23 february 2011

Vladimir Putin meets with members of the public at the Kaliningrad community liaison office of the United Russia party


Transcript of the conversation:

Vladimir Putin: What a team has come!

Alexander Gvardis: Good afternoon.

Vladimir Putin: Hello!

Alexander Gvardis: Mr Putin, I am the general manager of the Baltika football club. This is our Kaliningrad team, which plays in the top division. I also head the bid committee for Kaliningrad established a year ago for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Vladimir Putin: Who’s your coach?

Alexander Gvardis: Baltika’s coach, you mean? Sergei Frantsev. We’ve had some changes in the club this year. I became a manager a month ago.

Vladimir Putin: Is it a private club? 

Alexander Gvardis: No, it belongs to the city and the region on a fifty-fifty arrangement.

Vladimir Putin: Are these your best players?

Alexander Gvardis: Not yet! These are our students. These children are eager to play football, and they do all right. We have come to make a request. We think Kaliningrad can host some of the World Cup matches  to be held in Russia. We are doing a lot for it. And the boys want to speak up. Please let them say what they are preparing for.

Vladimir Putin: So these are your cheerleaders, right?

Alexander Gvardis: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Speak up, kids.

Response: Mr Putin, we will have greater opportunities if Kaliningrad hosts the World Cup, and we will work to get to the national team.

Vladimir Putin: How old are you?

Response: Twelve.

Vladimir Putin: And what’s your name?

Response: Zhenya.

Vladimir Putin: And yours?

Response: Nikita.

Vladimir Putin: How long have you been playing?

Response: For four years now.

Vladimir Putin: How are your training and competitions arranged? Do they have proper teams?

Alexander Gvardis: Yes, we have a youth sports academy with coaches, and they form teams according to age. The boys grow up at school. We play and travel a lot. The kids visit other Russian cities and even go abroad. The school takes part in junior national championships for various age groups. We participate in all competitions in the Baltic countries, and have close contacts with Poland and Germany. The boys recently visited Britain and played with British teams. Everything is okay, in general. But to tell you the truth, our sport facilities leave much to be desired. Kaliningrad’s first football field with artificial turf  will be ready this year – in May, to be precise. We didn’t have any before.

Vladimir Putin: Who is responsible for its construction? The ministry?

Alexander Gvardis: Yes, with federal funding. We are grateful to the regional administration for helping us – but still, we would like you to support us. Thirteen cities are racing to host the 2018 World Cup. Five of them will drop out. We would like to be among the other eight.

Vladimir Putin: Yes,  there are 13 cities being considered. A FIFA expert group will come to make final recommendations on the venues that FIFA finds the best for developing the relevant facilities and hosting the World Cup. They are all well-known cities, and I think local experts know everything there is to know about them, too. Kaliningrad really has infrastructure problems, but then, perhaps that is why it deserves special attention – I also mean due to its main specifics.

Your city needs a stadium with seating for at least 45,000. The question is whether it will be used to full capacity later. If you, as club manager, vouch for your team to make a good showing, if you promise to bring up a new generation of players and if you are sure the city will really use the stadium, for our part, we will do everything to keep Kaliningrad on the list of bidders to host 2018 World Cup matches. Then, the stadium will be certainly built.

Alexander Gvardis: Thanks a lot. You see, a FIFA commission has been here already. I myself received them, and showed them around the city. They liked it very much, and they also approved of the position of the Kaliningrad Region because FIFA wants as many middle and low-income people as possible to visit World Cup games.

FIFA experts say the Kaliningrad Region suits them because people from Poland and the other Baltic countries within the 2,000 kilometre range can come by car, buy tickets and attend matches.

You  mentioned the problem of large stadiums and their later use. We have thought about this. If we build a stadium for 45,000, while we need one seating only 25,000, we can later remove the excess benches as the stadium design envisages 20,000 portable seats. Then, the stadium will be located in  Kaliningrad’s park belt.

Vladimir Putin: It’s in an island, if I am not mistaken? 

Alexander Gvardis: Right. It’s a 20 or 25-minute walk from the city centre – a pleasure in fair weather. The stadium will be in a large park,  which is also accessible by riverboat. See, we have given thought to everything! Besides, it will be not a mere stadium but a recreation centre with shops, restaurants, parking lots, driveways, and so on… We have a comprehensive plan for it.

Vladimir Putin: As you know, there was a long battle for the right to host the World Cup. Russia won in a fair and absolutely equal competition, and we want to use the games mainly for the development of the transport, social and sport infrastructure.

In this sense, a better venue than Kaliningrad can hardly be found, especially considering the benefits you mentioned. The city is close to Europe’s centre. It is easy to get here from Poland, Germany and the other Baltic countries. So we will work together for Kaliningrad to be among the World Cup hosts.

Alexander Gvardis: Thank you very much!


Vasily Bykov: Mr Putin, I am a businessman. We are a young company and we have to travel often, to Lithuania and Poland. We’ve run into some problems. I will explain based on my personal experience.

Vladimir Putin: What’s your business?

Vasily Bykov: We make payment modules, you know, for coin-operated copiers. We ensure that all pieces of equipment are interconnected and anyone..

Vladimir Putin: Do you mean purely intellectual products?

Vasily Bykov: Mainly. We need to bring these things together. Our programmers are in Lithuania and the cases are manufactured here. It appears that we need a small company there, because the corporation cannot just operate here and resolve all the visa problems. So, I travel to Lithuania, and everything works out all right. However, last year I needed to go to Poland, but, out of the blue, they sent me to the Polish consulate and wouldn’t give me a Lithuanian visa. So I went to the Polish consulate and they told me that I needed to obtain a Lithuanian visa too. I had to invent all sorts of schemes and ask for private invitations only to have access to my partners. It would be OK if I had to spend one day. But it takes weeks. When you queue up for one consulate, be prepared for three weeks of waiting, and another consulate will take you another three weeks, and so on. I lose time and money too. There are many other similar companies – small private companies that often need to travel, and they want everything done quickly. They need a simple solution to this problem. What options do we have? We are told we could meet within the 50-kilometre zone without any visas. But Kaunas and Klaipeda are 60 or 70 kilometres away, and in Poland, Gdansk is 70 kilometres away from the border, and Kaliningrad is 60 kilometres from the border. So, I can’t go there. We heard that these visa problems would be resolved soon. But I have an idea on how to accelerate the process. It would be good to draw a border around Brussels so that all who work there would get a feel of what it’s like to be in Kaliningrad. I am sure they would promptly realise it is a big problem. As it is, they don’t really care. What’s Kaliningrad to them? Nobody ever goes there. But the thing is, nobody goes because it requires a visa. My partners would also want to visit me more often, but each trip costs 35 euros.

Vladimir Putin: 35 to 70 euros.

Vasily Bykov: Yes. Travel agents add their own charges, and one project requires about 10 trips. A long-term visa is out of the question of course.

Vladimir Putin: You know our position. We have called for visa-free travel to the EU, and many of our European partners support Russia on this issue. But such issues can only be resolved on a reciprocal basis. This is the most frequent, or rather the only, internationally accepted practice. We are ready for it in Russia, but the European Union… It has 27 members who make decisions on such issues. Some of them agree, while others don’t. This process is very complicated although they are interested in visa-free travel too.

You said things would get going if a border is drawn around Brussels and its surroundings. But this isn’t so. I recently visited Germany and met with local business leaders in Berlin. They have the same problems. They also find it complicated and expensive to apply for a Russian visa every time they need to travel here. This is a concern for the business communities on both sides of the border.

Unfortunately, it does not depend on us alone. We need to work with our partners. What could we do for you now? There is one small step we could probably make soon enough. You just mentioned the 50-kilometre zone along the border. This rule applies everywhere in the European Union. And what’s worse, the distance you travel in Russia’s territory also counts. I mean, here’s Kaliningrad, and there’s Lithuania and there’s Poland. People from different parts of the Kaliningrad Region have different limitations on their travel. Some are only allowed to go to Lithuania, and some to Poland, and there are others who can’t go anywhere at all. Therefore, we are currently negotiating some small changes with our partners. First, we would like to extend equal travel opportunities to all residents of the exclave. Second, we would like them to be able to travel to an area in Europe which is equal to the area of the Kaliningrad Region itself. With Lithuania, it would be one-third of the country. That’s good enough. People would also be able to visit a substantial part of Poland. It will be easier for you to meet your partners there. Our Polish partners share this approach and support us.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry is currently in talks with Lithuania and the European Commission. I will attend the government’s meeting with the European Commission tomorrow. We will discuss these issues there. We will start making progress.

Vasily Bykov: It would be great if this problem were finally resolved. We can’t wait. It was so easy three years ago before Lithuania and Poland joined the EU. This was four or five years…

Vladimir Putin: And the whole process was free of charge.

Vasily Bykov: It was. We had passport supplements and we could go anywhere we wanted, but now it’s all a lot of trouble…

Vladimir Putin: They were in the EU, but not part of the Schengen zone. The rules have changed for them since they joined the Schengen Agreement. But I think what we are proposing could make things easier.

Vasily Bykov: Certainly. And, if that could be extended to the whole of Poland and Lithuania and the Kaliningrad Region, so that we could…

Vladimir Putin: Well, the ideal solution would be visa-free travel of course.

Vasily Bykov: An ideal solution, yes.

Vladimir Putin: We are working toward it. How large are your company’s sales?

Vasily Bykov: Around 500,000 roubles per month.

Vladimir Putin: How many employees do you have?

Vasily Bykov: Six.

Vladimir Putin: Is your company entitled to the privilege for small businesses that provides an easier transitional period for increasing the unified social tax?

Vasily Bykov: No it isn’t.

Vladimir Putin: But why? It’s a production company, isn’t it?

Vasily Bykov: We still need to prove that.

Vladimir Putin: But you could enjoy a significant tax benefit. What’s wrong with proving anything? Just go and complete the formalities. Nearly all production companies – and yours is a small production company – ought to use this easy transitional period when social insurance premiums rise. Why lose money?

Vasily Bykov: You’re right. We’ll do that. Thank you very much.


Yevgeny Mukhin: Happy Defenders of the Fatherland Day.

Vladimir Putin: And the same to you.

Yevgeny Mukhin: Thank you. I know that you absolutely do not have enough time, so I will briefly state only the basic facts.

I am the captain of a ship and have worked all my life only in the fishing industry in Kaliningrad, since 1950. The fishing industry here in Kaliningrad, in contrast to other regions where it has evolved over the centuries, formed over three years. That's why people who came here are almost all at the same age. We started by fishing in mid-size trawlers, one of which remains, moored near the Yunost sports complex.

Vladimir Putin: And which country made the trawler?

Yevgeny Mukhin: It is of German manufacture; Germany built it for us as part of reparations. But for us it was a dream, not a ship. Very seaworthy with a 23-24 man crew, and we took it the North Atlantic, to Iceland, Norway, Greenland and fished for herring with nets. No one else fished for herring with nets, just us. It was hard labour. It is not hard to imagine – three kilometres of netting, with all of the fishermen pulling it in by hand. It was the navigators' or the captain's duty to keep up with the netting, regardless of the weather – we worked in winds of up to force eight. And I don't even want to remember how the poor things dragged it all in. Especially now. At the time, it seemed a matter of course.

Everything got better. Large freezer trawlers were built, other fishing areas were opened, and the herring were almost depleted, and we made the transition to large ships. It was all natural, and we continued to build up the fishing fleet. We went to Chile, Antarctica, north of Greenland, to the Arctic, where the ice would not allow us to go any farther. We fished everywhere and delivered the catches to Kaliningrad. One million tonnes in 1978! We have a monument to the ocean-fishing fishermen reminding us of those heroic times. There's an entire complex there, with  beautiful sails and one mid-sized trawler as a monument. Well, it would be good if you visited it on the way, and took a look at it... We also put a monument there to St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Vladimir Putin: This is somewhere in the city centre?

Yevgeny Mukhin: Yes, near the elevated bridge – down below.

So it came to be that the fishing fleet is growing – transport ships, factory ships, tankers... The fleet is improving and so are we. And everything is evolving quickly.

This here (shows photo) is the Bay of Finland. I worked on board this ship for 12 years, took command of it in France – an excellent ship, with room for 8,000 tonnes of cargo!

And the fishing industry worked like clockwork. The transport ships ran as our trams never have. Our children finished a specialized school and came to work with us in the fishing fleet. Entire families. I have five sea captains in my family. And my son has already been a captain for 15 years. Then came perestroika – and everything collapsed. For two or three years, all vessels...

Vladimir Putin: What, they were “perestroika-ised”?

Yevgeny Mukhin: Yes... Enterprising folks pilfered them. Where they could store so much iron, I do not know... Young people went to work for the capitalists, and I and others like myself – did not. We stayed in Kaliningrad and looked for other work, somewhere to join in. At the time, of course, it was a difficult time for pensions, and we were all just under age of 70 or over 70 – most of the fishermen. I can honestly say that, when you came to power, things started to pick up and pensions were set. Then we counted, and it turned out that our pensions were very small, with no differences for a sailor, a cleaner, laundry worker, a captain or a chief engineer, who had dedicated his entire life to working on these fishing-industry vessels, who carried and built up the fishing industry and was already involuntarily put out of the business. Then we started to think – why?

Vladimir Putin: Well, this was the imperfect initial pension system – with its levelling.

Yevgeny Mukhin: It still exists today.

Vladimir Putin: Nevertheless, there is a certain consideration of  the number of years of service.

Yevgeny Mukhin: It is so small as to be unnoticeable... My old crew meets up with me and says, “Do you remember, Mr Mukhin, you spoke from the podium to say that you wanted us to get the same amount of money as you, a captain, did? So now we get the same amount.” Yes, let them get money, we are only happy that they do, but we also somehow need a raise, and not only us, they do too.

So what happened? We have the following pension ratios – for residents of Murmansk it is 1.4, for us, in Kaaliningrad,  it is 1.2.

Vladimir Putin: From 1.4 to 1.7 – 1.9 even.

Yevgeny Mukhin: We worked with them in the same area, they worked alongside us the entire time, from the North Atlantic to Antarctica, we were always together. And when it came time to pay... I do not want to point a finger at them: Oh, there's Murmansk, they have a northern premium. For God's sake, let them get this northern premium, nobody cares. But in terms of the fishing areas, where we have earned our pensions, it would be fair to pay according to where we earn it. And now we cannot prove this. The only opportunity is my employment record book, where it says that I was on such-and-such a ship; therefore, the vessel operated in such and such areas. There is no other evidence. The pension department said, “Bring your documentation, we'll pay out 1.2.”

First of all, we won't be able to obtain documentation, and secondly, we cannot prove it. And now we turn to you – and we have about 7,200 such people – this is according to the number of applications and the estimates of our local social development minister – so that you can help us with this issue. And we need about 25 million – 27 million roubles per year, in order to meet the need; in other words, to make a fair payment of pensions for this group of 7,000 people. They include all the seamen, fishermen and rivermen... A total of 7,204 of people. This can only be established using employment record books. We cannot get any other such evidence elsewhere. This will give everyone somewhere between 1,700-2,000 roubles extra for their labour.

Many have long since passed away, weren't around long enough. But some people are still alive.

Vladimir Putin: Understood. What is your name?

Yevgeny Mukhin: Yevgeny Mukhin.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Mukhin, you are nevertheless probably aware that I consider it my duty to say a few words about how this procedure and payments are organised. We have these supplements to pensions – from 1.4 to 1.9 – calculated for the citizens who lived and worked on land, and for seamen according to the place of their ships' registration, so this is a problem for seamen in Kaliningrad and the Leningrad Region. By the way, it has also come up in relation to some river vessels.

We must, of course, calculate everything properly, so that justice is done. I will issue such instructions to the Social Development and Health Ministry. This is, of course, not a huge amount of money for the state, but it could be a great help for the people. But we need to do it in a way that is really socially responsible and fair in relation to other categories of people.

Yevgeny Mukhin: Yes. We're talking only about the group of people in Kaliningrad.

Vladimir Putin: It is the same in the Leningrad Region. There, too, you have river boats – those which travelled north to the Arctic Ocean. It is, apparently, a matter of the Siberian rivers, which run at high latitudes. We are trying to do this, and trying to do it as quickly as possible. I’d like to repeat – I'll issue such instructions to the Ministry of Health and Social Development literally next week.

Yevgeny Mukhin: We wrote a book called “On the Crest of a Wave” because we spent our entire lives on the crest of a wave.

Vladimir Putin: Understood.

Yevgeny Mukhin: We were always at the forefront of the evolution of the fishing-industry fleet. So let it remain with you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much... Mr Mukhin, we will resolve this issue.  It is a matter of doing it correctly and thoroughly. The fact that we will resolve it – of that I have no doubt.


Maxim Lymarev: Chairman of the partnership of housing owners Ostrov. We have a problem, which is universal, in fact, rather than personal. I live in a small three-room flat with my family. It’s not an upscale apartment, the building is not new, but the monthly payments are…  

Vladimir Putin: Was it built during Soviet times?

Maxim Lymarev: Yes, in 1989. We have to pay more than 7,000 roubles a month. This is a lot of money for the average family in Kaliningrad.

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Maxim Lymarev: The services of companies supplying resources became more expensive in January. Though, the growth was not significant. In fact, the managing company is responsible for this, since it does not deal with issues of energy efficiency.   

We pay a lot of money for these services, and we expect them to provide quality services. But unfortunately, that does not happen, the managing company is not dealing with energy efficiency, nor is anybody else. They aren’t saving our money, instead of developing housing they invest the money in their personnel, thus we have no idea how the money is spent; their expenditure scheme is not transparent at all. We have seen no annual reports, which are mandatory. I believe that, besides us, most residents and owners are not satisfied with this as well.  In fact, I believe the managing companies are content with the buildings having low energy efficiency. Bills for using electricity in public places are an example of this. The system for calculating the bills is non-transparent, unclear and the residents do not understand it and refuse to pay the bills. This results in social tensions.

Apart from this, the managing companies do not fulfill their obligations on managing apartment buildings. I will explain what I am talking about. Every managing company has to conduct technical examinations of its buildings: it should detect malfunctions, tell the residents about them and propose measures to address them. Such examinations must be conducted once a year, at least. But it does not happen at all, and the technical state of the buildings becomes worthless. For instance, they erect elevators, but they don’t work, they install fire alarms – the result is the same. The dry risers have no water, the pipes and the roof are both leaking. And no one in the managing company deals with it. It is evident that the inhabitation of such buildings is not safe. That’s why we, owners of our building’s flats and owners of the adjacent multi-storey building, established the partnership of housing owners, because we did not want to sit and wait for something to happen. We registered the partnership and sent a notification to our managing company that we changed the way of managing our building and required that they  give us the technical documentation, which allows for the management of a building. We won’t be able to manage the building without it. But the company has refused to do it.

Six months have passed, but the result is the same, because there is a loophole in the federal legislation. It has no mechanism on the transfer of a building from one managing company to another one. It is not prescribed in the legislation at all.

Vladimir Putin: And can’t you terminate the agreement with the company?

Maxim Lymarev: It is not that easy, unfortunately. The required documentation procedure is not described. The managing company knows this and takes advantage of it, thus does not give the documents for many months. The municipal authorities have no way to directly leverage the situation, and they cannot help to solve the issue.

Vladimir Putin: That’s the first time I have heard of anything like that.

Maxim Lymarev: The managing company knows that the issue can be solved either in court or through good personal relations. In general, everything ends this way. 

Vladimir Putin: And you can’t terminate the agreement and conclude it with other companies?

Maxim Lymarev: Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. That’s why I’m asking you, if it is possible, to amend the legislation or, at least, to adopt a resolution that would introduce a simplified procedure for transferring the house from one managing company to another. That’s very important. I am not speaking on my behalf, I’ve spoken with many experts dealing with this issue, and they know all problems, but we can’t do anything about them.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Lymarev, I guarantee that I will deal with it. I promise. And I consider this very important. I have never encountered this problem before. I believed that that there were a number of resolutions, which, inter alia, provided for increased transparency in managing companies’ activities.  You must know about the government resolution (which was adopted), under which the managing company has to disclose the structure of its expenses and make it available on the Internet and, of course, send it to the housing owners. The partnership of housing owners must be given all information, and if it does not happen you have the right to terminate the agreement… But I thought this was simple to do.

Maxim Lymarev: I’d like to request you to prescribe the mechanism, the corresponding documentation procedure. The procedure for terminating an agreement should be described in detail, as well as the responsibility of the managing companies for illegally delaying the transfer of documents. For instance, if the company used the house illegally for four, five and six months, got the payments but then transferred the documents under a court order it will bear no punishment. And another example, if the partnership of housing owners does not carry out its right to manage the building one year after its first meeting, it will lose this right. I think this discredits the entire system of partnerships and not only them. It is extremely difficult to change one managing company for another through legal means. 

Vladimir Putin: We will definitely get down to this. Thank you for expressing your concerns. Unfortunately, the ministry doesn’t always see… 

Maxim Lymarev: Because the perspective is different from the bottom.

Vladimir Putin: Well they see, maybe. But those who are interested in prolonging such situations, I mean the managing companies, find a loophole to get around the law.

It is a well-known formula: thousands of people create the law, while millions scheme to get around it. And that’s why they always find some loopholes.

What about the transition? Does the municipality have any particular rights? Or do you believe that even the municipality does not have enough rights?

Maxim Lymarev: Here is an example. When we received a refusal, we sent all documents to the district’s administration with a request to handle the issue. The administration’s lawyers studied the issue quickly. They sent the letter to us and the managing company requiring the latter to give all the necessary documents to the partnership. The letter also stated that if they didn’t do it, the dispute would be resolved in court. Three months passed and nothing happened, they cannot do anything, since they have no way to put pressure on them.

Vladimir Putin:  So they did not avoid doing it - they just don’t want to?

Maxim Lymarev: They can’t.

Vladimir Putin: So, you really believe they can’t do anything about it?

Maxim Lymarev: They have no powers. They are ready to do something, but say they can’t do anything.  

Vladimir Putin: We will deal with this. Leave your contacts here, so that we can get in touch with you.

Maxim Lymarev: For our part, we are ready to help as members of the public.  

Vladimir Putin: Experts with the Ministry of Regional Development will get in touch with you, and you can tell them everything in detail.

Maxim Lymarev: Thank you very much!

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Good luck!

Boris Kosenkov: Good afternoon, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: I’d like to wish you a happy holiday.

Boris Kosenkov: Happy holiday. Thank you. 

Vladimir Putin: You are welcome.

Boris Kosenkov: Let me introduce myself. I am the chairman of the Regional Council of War and Labour Veterans of the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies, Boris Kosenkov. I finished my military service in 1992, I was head of the military-political department and deputy commander of the 11th Guards Army. I served in Dresden between 1984 and 1988 as first deputy chief of the political department of the First Guards Tank Army.

Vladimir Putin: Since what year?

Boris Kosenkov: From 1984 till 1988. I walked the same streets and visited the same cultural institutions that you visited many times. 

Vladimir Putin: We were there at the same time.  

Boris Kosenkov: Yes, at the same time. Only you were behind the blind wall of the army staff, on the other side…

Vlaadimir Putin: No, I lived in town.

Boris Kosenkov: You lived in town?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Boris Kosenkov: The problem I want to discuss with you is the low pensions of military veterans. This creates a very tense situation in the veterans’ organisation and even political parties take advantage of it in their election campaigns. I’ll give you a leaflet that was distributed today. Currently, 80% of military veterans have a pension of 7,000-9,000 roubles. That is the same amount and sometimes even less than the labour pension. The junior commanders – warrant officers, midshipmen and sergeants under contract -- are paid between 4,000 and 5,500 roubles. This is not enough to live normally. Municipal workers get 13,000-15,000 roubles when they retire. A colonel gets 9,000 roubles a month after he retires from the armed forces.

Vladimir Putin: The average retirement pension is 8,500 roubles.

Boris Kossenkov: We are aware of that. So, it affects the position of the family. The wife of a military veteran, when she reaches retirement age gets only the social pension because she doesn’t have seniority. They need money for their children’s education and to support them somehow, whereas half of their pension goes to pay utility rates. So, I want to ask you for a favour (I won’t keep you long). Could you tell me by how much the pension will be increased as of January 1, 2012 so that our veterans know? You know, conflicting figures have been mentioned. Kudrin says by 45%, others say by 70% and Krasnaya Zvezda recently wrote that it would double. Could you please clarify this matter?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, the pensions of servicemen fall short of the principles that were followed in former years. According to the latest data, the pensions of about 40% of retired servicemen (perhaps even more) are down to or even below the level of labour pensions.

Boris Kosenkov: Some are even switching to the labour pension. 

Vladimir Putin: I know. That is not right, that is not fair because many family members, wives had no opportunity to work because they moved with their husbands from one military base to another. That is obvious. One of the reasons is that the servicemen’s salaries have been increasing, but not directly, but through various benefits, so that pensions were not increasing.

Boris Kosenkov: The pensions remained at the former level.

Vladimir Putin: Quite right. You know that a substantial raise in military salaries is planned as of January 1, 2012. Military pensions will also be raised substantially, by about 1.5 times, around 70%. The final decision has not yet been taken; the Defence Ministry, the Finance Ministry and other agencies concerned are currently making the calculations. But there will be, at the very least, an increase of 1.5 times. I think that is a big leap from today’s level, of course. And then we will incrementally move towards the parameters (the ministries are doing the numbers) that existed before, I mean the peg to the salaries. I doubt that the Finance Ministry and the Defence Ministry will peg the pensions to salaries at one stroke, considering the sizable increase of servicemen’s salaries. Nevertheless, it will be a considerable increase of military pensions, by at least 1.5 times and eventually the principles for calculating pensions that existed before will be reached. 

Boris Kosenkov: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Have you lived here long?

Boris Kosenkov: Since 1988.

Vladimir Putin: That means you have returned here?

Boris Kosenkov: Yes, I’ve been appointed to this post.

Vladimir Putin: We held a conference today on the provision of housing for servicemen.

Boris Kosenkov: On the whole, the servicemen are pleased with the rate at which housing is being made available, but still we have problems. As you have frequently mentioned, about 2,000 servicemen who retired in the 1990s still do not have their own flats. That is a very pressing problem. 

Vladimir Putin: There are 20,000 such officers in the country at large.

Boris Kosenkov: We have 2,000. 

Vladimir Putin: Exactly one-tenth. Well, we should close that issue in 2012. 

Boris Kosenkov: Thank you very much, and I wish you all the best.

Olga Krasnova: Hello.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Olga Krasnova: My name is Olga Krasnova, I am the chief doctor at the Polesye District Hospital. In an opinion survey taken in the Kaliningrad Region, 80% of the respondents complained about the low standard of medical care in our region. The reason is that the healthcare system has been starved of funds in recent years, the per capita funding through the mandatory medical insurance system has been very low.

Vladimir Putin: It hasn’t been functioning properly.

Olga Krasnova: Yes, in practice 47% of the target was met. That is why the material and technical base of the healthcare system is in a sorry state. Many buildings are in need of an overhaul, not just a facelift. There is an acute shortage of modern medical equipment. We are understaffed, especially in rural areas. I am a doctor at the Polesye District Hospital and I feel the pinch all the time. Naturally, it makes access to medical care more difficult. About three months ago all the clinical and preventative centres began preparing for the healthcare modernisation programme and made a list of their requests. The total sum requested was 5.3 billion roubles, but some reports say the tentative programme will cost 2.8 billion. You see, we are far from mainland Russia and I think 2.8 billion will not suffice. Our patients have to go to Moscow and St Petersburg for treatment. It is, first, inconvenient and, second, many patients cannot afford it. So we would like you to revise the modernisation programme and increase the sum by at least 2 billion.

Vladimir Putin: I see. I am sure you know that in the last five years or so the mortality rate in Kaliningrad dropped by 22% and the birthrate increased by 22%. The death rate among working-age population has dropped by 38%. We just discussed this with the governor today and he told me that a new maternity centre has been built. Is it functioning?

Olga Krasnova: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: And then there is the high-tech medical centre, cardiology centre…

Olga Krasnova: The foundation has been laid.

Vladimir Putin: It is scheduled to open next year if I am not mistaken. That too will be done. Having said that, there are a lot of problems in the healthcare system. People have a good reason to complain about the quality of services. All these years the sector has been underfunded. We are launching the programme you have mentioned, the modernisation of healthcare, which should introduce new standards, and these standards entail increased funding of medical salaries. Quite a decent increase. We should see to it that the distribution of these funds within the system is fair; I’ll make a point of talking with the healthcare minister about it. Are you a regular doctor or a manager?

Olga Krasnova: I am the chief doctor at the district hospital, but I am also a practicing doctor.

Vladimir Putin: So, you must know that the salary of a head of a medical institution may be 80,000 or 90,000-100,000 roubles while a specialist doctor is paid 17,000-19,000 roubles and junior medical personnel get still less, which is why we have a huge shortage of medical personnel. I really hope that when we disburse the money, the distribution within the system, I repeat, will be fair, and that includes pay to the medical personnel. As for the total amount, yes, the federal budget allocates 2.8 billion, and the region is to provide 1.4 billion or so.   

Olga Krasnova: Out of its own budget.

Vladimir Putin: And then the mandatory medical insurance system. A total of more than 10 billion is to be disbursed over two years. Of course, the main funding will come from the federal budget.

I don’t remember the programme, there are many across the country, but I think it provides for the capital repair of dozens of medical institutions and a substantial increase of allocations for the purchase of equipment and personnel training. Let us make a deal. We have 2.8 billion roubles, right?

Olga Krasnova: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: For starters we shall add 700 million to bring it to 3.5 billion roubles. We shall see how well the region is capable of absorbing that money and handling it wisely. The amount may be increased as the programme progresses.

Olga Krasnova: Wonderful. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: All the best to you.

Olga Krasnova: Goodbye.