'They are lying all the time!': main points from Vladimir Putin's big press conference
President of Russia — about the war with Ukraine and NATO expansion, torture in prisons and attacks on schools, Covid-19 and new threats to the nation
“Saving the people, which Solzhenitsyn spoke about, is one of the most important tasks!”, Vladimir Putin said, speaking about the consequences of the “war on coronavirus” and the vital task of increasing the population. During the large, 17th press conference, the president of Russia answered 55 questions. The conversation lasted 3 hours and 56 minutes, without breaking the 2008 record (4 hours and 40 minutes). The head of the state touched upon various topics — demographic problems, including future ones, the construction of social facilities, the work of governors, the development of medicine, sports and culture. He stated that he was more interested in the domestic political situation in the country, but questions about geopolitics caused a much more expressive reaction from Putin. The situation with COVID-19 and forced restrictions was still in focus. The press was also interested in the likelihood of a war with Ukraine, torture in the FSIN (Federal Penitentiary Service) system, attacks on schools and much more. Realnoe Vremya presents the main points of the press conference of the head of the state.
Economy during the pandemic
- Answering the first question about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Russian economy, Vladimir Putin noted: “The whole world is being at war, and this war continues, we know about the dangers of Omicron, a new strain. A group of our scientists is visiting the South Africa, where the virus was discovered. Our economy, faced with the challenges of coronavirus infection and the necessary forced restrictions in the economy and social sphere, nevertheless, has turned out to be more mobilised and ready for such shocks than many other developed economies of the world. The decline rate amounted to 3%, which is much lower than the others, and we recovered much faster. GDP growth is expected to be 4,5%. Good indicators in construction — 90 million square metres, for the first time such a result.”
- Russia managed to prevent an increase in the unemployment rate. On the contrary, it has decreased from 4,6% to 4,3%. “This is a good indicator of the work of the economy as a whole, but there are difficulties associated with the labour market," Putin said.
- However, life expectancy has decreased — it was 71,5 years, now it is 70,1.
- Putin: “The results of the economy preserve a very significant export potential for Russia.”
- Salaries are also starting to rise. The growth of real incomes of the population is expected at the level of 3,5%. Inflation will be 8%.
"146 million is absolutely not enough for such a country, we don't have enough workers!”
- “Regarding vaccination, what are our challenges and what are the drivers. I was talking about a decrease in life expectancy and an increase in mortality. In this regard, one of the most important problems, one of the most important tasks that we face is becoming more acute — in the field of demography. Both from the humanitarian point of view and from the geopolitical point of view. 146 million people of the population is absolutely not enough for such a huge country. And from the economic point of view — we don't have enough workers!”
“We have 81 million or so able-bodied citizens. We must seriously increase this figure by 2024! This is one of the factors of economic growth. I'm not talking about the geopolitical component, but about the humanitarian one. Saving the people, which Solzhenitsyn spoke about, is one of the most important tasks and one of the drivers of growth!”
- “The second is the development of infrastructure. We have 500 billion rubles going directly to infrastructure development, then — as part of national projects — more than 400 billion rubles. From the Russian National Wealth Fund — 2,5 trillion was allocated. A whole set of programmes.”
- On the question of why people are having fewer children: “The planning horizon has become minimal. In 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, the planning horizon narrowed to a few days," the Russian leader said.
- The president noted that the authorities intend to support families in order to cope with the demographic problems arising in the post-industrial world.
About preventive measures for refusal of vaccination
- The president said that at the moment the collective immunity of Russians has reached 59,4 percent — this includes those vaccinated and those who have been ill. “But this is not enough, we need a level of immunity under 80 percent — I hope we will reach it at the end of the first or beginning of the second quarter of next year. At the same time, in some countries they are already talking about 90-95 percent," Putin said.
- Putin believes that preventive measures for refusing vaccination against coronavirus are not necessary. “Citizens should patiently and respectfully explain the need for vaccination against coronavirus," the president said. The head of the state also noted that there should be no prosecution for refusing vaccination in the country.
- Vladimir Putin noted that the pandemic was a serious test for the healthcare system, but it managed to survive: “Medical care in the first period of the fight against Covid-19 suffered. It was necessary to repurpose medical institutions for Covid-19 patients — this is the first. The second is to recruit and repurpose doctors to fight the coronavirus. We had to change the routing of patients. Some medical institutions were closed, some stopped for treatment from COVID-19. We managed to summon all our forces. Resources were allocated for post-Covid-19 recovery, 1 million people underwent medical examination. I hope it will expand, all conditions have been created.”
About situation with Ukraine
- Can Russia guarantee that it will not attack Ukraine? “Our actions will depend on the course of negotiations, on ensuring Russia's security. We have made it clear that further movement of NATO to the East is unacceptable. Well, what's not clear here? Are we putting missiles near the borders of the United States? No! It is the United States that has come to our doorstep! They are on the threshold of our house," Putin said.
- On the annexation of Crimea: “How could we refuse Sevastopol and Crimea to take them under our protection? It is impossible, we were simply put in a situation where we could not do otherwise," the president explained.
- According to Putin, military-administrative management in Ukraine and the expulsion of Russians from their historical homeland in the future may lead to the goal of pushing radicals to resolve issues about the Donbass and Crimea by military means. Anf how should Russia live with this? All the time with an eye on what will happen there and when they will attack? This is not our choice, we do not want it," Putin stressed.
- Vladimir Putin noted that the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, had fallen under the influence of radical elements. “How can we build a relationship with today's leadership, taking into account what they are doing? Almost in no way. We would like to work with those forces that would like to build relations with Russia in a neighbourly way," Putin said.
“They are lying all the time”: about gas in Europe
- When asked about Gazprom's accusations of cutting gas supplies: “There is no truth here. It's just an attempt to turn everything upside down. Here's a colleague asking what the West doesn't understand there. They are just lying all the time, so they are throwing dust in the eyes," Putin replied
- According to the president, Gazprom did not book gas for delivery on the Yamal-Europe route because European companies did not submit purchase orders, and also because this route began to be used in reverse mode: gas is supplied from Germany to Poland. “We supply gas to Germany under long-term contracts. The price is 3-4, 6-7 times cheaper than on the spot. Even reselling 1 billion cubic metres of gas, one can earn almost $1 billion. It is a business," Putin said
- Also, according to the president, there is a pipe on the route that connects the Polish and Ukrainian systems: “I have every reason to believe that this gas eventually goes to Ukraine. Both consumers in Europe and in Germany should know what is really going on and, perhaps, contact certain authorities with a request to clarify this position. Instead of submitting to Poland and then to Ukraine, trying to support someone's pants there, it is better to carry out deliveries to Europe and influence spot prices. This is the problem, what does Gazprom have to do with it?" said the president.
- Putin said that Gazprom is not to blame for the rise in gas prices in Europe. “American suppliers have withdrawn a significant amount from the European market — 14 million tonnes, if I'm not mistaken, of liquefied natural gas. And they took them to premium markets: first to Latin America — to Brazil, and then to Asia — China, South Korea, Japan, because they pay more there. The Europeans thought they had premium markets, no, it turned out that in other places. And prices have crept up," Putin said.
“They just brazenly deceived us”: geopolitics
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Western countries had “deceived” Russia by promising not to expand NATO eastward. “It is a security issue. It is not the course of negotiations that is important, the result is important. Not one inch to the east — they told us in the 1990s. And what? They cheated, just brazenly deceived us. We have expressed our concerns every time. No. “Go away with your concerns, we will do what we think is necessary.” As a result — five waves of NATO expansion.”
- About the Union state with Belarus: “The level of integration is much lower than the level of integration in the European Union, incomparably lower," Putin admitted. According to the leader of the state, at the moment it is important to synchronise legislation in the field of economy. In the future, the president admits the possibility of a single currency on the territory of the two countries.
- Putin called China Russia's main strategic partner. According to the president, Western countries cannot restrain the development of the Celestial Empire, and they must realise this. According to him, today, according to purchasing power parity, China's economy is larger than the American one. “Another 35th year will pass there, the 50th, China will inevitably become the first economy in the world by all other indicators. We must understand this," Putin added.
- “Kazakhstan is one of Russia's closest allies, the two countries have unique relations," Putin said. The Russian leader stressed that at the moment, one of the main tasks in bilateral relations is to change the structure of economic ties and work more effectively in the development of digitalisation, genetics, medicine and space.
- About Italy: “Our relations between Italy and Russia have developed, if not as indicative, then as good, stable. Regardless of the forces that lead Italy. We continue what was laid down by Mr. Berlusconi [Silvio]," Putin said.
Kazan is worried about large families, and Ufa is asking for money for the anniversary
- Answering the question of a journalist from Tatarstan about the allocation of land to large families in territories without suitable infrastructure: “We have a lot of money allocated for infrastructure development. It is necessary to fit these needs into the infrastructure development projects of the territories. I will definitely set such task for the government. These 500 billion rubles that have been allocated for infrastructure development, plus another 460 billion within the framework of national projects, must set up so that they do not just implement the money, but solve complex tasks, including providing support for large families.”
- A journalist from Bashkortostan asked about federal funding for the construction of facilities for the upcoming Ufa anniversary in 2024 and invited the president to the celebration. Vladimir Putin noted that before allocating additional resources, it is necessary to properly allocate the available ones. “Thank you very much for your invitation. I will try to come," the head of the state promised. “Ufa is a wonderful place, in the Volga Region — one of the best. Ufa has always been and is one of the centers of the Islamic world in Russia. It is for a reason that we have issued a special document with our colleagues on preparing the city for the anniversary. We will determine with the leadership of the republic what is the priority. Additional resources are not needed here, it is necessary to use those resources that are already allocated for infrastructure development, road and social spheres, culture, and just properly distribute or redistribute so that Ufa holds the anniversary with dignity, beautifully, the way it deserves it. If additional funding is needed, we will allocate additional funds. We will decide with our colleagues from the republic.”
“If we take even Mishustin with us...”
- How the relations between Vladimir Putin and Ded Moroz are developing: “My relations with Ded Moroz have been built in a decent way so far, and I am grateful to him that I can meet with you in the capacity in which I am. I am even more grateful for this to the people of Russia, who entrusted me with this position," the president replied.
- Where would the president like to live in Russia, except Moscow and St. Petersburg? “First of all, I thought about St. Petersburg. This is my home city.” Putin noted that there are many beautiful places in Russia, including Krasnodar, Crimea, Siberia.
- Why don't Putin and Shoygu take Mishustin on vacation with them? “If we take even Mishustin with us... Do you remember the old Jewish joke — and who will stay in the shop? Who will work?" Putin smiled.