24 january 2012

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, on a working visit in the Kemerovo Region, has met with the widows of the miners killed in the Raspadskaya mine explosions

The prime minister asked if the federal and regional authorities and the mine owners have done what they promised to do, if they have paid out compensation, provided tuition for the miners’ children, resolved housing problems and helped with the repayment of loans.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Remarks: Good afternoon.

Vladimir Putin: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on the recent holidays.

Remark: Same to you.

Vladimir Putin: I would like to wish you all the very best for this year. We will hold an important meeting on the development of the mining industry here in Kemerovo today. This is a good opportunity for meeting with you so that you can tell me in person if the government, the region and the mine owners have done what they promised to do, if they have paid out compensation, provided tuition for your children, resolved housing problems and helped with the repayments of loans. I know that there were unexpected problems due to a variety of reasons, in particular due to unsettled civil relations with late husbands. This will be the main subject of our meeting. I can spare you only a few minutes, so there will be no long speeches or monologues. I want to find out from you what's really going on. Please, who will be speaking?

Olga Tatur: Good afternoon, Mr Putin, my name is Olga Tatur. I am the widow of a miner. I can assure you that all our problems have been resolved, all families have received assistance, all loans have been repaid and all housing problems have been resolved. That's the general picture.

But we have several questions regarding not our tragedy but our mining town as a whole. Kuzbass is a mining region and we have many friends and relatives who are miners. We have been given assistance, and for that we are grateful to Governor Aman Tuleyev and to you for being with us from the very start of the tragedy, supporting us and helping us in every way you could.

Of course, we would like such assistance to be provided not only when many people die, but even if only one miner is killed, because the death of a single person is still tragedy for his family. You are running for president now, and I think that you could help resolve this problem at the legislative level, because you know all our problems, so that assistance can be provided without fail to the families of all miners that die in the line of duty.

Vladimir Putin: You know that in the short time since the tragedy ... it happened in May 2010, if memory serves me right?

Remark: On May 9, 2010.

Vladimir Putin: Many decisions have been made since then. I don't know whether you have followed that, but this also applies to the pay level, with 70% guaranteed and 30% as a share of the output.

Many decisions have been adopted, both at the legislative and governmental levels, on ensuring safety in mines and at similar facilities in general. A significant part of the responsibility has been transferred to the owners. This is exactly what we have been discussing from the beginning, almost immediately after the disaster.

I would like emphasise from the outset that our meeting today has nothing to do with the upcoming elections. We met with you back when elections were still far in the future. And I do not want this meeting to be associated with the elections; that is not the case.

With regard to the issues that were raised by the miners (I met with you and with the miners)… They concerned the state guarantees, as they put it, so that they don’t have to go door to door begging for support and assistance – it needs to be guaranteed by law. A substantial part of these steps has already been implemented.

Today, we will talk about mine development. But safety, labour compensation, and other matters have been mostly streamlined, although there are still some issues that remain unresolved. We will continue working on them. We need to strike the right balance to ensure that those managing the mine and the owners (and I’ll be frank here) are not forced to assume obligations that will put the industry at risk of being unprofitable. If that is the case, the mines will simply close down. We need to find a reasonable compromise here. 

Nevertheless, we will be studying the developments in this area and will keep moving forward. I noticed that when preparing for this conference, as this is not just a meeting, but a conference, we will have an opportunity to discuss this later… For example, we have increased the powers of Rostekhnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management), transferred the service to work under the government, reorganised it, and empowered it to cease operation of a mine and suspend its management pending a court verdict.  

Last year, Rostekhnadzor used these powers more than 100 times, I believe. And there were about 140 cases, in which the agency ordered mines to stop operation. What I am trying to say is that this mechanism is working, it is staring to work. There is probably more that we can do, and we will continue to analyse the situation in this industry and will adjust the regulation rules accordingly.  

The same applies to damage compensations for a loss of health or when a tragedy results in a death. I agree with you. Of course, when an incident results in the death of many people, as in this case, which claimed 91 lives, if I am not mistaken, it’s a terrible tragedy that draws the attention of the entire society. But every single life is priceless. Even if only one person dies, it does not matter, the family still needs to be provided with a full package of social guarantees. But in general, the main decisions have been made. If you think that something is missing there, let’s discuss it again, I am certainly ready for that.      

Tatyana Fatkhutdinova: Mr Putin, I am the widow of a miner who has not been found yet…

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I know. Eleven people are still…

Tatyana Fatkhutdinova: Yes, 11 people are still missing. First of all, I would like to thank you and the federal authorities, as well as our Governor, Mr Tuleyev (Aman Tuleyev, Governor of the Kemerovo Region), and the municipal authorities for your care, attention, your moral support and the financial assistance… 

Vladimir Putin: That was one of the problems we had to deal with, as in your case, since a person is considered missing but everybody understands what has in fact happened, and the family needs support. Under the circumstances, we dealt with such cases in a very prompt fashion. But this should be done not only in exceptional circumstances; there needs to be an appropriate mechanism to deal with similar situations.

Tatyana Fatkhutdinova: Mr Malakhov (Andrei Malakhov, Deputy Governor of the Kemerovo Region) is also meeting with us on a monthly basis. The municipal authorities have allocated a site for the construction of a chapel, which is currently under way. It is scheduled to be unveiled by Miner’s Day. I also want to thank them for giving us an opportunity to visit the holy places (I personally visited Jerusalem and Ms Markovskikh was there recently). Thank you very much for making it possible for us to visit the Holy Land and to pray for our loved ones, living and deceased, and for Russia in general.   

My father-in-law, who is 78 years old and is a Muslim, also made a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, (I believe it is called a hajj). I also want to thank you on his behalf. And no matter what, I would like to wish you every success at the elections.  

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Are there any mine rescuers present here?

Olga Korotenko: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: You, yes? I am not sure if you are aware of this. Just recently, the day before yesterday, actually, it was at the end of last week, we adopted a number of decisions regarding mine rescuers. They now have the same status as the employees of the Emergencies Ministry and are eligible for early retirement… 

Olga Korotenko: What we discussed and asked for.

Vladimir Putin: Exactly! For seniority and special work. There is a whole package of social benefits, including the provision of housing and so on. I hope this will help us to attract decent young workers.

Olga Korotenko: Will insurance be guaranteed to those who are still working?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, to those working, making this occupation – which is extremely dangerous, as you know better than anyone – more appealing, of course.

Olga Korotenko: Mr Putin, I want to second what has just been said as well. I would like to express particular gratitude to our Governor, Aman Tuleyev, and it is a pity he is not here at our meeting. I hope you will pass along our words of gratitude to him at your meeting.

Vladimir Putin: I will drop by for a quick visit today and pass your words along.

Olga Korotenko: Tell him we wish him a speedy recovery, we cannot do without him.

On behalf of all mine rescuers’ widows and myself, I would like to say a very special thanks to you. Despite your important affairs of the state and your busy schedule, you have found the time to meet with us. I have attended every meeting with you, from the very first one, and I remember that talk perfectly, the same tasks were being considered. And now I can say for certain that everything that was discussed at those meetings has been accomplished. Actions follow words. Monetary payments have been made; at least I can speak for my family. Housing conditions for my family and my husband’s mother, who lives alone, have been improved. The apartments we have received are better than those which we had. Providing education for children is certainly relevant – they're already grown up. They have also taken some trips abroad to improve their health. All social measures provided by our Governor here in the region, by you and by the federal authorities (well, you know about this as you supervise these activities) are vitally important to us.

It has been a year and eight months since the tragedy, and it would seem that time heals, as they say – but those who have never lived through this are unable to judge. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, with all this pain of loss that will never go away. We have to live with this. But with the support that has been provided and with a strong team working behind us, when everything is being done correctly and promptly at the local level, in the regions and in the country – this is priceless. We simply cannot do without this.

On this occasion – even though you have asked not to mention this – in advance of the presidential election, I would like to wish you victory. As long as we have people like you in power, we have a future.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your kind words. As regards housing: a total of 41 apartments have been purchased. I know all this. The only problem has to do with children. I know that there have been some questions regarding children’s further education. Are there any issues now?

Svetlana Golik: I believe there are none, as children are studying on the basis of state subsidies – their tuition fees are paid and they have received scholarships. 

Remark: Students receive scholarships, all this is being done.

Remark: There doesn't seem to be any problem.

Tatyana Fatkhutdinova: My daughter studies at a university as well, with the Raspadskaya mine administration covering tuition and providing a scholarship. 

Vladimir Putin: They have undertaken full responsibility for this, haven’t they?

Olga Korotenko: We also have the mine rescue brigades paying both tuition fees and scholarships. We have no problems in this regard. All payments that are due have been carried out and are being paid. You know, life surely goes on – but since our husbands were killed in the mine blast, any small issue appears to be really huge.

Vladimir Putin: I know.

Olga Korotenko: We would not be able to overcome these issues without this assistance as the man is the head of the family and the breadwinner. We, women, are now becoming stronger – but we won’t be able to overcome this without this support. 

Vladimir Putin: Thank God your husbands’ friends are taking care of you.

Olga Korotenko: Yes, and a big warm thanks to them for that.

Vladimir Putin: Friends in the truest sense of the word.

Olga Korotenko: I know who you are talking about.

Vladimir Putin: Are there any more questions?

Tatyana Fatkhutdinova: We would like to invite you to the opening of the chapel – not necessarily on Miner’s Day, I think, but please come to our town for a visit anyway. We have good mountains here: I know you are fond of downhill skiing. 

Vladimir Putin: Yes indeed.

Tatyana Fatkhutdinova: Come skiing.

Olga Korotenko: Mr Putin, our very special thanks from the widows of all mine rescuers for hearing our request, or idea, to award our husbands posthumously. This was considered at the government level, and our big thanks to President Medvedev for taking part and signing the decree, with Orders of Courage awarded to our husbands after their death. Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: When is the chapel opening? When will the work be completed?

Remark: They have promised to do it by Miner’s Day.

Valentin Mazikin (First Deputy Governor): I think we will open it this year.

Remark: This year, for sure.

Vladimir Putin: By summer?

Valentin Mazikin:  Yes, we will open it to coincide with Miner’s Day, just around this time.

Vladimir Putin: Okay. Are there any more questions for me? I would like to wish you all the best.

Remark: And health and all the best to you as well.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.