Russian President’s speech during the meeting with members of political parties represented in the State Dumà
August 14, 2014. Crimea, Russian Federation
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,
We are meeting today in Crimea. It was a conscious choice to meet with you here. I want to start by thanking you all for the ceaseless attention you have been paying to developing our two new regions, and of course for the consolidation, unity and solidarity that all parties in the State Duma and indeed all of our country’s political forces showed during those days that were of such decisive importance for the fate of Crimea and Sevastopol and for our entire country.
Let me take this opportunity to note the productive and substantial work the State Duma accomplished during the spring session. You approved amendments to our country’s Constitution and passed important laws concerning the economy and social sector. In just a short timeframe you examined the so-called ‘Crimean package’ of laws, which were passed in order to regulate key areas of life in Crimea and Sevastopol during the transition period. This was extremely important and concerns the operation of the banking and financial systems and pension payments. You took a number of important decisions that directly concern people’s interests. I remind you that 12 federal constitutional laws and 283 federal laws were passed in all.
Finally, during the spring session, you began work on improving the local self-government system and took a decision that significantly increases the role and responsibilities of municipalities and regions. Overall, you have accomplished a lot, done a lot of hard work, and we all deserve to meet now in Crimea at this time.
Looking at the decisions taken to develop municipal and regional government, we see that they are based on a flexible approach, and this kind of flexible approach and logic is especially important for our two new regions, Crimea and Sevastopol, where so much has to be done from scratch.
Regional and local elections will take place here in September, as in many other Russian regions. It is important that regional and local government work be organised effectively and that powers and responsibilities be clearly delineated.
But I say again, we must at the same time take into account the regions’ particular circumstances and traditions and best practice in local and regional government. First and foremost of course are the interests of the people living in these regions.
I know that many deputies arrived in Crimea on the eve of our meeting – probably not only to enjoy the summer sun and the southern coast, but because I know you also met with people, and this is extremely important. Indeed, it is important and highly useful. After all, State Duma deputies are constantly doing this work in other territories. It is very important, of course, to visit this place as well and talk to local people.
A serious expert discussion also occurred within the framework of the special seminars on economic issues that were held yesterday, as well as on the history of Crimea. I hope that today, we will discuss many of the suggestions made within the framework of the seminars. I generally suggest that we not only conduct today’s meeting as an evening or day of questions and answers, but count on us to exchange ideas and suggestions. It will be a pleasure for me and Mr Medvedev to hear the suggestions you may have for developing these territories.
We have a great deal to do here. We have accumulated an enormous heap of problems that have essentially been unresolved for decades. Sometimes, one gets the sense that Crimea lived like a poor relation. The previous authorities pumped a lot out of it and gave little or nearly nothing back. My sincere discussions with certain leaders speak to this directly. Indeed, they do not even try to hide it.
Yes, there were many problems, and now there are even more in that nation. And, of course, they should have supported other territories. They took a lot from Crimea and gave little back. That is the cause for the neglect of infrastructure, the economy, the social sector, and the low incomes of the majority of citizens. Now, within the framework of the transition period, we are taking the most pressing, priority measures to remedy the situation.
First of all, we are working to improve the reliability of Crimea’s energy supply. Reserve capacities have been created for key social facilities.
The next step is integrating Crimea’s energy systems with all of southern Russia, which will allow us to solve the energy deficit problem. A great deal of work is also underway to set up water supplies and create new communication and telecommunication systems.
Second is infrastructure and removing transport limitations. Despite the increased amount of flights and ferries in the Kerch Strait, we still have problems. And here, we will need the Cabinet and the regional authorities to do some extra work. Corresponding instructions have already been set forth and issued.
I want to point out that this year we allocated over 5.6 billion rubles [about $156 million] from the federal budget on fixing roads and railways in Crimea. We are about to set off on a project to build the Kerch Bridge. Works on the site will begin in the next few weeks. The bridge must be opened by the end of 2018.
We just discussed this issue yesterday and came to the conclusion that even if it is not effectively used up to its maximum capacity at first, we still need to complete this project with a certain potential, in the sense that it will certainly reach its full capacity, because we will need to develop the port infrastructure as well.
Third is the social sector. I have already said that it has been neglected. This concerns both healthcare and education. This year, we will direct about two billion rubles from the federal budget alone for modernising hospitals and clinics in Crimea and Sevastopol. People who need high-tech medical assistance can get it at leading clinics in Russia. We have already allocated the funds for this – half a billion rubles for Crimea and Sevastopol for 2014.
In the future, healthcare sector in Crimea and Sevastopol will operate within Russia’s compulsory medical insurance system. We will renovate and reequip the entire network of medical facilities.
We will also bring the educational system in order, from universities to preschools and children’s vacation facilities. This is a lot of work and it is impossible or very difficult to do it all overnight, but we will certainly work consistently in this direction and do everything over time.
Yesterday, I met with regional leaders in Sevastopol; there is a natural population decline. It is surprising. The birth rate is lower than Russia’s average. And where do we see it? In Crimea, on the Black Sea coast. It seems unbelievable! So we will have to do a great deal.
I will note that children’s health camps in Crimea were at 100% capacity during the first session of this summer. And right now, the Taurida international youth forum is currently underway here in Crimea.
The potential for organising children’s and youth recreation in Crimea is great, enormous, and naturally, it is not fully realised, but should be. In this regard, of course, I support the suggestion by leader of the Communist Party faction in the State Duma Mr Zyuganov to create a presidential international children’s centre on the basis of the legendary Artek.
Moreover, we need to prioritise resolving the issue of increasing pensions and salaries for public employees. They were significantly lower than in Russia. We gradually increased pensions and salaries. Thus, the pensions in Crimea have already grown nearly two-fold, nearing the average Russian indicator. From January 1, 2015, public employees’ pensions and salaries will be paid in full accordance with Russian legislation.
Colleagues, friends, right now, the long-term economic and social development challenges in Crimea and Sevastopol have particular significance. A corresponding federal programme has been drafted. The Cabinet and Prime Minister Medvedev are giving this a great deal of attention. The total amount of funds for the programme through 2020 is over 700 billion rubles.
Its main goal is to ensure dynamic growth in Crimea and Sevastopol, to make them economically self-sufficient and successful, to create new jobs, upgrade the infrastructure, industry, agro-industrial complex, social sector and tourist sector. I count on the State Duma deputies and the regions you represent to get actively involved in implementing these objectives and providing support to Crimea and Sevastopol.
The most important condition for success is maintaining stability, interethnic and interfaith harmony in the region. I already spoke about this yesterday at the Security Council meeting in Sevastopol. It is important to fully rehabilitate the repressed peoples and, what I feel is extremely important, to ensure real equality for three languages: Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. Preserving and developing ethnic cultures and traditions of all peoples living here is an extremely important challenge.
Looking at history, I want to note the following. Crimea truly does hold a special place in the history of our nation, our Fatherland. The Crimean land also remembers our triumphs and our victories, but it also recalls the tragedy of the fratricidal Civil War and other woes. Here in Perekop, Russians killed other Russians while blinded by mutual hate, and over 150,000 compatriots were forced to leave their Fatherland at the end of 1920.
But Crimea’s legacy also includes the poet Maximilian Voloshin, who called for reconciliation during the years of the Civil War and provided shelter in his home to people from both sides of the conflict. In the last several months, I have received many letters from the descendants of those who left Russia after the revolution and the Civil War. They now live all around the world – in the US, Europe and Australia. They are everywhere!
But I must note – and I say this with respect and love for these people – their letters include words of support, belief in Russia, concern for the future of our nation and, of course, Crimea and Sevastopol. And these people have carried their love for the Fatherland over generations. This certainly calls for respect.
I feel that Crimea can serve as a unique bench mark even today; it can play a unique, unifying role for Russia, becoming its own sort of historical, spiritual source, another way of reconciliation, to finally cure the wound inflicted upon our people as a result of the dramatic split of the 20th century, to restore the link of times and eras, the unity of Russia’s historical path, our national consciousness, conduct our own kind of cultural and historical therapy. And let’s think about how to meet this objective together with participation by deputies, representatives of political party, public and religious organisations and cultural workers.
Colleagues, unfortunately, today we see how fraught the national and civil divide, radicalism and intolerance is in Ukraine. The situation becomes more dramatic with each passing day; the nation has plunged into bloody chaos and a fratricidal conflict. The southeast is suffering from a large-scale humanitarian crisis; thousands of people have already been killed and hundreds of thousands have become refugees, literally losing everything. It is a great tragedy.
We are carefully monitoring what is happening there, putting these questions before Ukraine’s leadership and the international community, as well as key international organisations, and we will do everything we can in order for this conflict to end as quickly as possible, so that the bloodshed in Ukraine comes to an end.
As you know, the Government of Russia has made the decision to limit imports from many nations that imposed entirely unfounded and unlawful sanctions on Russia. But I want to note that this is not just a retaliatory measure. This is, first and foremost, a measure for supporting Russian manufacturers as well as opening our markets to the nations and manufacturers that want to cooperate with Russia and are prepared for that kind of cooperation.
At the same time, regardless of the external political and economic situation, the most important thing for us right now, as always, are our internal affairs, our goals, concerns and objectives that are set before us by the people of Russia, the citizens of Russia. We must focus on resolving our national problems and challenges. Our future is only in your hands. We must ensure high-quality governance and work by political and civil institutions. And most importantly, we must provide high living standards for Russian citizens.
We must strengthen traditional values. Incidentally, many people support Russia in this choice – not only citizens of our nation, but many other nations around the world as well, including western countries where these values are deteriorating in the current political environment.
We must ensure the successful development of our nation, using our wealth of internal reserves. We must create additional incentives for industrial and agricultural development, conditions for developing the creative potential of Russian producers, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and workers.
This is what builds Russia’s competitiveness and its appeal. I repeat: we must calmly, commendably and effectively build our nation, not fencing it off from the outer world, not breaking ties with partners, but also not allowing them to treat us with disparagement or boss us around.
We must consolidate and mobilise. But not for wars or conflicts, not for countering anyone – rather, for hard work in the name of Russia and for Russia.
It is very important to strengthen the unity of Russian society. A great deal depends on you, colleagues, on the deputies, politicians and public leaders. It depends on how persuasive we are in conversations with our voters, our citizens, how decisive and insistent we are in implementing initiatives and projects that we announce. The citizens’ trust in public authorities is the key, the most important and most critical factor in our movement forward.
I want to thank you for our joint work during the previous period and wish you success. Thank you very much.