Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session of the First Media Forum of Independent Regional and Local Media organised by the Russian Popular Front national public movement
April 24, 2014, 14:20 St Petersburg
Within the framework of the Media Forum, 400 journalists from 85 regions of the country will consider a broad range of issues dealing with the current work and development prospects of modern regional media in Russia.
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Excerpts from transcript of the plenary session of the First Media Forum of Independent Regional and Local Media
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, everyone. I am happy to greet you here today.
I know this is your second day – the forum began yesterday. I believe this is a very useful and interesting initiative of the Russian Popular Front. You did not come here to attend this meeting, but to exchange information, meet with heads of various federal and regional agencies and develop joint action plans and recommendations for the authorities.
Clearly, as you may all know, the work of local media may not be as charged and exciting as that of some strongly politicised national media outlets based in Moscow or St Petersburg.
Your work is in the highest demand with the public (this is obvious from statistics and polls) because it is focussed on everyday issues in the life of Russian citizens.
In the final count this is what matters most for every person and every family, which is why people have a greater interest in their regional media than in the national ones.
Therefore, this forum the RPF has organised is, in my view, extremely useful, important and interesting. I would like to end my monologue here so that we can use the time to talk.
I will be happy to hear your ideas, and if you have any proposals that you think can be implemented, I will discuss them with the Government and with the [Presidential] Executive Office, and we will try to find solutions.
Thank you for your attention. Let us now have a conversation, an exchange.
CO-CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE RUSSIAN POPULAR FRONT OLGA TIMOFEYEVA: As a former TV journalist, an information service field reporter, I would like to begin with the most pressing issue.
Our meeting is taking place in a complicated situation. The latest news is that supporters of federalisation, peaceful residents of Eastern Ukraine have been attacked; they even say there are casualties. It seems that what we feared most is in fact happening. What can you say about it?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If this is indeed happening, and strange as it may seem, I have found out about it from the media, just like you – I only just got this information when I arrived here. As far as I know our media were not reporting anything this morning, and now we have these reports.
If the current regime in Kiev really did use armed force against the country’s population, this is undoubtedly a serious crime against the people.
I would like to remind you that even the legitimate President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, did not use armed force in the conflict in Kiev; he did not resort to force even though he had been elected and had the national mandate to rule the country, even though he was Commander in Chief.
If the current rulers in Kiev have done it, this turns them into a sort of junta, a clique. First of all, they do not have a national mandate to do it. At best, they have some elements of legitimacy, and only in parliament. All the other authorities are illegitimate for one reason or another.
If these people have moved on to a so-called ‘acute phase’… this is no acute phase, this is a punitive operation, and it will undoubtedly lead to consequences for the people who make such decisions, including repercussions in relations between our states.
As for what the further developments will be, we will see. We will make decisions based on the actual events.
FIRST DEPUTY HEAD OF THE RPF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE DMITRY MINENKO: Mr President, we have journalists from all over the country here. The forum has brought together some 350 people, including journalists from Crimea and Sevastopol. Incidentally, I would like to inform you that branches of the Russian Popular Front have been officially registered in Crimea and Sevastopol. I think it would be right to let them ask the first question.
OLGA BURACHYONOK: Good afternoon, Mr President.
I am Olga Burachyonok and I am from the Crimea television channel.
I think my colleagues from the Crimean delegation will agree that we are very happy to be here, this is wonderful. Many things are changing in Crimea now. You yourself spoke of support for the Crimean economy, agriculture and tourism. However, in the context of this forum I would like to ask: will the media in Crimea and Sevastopol receive support from the state and in what shape and form?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Proceeding from the previous question, I would like to note something that, I believe, is becoming obvious to everyone: if it were not for Russia’s real support for the people who live in Crimea, it would have been impossible for them to freely express their will. We would have had the same situation we now observe in the east and south of Ukraine. It would have been the same or even worse. This is additional proof that we have done the right thing and at the right time. This is the first point.
Second, so that we can close the first question and not come back to it again. Look what happened: we took part in the Geneva meeting, signed certain agreements, the essence of which is that both sides must be disarmed, the administrative buildings freed and so forth. What is happening? Neither the Right Sector, nor any other radical organisation is being disarmed, nobody is freeing anything in Kiev. Quite the opposite: these groups are being legalised. By whom? This is not the path that should be taken, but the path of dialogue between all the residents of the country, wherever they live.
As for Crimea, as I have already said, we could have seen the same developments there as we see now in the east of Ukraine if we had not taken certain measures to protect the people’s interests in Crimea and Sevastopol.
Now regarding support. True, we are developing an entire programme of support for the economy and social sphere in Crimea. As for the media in Crimea and Sevastopol, they are now part of the Russian legal environment and can use all the media support instruments available within the Russian Federation. This is mainly the job of the Federal Agency for Print and Mass Media. There is a whole range of various measures. This year, however, the Government has cut their funding somewhat. Nevertheless, there is a set of instruments: subsidies, VAT reduction of up to 10 percent for print media, support for television and radio networks and internet media that are involved in such social programmes as promoting healthy living, social support for various groups of population and so forth. The Federal Media Agency website has all the information, the complete set. I would like to repeat that the main thing is to make sure this is backed by real funding.
I would like to draw the Federal Media Agency’s attention to something they could do. When they allocate the limited funds at their disposal, I think it would make sense to shift the focus to regional media. Despite all the difficulties, the national media outlets are in a better position both in terms of advertising and access to consumers – it is easier for them. Even though it is not easy for anyone, they are in a better position than the regional media. We will definitely discuss this with the Government, so that we can shift the focus towards regional media.
OLGA TIMOFEYEVA: To stay on the subject of Crimea – this is something all the media talk about now, but, amazingly, this is not only on the federal agenda – it is also on the regional agenda, the talk of every town, village and region.
We have someone from Murmansk here. You are welcome to join our conversation.
YEKATERINA ANDREYEVA: Yekaterina Andreyeva, the Murmansky Vestnik newspaper.
A lot of money is now being invested in Crimea. Will other regions remain unaffected? There was information the other day that state funding allocated for the development of the Murmansk transportation hub will be reduced by 75 percent in favour of the port of Kerch.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I know, your Governor asked you to raise this question. She keeps calling me all the time.
REMARK: That’s independent media for you.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, I can see that. (Laughter)
Tell her we will not cut the programme. Generally speaking, any mention of cuts in any programme is in no way linked to Crimea, because everything we are doing or planning to do in Crimea will be financed from Government reserves. This year we have about 240 billion rubles in our reserves, even additional reserves, while the entire scope of assistance to Crimea in various spheres, as I said during the Direct Line, does not exceed 100 billion. Therefore, we have sufficient reserves.
As for the Murmansk transportation hub, this is a very important project for our economy. The Government is now assessing all the investment projects. This has nothing to do with Crimea and support for the Crimean economy and social sphere.
A careful analysis of all the planned investments is connected to the overall situation in both the global economy and that of this country. The Government assesses every project from the viewpoint of its economic efficiency.
In this context, the development of the Murmansk transportation hub is undoubtedly an important component of Russia’s economic growth and infrastructure development, as this concerns access to the other side of the bay from where the port is now located. The Murmansk transportation hub – both the sea and rail components – is very efficient, has excellent prospects in terms of access to open sea at a good depth. This is without doubt not only a regional, but also a national project. Therefore, we do not envisage any cuts in the development of the Murmansk transportation hub.
More about the event: http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/7075