Dmitry Medvedev ends his working visit to the Far East with a news conference


Vladivostok and most of the facilities are ready for APEC Leaders’ Week – Prime Minister

Transcript of the news conference:

Dmitry Medvedev: Well, is everyone still asleep or are there those who know how to wake up on time? Your questions, please.

Question: Mr Medvedev, you inspected the APEC facilities during this visit. How would you assess the current status of the facilities? My second question is about the bridge between Sakhalin and the mainland…

Dmitry Medvedev: Your first question first. I believe that the preparations for the APEC Leaders’ Week are proceeding on schedule. An absolute majority of facilities are ready. There are some details, of course, that need to be dealt with within the next two months, but, generally speaking, both the city itself and the facilities are ready for the meetings. It is gratifying that the majority of these facilities will be used not only during the forum but also afterwards. I’m happy that the residents of Vladivostok and the guests will be able to use all these new facilities.

Life in Vladivostok is now more comfortable than it was before. Let me remind you that, for a number of reasons, Vladivostok lacked even a decent sewage system. You don’t hear this very often, but this is how it was in fact. This is why every major construction project helps to improve life in a region and make the life of the majority of people more comfortable and modern. The money spent on APEC Leaders’ Week was earmarked precisely for this purpose. The bridge is, of course, a huge and very beautiful structure. I hope that apart from being a symbol of Vladivostok, it will facilitate tourism and regional development.

As far as the second bridge is concerned, there are no solutions thus far. I hope you don’t expect me to announce that we’ll build this bridge. But the idea does exist. As I see it, this idea does have merit; it would significantly influence life on Sakhalin. It is another matter (I briefly discussed this with my colleagues) that this project would be very costly. At the same time, the economic implications and the potential social benefits are considerable. Therefore, the least we can do now is consider the options with regard to a link between the mainland and Sakhalin Island.

Question: Mr Medvedev, when you plan your visits to the South Kuril Islands, I mean…

Dmitry Medvedev: I plan them all the time.

Question: …Do you take into account the reaction of the neighbours, particularly Japan? And this is not your first visit to the island, what impressions have you got from the previous visit and the current one?

Dmitry Medvedev: Let me first answer the second part of your question because it is much more important. To my mind, over the last couple of years the difficult socioeconomic situation on the islands has started to change for the better.  I attribute this to the attention which the federal centre is paying to the development of the Kuril Islands - a special programme worth billions of roubles, as well as a wide range of measures that are being implemented there. Therefore, if I start comparing what I have seen now with what I saw two years ago, as it happens I only visited one island back then - Kunashir, the changes are quite substantial even taking that into account.  I am referring to the construction of new more advanced and customised housing on the island, new social facilities, including schools and kindergartens… For instance, we visited a hospital, production facilities – the port is almost ready and soon a central railway station will be built there with customs service and border points. And, finally, I am talking about asphalt, something which has never been seen on the islands under any previous rule or state. 

And now your question about the reaction of our Japanese partners. I don’t care about it, so much so that I don’t even want to waste my time answering it. Why? Because why do we actually need to discuss with them the presence of the Russian prime minister on Russian territory?  That’s as far as we need to go. That’s it.

Question: Mr Medvedev, this is your first trip to the Far East as the prime minister. What are your impressions of the area you just visited? The government also has a new structure: there is now a Minister for the Development of the Far East. Does that mean that this ministry will deal with the development of the region or will the government as a whole still be paying attention to all the issues?

Dmitry Medvedev: Of course the entire government will be involved in the development of the Far East.  I am really pleased I went on this working trip, quite a long one for the prime minister, but I did not come alone, I brought along a host of ministers and deputy prime ministers. What does this mean? It means that the Far East is a development priority of Russia overall. This is a distant land with a number of difficulties which have accumulated, especially the last 20 years, but this part of our country is still very important for us. That is why both my colleagues and I are obliged to visit it regularly. And I am very pleased that my colleagues came here not simply to attend the meetings, and I know what it is like to come for two hours, get registered, deliver a speech and get back on a plane to Moscow.  No, they have been here for three days, dealt with the most pressing issues, visited the facilities first hand – and it’s really important to study the problems in depth. I clearly remember my impressions when I first visited the Koryak District, which was an autonomous entity in the Kamchatka Region and now is part of the Kamchatka Territory. You know, after my long journey I was deeply affected, seeing the consequences of the destructive earthquake. That alone was enough to dive straight into the problem and to realise how vast the region's potential is, and, on the other hand, how vast are the problems it has accumulated. So let us tackle them together, and deal with separate issues. And on a regular basis, which is very important for the development of the Far East.

Question: Mr Medvedev, you spoke about the seismic resistance programme for earthquake-prone regions. You said the programme would not be cut back despite the global economic crisis. You also said the development programme for the Kuril Islands will not be subject to any reduction either. Nevertheless, it is clear that the crisis is serious, and we will have to cut costs. Has a decision been made yet about what we can reduce spending on? And is it possible to cut defence spending, as some experts are suggesting? Or maybe it would be possible to extend it over a longer period in order to save money that way?

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, we are now assessing whether we do need to correct the budget plan. A commission has been studying the subject, and tomorrow we will hold a governmental meeting on the issue of budget projects. The situation is very complex, but it is changeable. We cannot call it a full-scale financial crisis yet, although in many parts of the world the situation is rather tense and threatening, which affects the global economy overall and the Russian economy in particular. Everybody knows that our stock market, our financial market is much more ‘volatile’ (that is the buzz word that is often applied) than the markets of other countries. We must take this factor into account.

There are certain sections of the budget that are protected: they include social spending, and spending on the most important social programmes, these are government priorities, of course. Nothing will be changed there. As far as other spending is concerned, we can discuss anything, but we must not forget about the most important priorities for the country. You talk about defence spending. I have always supported the development of the Armed Forces, both as president, and in my current position. At the same time, we must understand what part of this spending can be undertaken now, and what our industry is not ready yet for. With this in mind, I accept that part of the costs associated with formulating and executing the state defence order may be shifted due to the current state of our economy. Some aspects can be reconsidered, and other instruments may be used such as loans and leasing schemes. The agenda will include a discussion of the problems associated with the creation of a stable, balanced budget, which is very important for our country during this current period of financial instability.

What else can I say? As it turned out, not everyone made it to the Kuril Islands. Next time we will try to make sure everyone comes along. The weather there changes very quickly, and I said at the meeting that I would not go there because our flight would not be able to land. And suddenly it all changed, and the sun began to shine. So please stay near, and we will get on board, and fly there immediately. Or you can arrive in advance because these are very interesting places and I think that everyone must see them, from heads of state and government leaders, to journalists. Please, give special attention to the Kuril Islands, and the whole of the Far East.

Many thanks for taking part in the trip.

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