them together with equipment in the federal programme because when a child changes a wheelchair to a bicycle and rides it himself without his mother or helpers, he has remarkable feelings. It would be good if parents had a choice: to take the equipment or the bicycle within the programme on rehabilitation equipment.'' Now Natalia is going to ask the question in a written form and send it to the president's administration. She had a great impression of the talk with the president in general: ''These two hours flew by so fast – no staging. It was very interesting and great that Mr Putin heard out so many speakers.''

''These two hours flew by so fast – no staging. It was very interesting and great that Mr Putin heard out so many speakers,'' says Natalia Gilazeva. Photo: kremlin.ru

Honouring for Dakar winners

From Moscow culture and sports centre the Russian leader headed to a meeting with KAMAZ-Master team. Putin congratulated the athletes who won the 16 th victory in Dakar rally in January 2019. It should be reminded that the crew chaired by Eduard Nikolayev won the fifth stage of the rally, his teammate Dmitry Sotnikov is second. The race was Peru, the route was 5,000 km long, the participants went through 10 stages in total. The Tatarstan team was represented in the race by four new lorries (KAMAZ-43509) equipped with inline six-cylinder engines.

''Many of you know and followed this race in the country and not only in the country. As you are undoubted leaders in this part of the programme, motorsport fans stayed tuned for this worldwide. The failure also made us all get concerned when one crew was pulled out. I don't think it was a fair decision. The decision is likely to be linked with a desire of one of the leaders to simply leave the rally. But your rivals will have a chance to take it out, our Silk Road is ahead. This is why you should always be in shape. As I imagine, it's a team that designs many things itself, makes up, produces,'' Putin noted.

KAMAZ Director General Sergey Kogogin who accompanied him said after the athletes' trials, their ideas would be approved for serial production. ''Great. I congratulate you. Many thanks for this victory, and I wish you new successes. You have a growing generation of good pilots,'' the president noted when saying goodbye.

From Moscow culture and sportы centre the Russian leader headed to a meeting with KAMAZ-Master team. Photo: kremlin.ru

''People should be entrusted with deciding how our cities and settlements should look''

The extended panel session of the State Council to improve living conditions of Russians and create a pleasant urban environment was in Innopolis. It had an updated format – there were created 16 constantly active working groups chaired by regional leaders on the key issue of the social and economic agenda of the country's development.

The Russian leader noted that the sector was going through serious changes, a stage of deep reformation was underway. A new housing financing scheme will come into force from 1 July, which should be safe and not burdensome for citizens. At the same time, higher dynamics of the construction sector, growth of volumes of commissioned dwellings are needed.

''On the one hand, we need to provide volume growth. On the other hand, we need to switch to new forms of the performance of the sector. And they are more complicated, stricter. How should we perform both tasks? To switch to the new forms, which are stricter, and provide growth? It's an uneasy task,'' the president admitted.

He reminded about the programme on rehousing from dilapidated dwellings, which covered over a million people. Now there is a new task – to rehouse in big volumes, that's to say, over two million square metres a year: ''We need to reach this level no later than 2023. We will be able not only to patch but also really renew the country's housing fund only this way.''

The extended panel session of the State Council to improve living conditions of Russians and create a pleasant urban environment was in Innopolis. Photo: kremlin.ru

Then Putin turned to the issue of the transition from equity construction to escrow accounts and drew the government and the Central Bank's attention that it's necessary to clearly coordinate the work with developers and credit institutions, so that the transition would be as smooth as possible. According to him, the business and citizens are afraid that the reform might have a negative impact on integrated development, there will be problems with putting social infrastructure facilities into operation: ''It will be simply hard for developers to deal with it, there will be a shortage of resources because, as you know, it will be prohibited to attract citizens' money to construct social infrastructure according to the new rules.''

Moreover, Putin emphasised the necessity to stimulate such development, which would comply with all requests and the needs of citizens, families with children, old people: ''And nobody needs the so-called outskirts, like our people say, from which it's impossible to get to schools, hospitals, polyclinics and kindergartens!''

Putin also urged to provide the full implementation of existing over a million co-investment agreements and protect rights of hoodwinked investors' who lost both dwellings and savings because of dishonest companies who had nothing but debts:

''I'm saying to heads of regions of the Federation: undoubtedly, we can't delay solving people's problems. They wait for timely, active and effective actions from you. There is a successful experience of such a job, including here, in Tatarstan. We should learn this experience.''

The head of the country paid attention to the situation in the mortgage market were rates began to grow – already 11% on average across the country. Putin expressed hope that the forecasts that it's a short-term effect would come true: ''Nowadays there is no foundation to think in another way. We need to stay tuned for it and stimulate the market in a due way.'' At the same time, not always rates grew reasonably: 'Actually, there is no reason for a sudden rise. As I said, we need to carefully look at it and react properly and on time.''

Putin emphasised the necessity to stimulate such development, which would comply with all requests and needs of citizens, families with children, old people. Photo: kremlin.ru

The Russian leader said over 30,000 public spaces – parks, squares, embankments, walking areas – would be renewed in the next six years. He urged to base on the best world and their own experience, including the experience of Moscow and Kazan, asked not to forget the outskirts, dormitory towns should also be provided with public spaces:

''Most importantly, citizens themselves should participate in the creation of an urban environment. Right people should be entrusted with deciding how our cities and settlements should look.''

The panel session of the Russian State Council was behind closed doors, while after that Vladimir Putin had a working meeting with Rustam Minnikhanov and gave the green light to the beginning of industrial production of benzenes at TANECO refinery in Nizhnekamsk via teleconference.

By Vasilya Shirshova