23 september 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin takes part in the United Russia conference session “Civil Society: Partnership and Justice”

Vladimir Putin

At the United Russia conference session “Civil Society: Partnership and Justice”

“What is the purpose of power? So people in power can live the sweet life? No. It is to resolve the problems of the people who shape this power through the open and honest expression of their will.”

Transcript of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends! I hope I am not disturbing you too much. I would like to hear how the discussion is going.

First of all, my congratulations on the start of the conference. I’d like to hear what you are discussing here. I will say a few words if the opportunity arises.

I apologise, however, if I am interrupting your work. Please continue. I’ll get caught up on what you’ve been discussing.  

Andrei Makarov: Thank you, Mr Putin. If I may, I will briefly describe what has been going on here.

In fact, these are rather serious discussions because we are talking about civil society. I should mention that the three words we have heard here most often today are justice, partnership and trust.

Dr Roshal, for example, just said that he believes that the Russian Popular Front helped him to stop a law that is being considered by the State Duma.

Vladimir Putin: It would be good if the Popular Front actually helped pass the law.

Andrei Makarov: This is why he left this session, to continue his fight in the session attended by Healthcare Ministry representatives. I would like to quote an important thing he said: “Those in power must hear the people’s heartbeat.”

There is another viewpoint that I would call a real boiling point. As Fyodor Bondarchuk said, “we reached a boiling point, a concentration of numerous explosives where everything is raging.”

So, we have been discussing civil society and what it can do (we also spoke about whether there is a civil society in our country), and many of us said that there is a huge number of laws and resolutions aimed at making people’ life better but they are not even aware of them. People do not know about them, which means they do not understand their purpose. This situation creates distrust, people lose faith in justice, and, conversely, it breeds a strong desire for justice.

You joined us as we began discussing human rights, the situation in business and the legal system, because no rights can be exercised unless they are protected by the law.

Somebody asked why in English, for instance, the word ‘justice’ has both general and legal meanings, while in the Russian language, with its rich vocabulary, these two meanings are expressed with two different words whose meanings rarely overlap. Basically, that is where we were when you came in. Would you like to comment on this or we can give the floor to Mr Krasheninnikov?

Pavel Krasheninnikov: And I will confirm that this problem exists.

Vladimir Putin: I may not have anything particular to stay at the moment. But, firstly, we should not diminish the English language. As far as I understand, linguists say the number of symbols and words in the English language is even larger than in Russian.

But, Mr Makarov, when it comes to the legal system, you and your colleagues know (because many of those present here are experts) there is a difference between civil law and common law. But there are basic ideas in our legal system that can be found in these two major legal systems. I remember very well what we were taught: the law is always ethical, there are absolutely no unethical laws, nor there can be.

Therefore, I would not say that our legal system, civil law – which includes various systems, such as the laws of Germany, France and the entire continental Europe – is in any way worse than common law. Perhaps it is even better in a sense because it is based on codified laws rather than precedents, and it may be risky to proceed with any case without a qualified lawyer. Our citizens, if they are educated enough, of course, can understand the laws and even defend their rights themselves. So, I do not think that we have a disadvantage compared to anyone else.

On the other hand, the court system needs to be constantly improved. This is absolutely clear. Basically, it is one of our key goals in order to make the legal system fair and capable of protecting the interests of all citizens regardless of where they live, their ethnicity, religion, income or position. The system must be impartial and everybody must be equal before the law.

Is this always true in our society? Perhaps not. But I can tell you that it is not perfect anywhere else. But we can try to achieve this.

One possible solution is, of course, civil society and its capabilities. Is there civil society in our country? Of course, there is. As you know, I was among the initiators of the Russian Popular Front that Dr Roshal spoke about. It is gratifying to watch it grow. A large number of public organisations – I forget how many – including youth, women’s, veterans’ and professional groups, have become very actively involved in its work. Before that many of these groups remained on the sidelines of political activity or were viewed as marginal groups. Now they have been given a platform.

But what warmed my heart is that they exist, and they include some very proactive people. They might not have enough experience with this kind of political or public activity, so it is the government’s duty to help these groups and support them, at all levels including municipal, regional and federal governments and legislatures.

I can tell you something many of you might already know: we decided to allocate significant funds to support non-profit social enterprises this year. Unfortunately, the money has not been disbursed yet because it has not been distributed, I mean the relevant tenders have not been held. But anyway, the money has been allocated and it should eventually reach the target recipients. We have discussed this recently: we are talking about a large amount, some 900 million roubles. A very large sum.

Let me repeat, what I find most encouraging is not even the fact that many of them have joined the Popular Front, but the fact that they are there, that they exist and are active and capable of achieving their goals. It is gratifying to hear their hearts beat. It certainly is. It is the ultimate mission of any government in any country. What is the purpose of power? So people in power can live the sweet life? No. It is to resolve the problems of the people who shape this power through the open and honest expression of their will. In fact a responsible government must do more than listen to the heartbeat; it must be able to find remedies if it detects a flaw in the country’s healthy functioning.

Look at some of the so-called developed economies: they have found themselves in straits. I won’t discuss right now what has brought them to this point. But a government must explain that to the people in a clear and understandable way. It should make the people understand using discussion and dialogue, not tear-gas and police batons. At least most of the people must understand that some of the remedies used in the economy or in the social sphere are necessary for recovery, even if unpleasant, because otherwise, things would get much worse. This is also the government’s duty. The government is not just there to give out candy, but to administer bitter medicine as well. But each of the two should be done in an open and honest way, so that most people understand and support its policies.

Andrei Makarov: Mr Putin, first of all I’d like to thank you for your speech.

Vladimir Putin: This isn’t a real speech.

Andrei Makarov: Can I go first? Everyone here seems to want to fire questions at you at once. Someone said here that Russian businesses are behaving like they don’t care if the deluge comes after them, and they are building a model which is based on that assumption. Do you agree with this description? Someone else said the reverse is true, but businesses are hampered by corruption and other obstacles which need to be eliminated. There were two different viewpoints voiced here.

And one more question. When we talk about criminal law, we are talking about court verdicts and sentencing. The Criminal Code says, literally, that the verdict should be lawful, justified and fair. In civil law, however, when we discuss the 10 million civil cases heard every year – and civil cases are essentially about people’s lives, their property, land, and child support – the verdict has to be only lawful and justified. How about being fair? Many people wonder about this.

Vladimir Putin: I have already talked about fairness. The law must always be moral, which means it must be fair, and this is not a contradiction. We seldom speak about this, but this principle is at the heart of any legal system.

Andrei Makarov: What about business?

Vladimir Putin: As for business, I think it has changed dramatically over the past decades. I say that the change is considerable, as someone with knowledge and understanding of these matters. I was quite pleased with the conduct of our business during the crisis, which I have said publicly before but I'd like to repeat it here. Some were prepared to surrender their business to the state, in exchange for money of course, but this is not the only reason I was impressed.

Frankly speaking, there were some that simply wanted to avoid any responsibility – they were even prepared for nationalisation, and actually requested it. But we went down a different path: we helped them weather the crisis.

But what impressed me – and I am being perfectly open and honest here – was that the overwhelming majority of business leaders were ready to give up their private property in order to save their companies and jobs. This speaks to a change in the quality of our business and its attitude to society.

Of course, I suspect that these actions were based on more than just a spirit of generosity. I think there was the understanding that if we were to join forces and step up our activity, we would survive, and then they would be able to regain their standing on the domestic and international markets. And if they could survive, they would restore their capital. But anyway, it's obvious that they were ready to take risks in the name of a common cause, which makes me glad.

Vyacheslav Lysakov: Would you permit me to disagree, Mr Putin?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Vyacheslav Lysakov: There are nevertheless some business people who work honestly, without bribes and kickbacks, and who find it financially unprofitable to maintain their businesses. What can we do to reverse this situation, so that it will become profitable to be a law-abiding citizen in Russia?

Vladimir Putin: But you are not disagreeing with me at all. I fully agree with you. When I was speaking about business and its readiness to risk its standing and capital to resolve the problems of their employees and attain the goals that are common for the nation, I was mainly talking about big business, or medium-sized business at the least, which is in control of major enterprises or even whole economic sectors.

The businesses you are talking about are most likely small businesses.

Vyacheslav Lysakov: Yes, small and medium-sized businesses.

Vladimir Putin: Medium-sized businesses in part. Yes, there are a lot of problems everywhere, including in big business. But there is more potential for resolving these problems in big business – for reaching officials at different levels of power. For small business, of course, the situation is particularly difficult.

We need to change the mentality of our society, because officials are part of society. Let’s be honest about this – we haven't brought them here from another planet or galaxy. This is a long-term task that we need to approach from several directions simultaneously.

First of all, this implies education, second, inevitable punishment for direct violations of law, and third, an atmosphere of intolerance to behaviour of this kind must be inherent in society. Everyone must be held responsible – those who give bribes and those who take them. Incidentally, the law stipulates equal punishment for people who give and receive bribes. We should certainly fight this, including by increasing responsibility for various violations.

Please, Ms Kryshtanovskaya.

Olga Kryshtanovskaya: Thank you. Mr Putin, the face of poverty in Russia is female – women make up 70% of the poor in Russia. This is largely due to salary discrimination, which is a very important cause but not the only one. What do you think, could Russia follow the example of many European countries, such as Germany, and introduce the post of a commissioner for women's affairs or gender equality?

Vladimir Putin: We can create any post – for women, teenagers, men or pensioners – but we must first decide what exactly their duties will be, and ensure that there is not any distortions. But we can certainly consider this possibility. After all, there is still no clear understanding, no consensus about whether we need some kind of quota for gender principles in bodies of power and government.

The lady on my right says that we need them, but on the left they say we don’t. Why? Everyone has their reasons. If we introduce a gender quota, we will seemingly be helping women, but others might say this is gender segregation, that perhaps not the best representatives will be elected. We need the best, of course, and then women will be able to assert themselves.

These issues must not be decided by officials. This is an issue that we can resolve only through broad public discussion.

As for myself, I am prepared to accept any opinion. We can do this or not, but we need not be in a hurry. I can assure you that this issue is not only specific to Russia. If you look at the situation in the leading economies and speak with representatives of women’s or feminist organisations, you will hear that women’s rights are infringed upon in these countries as well, to say nothing of developing nations. International organisations have recently completed a study of the problem of global hunger. There are countries in the Pacific or south of the Sahara in Africa where millions go hungry, and 70% of them are women.

This issue concerns all spheres. What can we do about it? We must start with education. Girls need to have an equal opportunity as boys to receive an education so as to subsequently grow and make a career. If we develop this approach to support women, I think it would prove to be more effective than any administrative decisions about the number of women to be represented anywhere. We must improve the quality of training and maintain standards.

Andrei Makarov: Mr Putin, we have a question here that many people are asking. We will form groups of questions so that people will not have to ask them individually.

We are paying considerable attention to human rights, but as everyone knows, you can count the number of these rights on one hand. Take freedom of movement, a right that we must protect, or freedom of property, the right to ownership, which also needs to be defended by all means. As for other constitutional rights – for those who don’t know yet, there are over 40 articles in Chapter 2 – we never talk about them, never discuss them. Now, we have heard the representatives speak here – those who have come after the primaries, who have listened to the people there… Here are the people’s main concerns – wages, taxes, pensions and social packages. So, maybe people are getting a feeling that they are mistreated, also by businesses, because of these problems. What do you think?

Vladimir Putin: I don’t quite understand your question. What do you mean mistreated by businesses? In what way?

Andrei Makarov: I mean people have this attitude towards employers, like, “they drain us white”.

Vladimir Putin: This isn’t a feeling. That’s the attitude.

Andrei Makarov: Right. Attitude. This is the question. People have concerns, not about property, but about their wages, if they will make enough to buy apples for their kids.

Vyacheslav Lysakov: Quality of life.

Andrei Makarov: Yes, quality of life.

Vladimir Putin: But that’s obvious, Mr Makarov. The thing is that this issue concerns millions and millions of our people, and these are certainly the most fundamental rights – to labour remuneration, vacation, healthcare, education, and so on.

The government certainly must focus on this. I do not want to play along to anyone, or sound like I’m playing along, but there is a certain group of people who criticise me all of the time, with or without reason. They call themselves champions of human rights. This group isn’t large, but these people focus on issues that do not seem to affect people’s daily lives. However, without resolving them, civil society will not be able to develop, and people won’t  feel any connection with the government.

Therefore, we cannot say that some rights are more important than others. Anything that is stipulated in the constitution is fundamental for the country’s progress. Whether we like a specific organisation or not, we must show understanding and listen to what people say, either their requests or complaints.

The social rights that you mentioned are always in the focus of our attention. There are special organisations responsible for that – they are called trade unions. I can assure you that they are engaged in a continuing dialogue, practically every day, on each important issue, including wages and pensions and social benefits, minimum wages, and so on.

A special trilateral commission meets weekly, uniting representatives of employers, trade unions and the government. This commission discusses the issues affecting the country’s economic and social life. The government does not bring any socially important bill before parliament without this commission.

Pavel Krasheninnikov: Mr Zhukov talked about it today.

Andrei Makarov: Mr Putin, I’m sorry, as you came in I had just interrupted Mr Pavel Krasheninnikov, who was talking about what we should do to have independent courts. Could he finish now?

Vladimir Putin: Mr Krasheninnikov could go on about it all night. I have known him for ages. He knows a lot about it.

Pavel Krasheninnikov: Thank you.

Mr Putin, colleagues... I helped to write this programme as far as the judicial system is concerned, so if you don’t mind, I will talk about courts with regard to this programme. Among other things, we have discussed corruption, and also the lack of confidence in courts. In short, I believe that there have been positive changes. Civil representatives have been included in the qualification boards that appoint or dismiss judges.

I think that, to ensure transparency… I think that information disclosure is important when appointing judges – which criteria were used, the appointment procedure, the qualification board’s remarks and the presidential commission… I certainly believe that all court rulings should be posted online – and not only case rulings, but also rejections, orders, and so on.

There is something else that seems satisfactory with arbitration courts, but still below the mark as regards general courts. I follow some specific cases online on the weekends and read some of the rulings. I can tell you that sometimes shares in property are measures in metres or kilogrammes. There are also misspellings and bad grammar. We’ll have to improve this. It would help if the judge knows that his or her ruling would be read by an indefinite number of people, not just a few people involved in the case.

It is also essential to post online any officials’ requests or letters to judges. Sometimes, members of parliament send requests related to specific cases, and regional and municipal officials, too. These should be posted online, so that anyone can see who sent a request to which judge and about which case. Court proceedings should be completely transparent, except where confidentiality is concerned and privacy must be protected.

Business representatives said today that administrative courts need to be established, which is included in the programme. Administrative courts are courts that pass rulings about the decisions of the municipal, regional and federal governments. In fact, this bill was passed in the first reading several years ago, but was suspended afterwards.

Many European countries have such courts. If an executive decision is in conflict with rights or legitimate interests or laws… For example, they are building a road, and a residential building needs to be demolished. Or a radio transmission unit or a waste deposit is planned near a residential building. If someone files a lawsuit and this decision is overruled, I mean that person is not only solving his or her own problems, but those of a certain group. I think this could be done.

We also have regional statutory courts that could be used for that because they are absolutely idle. I have even obtained this reference…

Andrei Makarov: Mr Putin was right saying …

Pavel Krasheninnikov: I’m almost finished, honestly. Statutory courts do not hear more than five or seven cases annually, so they are almost idle. They could be employed.  On top of this, we must establish a patent court to protect individual and corporate intellectual property rights.

To round everything up, I would add that we also need a new Criminal Code, especially with regard to economic crimes. This whole section needs to be revised because, as it is, about everyone gets busted…

And please do not forget about the Administrative Code. This is highly important.

Andrei Makarov: Would you like to comment, Mr Putin?

Vladimir Putin: Everyone shouldn’t be busted. I agree with that part. Certainly not everyone.

Andrei Makarov: Mr Putin, you have mentioned morals, virtue and justice today. We have people of different faiths present here. I was quite surprised that they have a united position on this issue. If you don’t mind, could Father Vsevolod Chaplin speak about it now?

Vladimir Putin: Certainly. Only let me make a quick remark about what Mr Krasheninnikov said. Posting information online is simple and effective. I agree.

Vsevolod Chaplin: Thank you.

A quick word about why I’m here – as I am not a member of this party and I do not plan to join it. More than that, I am not a member of the Popular Front either, nor am I planning to join. Priests have a special role concerning morality as opposed to politics, but the Russian church maintains dialogue with all political forces, including an active dialogue with United Russia and the Popular Front. It is especially gratifying that the party is promoting a policy of social conservatism, which could greatly benefit Russia.

Someone said today that law is a social agreement. A social agreement is important, but it may happen that its terms are too flexible and influenced by random external factors.

In addition to this social agreement, people should be guided by values that I would define as eternal values, which give stability to the government, society and the social system.

These are the kinds of values that we need to talk about as much as possible today.

Back in its day, the World Russian People's Council (WRPC) formulated a number of values of this kind. On the list of these values, justice came second after faith. Our society has forgotten about justice. It is generally accepted that freedom is much more important. In the 1990s, it made sense to talk more about freedom, because there was not enough of it back then. Today, I believe we need to think more about justice.

In the Bible, these two concepts, justice and truth, are very close to each other. My Judaic colleagues may correct me if I’m wrong. However, in the biblical sense, justice and truth are almost the same, just like justice in the legal sense, they are similar concepts.

So today it is very important to understand that in addition to a philosophical dimension, justice must also have a social dimension. Unfortunately, this is often very tough.

Two religious communities are working together in order to study complex cases of interethnic conflicts, or street conflicts that grow into interethnic ones, or conflicts that someone tries to portray as interethnic. Interestingly, a lack of justice is often among the reasons that lead to the development of dangerous situations that might end in bloodshed, if they manage to be escalated to the stage of an interethnic conflict. If Russians are ousted from the North Caucasus -- this is injustice. If people from the Caucasus in Moscow are humiliated simply for who they are -- this is injustice. If social lifts don’t work in our country, if someone from a small town cannot break through neither in politics nor in economy, because all places are occupied by certain people for decades to come and will be inherited by their children and grandchildren -- this is injustice.

If people don’t accept the economic system that took shape in the 1990s, that means that they have a sense of injustice. That means something needs to be done by businesses, people and the powers that be in order to correct the situation.

I am the host of a radio programme. People write and call me. If there is an issue about civil servants or businessmen, I start getting terrible messages like “hang them” or “shoot them.” It pains me to hear this, because I know that there are a lot of decent people among civil servants and businessmen, but there is a gap between the “elite” and the rest of the nation. This gap needs to be closed, but the only way to do so is to make it clear to people that they are being treated fairly.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Father, may I ask you a question? We are having a discussion here after all, right?

Vsevolod Chaplin: By all means..

Vladimir Putin: They keep asking me questions, but I also have a question to ask.

First of all, I completely agree with almost all your points regarding the different treatment of people in different regions, social lifts, promotion and closed doors. However, you said that justice also has an express social meaning.

My question is: Is it fair to divide everything equally?

Vsevolod Chaplin: This is unfair. You are absolutely right.

I am not trying to bring us back to the Soviet Union. I lived there long enough as a young adult and I have no desire to return. However, what you said about the link between morality and the law, morality and government decisions, is very important.  If this is not present, things begin to rot.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Andrei Makarov: Mr Putin, can I ask you for some advice ( in Russian - a soviet)?

Vladimir Putin: Well, we are no longer in the Land of Soviets for me to give you advice.

Andrei Makarov: True. But as a lawyer, when people ask for free advice... I'm not even asking for myself.

Really, all those people who gathered here… There are thousands of meetings, tens of thousands of eyes and people who have sent their representatives here and are waiting for something to happen. Let me repeat: not those who are in attendance here, but the people who are waiting for them to return. Please give some advice on what we should tell people upon our return about what happened here and what they can expect. You know better than anyone else.

Vladimir Putin: You can say that we are conducting a completely open an honest search for solutions to problems facing specific people in our nation. This is the most important thing. Most important is that we, all of us gathered here, are honestly looking for ways to address problems confronting our nation and each of our citizens.

Andrei Makarov: Thank you.

Perhaps, we should give a woman, whoever is prepared to stand up first, the opportunity to ask you the last question? Ms Arshinova is sitting right next to you. Sorry, I've been hogging everything. Can you imagine what they are going to do to me afterwards?

Alyona Arshinova: You did, that’s true.

We listened to what our older colleagues had to say. We have younger people here, but they do not make up a special category. I said that there was no need for special quotas because, in the grand scheme of things, we are younger, stronger and have more energy, and will be able to make it on our own in life. It doesn’t matter, whether male or female.

I believe these are rather important things. I noticed a clear link between civil society and the state when I attended the meeting with you and the winners and participants of the nationwide primary elections.

Andrei Makarov: You were about to ask a question, Ms Arshinova. I cannot cheat.

Alyona Arshinova: Yes, I’m letting you down. Because I managed to bring up seemingly little things, but these are little things after which… This is about everyday student life, about bringing Internet access into every student’s room.

I would like to thank you on behalf of young people. I was in Blagoveshchensk yesterday, and we established a wi-fi connection at three state-run higher education institutions, which the students are very grateful for. You have already instructed the minister of communications and mass media and the minister of education, and we have taken it upon ourselves to monitor the execution of these instructions. We are here to help you.

Next, I would like to bring up that there are problems in the regions. The governors report to you about declining population, birth rates and mortality. Why aren't they reporting to you about the number of young people who are leaving the regions? Why are they doing this, and where are they going? The issue is a matter of tens and hundreds of thousands of young people. We don’t have that many people and we cannot afford to lose them like this.

This is why I wanted to draw your attention to these things. This information is not always public… By the way, do you know why officials are so afraid of the Popular Front? Because it’s a public forum, and laws are being debated in public, which worries them.

I would also like to say that governors and many government officials have local media under their control. Perhaps there’s a way to let them know that media need to be freed in order to make room for a free press. Journalists have an intuition about scheming arrangements taking place on the part of local authorities. This way we would be able to learn about them not only from the Popular Front meetings and the conference, which we are lucky to attend, but also on a daily basis from the media.

Thank you.

Vyacheslav Lysakov: Ms Arshinova, what about elderly people leaving the region? Is that all right with you? Not only young people. What if people in general are simply relocating?

Andrei Makarov: Perhaps, we will let Mr Putin answer this question?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I am very pleased to hear that Ms Arshinova believes that the Russian Popular Front works well, also by virtue of the fact that it is an open forum. It is really difficult to hide behind someone’s back -- you have to listen to what real people are thinking and saying. Sometimes the authorities need to answer questions posed by members of this front. This alone is a very positive aspect of creating this front.

As for reporting by regional leaders, this will be disappointing for you to hear, but they don’t report to us at all.

Alyona Arshinova: How is that?

Vladimir Putin: Just so. Under existing legislation, they are not obligated to report to us. We have just started to implement regulations, which we use to assess the work of the government, various departments and regional authorities. Based on these assessments, we will address issues related to providing or cutting financial assistance to the regions. We will provide ongoing support to the those that function well. Those that do not work so well will see a decline in the amount of aid. Those that work very well will receive larger bonuses. This year, we provided an additional 10 billion roubles to encourage regions that work effectively.

Anatoly Kucherena: Mr Putin, public opinion is certainly a very important criterion. I am not sure which performance indicators or criteria you intend to change.

Vladimir Putin: These are more practical indicators related not only to population outflow or inflow, but also to socio-economic indicators, such as domestic regional product per capita, personal income, commissioned housing, and so on.

Anatoly Kucherena: Well, meetings with the general public… You hold many such meetings. We also meet with people in different regions, but there are governors who prefer not to meet with people. This is why I’m saying that public opinion, rule of law and safety are all very important issues. And of course, economic development as well, that’s clear.

Vladimir Putin: I can tell you that this is being considered. Perhaps the arrangements have not yet been finalised, when the public opinion provides an assessment of governors.

Anatoly Kucherena: Of course, that’s what we are talking about.

Vladimir Putin: No, this is taken into account.

Anatoly Kucherena: This is very important.

Vladimir Putin: As for the controlled media. You are right, this problem exists. We need both nationwide and regional media that openly express official viewpoints, but not those that are controlled or pretend to be independent while actually being official. Therefore, this is a problem and it needs to be addressed in the following way: the truly independent media should receive direct support.

I frequently meet with such regional media -- not frequently perhaps, but regularly. I am aware of this problem. We will try to support them, including through direct financing and non-profit organisations.

Now as for the assumption that young people will be able to make their own way in life. I would very much like to think that this is the way things are, and I count on this. But still, there is objective information not only for Russia, but for all other countries, that young people, similar to the older generation, are the most vulnerable stratum of society, because they normally don’t have start-up capital, a place to live, or well-paid jobs.  They have to start from the ground up, and starting this way is always a difficult thing to do. Therefore, I believe that we should continue to improve on what we have begun to develop.

The reason I’m saying all this is because I hope that many of you will work in the parliament, and I want you to pay attention. There is certainly the need to develop additional measures to support young people.

One final point. Perhaps it will be out of context, or may even contradict what I said earlier.

Ms Arshinova said that it doesn’t matter whether someone is a man or a woman, they will make things happen for themselves no matter what.  Still, there is a difference.

Women will always be mothers, sisters and loved ones. They should always remain women, even if they achieve outstanding results in their respective fields of activity. One such example is the lady sitting across from me. As for men, they are designed by Lord to be defenders, providers and protectors. We should not cross the line. Let women remain women, and men remain men.

Thank you very much.

Andrei Makarov: Thank you very much, Mr Putin.