Vladimir Putin: 'If there is gas at mayor's dacha, then there is a pipe nearby'

Whether Russia will introduce a general lockdown, why Ukraine is not an enemy, and why prices for carrots are so high — main points from Russia at Direct Line with Vladimir Putin

Annual Direct Line with the president of Russia has been held for the 18th time and lasted 3 hours and 43 minutes. During this time, Vladimir Putin answered 68 questions. This time, the Russians were most concerned about the topics of mandatory vaccination against COVID-19, the possible introduction of a general lockdown, social payments, household issues, rising food prices, as well as relations with neighbours. The broadcast did not go quite smoothly: the hosts 'slowed down' or, on the contrary, hurried, so the president had to stop them to answer an important question in more detail, the connection was bad. “While there is the direct line, powerful DDOS attacks are going on our digital systems," the presenter said. “Are you kidding? Seriously?" the president reacted and continued the conversation on an important topic. Realnoe Vremya highlighted the main points from the answers of the head of the state.

Covid-19, lockdown, vaccination

  • About mandatory vaccination: “I said that do not support compulsory vaccination and continue to adhere to the same point of view. <...> In the case of morbidity rise, in the case of an epidemic in some regions of the Russian Federation on the recommendation of the chief public health physicians, regional leaders have the right to introduce compulsory vaccination for certain categories of citizens, especially those from at risk.”
  • About the introduction of all-Russian lockdown: “The actions of our colleagues in the ten regions are precisely aimed at preventing the need to introduce a lockdown when entire enterprises are shut down, people find themselves without jobs, without wages, when small and medium-sized entrepreneurs go bankrupt and the incomes of the population fall. To prevent this from happening, such mandatory standards related to vaccination are being introduced in certain regions and for certain categories of citizens.”
  • Why did Putin choose Sputnik V? “The Armed Forces are being vaccinated by Sputnik V, and I am still the Supreme Commander-in-Chief.”
  • Why is there no global conspiracy, but there is a pandemic? “I have heard a lot of things that there is no epidemic — I thought that they are adults, they seem to be educated. That the leaders of the countries conspired. Do you even understand the contradictions in which the world is living? That they gathered and conspired — nonsense!”

A neighbour under external control

  • Why is Ukraine not included in the list of hostile countries? “Because I do not believe that the Ukrainian people are a hostile people to us… I generally believe that Ukrainians and Russians are one people.”
  • What effect is expected from the adoption of the bill on indigenous peoples introduced by the president of Ukraine, where the Russian people is declared non-indigenous on the territory of Ukraine: “Russians in Ukraine will be forced to reregister as Ukrainians not to feel like second-class people. There will be fewer Russians. This is comparable to the effect of using some kind of weapons of mass destruction.”
  • About the possibility of a meeting between the two presidents: “Why meeting with Zelensky if he has given his country under full external control! I do not refuse meetings of this kind, but we just need to think about what to talk about.”

Potatoes going to Ecuador?

  • Why have potatoes become more expensive than bananas? “Covid consequences, job cuts... a rise in food prices is a global trend, it is also affecting us… In general, of course, the state pays attention to this, maybe sometimes not timely.”
  • “We didn't have enough of our own products. Last year, we produced more than 19 million tonnes of potatoes, this year it will be 22 million, maybe this was just not enough.” As a rule, they are imported not from neighbouring regions, but from other countries.”
  • “Vegetables and fruits are still produced in an insufficient volume for domestic consumption. We export a lot. Last year, agriculture earned a record $30 billion from exports.” To stop the growth of prices in the country for bakery products, “a decision was made on export quotas and [new] export customs duties for grain”.

Expensive construction

  • Why does a corrugated iron fence turn out to cost 260,000 rubles? The rise in the price of building materials is associated with the general economic situation. “This is due to inflation, to the rise in price of everything in the consumer market. Our inflation has risen... to almost 6%, and, of course, the task is to suppress it. That's why.
  • “The Central Bank raised the key rate to avoid an excessive supply of money in the economy. I expect that inflation will return to the target indicators, to 4 per cent. This year, we are unlikely to be able to achieve this. But I hope that we will be able to reach the level of 5 per cent.”
  • The reason for the increase in metal prices is the growth of exports: “World prices for metal and sugar have risen — and our producers started to export them abroad.”
  • Indirect compensation of rising costs for those who sell housing to buy a new one: “If a person buys a new apartment within one year, I suggested not paying tax on the sale of an apartment.”

Banks, fraudsters, and loans

  • High interest rates and short loan terms, mandatory collateral do not help microbusiness to get funds for development. “In the conditions of the pandemic, small and medium-sized businesses have suffered the most... In order to organise unsecured work, this is a subtle thing… This can undermine our banking system...”
  • Phone scammers rob old people. “I don't even want to comment, they are just scum, and, of course, we need to fight this. The increase in crimes under this article is significant — 25 per cent… The first thing that creates an unfavourable background and contributes to the growth of these crimes is the illegal turnover of personal data.” The task of the Central Bank and law enforcement agencies is to establish the process of exchanging information about suspicious transactions.
  • How to solve the problem with loans that people with salaries of 12,500 take out of despair? “A bill was passed, and I signed it, according to which, if a person remains with an amount below the subsistence minimum, money cannot be withdrawn from him, including on loans.”

“It's not like we came to them… They came to our borders”

  • Were we on the verge of the third world war? “I don't think so… This, of course, is a provocation, it is absolutely obvious. First, it was comprehensive and was conducted not only by the British, but also by the Americans… The second is the political component: a meeting has just taken place in Geneva… Even if we had sunk this ship, the world would still not have stood on the brink of the third world war. Those who do this know that they cannot emerge victorious from this war.”
  • “I am concerned not about this and not that someone does not respect the choice of the Crimeans... I am concerned about something else — a more fundamental thing, namely the military development of the Ukrainian territory that directly borders us. This creates significant security problems for us. This concerns the vital interests of the Russian Federation and the people of Russia.”

Network, open your legal face!

  • The Russian authorities do not plan to block foreign social networks. “No, we have no such plans. We are not going to block anyone. We are going to work with them.”
  • How exactly? At the first stage, Russia insists that international platforms open their full-fledged representative offices, legal entities with which it would be possible to at least conduct dialogue. “We tell them: you are distributing child pornography there, or instructions on suicide, or how to make Molotov cocktails, and so on — you must remove it. But they just don't listen to us, they don't even want to hear what we say.”

Do you have gas in your house?

  • “If there is gas at mayor's dacha, then there is a pipe nearby. Then a gas pipe should be laid to your site free of charge.” “Gas pipe must be laid free of charge or at the expense of Gazprom or at the expense of those organisations that manage the gas economy in the republic to your household.”
  • Why did tie-in cost sharply rise after the decision on free pipes? In some regions, it has grown two or three times. “The question is that due to an increase in prices for some types of products, including metal, there is a rise in price. Secondly, they turn to different companies that are really starting to inflate the cost of work. The government is currently developing a model contract so that there is no unjustified overestimation of prices.”
  • The law on the “last mile” has not affected the gardeners' non-commercial partnerships. “There are such partnerships that exist inside settlements — a pipe must be laid to their border for free. In 77 subjects of the Russian Federation, where there is a centralised gas supply, gardeners' non-commercial partnerships must be provided with gas until 2024-2025.”

Regions will have curators in the government

  • The curatorial practice that exists in relation to the Far East, the Arctic, and the North Caucasus has justified itself. This practice makes it possible to bring the meaning of the decisions made in Moscow to the regions faster and more accurately. “The prime minister will present proposals so that deputy prime ministers are engaged in the supervision of certain territories.”

Water shortage problem, water in the water pipes is of poor quality

  • Complaints about dirty water flowing from taps were received from Pskov Oblast, Penza Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, and other Russian regions. “Everyone is well aware that local, municipal, and regional authorities try not to make decisions related to tariff increases… This is a very difficult decision. Hence the underfunding of the industry itself, untimely repair of pipes. It is very difficult to attract investors.”
  • “Decisions have been made to allocate additional funds — 150 billion directly from the National Welfare Fund and 50 billion from the Dom.RF fund.”

When there will be jobs for everyone in Russia

  • At the age of 51, a woman cannot find a job. Employers refuse candidates of pre-retirement age. “The issue of labour market, the issue of jobs is absolutely fundamental. There is a job — a person feels not just busy — they feel in demand, independent. And this is one of the most important areas that the state should be engaged in.”
  • “Unfortunately, during the pandemic period, unemployment has increased — from 4,6 percent to more than 6, now it is 5,9.”
  • “Difficulties in finding a job is not directly related to the covid consequences.”

A useful ticket from the state

  • “We have been discussing this with the government for several months and we want to call this tool the 'Pushkin Map'. It is meant to provide the opportunity for young people from 14 to 22 years old to attend cultural institutions at the expense of the state.” The programme starts from September 2021. The state will transfer 3,000 rubles to the card, this money can be spent within four months on tickets to museums, theatres, concert and exhibition halls.
  • “I very much hope that young people will take advantage of this new opportunity and will visit not only regional, but also Moscow cultural institutions. Many people want to join the cultural heritage, but they have to save money. In this case, they will have the opportunity to do it at the expense of the state.”

How Putin sees the future of Russia and how he sees his future

  • What does it take to be happy? “You need to feel your importance and have the opportunity for self-realisation.”
  • Where are you going to work after retirement? “Why working after retirement — I can rest and do nothing.”
  • What kind of Russia do you want to pass on to the future generation? “Once, unfortunately, our common fatherland — the Soviet Union — collapsed… It is pointless and impractical to restore the Soviet Union: we may face social issues that cannot be solved and the erosion of state-forming ethnic core... Despite all the losses, Russia remains the largest country in the world and the world's storehouse of various mineral resources. This is our huge advantage. And the main “gold reserve” of the country is people… In the modern world, this is particularly important. We have a respectful attitude to science and education. And we have huge competitive advantages here.”
Inna Serova. Photo: kremlin.ru

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