22 june 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a Government Presidium meeting

Vladimir Putin

At a Government Presidium meeting

“It is our duty to cherish and defend the truth about the war, the priceless experience of allied partnership and genuine heroes, whom time cannot conquer. This is important for all of us, this is essential for the education and moral upbringing of future generations. Support for veterans, the widows of the homeland’s defenders, as well as everyone affected by the war must always be a priority in our work.”

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. Today is June 22, the Day of Memory and Sorrow. The Great Patriotic War, which killed 27 million of our countrymen, began 70 years ago. We bow low before the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. Eternal memory to all those who gave their lives for the homeland, for the people and for our future. (A moment of silence. All stand.) Thank you.

With this in mind, I would like to say the following. Virtually all Russian families have suffered as a result of the Great Patriotic War – World War II. The memory of courage and the heroic feats of our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, pride for the great victory and the pain of irretrievable loss pass on from generation to generation. There is no need to explain why Russian society responds with such anguish to any attempts to falsify history – the history of the Second World War, the Great Patriotic War – and to the desecration of the memory of victors. It is our duty to cherish and defend the truth about the war, the priceless experience of allied partnership and genuine heroes, whom time cannot conquer. This is important for all of us, this is essential for the education and moral upbringing of future generations. Support for veterans, the widows of the homeland’s defenders, as well as everyone affected by the war must always be a priority in our work. 

I would like to draw attention to one more circumstance. We must realise that attempts to distort history may have extremely serious consequences. In effect, the key principles of the contemporary world order may be put in doubt. This conceals very dangerous threats fraught with unpredictable consequences. The Russian state and our civil society must voice a firm, consistent and principled stance on such issues. This is how we will conduct ourselves.

Let’s move on to the agenda for our work today. First, let’s exchange urgent information. I would like Transport Minister Igor Levitin to report on all the circumstances of the June 20 plane crash, which claimed many lives. One more crash victim died last night, correct?

Igor Levitin: Good afternoon. A Tupolev Tu-134 airliner operated by the carrier Rusair crashed in Petrozavodsk at 11:40 p.m. on June 20, while completing a regular flight from Moscow. There were 52 people onboard, including 43 passengers. There were four foreign nationals among the passengers. I would like to note that the aircraft was landing at night in adverse weather conditions. Preliminary reports indicate that the plane hit trees near the inner homing beacon located about a thousand metres from the runway and 200 metres to the right of the runway’s centre line. Forty-four people were killed in the crash, and a boy died at a Petrozavodsk hospital today.

Eight people survived the crash. Five of them were evacuated to Moscow. They are now being treated in Moscow. Two crash victims are now staying at a Petrozavodsk hospital. I visited that hospital yesterday and met with its chief physician. They had all the required medications and everything else. The Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development and the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief have sent their specialists there.

I would like to inform you that all emergency services had promptly reached the disaster area within 15 minutes. Before they arrived, people from a local town went to the crash site and helped evacuate the crash victims. A command centre was established, which facilitated cooperation between federal executive agencies. The government of the Republic of Karelia also established its own board.

Flight data recorders were recovered at the crash site and transported to Moscow. The Inter-State Aviation Committee has started reviewing them today.

Under the Air Code, the company will pay two million roubles to the relatives of each deceased passenger and one million roubles to the relatives of each surviving crash victim. Moreover, the government of Karelia has decided to allocate one million roubles to the relatives of each deceased passenger and 500,000 roubles to the relatives of each surviving crash victim. The company is paying to evacuate the bodies and to transport relatives who have arrived. All bodies were completely evacuated yesterday. The relatives started identifying dead passengers at 5:00 p.m. An aircraft carrying relatives from other regions arrived at the crash site today. The identification process will begin now. A day of mourning has been declared in Karelia following the crash. All the relevant services, including the Emergencies Ministry, the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development, the Transport Ministry and others, are working with relatives on location.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Golikova, how has the treatment of crash victims been organised, and what is being done for the relatives?

Tatyana Golikova: As Mr Levitin has already said, we have been working together. Unfortunately, 45 people have been killed. One ten-year-old boy died tonight in Karelia. Yesterday, an Emergencies Ministry flight evacuated five victims to Moscow. Three people are being treated at the Vishnevsky Institute of Surgery. One person is being treated at the Pirogov National Centre of Surgery. And the only surviving woman, a flight attendant, is being treated at the Central Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Surgery. Unfortunately, the outlook for two of them is not very good. Although they have sustained severe injuries, numerous fractures and substantial burns, the doctors are trying hard to save their lives. We will continue to do our best. All the necessary diagnostics and surgery has been performed, and treatment has been administered. There are no logistical problems. The most important thing is to fight for the lives of the survivors.

Vladimir Putin: Please see to it that everyone receives the compensation due to them.

Tatyana Golikova: Certainly. We have joined the government commission in order to discuss such issues.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you. Mr Kudrin, we are implementing a programme … Let’s now proceed to the discussion of our current issues. We are implementing a programme to cut civil service jobs in 2010-2012. What is going on as of now?

Alexei Kudrin: Mr Putin, we decided last year to reduce the state administrative apparatus on the government’s initiative and to cut back on its funding. The decision was taken to cut ministerial and departmental jobs, including territorial divisions, by 20% in three years. Thereafter, a decree on submitting proposals to the government was issued in late December. In January, you made a decision concerning such restrictions on ministries. Today, all ministries have reported on the progress of this work and I can report that about 93,300 officials and civil servants will be reduced over the next three years.

There are around 465,000 civil servants working at our civil agencies (I am not referring to military agencies that report to the President, only to civilian institutions). In three years, precisely 20% of them will be cut. Around 23,300 people will be discharged this year, the same number next year, and half of this amount will be dismissed in the third year. By then, the ministries and agencies will have finalised their plans to streamline their activities and improve their paperwork processing and government services using electronic means.

That is, we seek to ensure that the reduction of the ministries’ staff is accomplished without decreasing their workload. As a result, we will achieve significant savings... We will save 33 billion roubles by the third year of reductions. Half of that amount, 16.5 billion roubles, will go to raise the salaries of the remaining staff, and the rest will be used to fund various social and economic programmes as part of the optimisation of budget expenditure. This plan is currently in progress and the ministries have reported that they can meet these requirements.

Vladimir Putin: What are the figures for the next year?

Alexei Kudrin: About 23,300 people will be dismissed next year and about 46,000 during the final year of reductions. The reductions will take place over three years. The reduction of 93,000 civil servants will result in annual savings of 33 billion roubles.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Khloponin (addressing Deputy Prime Minister and plenipotentiary presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District Alexander Khloponin), yesterday in Paris we discussed various areas of our cooperation with France, including energy, space and aviation, and transport engineering. Another of these areas is tourism. There are plans to establish joint ventures with a charter capital of two billion euros. Our French partners will provide the bulk of that amount, 1.2 billion.

How do you think this work should be organised in the immediate future and what do we need to do on our end to support these initiatives?

Alexander Khloponin: Mr Putin, on June 17, the Russian company Kurorty Severnogo Kavkaza (Resorts of the North Caucasus) and the French state holding Caisse des Depots et Consignations signed an agreement at the St Petersburg Economic Forum to establish a joint venture for the development of the North Caucasus resorts. The joint venture will have a charter capital of about 2 billion euros, of which the French side will contribute 1.2 billion euros and the Russian side, 800 million euros, or 32 billion roubles.

A working group has been set up to consider issues related to additional capitalisation of Kurorty Severnogo Kavkaza for contributing to the joint venture’s charter capital. The group will need to resolve a number of important issues, including the powers and functions of the parties, which must be stipulated in the joint venture’s founding documents.

The working group will also consider the timeframe for the creation and launching of the company. It will need to determine a list of priority infrastructure facilities where investments will be directed. Following your instructions, we have also expanded the area that will be developed, and included two additional territories – the greater Caucasus Mineral Waters area and the Caspian Sea coastal area (Republic of Dagestan).

As part of these discussions, the French side has raised a number of issues related to improving Russian legislation. Specifically, they argue for the need to establish the concept of a “tourism cluster.” This has to do with the need to define the concept of a "tourism cluster management company."

They also want to extend the term of the special economic zones by 20 years, from the current 29 years to 49 years. The French also propose to simplify the immigration procedures for professionals who will be involved in the resort development project.

We have prepared a draft law, "On the Development of Special Economic Zones in the Field of Tourism." The law has already passed the first reading at the State Duma.

We plan to discuss a few technical issues with our French partners between the first and second readings – simplifying procedures for involving land plots in operations, simplifying technical regulations for feasibility studies and project specifications, and granting tax privileges to special economic zone residents. We expect the French delegation to arrive in Russia as soon as July, and we will hold the next round of the joint venture talks. We will keep you informed.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Make sure you respond promptly because this industry is traditionally important in the North Caucasus. There are a lot of winter resorts there that people used even in the Soviet era. Russians use them today, too. This is a very promising and lucrative project.

Ms Golikova (to Healthcare Minister Tatyana Golikova), June 26 is International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. How will our anti-drug agencies prepare for this date? What additional events are you planning?

Tatyana Golikova: Yes, we are planning a series of events to be held at various locations, also involving public associations. Russian substance abuse professionals will meet tomorrow. New technologies used to treat their patients will be demonstrated at the conference. There is something else that I’d like to say. I would like to describe the Russian drug situation and discuss how serious the problem is. According to officials statistics – let me emphasise the word “official” – 547,081 Russians were registered with substance abuse centres as of Jan. 1. The number of people registered proactively (who do not require treatment yet) is 196,700. Although this number has decreased somewhat from last year, this is still 138 people per 100,000, which is a lot. In 2010, 7,192 Russians died from drug overdose.

Vladimir Putin: You say that this is the official data.

Tatyana Golikova: I am only citing official data here. There are independent estimates, too. Some experts say that there are from 2 to 3 million drug abusers in Russia. These are expert estimates. My figures are official statistics that we get from substance abuse centres.

About these centres – on the one hand, Russia is the only country with a developed network of such centres. There are as many as 138. Also, 1,856 hospitals across Russia have SAP departments or at least allocate several beds to these patients, including 277 departments for minors. Nearly every centre (out of 138) has a rehabilitation department. However, there are unresolved problems here. The centres are the regional government’s competency. Unfortunately, until recently, some regions have not been giving priority to modernising them.

After you initiated healthcare modernisation programmes, we naturally sent proposals to the regions so they would include substance abuse centres in these programmes because they are medical institutions. This work has almost been completed across Russia, Moreover, 16 regions have joined a pilot project co-financed by the federal government (288 million roubles). The aim of this project is to develop a continuous algorithm for providing medical assistance to these patients by the end of this year.

What kind of algorithm? It appears that, having applied to one of these centres and received treatment, these patients should be taken over by a medical and social rehabilitation system. They must recover socially. Otherwise, they will return to where they have started.

We are working on this system in 16 regions with our SAPs. If this work is successful, we will continue in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Well, we have a plan as to how to extend this system across Russia. It is of primary importance to us that local medical professionals are also involved – not just regional governors and other officials. This is a problem concerning all of society. The events that we are planning to hold at various locations, in various regions, are aimed at calling people, especially young people, to fight drugs.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you.

Mr Fursenko (to Education Minister Andrei Fursenko), I have signed government executive orders today to allocate 20 billion roubles this year to the regions as part of our programme to modernise the general education system. I have just signed them. How are you planning to arrange this work? We have specific objectives for each region. How will this work be organised?

Andrei Fursenko: Mr Putin, the order you have issued indicates that the regions, as well as the Education Ministry, are responsible for organising this work. Therefore, we have approved the programme document formats, including the agreements between the ministry and the regions on transferring subsidies, and the report forms on the funds spent and the results achieved. All of the regions have already sent their draft agreements and proposals back to us for education modernisation in 2011. We held a conference with all of them on June 10 where we discussed all of these documents. Intensive work is underway. We understand that buying equipment with the money that they have received as subsidies is an essential task.

In order to preclude any possibility of buying substandard equipment or dealing with dishonest suppliers, we have sent a special letter to the regional authorities instructing them to focus on several points when signing contracts. We want them to make sure that each contract includes a minimum three-year guarantee on any equipment, maintenance, personnel training, and technical and informational support provided by the supplier with regard to each particular region, not just Moscow.

In addition, all technical specifications on equipment are itemised under educational standards, and we have a clear understanding of what this equipment should look like. This work is being discussed with the regional authorities, and we have another meeting with all levels of government in the Moscow Region scheduled for July 4-6. We have secured the participation of all potential suppliers so that they can introduce their services to the regions.

Moreover, the Education Ministry, in conjunction with the duly authorised presidential representatives in Russia’s regions and delegates from United Russia, has established a ministerial coordinating group charged with the modernisation of regional education systems. The coordinating group is already very active in individual regions. That leads us to believe that since the government resolution has already been signed and the papers have been submitted, we will be able to meet our schedule and comply with these requirements before the end of this year.

We plan to address even tougher challenges next year when budget allocations are increased to 60 billion roubles. In accordance with your instructions, these funds will be used to improve the education system. We will raise salaries through the exclusive use of freed-up funds. In other words, the education system (public schools) will receive 60 billion roubles. The requirements for performance and equipment quality will be tightened, but I think that the progress is promising and that we are right on schedule.

Vladimir Putin: In other words, these funds would be used to improve logistics, perform repairs, buy vehicles, and conduct additional teacher training. The freed-up funds in the regions would be used to increase teachers’ salaries. Please keep tabs on this work. As we know, the expenditure pattern is slightly different in certain regions: they have already used a certain amount of money to do repairs, buy vehicles, and improve their logistics. Therefore, they can use our money to raise teachers’ salaries. These things should be sorted out properly so that we know how these resources are being used at all times.

Andrei Fursenko: This is exactly why we work separately on each agreement with each region, and such agreements are signed only upon reaching compliance with all the requirements that you’ve just mentioned.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you.

Let me say a few words about today’s agenda. We will look into amendments to the law on the continental shelf, inland seas, and Russia’s territorial waters. Mr Sechin, these are very sensitive issues both for our businesses (oil and gas) and for our partners. Have you looked into all the details?

Igor Sechin: We have taken care of everything. The main issue is guaranteeing the environmental responsibility of businesses that conduct offshore operations, including on washed-up areas and islands.

Vladimir Putin: I see. So, it’s mostly about the environment?

Igor Sechin: Everything has been taken care of, yes.

Vladimir Putin: Did the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment participate in this work? You worked on it together, didn’t you?

Yury Trutnev: Absolutely.

Vladimir Putin: We have big plans for development of the Pacific and Arctic shelves and certain areas of the Black and Caspian seas. Some of these programmes are already being implemented. Let me point out that all such projects are carefully studied by environmental experts. Our basic requirements for Russian and foreign companies who plan to work in these areas include the use of the latest and most environmentally safe techniques in an effort to minimise their ecological impact. To give you an example, Russian companies use zero-emission and zero-discharge techniques at the fields currently being developed – for instance, in the Caspian Sea. In other words, they collect everything that comes from the wells, dump it into containers, and transport it to special landfills for further processing.

The tragedy that unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico last year is fresh in our memory. We remember the toll it took on the surrounding environment and on people. We need to be proactive and address all the necessary technical and financial issues in order to prevent anything of the sort from happening in Russia. Therefore, I propose to adopt a law listing all the requirements and responsibilities of those companies engaged in upstream and downstream operations in inland seas and on continental shelves.

In addition to that, offshore and inland sea operations will be conducted only by those companies that, in addition to having the requisite technologies and specialists, have sufficient financial resources to prevent and clean up any potential oil spill and compensate for the damage done to the environment and to biological resources. In other words, we are introducing additional solid guarantees, which is the right thing to do, in my opinion. Recent events have shown that such additional requirements should be introduced, and there are reasonable grounds to do so. In any case, it’s hard to imagine a small company with few resources and legacy techniques being allowed to work in such environmentally sensitive areas in the first place.

Next, we will look into the status of the Government Commission for Territorial Planning.

There is another important issue that I would like to discuss today. As you may recall, pursuant to the Urban Development Code, all territorial planning papers should be ready and approved before January 1, 2012. This is a very important document, and the fact that we still don’t have it completed hampers the development of the construction industry. There’s not much time left until January 1, 2012, and the progress is not as good as we would like it to be. As of June 20, 2011, only 43 Russian regions have completed this work in full. The territorial planning layouts of 33 regions are now being approved by the Ministry of Regional Development. Please bear in mind that we have significantly simplified the requirements for the territorial planning papers and their approval. However, the deadlines will remain unchanged. The commission is designed to secure coordinated action on behalf of federal and regional authorities in the drafting and implementation of territorial planning documents. Federal departments should speed up their work, too. I am talking about such territorial bodies and such spheres of responsibility as federal transport, defence, security, energy, higher professional education, and healthcare. All these departments should issue the requisite information on time. Let me reiterate, certain regions have so far failed even to begin such work. I would like the Ministry of Regional Development to keep an eye on these regions (I will not disclose their names, although I have a complete list of them here) and see to it that the work is completed in full.

Now, let’s move on to today’s agenda.