A meeting with deputy prime ministers


Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Dmitry Medvedev: Let’s get down to work. We will begin our working week by analysing the situation on the M-10 Moscow-St. Petersburg Federal Road. Everyone knows what this situation is like: a heavy three-day-long snowfall has led to an immense traffic jam. As usual, there are both objective and subjective factors involved. People had to wait for hours or even days on the road. The situation was difficult. I was receiving information at regular intervals; colleagues were reporting on the actions of the rescue and traffic services. The elements are the elements, and these things happen in all countries, northern ones in particular.

 But we should analyse how well-organised the effort to dissolve the crisis was. I talked to a number of governors yesterday and also sent Minister Maxim Sokolov (Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov) to find out what was happening on the ground. He reported on the situation in the evening. The Emergencies Ministry, the Ministry of Transport and the local authorities were working in the crisis area. On the whole, as far as I can understand, the situation has stabilised. Nevertheless, we should discuss how the relevant services, both regional and federal, have performed.

Of course, snowfalls are inevitable, but we must act promptly and try to prevent such traffic jams as we have in this complicated area. Mr Rogozin, you are coordinating the work of the Emergencies Ministry and resolving some other issues. How are things now?

Dmitry Rogozin: Mr Medvedev, on your instructions I have been analyzing information that came in from the Emergencies Ministry and other services yesterday and today. Today I held a teleconference with a number of governors. I’d like to report on the current conditions. We have fully restored traffic on the M10 Russia Motorway. At present all cars, lorries and buses are moving normally at speeds of 40-90 kilometers per hour. We have checked on the performance of buses together with the Transport Ministry. Buses are operating on all 40 routes since the morning. There are some traffic blocks in two places but this is due to the absence of the drivers. Apparently, they got tired of waiting and spent their night elsewhere. We are searching for them now.

About 9,000 vehicles, including 4,000 lorries, are stuck in a huge 70 km-long traffic jam. Some car and lorry drivers started driving in the oncoming traffic lane, and there have been seven head-on collisions as a result.

Dmitry Medvedev: This is the subjective factor I spoke about.

Dmitry Rogozin: Absolutely. However, although special equipment and snow removers are doing their job, I’d like to note that there were only six units of multi-purpose equipment working before the snow fall on a 45 km-long section of the M10 Motorway (from the 227th to 272nd km), one grader and one front loader. The organisations that sent them have three times more equipment, but they dispatched only one third of what they have.

Dmitry Medvedev: Why is that?

Dmitry Rogozin: I’ll talk about this a bit later.

The road surface on this motorway with downhill and uphill slopes is rather complicated. It has not been timely treated with de-icing agent…

Dmitry Medvedev: Whether you treat it with de-icing agent or not when it is raining non-stop, ice will form after a while. Of course, it is a good idea to monitor this.

Dmitry Rogozin: The Moscow-St Petersburg motorway is very difficult. For example, bottlenecks occur even during regular road operation in regular hours around Vishny Volochok… The speed there is 20 kilometres per hour. 

Dmitry Medvedev: I know this motorway, I have used this road, so we know.

Dmitry Rogozin: We have many concerns over how the Moscow-St Petersburg motorway is managed, over the work of the Federal Road Agency. Both the road police and the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief say they could operate differently. However, a number of rapid response measures to emergencies have been taken. To resume traffic, we have mobilised 28 additional road police crews and 14 operations teams of the Emergencies Ministry, 193 units of snow-removal and other equipment. We have deployed a total of 20 stationary and 7 mobile facilities of heat-assistance and food delivery. We have helped 4,780 drivers in this predicament. We also promptly resolved the problem of supplying petrol and diesel fuel, especially for lorries. Twenty permanent petrol stations and six mobile filling stations were in operation.

Of course, the aid did not always come on time and many drivers had no food and fuel out there in the forests. The road does not look like a European road; it is very Russian, it is dark, covered with a layer of snow and runs through forests. We can imagine the frustration of drivers in this situation. We should thank the volunteers, who came to help in close cooperation with local authorities. These volunteers deserve some warm words. The road police made an additional bypass route by the M9 road, but it was rather narrow so it could not remedy the problem completely.         

The conclusion: these bottlenecks are caused, first, by unsatisfactory road infrastructure between the two capitals and, second, the inefficient operation of road services. They failed to use even half of the fleet of snow-removal equipment at the start of the strong snowfall. We should also pay attention to the lack of adequate coordination of actions between federal bodies. In effect, currently there is no unified monitoring centre that would gather all information.  

Dmitry Medvedev: Is the Emergencies Ministry suitable for this?  

Dmitry Rogozin: The Emergencies Ministry is suitable, but the ministry has its own warning system, and the road police have their own warning system. For example, currently we have GLONASS, 24 satellites are on duty; meanwhile heavy-duty lorries are still not equipped with devices that support a safe traffic scheme.

Dmitry Medvedev: Or rather they are equipped, but not all of them.

Dmitry Rogozin: Of course. That is, there is no adjustment of the navigation map, no prompting messages that could reach navigators. Such systems are not in operation as of yet.

The second point, Mr Medvedev, concerns the outrageous situation involving the use of summer tyres, including on heavy-duty lorries.

Dmitry Medvedev: This is the responsibility of car owners.

Dmitry Rogozin: Some people think that we should introduce such obligations under the law. Of course, this depends on a specific region; we have warm regions too. But vehicles travelling long distances across Russia say from 1 November to 1 April should have winter tyres, and some heavy cars should also have snow chains when they go uphill and downhill. 

Dmitry Medvedev: I think we could discuss this taking into account specific condition. Mr Rogozin, you have worked in Europe long enough and you know well that everything comes to a halt in such situations in Europe: snow chains do not help. I have been in such situations in Europe myself; I travelled by bus and then the driver said: “I cannot drive anymore. The road is icy and dangerous. Get a hotel room.” We had to spend the night in a hotel. Unfortunately, in this country there are no hotels by the road, no facilities where people can rest and get some tea. This is a separate subject, especially on such busy motorways as the Moscow- St Petersburg motorway. In any case, drivers should be prepared for the changing weather in this country, for very complicated weather conditions. This kind of snowfall has happened before and will happen again. And very complicated ice conditions will happen, and no coordination of state bodies can completely solve this problem. Everybody should realise that, but we must pay attention to the warning system and the preparedness of drivers and the road services that should remove snow in a timely manner, correctly regulate traffic, and use adequate snow-removal equipment. I ask you to continue this work and formulate your final proposals, including the proposals on improving traffic rules.  

Dmitry Rogozin: Mr Medvedev, we will do this. I want to highlight one more subject. Today I spoke to Mr Puchkov, the Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief. This subject is about involving the engineer corps of the Russian Armed Forces in such emergencies; they have this kind of equipment. They do this in Europe and in other foreign countries. So if you do not oppose…

Dmitry Medvedev: Let’s work on this option, of course.

Dmitry Rogozin: …we will develop a draft version of your instructions.

Dmitry Medvedev: It could be especially urgent for remote territories, because there are still many locations, facilities and services between Moscow and St Petersburg. However, in Siberia, for example, perhaps they cannot do without this. Agreed. Go on.

Dmitry Rogozin: Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. And a couple of social issues to start our discussion. I have signed a directive on approving a phased programme of improvements of the wages system in public and municipal institutions. This programme will be effective until 2018 and concerns salary hikes for doctors, teachers, university professors, and academics, including employees of cultural institutions, as planned. This is a priority of governmental activity, and, of course, we should monitor what is happening under the schedule and what is happening in the regions.   

Now about the implementation of the state programme Accessible Environment. This is the largest programme of this kind in our nation’s history. For the first time, it offers a systemic solution to a number of problems of people with disabilities. The federal budget spending will amount to over 160 billion roubles.  

Recently I visited the Moscow State Humanities and Economics Institute, where we held a meeting on this subject. The institute has students with grave diseases including people with disabilities, wheelchair-bound people. The institute offers distance learning and provides for social inclusion of people with disabilities. Generally, the students are in good spirits, and the institute is good. It is only necessary to complete the construction of the dormitory – I have issued an instruction – and provide for the better supply of study materials, and the system itself is not bad. 

Of course, it is necessary to develop distance learning technology, especially in education where this is a very important method of learning for people with disabilities, I mean given the vast dimensions of our regions. So in general, the programme is large. Ms Golodets, will you elaborate? What are you planning in the short-term, including with respect to implementing the instruction I issued when visiting the institute?

Olga Golodets: Mr Medvedev, colleagues – that is true, the programme Accessible Environment is one of the highest priority programmes for socially vulnerable categories of the population. The people with special needs in education should be able to satisfy those needs. Currently, Russia has 560,000 children with disabilities, including 28,000 children who need to use distance learning. Currently, Accessible Environment offers 25,000 distance learning places for children; but several thousand children remain, and we will provide education for them this year or in the first quarter of 2013.   

The next issue is very important – this is equipping all educational institutions with special devices because inclusive education is developing in this country, too. The federal budget will allocate 9 billion roubles in 2011-2015 to this end and the regions will spend the same funds. What will be the result of this programme? Currently, 2% of educational institutions can accommodate people with disabilities. By the end of the implementation of the programme, 20% of educational institutions will be equipped for people with disabilities. But it is important that currently the subsidies are targeted: we are creating an accessible environment in educational institutions where children with disabilities enrol. Currently, we have successful examples: the Bauman Moscow State Technical University does serious work with young people with disabilities, and currently the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education is implementing large programmes for young people with disabilities. Currently, practically half of schools have children with disabilities and teach them with uniform requirements – this is a serious breakthrough, a humanitarian breakthrough in our society.  And I hope that this programme will make it possible for us to more quickly and efficiently provide social inclusion for those people who need this, with state support.  

Dmitry Medvedev: Good. You should pay attention to this subject not only when you make your reports. I hope that this work will be organised because the programme is large and, unfortunately, the number of people with disabilities is also considerable in this country. We should help to create a really accessible environment in this country – the same environment that many foreign countries enjoy. Thank you.


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