22 november 2012

Dmitry Medvedev visits Moscow State Institute of Humanities and Economics for students with disabilities

The Prime Minister looked at several classrooms, including a computer classroom, and visited the gyms.

The institute's rector Vagif Bairamov, who accompanied the Prime Minister, asked him to support the construction of a health and fitness facility at the institute for students from other institutions as well. Dmitry Medvedev supported the initiative.

The Prime Minister was also shown the hostel that is being constructed, which is designed to accommodate the needs of wheelchair-bound individuals.

* * *

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits the Moscow State Humanitarian and Economics Institute and speaks with professors and students


Vagif Bairamov (Rector of the Moscow State Institute of Humanities and Economics): Mr Medvedev, graduates of our institute and fifth-year students who will graduate next year are present here …

Dmitry Medvedev: Graduate and under-graduate students. 

Vagif Bairamov: Yes, under-graduate and graduate students.

Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to greet all of you. Naturally, I would like to discuss common problems with under-graduate and graduate students, as well as problems associated with job opportunities for people with disabilities. As you know, the situation with the so-called barrier-free environment is changing, although not as quickly as all of us would like.

Job opportunities for disabled persons are a separate problem. Actually, this is the main reason why I have come to your university. This is not the first meeting on this issue that I have chaired, but I believe that we must always focus on this issue, in order to change the statistics.

I will keep it brief. Ladies and gentlemen, please tell me about your problems, about various changes, and what should be changed. I suggest that our conversation should proceed along these lines.

Vagif Bairamov: Mr Medvedev, allow me to introduce Stepanida Artakhina, who won a bronze medal this year …

Dmitry Medvedev: Congratulations. Well done, it’s nice to see you in good shape, and I would like to wish you success in your creative and athletic endeavours. In general, I would like to wish you everything one can wish in this situation.


Anastasia Kalenova (Disabled Person Third Category, Post-Graduate Student of the Moscow State Humanitarian and Economics Institute Specialising in Political Institutions, Processes and Technologies, Employee of the Department of Budget Process Organising, Accounting and Reporting at the Ministry of Education and Science): My name is Anastasia Kalenova. I enrolled in 2005 and graduated in 2011. To be honest, I was worried about whether I had chosen the right institute when I enrolled here in 2005. In 2011 ...

Dmitry Medvedev: What career did you choose?

Anastasia Kalenova: I majored in Applied Mathematics and Information Technology.

Dmitry Medvedev: I have just visited a classroom where young people are studying.

Anastasia Kalenova: Yes, they are. In 2011, when I graduated from the institute, I was confident that I had chosen the right school and that I had received a good education. I feel proud of my institute and I love it. During my six years of studies, I made a huge progress in my development. I would like to thank our rector and the Ministry of Education, which paid great attention to us. But the problem is that there are over 2 million people with disabilities in Russia – and these are just the people with musculoskeletal system diseases. Sadly, our institute is the only higher educational institution in Russia that can provide an education to people with disabilities and ensure both their social and medical rehabilitation. However, we are only able to offer a limited number of these places.

In 2011, the Ministry of Education helped us by incorporating three colleges into our institute. We would appreciate if we receive state assistance for developing these branches.        

Dmitry Medvedev: Anastasia, where are they located?

Anastasia Kalenova: In Elista.

Dmitry Medvedev: As I understand, you’re doing your postgraduate studies now?

Anastasia Kalenova: Yes, I am.

Dmitry Medvedev: In Elista?

Anastasia Kalenova: In Elista, Volgograd, and, if I am not mistaken…

Vagif Bairamov: Chelyabinsk.

Anastasia Kalenova: Chelyabinsk, that’s right.

Vagif Bairamov: Three federal colleges became part of our institute last year.

Dmitry Medvedev: These are not colleges but rather the institute’s three structural units, correct?

Anastasia Kalenova: Yes, these are branches.

Vagif Bairamov: They are former colleges that have now become our institute’s branches. 

Dmitry Medvedev: What has to be done?

Anastasia Kalenova: They have just been incorporated into the institute. They used to be regular colleges that were not targeted towards persons with disabilities. We would like them to develop more dynamically and to provide conditions for the physically disabled people, such as access ramps and special classrooms.  

Dmitry Medvedev: I see.

Anastasia Kalenova: And a dormitory.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see.

Anastasia Kalenova: Our institute and its development over these six years could serve as an example. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Right. Well, I did not have an opportunity to visit your institute six years ago, but judging from what I have seen today, I can say that this certainly is a unique school. On the other hand, obviously, there are things that need development. It is wonderful that a dormitory is being constructed here – and judging by its looks, it is going to be a very good dormitory.

Anastasia Kalenova: True.

Dmitry Medvedev: What is lacking is a health and physical fitness centre. The gyms that I visited are not geared towards people with disabilities. I mention this because work should be implemented not only at the branches, but at the main campus as well.  

Anastasia Kalenova: The efforts should be equal.

Dmitry Medvedev: Now, as regards the branches. The major thing as I see it – and I used to work at a university as well – so I know what university life is like – is to raise these branches to the proper level. As I understand, they were created on the basis of these colleges. What about the teaching personnel at these colleges?

Vagif Bairamov: We did not make any changes in this regard. The teachers are continuing to train under secondary vocational education programmes. As of next year, we plan… We have been developing the infrastructure, such as entrances and access ramps. So, the work has already started. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Anastasia mentioned that she had doubts whether she had chosen the right institute – and after graduating she realised that the institute is excellent and everyone was satisfied. This is good. First, I would like to say that Elista, Volgograd and Chelyabinsk should all provide the proper level of education. Creating a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities is certainly very important, but providing a proper level of education should be priority number one. I think you will support me in this regard. As for the facilities, work should certainly get to work in this regard. We need to prepare a programme to ensure that all of the standards are met at all of these three locations – at least as far as this can be achieved today.

Vagif Bairamov: We are in the process of preparing for this. As the primary education and methodology centre for training individuals with disabilities in Russia, we are preparing professional development courses for teachers.   

Dmitry Medvedev: Are the teachers ready to engage in this work?

Vagif Bairamov: They certainly are.

Dmitry Medvedev: Are they? All right then.

Vagif Bairamov: We are working in this direction.

Dmitry Medvedev: Good, it has to be brought to completion. Go ahead, please.

Oleg Polyakov (a wheelchair-bound individual and a post-graduate student of the Moscow State Institute of Humanities and Economics): My name is Oleg Polyakov, I am a 2008 graduate and I am presently studying for a post-graduate degree. I have the following question. First of all, I would like to thank you for holding election meetings with your supporters, which I also attended. And hence my question – I met with Fyodor Bondarchuk there and we discussed employment in the context…   

Dmitry Medvedev: And what was your major, Oleg?

Oleg Polyakov: Applied mathematics and computer science

Dmitry Medvedev: You also have a degree in applied mathematics?

Oleg Polyakov: Yes. It turned out that we were not the only ones concerned with this issue. Major companies and large businesses were also concerned. But there are two problems. First, large companies have doubts about the education quality of recent graduates. And the second problem is that they don’t know how to work with us – I am referring to our social group. Thus, we need to develop – this is the way that I see it – a social partnership with large companies, with socially oriented firms. And the mechanism can be developed based on our platform, as it has the largest concentration of graduates, so that they have no doubt about the quality of student education. 

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I hardly have anything to add to what you have just said. You are very right. As for the business community and not just large companies… 

Oleg Polyakov: What I mean is that it is primarily large companies…

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes. But to be honest, most businesses in Russia do not know how to work with people with disabilities, and they need to learn how to do so. In fact, it is not that difficult. Other countries have accumulated vast and very positive experience in this regard. We just need to adopt the standards that have already been developed by the international community and to apply them in our country. This should be done through a partnership between educational institutions and employers and subsequently through a partnership within the business community.        

What mechanisms have to be developed? These primarily include mechanisms for creating a proper environment for these graduates' employment, and certification or additional evidence that demonstrates to employers that the graduates of your institute or another school fully meet their requirements. They do have fears, but once they meet with you, they see that you have a good education and you are ready to work according to your major. We need to figure out what verification means can be used here. I am not sure. Mr Topilin, what do you think? 

Maxim Topilin (Minister of Labour and Social Security): There are two issues here – on the one hand, we have the quality of education, and on the other hand…

Dmitry Medvedev: I did mention the quality of education.

Maxim Topilin: On the other hand, many people say that employers themselves are not ready and often don’t understand how to equip working places. In other words, these standards…

Dmitry Medvedev: You should make appropriate recommendations to them.

Maxim Topilin: We are currently… I was planning to report on this later, but…

Dmitry Medvedev: You can say it now, too.

Maxim Topilin: We have drafted a plan of action for the employment of disabled persons together with the Ministry of Education and Science. And you have approved this plan. The plan stipulates various measures in the context of providing jobs and education. All these measures are included in the plan. And we must stipulate all these workstation requirements in the next two years. Actually, there are no such requirements, because we have never addressed this issue. These requirements will give employers an idea of what should be done in order to equip a workstation for a wheelchair-bound individual. In effect, all this should become standard practice.

Dmitry Medvedev: But you should not drown this in red tape, because we have to create adequate working conditions for people with disabilities. But, on the other hand, we should not scare employers to such an extent that they will have to restructure everything in order to hire one, two, three or five people with disabilities … In effect, we need to maintain some balance between ensuring comfortable working conditions and not scaring away employers.

Oleg Polyakov: I believe that this should primarily mean dialogue between us, our category of individuals, and the employer.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes.

Oleg Polyakov: But I believe that the ministry alone will be unable to solve this problem.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, sure, all the more so as you know what is needed or not needed, naturally. Representatives of the institute should simply become involved in this process. 

Vagif Bairamov: We discuss all these issues with national societies and with our disabled colleagues. 

Dmitry Medvedev: You can also involve young people from the institute, including lecturers and students.

Vagif Bairamov: All right.

Dmitry Livanov (Minister of Education and Science): What is interesting is that this is the most successful cooperation programme with a company. I am referring to the cooperation programme involving the Schneider Electric foreign company.

Dmitry Medvedev: Foreign companies can do it, they are not afraid.

Dmitry Livanov: The Russian business community should also understand its social responsibility for this kind of work. Indeed, political messages are very important.

Dmitry Medvedev: Incidentally, you and I send out political messages. We are also sending out these messages today. And we must establish such a partnership, this is correct.

Vagif Bairamov: Yes, Mr Medvedev. The company’s representative, who is present here, would like to make a statement.

Dmitry Medvedev: Please, go ahead.

Alexander Medved (Disabled Person Second Category, Sales Department Specialist with Schneider Electric and Lecturer with the Applied Mathematics and Information Technology Department at the Moscow State Humanitarian and Economics Institute): My name is Alexander Medved. I graduated from the Applied Mathematics Faculty back in 2006.

Dmitry Medvedev: Where do you work now?

Alexander Medved: I work for Schneider Electric. I also continue to maintain contact with the institute, while working for this company. I lecture on programmable logic controllers (PLCs) here on behalf of Schneider Electric. I would like to say that the institute and Schneider Electric have accumulated the required experience of work, cooperation and long-term partnership. The company already employs several dozen of our graduates.

Dmitry Medvedev: It’s great that they have launched this work, and that they are setting an example for Russian companies. I am talking about your company here. By the way, could you say a few more words about your working conditions?

Alexander Medved: This major European French company specialises in the field of electrical engineering and automation.

Dmitry Medvedev: Do you receive good wages?

Alexander Medved: Yes, my wage is quite competitive. Several disabled persons, myself included, work at a European-class office and experience no discomfort.

Dmitry Medvedev: And what about working conditions? Do they effectively adapt workstations? They have accumulated their own European experience in this area, yes?

Alexander Medved: Yes. They also provide custom-made chairs and recreation rooms. All this is available.

Dmitry Medvedev: Do they equip individual workstations?

Alexander Medved: I don’t require an individual workstation. But, yes, the company is ready to provide these individual workstations. In some cases, special-purpose equipment has been used to help students who are now working for Schneider Electric and to make things easier for them …

Dmitry Medvedev: I am glad to hear this. Well, this is a foreign company, although many other foreign companies also work here. Are any Russian companies involved in this work?

Oleg Polyakov: Unfortunately, there are no Russian companies. We suggest establishing facilities on the basis of this platform.

Dmitry Medvedev: We will now meet with representatives and employers in another room. If I'm not mistaken, Russian companies will also be there. I would like to know why they are not involved, and, if they are involved, what areas they prefer.

Maxim Topilin: Yes, they are present, Mr Medvedev. They will tell us later.

Dmitry Medvedev: They are present, right?

Maxim Topilin: Yes, they are.

Vagif Bairamov: They cooperate with our institute.

Dmitry Medvedev: If they have come to your place, let’s consider them here.

Alexander Medved: Mr Medvedev, may I ask you another question that is unrelated to the previous subject? Disabled persons, especially people with locomotor disabilities, have extremely limited mobility. Many disabled persons view cars as their only means of transportation. There are no alternatives here. Is the Government doing something to once again partially compensate for preferential car-purchase mechanisms?

Dmitry Medvedev: Alexander, what kind of benefits do you think would be helpful in the context of the current situation?

Alexander Medved: Disabled persons with medical indications or restrictions that prevent them from using public transport  … Well, the state should help them  buy private cars, at least to some extent.

Dmitry Medvedev: Are you talking about compensating part of car prices or some preferential car-purchase loans? I am simply trying to understand, what, in your opinion, is the best option. Although numerous consumer loans are currently being issued, disabled persons don’t always find it easy to take out these loans. And loan terms can be rather harsh, to put it mildly …  

Alexander Medved: Yes, this is also a separate subject. But if we don’t discuss this issue, then assistance, financial assistance … in what form … it’s hard to say. I believe that, if possible, it would be appropriate to introduce some individual approach to vehicle purchases by disabled persons.

Dmitry Medvedev: We can think about it. I would also like my colleagues, including Mr Topilin (addressing Maxim Topilin), to discuss this issue. We can think and try to create some product together with banks, because there's little chance this will be financed by the state alone. We could consider the option of creating a joint product with major banks, including Sberbank or some other major bank, that would allow disabled persons to buy cars. Of course, previous programmes are highly unlikely to be resumed. To be honest, such programmes were not completely fair, and they will not allow to buy normal vehicles today. But we could think about issuing consumer loans to people with disabilities, considering the specifics of their work. Incidentally, Sberbank has addressed some of these issues. So, we could cooperate with them…

Remark: That’s right. The banks are very passive in the context of employment problems … They don’t implement these programmes actively. But, if we come up with some kind of co-financing mechanism, then … We’ll think about it.

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, frankly speaking, a bank could implement a programme to assist disabled persons. There is nothing bad about this. I am not talking about under-financed or weak banks. But major banks could implement these programmes as part of their completely normal charitable activities. If they create such a product, then they should at least compensate interest rates or part of car-purchase downpayments. That’s what they could do.

Alexander Medved: Thank you.

Anna Duryagina (Third Category Disabled Person, Post-Graduate Student of the Moscow State Humanitarian and Economics Institute specialising in political institutions, processes and technologies): My name is Anna Duryagina, I am a graduate of the Law Faculty of this institute. Right now, I am a post-graduate student at the Political Science Department.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see that we are colleagues.

Anna Duryagina: I would like to ask a question about granting disability status to individuals and about medical-social expert examinations. I have gone through this procedure, and, to my mind, it is a rather complicated process. I believe that this process should be improved to some extent. For instance, medical experts make subjective assessments when deciding on specific disability categories, because there are no clear criteria for listing specific health disorders among certain disability categories. For instance, it is very hard to discern between the second and third disability categories.

In addition, there are numerous repeat medical checkups. For instance, disabled persons with permanent and irreversible health disorders, including amputees, have to undergo medical checkups every year. The appeals procedure is the third problematic aspect of this issue. The appeals procedure is conducted at virtually one and the same agency. In effect, superior medical-social expert examination agencies are always ready to make the relevant subjective decision.

Dmitry Medvedev: And do you think that specific decisions should be appealed?

Anna Duryagina: I suggest, or I believe, that an independent expert board should be established. Is this possible?

Dmitry Medvedev: Anna, I would like to point out several aspects. As a lawyer, you know that expert evaluations are always subjective. There can be no objective expert examinations because all experts are humans. We should simply try to reduce the number of subjective assessments. This can only be accomplished by passing clear and professional regulatory documents. We have no choice but to create the required framework, and not to clamp down on everything at the same time. You have mentioned repeat medical checkups for individuals with irreversible disabilities, including amputees. In fact, this is an absolutely classic example. This used to cause all-out indignation when I was a student. To the best of my knowledge, I believe I studied this issue in 1984. I don’t know whether this is the case, but, if you are right, then this amounts to complete lawlessness. Do we really require people with missing arms or legs to undergo repeat checkups each year?

Maxim Topilin: No, we have criteria that don’t require such checkups. Let’s discuss one particular case. In the past few years, though, we have been introducing all sorts of amendments, which rule out such cases.  As for … 

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Topilin, please pay attention to this because, if this problem still exists, then this is simply outrageous.

Maxim Topilin: Well, this problem always resurfaces. As for more objective attitudes, I have told you that we are now completing an experiment under the “Accessible Environment” programme. The young lady is absolutely right: The system of medical-social expert examinations has no protocols or procedures for conducting medical checkups. All these framework documents ensure large-scale subjectivism in addition to expert examinations. We are now assessing all these measures, and we are compiling instructions in order to eliminate this sort of subjectivism. We expect to complete this work sometime next year, and we will require letters for designating disabled persons with various disorders, etc. In effect, we expect the entire system of medical-social expert examinations to change the pattern of its work in a year's time. And we want to accomplish this objective very much. This subjective attitude is already … This includes a tremendous number of complaints and discontent persons with disabilities. 

Dmitry Medvedev: I am aware, yes. Naturally, I am not hearing this for the first time.

Maxim Topilin: After analysing and assessing all this, we are now moving to ensure a more objective attitude, and we are cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Medical-Social Examinations. It should be noted that employees of this Bureau are responding rather negatively, because we are introducing the required framework.

Dmitry Medvedev: You and I also realise that this is a two-way street. And the system of medical-social expert examinations should be modernised and should, at the same time, be the source of much less discomfort for disabled persons. As for the appeals procedure, I don’t know how effective it is, but there are obviously problems in this procedure, if this question is being asked. We must try to ensure a simpler, more effective and eventually more objective appeals process. Please see what can be introduced here, please speak with the organisations of disabled persons and submit your proposals to me after.   

Remark: Thank you very much.

Dmitry Medvedev: You're welcome. Does anyone else wish to speak?

Alexander Osokin (English language teacher at the Kineshma Technology Technical Boarding School): My name is Alexander Osokin. I graduated in 2009 with a degree in foreign languages. Right now, I am a teacher ...

Dmitry Medvedev: What language did you study?

Alexander Osokin: I studied German as my first language and also English. Right now, I teach at the Kineshma Technology Technical Boarding School, which is affiliated with the Ministry of  Labour and Social Security, in the Ivanovo Region. I would like to ask a question about corporate job quotas. As a regional representative, I am somewhat indignant about the fact that quotas are required for enterprises employing more than 100 people. And those employing less than 100 people no longer have to abide by these quotas. But I live in a small city with a population of about 100,000. This is one of the so-called single-industry cities (this concept exists) where small businesses outnumber large enterprises. That’s why I would like to draw attention to this issue.

Dmitry Medvedev: Alexander, could you simply tell us what should be done?

Alexander Osokin: Perhaps we should require some companies to reduce this ceiling a bit, say, 100 people and 4% out of 100 people. That’s the aspect I wanted to mention.

Dmitry Medvedev: So, we should pay attention to the current standards as regards small towns, single-industry cities and multi-industry cities, and we should reduce these standards?

Alexander Osokin: And one more aspect. The amended statute, which was adopted in 2005, states that municipal entities should improve the relevant mechanism and address job-quota issues. You see, I cannot say that the situation in the Ivanovo Region is worse. No, this is not the case, and we are not facing such developments. But, you see, the Federal Government should keep an eye on the situation. Of course, I realise that you are unable to oversee everything ...

Dmitry Medvedev: We cannot.

Alexander Osokin: But, you see, this is Russia. Without oversight from above …

Dmitry Medvedev: What should we oversee, and at what level? Please put it straight. Should we oversee this at the regional or ministerial level?

Alexander Osokin: We should standardise this to some extent. We should standardise a list of requirements concerning any specific enterprise prior to job-quota allocations, so that this matter is not entirely in the hands of a municipal entity.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Mr Topilin (addressing Maxim Topilin), please pay attention to this. Please modify some job-quota criteria. At any rate, please reduce such quotas, keeping in mind what our colleague has said about the standardisation of requirements… And also the proposal to change some of the quota criteria, at least to lower them, as our colleague proposed for some municipalities and some other constituent members.

Maxim Topilin: The right of the constituent members to set a quota of 2% to 4% of the total staff for enterprises that employ more than 100 people is covered in the law. It was adopted to reduce the burden on small businesses. This provision for small businesses was introduced when the law was amended. In principle, the constituent members could be allowed to take decisions in this area based on the principle of expediency.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, and also the specific situation in particular cities.

Maxim Topilin: Depending on the situation, the regional authorities could set the quota at 50 to 100. If they coordinate this issue with employers, they could be given the power to do this.

Dmitry Medvedev: I believe that the more freedom we allow in this area the better, because ultimately it is the regional and municipal authorities who are accountable to the people. If they can take decisions based on some other criteria, we could discuss the issue. Is this possibility provided for in the law?

Maxim Topilin: It is a legal provision.

Dmitry Medvedev: It’s in the law, yes? Which law is it?

Maxim Topilin: The law on the Social Protection of People with Disabilities, [Federal] Law No. 181.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see.

Vagif Bairamov: Mr Medvedev, this is a problem that directly concerns our graduates from the regions; they cannot find employment. They have told me this.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, this is exactly why we are discussing this issue.

Vagif Bairamov: They try everything to stay in Moscow, but unfortunately it is not possible.

Dmitry Medvedev: This is also not right. We are interested in skilled professionals – and our graduates are highly-qualified professionals – spreading across the country to create a certain microenvironment. Otherwise, Moscow, which is a huge city, will know how to help people with special needs (by creating jobs and certification programmes for them), while the situation in the provinces won’t change, with the local authorities unable to offer jobs to disabled people and holding up their hands and not doing anything at all in effect. We must create a civilised environment throughout the country and not only in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Vagif Bairamov: So if there are fundamental changes, they will go back to their regions. Most of our students here are from the regions …

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I see. All right, I think we are in agreement over this issue.

Sergei Syomin (a postgraduate wheelchair user at the Moscow State Social Humanitarian Institute with a diploma in the theory and history of state and law): May I?

Dmitry Medvedev: Please, proceed.

Sergei Syomin: My name is Sergei Syomin. I graduated from the law faculty of this university in 2012. What I want to ask on this issue is whether the creation of social agencies by local governments to help people with disabilities can be legally formalised? Moreover, people with disabilities could fill municipal positions in a given municipality. I believe that this could help resolve the issue, because municipal officials with disabilities will understand the problem better than anyone else and will work to implement the Accessible Environment state programme for 2011-2015.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, Sergei, I totally agree with you. Of course, we need to send the right signals to the municipal authorities, but the more people with disabilities they employ the better for disabled people and for society as a whole, because society would in this way become more modern and humane. I simply don’t know what other signals should be sent or what other rules adopted. You probably see the picture more clearly because you are a lawyer by profession. Do we have to formalise this in bylaws or is this an issue of [social] policy?

Sergei Syomin: I believe we should propose…

Dmitry Medvedev: Propose quotas? Quotas are not very efficient. Are you sure we should do this? Other countries have them, these quotas. Some countries specify the proportion of people with disabilities for civil service jobs, other have gender quotas to safeguard the gender balance. Maybe we should do the same? I don’t know if our society is ready for this, but in principle, we could do it. What do the ministers think?

Maxim Topilin: There are no official restrictions…

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s true, but people with disabilities are still not being employed.

Maxim Topilin: There is no such practice, no such rules. But I think that quotas will not resolve the problem. We simply need to…

Dmitry Medvedev: No, I don’t agree. I think that quotas would set things off in the right direction. The fact that some people will still try to avoid them is another matter, but we will still give out the right signal.

Maxim Topilin: Yes, of course. But I still think that we should first consider the organisational aspects. Many federal agencies employ…

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, federal agencies do this because...

Maxim Topilin: Both federal and regional agencies do this.

Dmitry Medvedev: Let’s think then what we should do to expand this practice. By the way, I believe that we should use any means we consider necessary. We could try doing this at the party political level rather than at the government level, which is a reasonable approach. After all, we have a party – I mean United Russia, which is also responsible for the civil service, because a large number of regional and municipal leaders are connected with the party in one way or another. We could develop a party project. I believe that it would be really good if the relevant signal were given throughout the country. That would be the right thing to do. Let me raise the issue with the party bosses today, so that they can address it.

Remark: Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: So I hope everyone who has not graduated yet finishes their studies and the postgraduates among you complete your postgraduate courses and enjoy teaching here. I hope all of you find good jobs, which is what you and your families need.

Lidia Yegorova (a fifth-year wheelchair user student in the department of foreign languages, winner of several Russian literature Olympiads): Mr Medvedev, may I ask a small question?

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, of course.

Lidia Yegorova: My name is Lidia Yegorova. I am a fifth-year student in the foreign languages department studying Turkish and English. I have a question about exchange programmes. There are exchange programmes that offer stipends, for example for attending courses at the Ankara or Istanbul universities. They don’t say outright that we [students with disabilities] cannot take part in them, but I definitely cannot go there because the conditions for people like me have not been set up there. But I would really like to do this.

Dmitry Medvedev: Does it depend on us or on Ankara and Istanbul?

Lidia Yegorova: I’d like you to help us, because the relationship between Russia and Turkey …

Dmitry Medvedev: Lidia, tell me simply, who should I ask, our Turkish partners? Is this what you mean? Just say what you mean.

Lidia Yegorova: Well yes … so that…

Dmitry Medvedev: Should I raise the issue with Mr Erdogan (Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey) or Mr Gul (Abdullah Gul, President of Turkey)? I know both of them.

Lidia Yegorova: Yes, so that they could address this issue.

Dmitry Medvedev: All right. In principle, I can do this. But you know, everything will depend on their goodwill, because it is their country and their money is their responsibility.

Lidia Yegorova: Of course.

Dmitry Medvedev: But since the question is there, why not ask it?

Vagif Bairamov: Mr Prime Minister, they [the students] went there for practical training. You went to Istanbul, didn’t you (addressing Lidia Yegorova)?

Lidia Yegorova: No, I was not there for practical training but with an excursion party. I was very impressed.

Dmitry Medvedev: Who paid for your trip?

Lidia Yegorova: The mayor of Istanbul, as far as I remember.

Dmitry Medvedev: So it was primarily a mayoral project?

Lidia Yegorova: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: That means that they have the money for this. Do you want them to invite these types of parties more often?

Lidia Yegorova: I know that they are planning to open a Russian-Turkish centre...

Dmitry Medvedev: It’s true that relations between us are very good. As you know, a great number of Russians travel to Turkey. A large number of Turkish companies have connections with Russia. In this sense, I hope that you will not be left without a job, because trade and economic cooperation between us is quite substantial. In principle, I don’t know about this year but last year Russia was Turkey’s biggest trading partner.

Lidia Yegorova: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: Therefore, the outlook is quite good in this sense. As for training programmes, I’ve heard what you said and will try to convey this information.

Lidia Yegorova: Good, thank you. Thank you very much.

Dmitry Medvedev: I wish you health and success!