7 march 2012

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wishes Russian women a happy upcoming holiday and takes questions from female members of the government press pool

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin talks with female members of the government press pool

“Thank God we have been able to move past internal political hassles and squabbles. I expect that we will be able to start implementing the plans that we have discussed so extensively over the past weeks and months, with a good working rhythm. Congratulations and best wishes!”

Vladimir Putin: I’d like to wish all women in the government press pool a happy International Women’s Day. I know how hard you have worked, I have seen it with my own eyes. To use a popular phrase, I’d like to quote Nikolai Nekrasov saying that “there are women in Russian villages” who work even harder than you. We often travel around the country, as you are aware. Therefore, to your face, I’d like to extend my best wishes to all Russian women, wish them happiness, love and good spirits, with spring just around the corner. Thank God we have been able to move past internal political hassles and squabbles. I expect that we will be able to start implementing the plans that we have discussed so extensively over the past weeks and months, with a good working rhythm. Congratulations and best wishes!

Question: Thank you very much! You promised that you would share your plans with us and tell us about the drastic changes in the government that will take place once everything comes to pass. This has happened -- congratulations. What’s now?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Mr Medvedev and I are set to discuss this. We will talk about this tonight, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

Question: Won’t you share with us what you meant by drastic changes?

Vladimir Putin: Not just yet. We need to sort it out between the two of us. There are certain ideas, but I don’t think I should speak about them in public before the time is right. We need to set them down on paper first. 

Remark: That sounds interesting.

Vladimir Putin: I understand.

Question: Mr Putin, speaking of the upcoming holiday, there were several performances by female groups that were addressed to you. One took place at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow; the other was at your polling station. What do you think about such activities?

Vladimir Putin: I didn’t see any of that and I’m not entirely sure I understand what you’re talking about. If you could be a bit more specific…

Remark: There were girls who stripped naked at the polling station.

Vladimir Putin: Had I left the station by that time?

Answer: You missed each other by a few minutes.

Vladimir Putin: What a pity.

Question: They sang a song about you. What do you think about such female attention?

Vladimir Putin: Did they sing well? If they broke the rules of the church, I'd like to apologise to all believers and church members for their behaviour, if they haven't already done so themselves. I hope this will never happen again.

Question: Mr Putin, I’m from the Georgian TV company Imedi. I’d like to take this opportunity and ask you a question.

Vladimir Putin: Please go ahead.

Question: What do you think Russia-Georgia relations will look like during your presidency? I’m sure you understand that there’s not a single Georgian who would agree to Georgia being so scattered territorially. No one is in favour of Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Vladimir Putin: Is there anyone who would favour the decision to launch an attack using peace-keeping forces? No one liked that either. At least not in Russia, especially considering that there were casualties. However, this decision was made, and, unfortunately, the responsibility lies with the current Georgian leaders, not us.

I have said so on many occasions, and I’d like to stress it again: we have special relations with the Georgian people and we hope that we will be able to find a solution. However, it’s premature to talk about this now, and there is probably no sense in it. Mr Medvedev is incumbent Russia’s president. He’s in charge of Russian foreign policy, so please address all your questions to him. We’ll wait and see what happens next.

Question: Mr Putin, do you plan to remain in the office of prime minister until the inauguration, or will you move to the Kremlin before May 7?

Vladimir Putin: Why would I move? My workplace is here, why would I move anywhere else? There’s a lot of work to be done. Who will do this work, if not I? I will keep watch at my post until the end.

Question: Don’t you want to take a break after the election campaign?

Vladimir Putin: No, I don’t. Why?

Question: Take a vacation?

Vladimir Putin: No. I’m not used to going on vacations. I wouldn't be comfortable.

Question: What will your relations with the opposition be like when you move into the Kremlin? Will they intensify in the wake of these mass rallies? Do you believe that the opposition is a real political force?

Vladimir Putin: They will become a real political force if they take advantage of the proposed reform and become part of this political system; if they are able to come up not only with their demands, but also their proposals to move our country forward; if they manage to prove to a certain number of voters in individual Russian regions or in the nation as a whole that their proposals make sense and people trust them. Only then will they become a real political force.

Question: Then you will cooperate with them?

Vladimir Putin: What do you mean? We are already cooperating. Issuing permits for rallies and demonstrations is also a form of cooperation. President Medvedev met with them, and this is also part of our cooperation. Of course, we keep in touch with them.

Question: Mr Putin, you said that the issue concerning privatisation in the 1990s should be closed. Are you going to issue any instructions to this end? When might this happen? What form will it take?

Vladimir Putin: Our colleagues have been thinking about this, but there are many aspects to this issue.  First, we need to find an arrangement that would be acceptable for people who benefited from the privatisation of the 1990s, for society and for public opinion in order to be able to turn over this page. Is it even possible to come up with such a “one size fits all” solution? I don’t know. When I first mentioned it, I clearly explained that this idea came from Grigory Yavlinsky. I believe it would be good if we could come up with such a formula. Will we be able to do so? I don’t know. Our colleagues in the government are also thinking about this. Let’s see what we can do. We are ready to sit down with Mr Yavlinsky and his team and give it some thought. Your colleague asked me about cooperation with the opposition: we have always cooperated with the opposition. Have you forgotten that I supported the Right Cause party when it was being established and helped them make it to the Duma of the previous convocation. They used to work in the Duma but, unfortunately, weren’t able to make it next time around. This is not our fault; this is their fault. Some people from the opposition are employed with the government. The Antimonopoly Service is effectively led by a fairly active Yabloko party member. One of the former Right Cause leaders heads the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy and does an excellent job. I supported Mr Lukin for the position of a human rights activist. He is a respected person. He works absolutely independently and doesn’t bend over backwards to please authorities. However, his behaviour is absolutely correct. He is a cultured and very educated person, who acts consistently and objectively. We have many people from the opposition who work in the government. We practice this approach. There’s nothing unusual about it. It’s that some people from the opposition want first to make themselves known in the streets, but that’s not enough, you see? You can make yourself known, but you also need to come with programmes for actual positive development. Hue and cry may be a fun pastime, but Russia needs to move forward.

Remark: The United States plans to release…

Vladimir Putin: What does it plan again, the perfidious United States?...

Remark: I will open one dark secret to you.

Vladimir Putin: …what is it up to this time, the perfidious United States?

Answer: They plan to disclose bank accounts of US citizens, and it’s no secret that …

Vladimir Putin: US citizens?

Answer: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Let them do so. But there’s such a thing as a bank secret. So, they decided to go ahead and violate it?

Answer: Yes, there’s a resolution…

Vladimir Putin: This is very good. If I understand correctly, they decided to bury the secrecy in banking. This is very good, because everybody will then scramble to open accounts in our banks. Our banks operate transparently and comply with internationally accepted procedures. Our financial intelligence is very effective. However, we respect bank secrets. So, if the United States decided to destroy it, then even law-abiding depositors will look for other countries to keep their money.

Question: The issue is that many people affiliated with Russian government officials have dual citizenship. Is the presidential administration or the Russian government going to do anything about it, if such information about dual citizenship of relatives of Russian government officials is released? Or, this is something that you think is normal?

Vladimir Putin: What needs to be done? Quite recently, I asked Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to identify various kinds of affiliations of heads of state companies or of companies with a state interest with their suppliers, contractors and clients, including all information about their accounts, income, and so on. In addition, we decided to toughen our law. For example, I’ve been told that in the United States failure or refusal to provide information may constitute grounds for initiating a criminal case. I’ll have our lawyers verify this information. We will follow this path. Please don’t be shy and let me know if you have other proposals.

Answer: I don’t think it’s right when a public servant, a ministerial employee, has children with dual citizenship, not just because…

Vladimir Putin: Well, that’s a good idea. So, you think that all foreign nationals should be barred from public service?

Remark: I’d like to know what you think about this.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s then take the next step and bar all people with foreign passports, dual citizenship or a green card from nationwide media. If I understand you correctly, then this will be the next step if we act consistently. Let’s run it by the public and decide on it, I have no objections. We do have exclusively foreign nationals in some media outlets, I know it for sure, 100% of staff are foreign nationals. There are nationwide media outlets operated exclusively by foreign nationals. There are no media outlets staffed mostly with Russian nationals in the United States, and such a thought even defies the imagination. Do you see my point? It’s impossible. They’ll just be instantly destroyed through administrative and financial measures.

Remark: But Russia is a democratic state.

Vladimir Putin: Unlike them, yes, we are a democratic state.

Question: What do you think about police actions on March 5?

Vladimir Putin: I believe they acted very professionally. They didn’t beat anyone, didn’t use any special equipment. They just pushed the crowd back after they started breaking the law.

Remark: But many journalists were arrested in Moscow and St Petersburg...

Vladimir Putin: Do you know that police saved some journalists from crowds? Protestors started beating them up. Are you aware of this? There was a journalist who was running from them but they caught up with him and started beating him. A police officer hid him in his car. The police must – I want to emphasise this – they must make sure that everyone complies with the law. Protestors have made certain commitments and were provided with an opportunity to do what they wanted to do within the legal framework. Once they began breaking the law, which they did consciously and publicly, the police had to respond accordingly. They did it in a very correct manner with full understanding that some of rally participants wanted force to be used against them. The police have sufficient resources to be able to address tasks facing them while staying within the legal framework.

Question: Mr Putin, what do you think about today’s statement by the League of Voters, which didn’t recognise the voting results?

Vladimir Putin: The League of Voters didn’t recognise them even before the elections took place, you see? Therefore, there’s nothing new or unusual for me here. At first, they recognised them and acknowledged that yours truly received over 50% of votes. However, later they did some nose picking and said that 50% was too much.

Remark: They are saying it’s over 50%, but less than 63%.

Vladimir Putin: Wrong. First, they said over 50%, now they’re saying less than 50%.

Question: May I ask you about elections?

Vladimir Putin: With them, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. I believe it was interesting and useful for them to see how active our people are at polling stations. You know, it was a jaw-dropping moment for foreign observers when they saw people coming to polling stations in droves as soon as they opened in the morning. It all started in the east. There were lines at polling stations in Chukotka! They took pictures of them. Lots of people! Foreign observers told us they never see such things in their respective countries. Unlike ours, their polling stations are always half-empty. We have pictures of crowds at polling stations; this is not our imagination.

Remark: Could these lines be due to buses that… They say a lot of doctored ballots were used.

Vladimir Putin: You know, there’s no way to haul 45 million people in buses. There are things that you can’t dispute no matter what… I won’t say it, since it’s the eve of the International Women’s Day. If that many people came to express their will, then no matter what they say… You know, there may have been violations, and, perhaps, there were some, but they can change the results by a hundredth of the percentage point, or one percentage point at most. No more. Go ahead and ask independent experts how will illegal manipulations with ballots affect the final result? At most 1%, 2% tops, which is very unlikely, though. Understandably, also-rans don’t like the fact that they lost, but they have to admit it. You know, the opposition often says that the authorities should listen to this or listen to that. Our opponents should also listen to what people have to say. Why does it all happen? I’ve just said that the Right Cause party has made it to the parliament once with my direct support. However, they failed to do so during their second attempt, although we didn’t oppose them. Why did they fail? They failed because society doesn’t like what this party has to offer to it. Individual party members are working well, and some of their ideas are good, but people don’t like them as a party, you see? They should also learn their lessons rather than just keep saying lousy things to the authorities, you see? Why don’t they look at themselves.

Remark: May I say a word about the elections, but seen from another perspective?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, give us another perspective.

Remark: Russian voters have made their choice and voted for you as president. However, you have also made your personal choice?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I voted too. I hope you know who I voted for.

Remark: I’m not talking about the voting. I’m talking about a more important choice that you made for the next six years. It’s unlikely that you expect them to be easy for you.

Vladimir Putin: Of course not. Now comes the most important part where we will need to deliver on our promises.

Question: How did your relatives and friends take the news about your choice?  Did you ask their opinion before doing so?

Vladimir Putin: They are not very happy about it.

Question: What did they say?

Vladimir Putin: Well, these are very intimate things, and I prefer to keep them that way.

Question: May I specify one point? You said “we’ll wait and see” with respect to Russia-Georgia relations. Do you have anything in mind? Georgia has unilaterally cancelled visa requirements. Are you going to resume relations with your colleague in any form?

Vladimir Putin: We have a visa-free regime with CIS countries, but Georgia withdrew from the CIS.

Remark: But it was in the CIS and there was a visa regime.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, but it was introduced as a response to certain events. On top of it, Georgia has withdrawn from the CIS.

Question: So, things will remain unchanged for the next six years?

Vladimir Putin: I don’t know. When will Georgia have its next elections?

Answer: Is that so important?

Vladimir Putin: A great deal depends on it as well.

Remark: There’s no politician who would recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and who…

Vladimir Putin: What do you want Russia to do? Force Abkhazia and South Ossetia to do things?

Answer: Pull the troops out of Abkhazia and Ossetia.

Vladimir Putin: So that you can again deploy your troops there? Is that correct?

Answer: Why so?

Vladimir Putin: What do you mean by “why”? You did so at some point. That’s why. If it were not for that, then the situation would be different. Remember, when the hostilities began? Do you remember what I said? The first thing I said was: “Saakashvili committed a crime against his own people, against Georgia.” He achieved his goal, and this territory split off. How am I supposed to talk with these people now? This is exactly where the mistake is. We have discussed this with Mr Saakashvili on many occasions. I don’t think I’ll disclose a secret by saying this, but I told him many times: “Mr Saakashvili, just don’t push it to the point of bloodshed.” We need to talk with these people. It’s not an overnight development, and this situation didn’t take shape because of Russia’s provocations. Do you know what happened in 1921? Read a history book, if you don’t, but I’m sure you do. What about 1919? They launched two or three raids. Things aren’t simple here. Interethnic relations are a very delicate issue. So, we need to build relations with them. He said: “Yes, of course. This is exactly what we’re going to do.” But what did they actually do? They did everything the other way round. At first, we agreed that Russia will not interfere with Adjara, even though we have a base there. I give you my word, we didn’t lift a finger there. He then told me: “Yes, you have kept your word.” What did the Georgian leaders do? We agreed that we will build a counter-terrorism centre in place of our military base. Where’s this centre now? When I suggested to Mr Saakashvili that we should sign an agreement for building an anti-terrorist centre, he told me that there was nothing to sign. I reminded him what agreement we had in mind. He told me Georgia didn’t want to build such a centre and scrapped the agreement. That was news to me. How can you do business with such people? I gave you an accurate quote. I know that Mr Saakashvili will hear what I’m saying now and try to deny or provide his own version…

Remark: The tie.

Vladimir Putin: Forget about the tie. The man was nervous. It can happen to anyone. I’m not being sarcastic now. But the things I told you now are true. I didn’t add a single word of my own. How can I agree on anything with him? About what?

Question: That is, you are expecting a new president, aren’t you?

Vladimir Putin: The Georgian people determine who is to be the president of Georgia, not we. We have stated our position, we have formulated it. We were not the initiators of the tragedy that took place, but probably the Georgian leadership should do something to change the situation.

Question: Mr Putin, what position could Mr Prokhorov take in your government when you become president? And Kudrin?  

Vladimir Putin: You know, I have told your colleague, and I will repeat that we will discuss these points with Mr Medvedev tonight, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, therefore I think it is inappropriate to speak about it now.  

Remark: But possibly they will…

Vladimir Putin: Mr Prokhorov is a serious person, a good entrepreneur, and in principle, he could probably be useful in the government if he wishes. I do not know if he is interested in serving. But I repeat, we will discuss this with Mr Medvedev.

Question: What will be your first order after inauguration?

Vladimir Putin: Oh my, I don’t know.

Question: Will Russia’s attitude to the situation in Syria and Iran see any changes?

Vladimir Putin: No. Foreign policy is conducted by the president, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However we discuss key issues in the Security Council of the Russian Federation. We all are monitoring these events. Certainly, each of us has his own opinion, since we are humans, but in general we have consensus on key issues, and I do not expect any drastic changes here.

Question: And is it possible to imagine a situation in which Russia grants asylum to Assad (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad)?

Vladimir Putin: We have not even discussed it.

Remark: And here’s the latest Israeli statement on the need for a military solution in Iran.  

Vladimir Putin: I do not think a military solution is good at all. I have made my point on this many times. I oppose any military actions especially in such a sensitive area as the Middle East.

Question: Can I ask you one more question? Returning to the future. But you and Mr Medvedev said that the there will be serious personnel changes in the government.  

Vladimir Putin: That’s true.  

Question: Is the presidential administration expecting significant personnel changes?

Vladimir Putin: Significant changes have already begun there. For instance, Mr Surkov has moved to the government. 

Question: Will Mr Ivanov keep his job?

Vladimir Putin: Mr Ivanov? Why not? I have known him for a long time, he is a very experienced man.

Question: And will you keep the office of presidential aide for work with extended?

Vladimir Putin: I don’t know. I don’t think so. All this should be channelled in the work of the government itself.

Question: Everybody is debating what kind of Putin they will see in this presidential term. Will he tighten the screws? What kind of Putin will he be?

Vladimir Putin: Surely. Is there an option? Do not relax.

Remark: Ahead of elections, you said that you will reduce the number of flashing lights used on cars…

Vladimir Putin: We will reduce them for sure!

Remark: And these special number plates.

Vladimir Putin: We will do this probably even before the inauguration. I have discussed this with Mr Medvedev. Nobody opposes this! It is rather difficult to fight against those people who enjoy using them because just as we have succeeded in reducing them, they sprout up like mushrooms again. I discussed this with Mr Medvedev. I think we will take a decision on this soon.   

Question: And the protégé plates AMR, EKKh, etc. If you take away flashing lights, they will continue to use special lanes and so on. What can be done about them?

Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I don’t know, it’s the first time that I’m hearing about protégé plates.

Remark: Let's say, special plates.

Vladimir Putin: I did not even know that such exist. But if they exist, we will work in this area. But top officials still must be able to drive to their office, of course, without flashing lights and sirens.

Question: Mr Putin, tell us, has everybody congratulated you or has anybody failed to congratulate you as of yet? Has Obama called?

Vladimir Putin: No, I haven’t spoken to Obama yet. I spoke to Sarkozy today, to Hu Jintao, to the prime minister of India, to the prime minister and to the president of Pakistan, the prime minister of Great Britain. Many leaders. And many called from the CIS.

Remark: He is expecting you in Chicago in May.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Nazarbayev called, and there were calls from Azerbaijan, Georgia… Oh, excuse me, unfortunately nobody has called from Georgia yet. There was a call from Armenia.

Question: Will you go to Chicago to meet with him?

Vladimir Putin: We’ll see. There is a lot of time left until Chicago.

Remark: It’s a nice city.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, they say it is a good city. Al Capone lived there, hasn’t he?

Remark: Symbolical.

Question: Mr Medvedev proposed to review the legal foundations the sentences of Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev. What do you think of this proposal? Will you release them when you become president?

Vladimir Putin: Look, I have made my point many times. There are court rulings, they came into legal effect. And there are legal procedures concerned with a possible release. If anybody wishes to implement these procedures, they are welcome. Mr Medvedev has given this instruction, indeed, I do not see any special point in that. The Presidential Human Rights Commission submitted this petition to him and he filed a relevant instruction with the Prosecutor's Office. I think it is right. This is the Presidential Human Rights Commission, and if people have any doubts, the president showed respect for these people and issued an instruction. But, my friends, we all are talking about the political aspect of this case. But why? Do you have eyes? Do you have ears? Can you read? Have you read the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights? Have you read it or not? Take it and read what’s written. It reads that the European Court of Human Rights does not see a political motive there. And yet they go on insisting. There are many people held for economic reasons. What about them?

What am I trying to say? There is a way. Such a way exists! It is stipulated in the law. Let this person take this way. Nobody is against it. Everybody is seeking a political solution, but there are legal solutions. You are welcome. But nobody wants to do that.

Question: Mr Putin, Mr Sechin is considered to be the most influential men in your government, outgoing….

Vladimir Putin: What a surprise! I thought I was …

Question: They especially distinguish you, yes. What do you value Mr Sechin for?

Vladimir Putin: For his professionalism and grasp, for his ability to see something through to the end. If he takes up a task, you can be sure that the task will be accomplished, and this is very important in executive bodies.

Remark: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.