RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin [Transcript Continued]” – KremlinRu

File Photo of Putin Sitting at Desk, Looking Down, Writing, During Call-In Show, adapted from screenshot of video at kremlin.ru

(Kremlin.ru – June 7, 2018)

[Complete text in Russian and video: kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57692]

Andrei Kondrashov: Let’s move to Moscow City now. There are people there who wrote a day or two before Direct Line that they are popular bloggers who have a huge audience of tens of millions of people and that they were collecting questions from their subscribers and could forward the most popular ones. So we sent our correspondent Anton Lyadov to these bloggers, he is with us now.

Anton Lyadov: Good afternoon everyone! Today, perhaps for the first time in Direct Line history, we are working with representatives from the youth internet community. We have bloggers gathered at a spectacular venue with a beautiful view of Moscow, watching Direct Line from the very beginning, and commenting. Some of them upload pictures, some shoot videos.

Each of them has their own channel, where they post videos filmed on their phones, but today they use professional equipment. The important thing is that their total audience is about 20 million people. Just think of that! A huge figure. Pay attention, they are doing live reporting on the internet right now. That’s how it works.

Shortly before Direct Line they asked their audiences what they would ask the President. They have come here today with these questions.

Next to me is a representative of the internet community Gusein Gasanov. His overall audience is about 7 million people. This is Natalya Krasnova. She is from Chelyabinsk. Her audience is about 2 million people. Hello! Go ahead please.

Gusein Gasanov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

We have opinion leaders here today. I would like to ask a question. To share a concern. There are rumours on the internet about the planned shutdown of popular social networks such as Instagram and YouTube. What do you think about this? Is this a possibility?

Vladimir Putin: I understand your concern and understand the concerns of those that you work with on the internet. We are not going to shut anything down. I am well aware of the situation with Telegram.

What can I say? You are in your place and you just said that you are concerned. And I’m concerned in my place too, do you know why? I am concerned for people’s security. Suppose law enforcement agencies and special services report to me after a bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro that they could not track the terrorists’ correspondence, that they could not make a decision in time because it is encrypted, and the terrorists use this. How am I supposed to react to this? After all, security comes first, does it not?

At the same time, I used to work in special services and I know that it is easy to ban something, but it is more difficult to find civilised solutions. So, I will encourage my colleagues to follow this path, the special services themselves and law enforcement agencies, to use modern investigation methods, to prevent terrorist attacks without limiting freedom, including on the internet.

Andrei Kondrashov: Another question. Can you hear us?

Natalya Krasnova: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Natasha Krasnova and I am from Chelyabinsk. I am 38 years old, and I consider myself a responsible adult. I have a PhD, but I currently work as a blogger, which is not a proper job in Russia. Will it someday become a proper job?

Vladimir Putin: Natasha, you said that you are an adult, although you look much younger. Honestly, I am surprised that you are 38 years old. You said that blogging should one day become a proper job.

But we know how bloggers earn their living: by advertising, right? And you seem to be good at this. Whether the job gets recognition or not, it is still your source of income and, probably, a good one, if you do this.

So if your question is about a legislative solution to provide social security for the future, perhaps we can talk about this. In fact, I think you are right, because, if it is a regular job, the state is interested in formalising it accordingly.

Andrei Kondrashov: Thank you, bloggers. Perhaps we will return to you today.

And now back to the call centre and Natalya Yuryeva.

Natalya, please.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you.

We are monitoring the reaction of people in social media. As of this moment, the number of posts with Direct Line’s hashtags has hit 550,000 and even higher. The most active users are in Moscow, followed by – we will see this in a moment – St Petersburg, my home city, and Tatarstan. We received another 918 messages while I was speaking.

I suggest taking a video call from… No, I am told that we have the latest post we can see now. It came through just now. The text says, “Without Putin, the problem with growing petroleum prices probably will not be resolved. Noting how much time it will take for 92nd to cost less than 45 roubles.” This is from Pyotr Shumatov.

And now I suggest taking an online video call.

Hello. Please, introduce yourself – tell us your name and where you are from, and ask your question.

Vladislav Khristolyubov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Vladislav Khristolyubov: Vladislav Khristolyubov, a lawyer from St Petersburg.

Everyone knows that Russia was one of two world powers with the technology to launch reusable spacecraft. We succeeded in launching the unique spacecraft Buran into orbit and safely landing it. In my opinion, energy and especially space are among the most important sectors for any economy. Therefore, if I had the opportunity to give all my strength to this common cause – to the maintenance and, most importantly, development of these industries – I would, without hesitation.

In this regard, I have a question. Is it possible to revive the space shuttle technology? And what are Russia’s general plans for expanding its presence in space? Thanks.

Vladimir Putin: Vladislav, you are certainly right. The development of outer space and space technologies is extremely important for any country, and even more so for our country, which has significant, maybe even unique competencies in this area.

It was no accident that the first satellite was Soviet, and the first man in space, Yury Gagarin, was our compatriot. These technologies continue to be developed and commercialised. In this respect we need to take many steps forward, including with regard to the quality of satellites, the quality of the equipment. We need to regain and firmly uphold our leadership in space launches. There is now competition in this sphere. Our French friends and partners use Guiana actively, while in Asia and the United States, space technologies are developing very rapidly. This is all very good and normal. We work with our partners, we have various plans. Despite all the difficulties, say, in relations with the US, American and Russian scientists are working together, working on the study of deep space, including planets like Venus.

We have our own programme, a very good programme. The is the new programme, Sfera, which envisages the launch of 600-plus satellites in the next few years that will deal with global positioning, Earth probes and communications. It will be a breakthrough altogether.

This is another area where we can make a breakthrough because the quality of communications with this technology makes it possible to replace cable and the new system wouldn’t be worse in quality and coverage but would be more cost-effective and accessible. As a whole, it could lead to a revolution in communications.

We have good programmes related to the development of deep space. By 2022, we plan to test a medium-class carrier rocket and by 2022 these should be launches in an unmanned mode and by 2024, manned space vehicles should be used. In general, Russia has very ambitious space exploration plans.

I assure you, Russia will continue pursuing this path. It is not accidental that we have spent quite substantial funds and resources to create a new space port in the east of our country, Vostochny. We will develop it as a civilian component of our space exploration activities.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, actually, there are many questions about space, including about Rogozin who is now the head of Roscosmos Corporation. Some people have doubts about him because he is a journalist by training, whereas others think highly of his leadership skills and think he can move this industry forward, but…

Vladimir Putin: You know, I think now is not the time to comment on this. Nevertheless, if such questions are asked I will say: yes, maybe his education is not applicable, but Mr Rogozin was involved in the defence industry for six years and paid a lot of attention to space activities in this industry. So, he is quite competent in this area.

But, of course, one man on the field does not a warrior make, and he and I have talked about this. He will involve others in this work and create a team capable of resolving technological tasks at the level required today, as well as production organisers that will deal professionally with the administrative side of the company. I hope he will manage.

Andrei Kondrashov: There are many more jokes and questions about Vitaly Mutko.

Here is a message from seamen: “Mr Putin, allow us to paint Mutko’s portrait on our warships to make them unsinkable.”

Vladimir Putin: Our warships are already unsinkable or hard to sink. Credit for this goes, first, to our shipbuilders and the training of our crews. I hope this will be the case and will be improved in the future.

As for Vitaly Mutko, there is indeed a lot of talk and gossip about him and I am fully aware of this. At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that although his English definitely needs improvement, it is enough to see what he did and built for sport and physical fitness during his years of work as Minister of Sport and Deputy Prime Minister.

Concentrate on the factual side of what he did, and not the emotional side. If we really look at what he did, we will see that it was significant. Take the facilities of the Sochi Olympics. Kozak also worked on them, but Mutko did, too. Just recently we talked about what has been done and how, about the functioning of these facilities, the effect of their presence for the region and how efficiently they are being used.

As for stadiums completed for the World Cup, credit for this largely goes to Mr Mutko. So I understand everything, but I focus on the reality, not opinions coloured by emotion. Needless to say, Mr Mutko should probably go to great lengths to display his best qualities in the new position and I hope this will be the case.

Kirill Kleymenov: Let us see what other questions we have.

Vladimir Putin: Sorry, there is one more point. We know how he was attacked over the doping scandal and so on and so forth. In these conditions, it is impossible to send him into retirement; and again, he has good potential. Let him do his job.

Kirill Kleymenov: Let us once again go to the Call Centre. Let me say once again that volunteers are also there. Let us hear what questions they are working on.

Tatyana, please.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you, Kirill.

“Practically every one of us has relatives or friends or friends of friends afflicted with this disease – cancer.” This is from your Address, Mr President, where you proposed to implement a special national cancer programme.

This topic raises many questions. Each one speaks to the heart, there is no other way to say it. Alevtina Kiseleva, a healthcare worker, helped to clarify the main ones. She helps look after patients at hospitals. Alevtina is an aspiring oncologist.

Alevtina Kiseleva: Indeed, we have received many questions on cancer.

First, the lack of oncology centres and qualified help in the regions. For example, the oncologist in Apatity sees patients for two hours per day. You remember Darya Starikova from last year, she is from Apatity. Or take Kaliningrad, where it takes three months to see an oncologist.

We still lack medicines in hospitals and ambulances. Yekaterina Trofimova from Crimea writes that the only chemotherapy course is in Simferopol and can only be done with the available medicines.

As a doctor, I know that the treatment must be tailored to each patient. Vera Kuprina’s mother from the Yaroslavl Region died of shock from the pain only because there was no medicine in the ambulance.

Misdiagnosis is another important problem. Marina Potseluyko from Bryansk was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and only several months later was a malignant brain tumour found.

Mr President, I am 24 years old and this year I graduate from Sechenov University with honours. I want to dedicate my life to oncology. It is very important for me know how we will save patients in the future. As we can see from the messages, the chain “patient – doctor – diagnosis – treatment” does not work. How can we resolve this problem?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, you are certainly right, this is one of the most pressing and sensitive issues in healthcare. We are setting complicated and, without exaggeration, ambitious objectives on extending the life span of our people – we want to reach the best figures by 2024 – 80 plus.

Needless to say, this is impossible to achieve without modern treatment techniques, including technology to counter such personal tragedies as oncology. Compared to other diseases that affect life span, for instance cardiovascular ailments, we probably have fewer results, but a positive trend is still there.

What should we do in this respect? You mentioned this to some extent. Incidentally, there will be the same questions for Kaliningrad and Krasnodar – when will oncology centres be built?

In this context, I would like to make a point, and as a specialist you know this. But I will mention it again so our citizens know what road we are on.

First of all, this implies early diagnostics. If we can do this, we will ensure… Ms Skvortsova is on the screen. We will ask her to correct me if I am not being accurate about anything. Today, early diagnostics is at over 30 percent but we need to increase this to 50-70 percent, in which case we could provide a normal lifestyle for our cancer patients at least for five years, or more.

Now, we cure more than 90 percent of children with onco-hematology after the construction of the onco-hematological centre in Moscow and before that – I am afraid to say it – this figure was about 30 percent or less. And now it is over 90 percent. In other words, it is possible to achieve results. What should be done for this?

First, as I said, early diagnostics is critical. Second, we need to pay more attention to nuclear medicine because examinations with the latest techniques make it possible to identify a disease at an early stage or curb what has already developed.

Now about medicines and chemotherapy. We need effective domestic products that meet modern requirements.

Of course, we must work to attract people like you to medicine, that is, young professionals who love their jobs and who are needed in their area.

Here is what I will tell you. We certainly need to build more cancer centres and upgrade the existing ones. We are preparing this programme. It will cost approximately 1 trillion rubles until 2024 of the additional 8 trillion rubles I mentioned.

How should we invest these additional 8 trillion rubles, which we expect to receive soon? Let us ask Ms Skvortsova to comment on the issue you have raised. Ms Skvortsova, you have the floor.

Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova: Thank you, Mr President. Of course, you were correct that we must start with early disease diagnosis, which allows us to provide effective treatment.

Thankfully, the early detection rate for all types of cancer is 56 percent, and the figures are as high as 70 to 80 percent in some areas.

The number of undetected cancer cases has decreased dramatically in the country. Regarding the most common types, the detection rate of the last stage of female reproductive cancers has decreased to 5-9 percent. But that rate is still too high.

This is why we launched a cancer screening programme as part of regular health examinations in 2013. This year, we have changed the regulations for these health examinations.

People in the age groups where the cancer risk is especially high can have high-quality free health screenings every other year.

Moreover, women’s health clinics offer annual examinations that include ultrasound, cytological and microbiological examination.

We must raise general practitioner awareness of cancer symptoms. With this goal in view, we created an illustrated online programme a year ago.

A total of 85 percent of primary care doctors were certified under this programme in 2017. Our goal is to teach them to take notice of unusual symptoms, no matter what the patients come in for, and to compare them to cancer symptoms.

Andrei Kondrashov: Ms Skvortsova, please excuse me, but we have a report on the subject you have raised.

In general, we have many medical questions. One of them caught our attention: Maria Bondareva works there and comes to us live.

Maria Bondareva: Good afternoon, Mr President.

We are now in the town of Strunino, this is in Vladimir Region. Local residents have turned to you because of this hospital. It is not just the only hospital in Strunino with its population of 14,000, but also for the four nearby towns, 30,000 in total.

Not long ago this hospital was merged with the regional one, and it has ceased to be an independent unit, and because of this, as you can see, it has not been repaired in a very long time, and the buildings are very dilapidated. The picture is about the same inside, although everything is ready to treat patients.

I have written down that, as of today, the surgery, gynecology, inflections and pediatrics departments, as well as the laundry, cafeteria and even the maternity ward that once was here, are all closed. The skin disease and ophthalmology departments as well as the out-patient clinic may also be closed. The closest regional hospital is in Alexandrov, a 30-minute train ride, never mind how long it takes to get there door-to-door.

So the local residents have created a taskforce to resolve this problem. They have been protecting these walls for several months and have finally decided to turn to you, because we all heard and know your Address to the Federal Assembly and your May executive orders where you spoke in detail about developing and, as you say, achieving a breakthrough in healthcare and protecting our hospitals and medical institutions.

I have several representatives of this group here with me right now, such as Anna Pogodina. She has ten children and eight grandchildren. She was the one who sent the video to the call centre. And we decided to come here to give her a chance to address her question directly to you.

Anna Pogodina: Good afternoon, Mr President.

This is a very important issue for me: the closing of the paediatrics department. I have 18 children. I am a mother and a grandmother. Moms have to travel to Alexandrov. It is hard work getting to the station with children and then waiting in a long line. No treatment helps. We have to ask for an appointment 4-6 weeks in advance and then have to wait for a place in hospital. We have established a taskforce headed by Irina Bandalag. Can we give her the floor?

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Irina Bandalag: Mr President, we had an excellent hospital in Strunino with all the necessary departments. When it was merged with the regional centre, its departments started to close down. And we want all of them back, because not everyone can afford going to Alexandrov. We do not have enough medicine, equipment or specialists. We are very worried that the departments that remain will be closed, too, and we will have no medical help at all. The polyclinic is in bad condition here. We would like to build a new one, but because there is not enough money for that, we want at least to repair the old one so that we have a place to go for medical help. We ask for your help in this problem. Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

What is the population of Strunino? How many people?

Irina Bandalag: 14,000 plus nearby communities, up to 30,000 in total.

Maria Bondareva: Up to 30,000 who are treated in hospitals.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Look, the issue is the most acute for small settlements where no more than 100 or 200 people live. To reiterate, in these places we plan to implement new programmes to establish mobile complexes and new paramedic centres, with 10 billion rubles allocated for the first programme and 7.4 billion for the second.

But in your case, we are speaking about a larger town. Of course things should be upgraded, and it must be clear who can provide what help and where. I totally agree with you. Without question, this is what the regional authorities must do.

The governor is already on the screen. Please, Ms Orlova, I would like to give you the floor.

Governor of Vladimir Region Svetlana Orlova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

As of today, we are not shutting anything down in Strunino. We have allocated 68 million: 20 million on renovating the pediatric clinic, 40 on the hospital and the dermatology unit that needs to be repaired. The hospital was built in 1929. It is already hazardous to take children into the pediatric clinic.

This is why our department is working with local residents and with this taskforce. We will also look into the logistics, we will add mobile medical centres under the federal programme. Thank you very much.

We have over 20 such mobile centres. There are first aid stations operating in the townships. The hospital in Alexandrov was renovated last year; the paramedic station was also renovated. The paramedic station in Strunino was relocated to a new building due to the unified dispatcher call system. Of course, as the pediatric clinic is in the centre of Strunino, it is an inconvenience for moms, but this is temporary. And we will certainly keep a close eye on this.

We allocate the most funding to all things medicine. We have already built 17 first aid and obstetric stations in the villages, furnished practically all the equipment that was lacking, and we also allocated 60 million on medicine recently. In addition, we are working on the design and planning documentation of a new outpatient clinic. Strunino is certainly a small town with 14,000 residents, it is 15 kilometres away from the main centre, Alexandrov, and during the summer season when holidaymakers arrive, there is high demand for healthcare, so we send additional ambulances there. I think we will definitely work on getting an outpatient clinic there, all the more so as the foundation was dug there ages ago. It is needed.

Vladimir Putin: I am very pleased that you finished with the words “it is needed.” Judging by what I see, the need is urgent because regardless of what you said – and I assume that things are really that way, all the positive moments you mentioned are surely real. But what we see now on the screen clearly requires your special attention.

And, Ms Skvortsova, about the resources that I have just mentioned, the 10 and 7.4 billion – there are other areas to be supported in the regions. I would like to ask you to consider this carefully and, together with the Governor, find a solution to this problem. We cannot simply eliminate primary care.

This issue is just as sensitive in many other regions as well, and it concerns not only primary care. The same thing is happening, by the way, in general education, in schools. I think we will come back to this issue a bit later.

I expect you to pay close attention to this. And I will see what happens next in actuality, in practice.

Andrei Kondrashov: Maria, tell me please, is the group you are speaking with happy with the answers of the Minister, Governor and the President?

Maria Bondareva: Yes, Andrei, they were very eager to add something while you were listening to the Governor of the Vladimir Region.

Anna Pogodina: Well, the department is not working. They told us that it is not closed, but it is not working; it is, in fact, closed. They do not admit children, so we have to go to Alexandrov instead.

Maria Bondareva: What is your question for the President?

Svetlana Orlova: We would like him to help us restore everything that was destroyed. We would like everyone to help us.

Vladimir Putin: Listen. Undoubtedly, this medical institution ought to operate as a modern one, and actually help people. Together with the Governor and the municipal authorities, with the support of the Healthcare Ministry, we will have to decide at the regional level what should be restored and to what extent. Ms Skvortsova is listening to all this right now.

I presume all these things will be done. And I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues to something: I am asking you to personally oversee this, so that there are no discrepancies of this kind in the future – whether the department is working or not.

It obviously must be hard to oversee every single municipality, but in this case, this must be done – it is people’s health that we are talking about.

Andrei Kondrashov: Mr President, Kirill and I have selected a series of quick questions. Call it a blitz. Ready?

Vladimir Putin: A blitz?

Andrei Kondrashov: Yes.

What do you do when you do not know what to do?

Vladimir Putin: You know, there is a rule used by motorists: better safe than sorry. The price for error is very high for people in my occupation.

So, if I do not know what to do, I try to find a solution after all and come all the same to a firm opinion about what is really needed and expedient.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, many people have noted your wonderful sense of humour. Have you ever had to laugh at yourself?

Vladimir Putin: I often do this.

Kirill Kleymenov: What was the best joke you’ve heard lately?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know, I would need to think about it. We have discussed some international issues, some of them really funny I think. Recently, one of the most famous and popular media sources in Germany wrote that President Trump was pushing Europe into Putin’s hands.

If we combine this with an earlier joke that Russia interfered in the US election, all this sounds funny enough: we allegedly tampered with the presidential election in the US, and he gave us Europe as a reward. Complete nonsense. Or a joke, because it can’t be serious.

Andrei Kondrashov: Is there any question that you do not really have an answer for?

Vladimir Putin: It is difficult to answer your question. But I can tell you that if I do not have an answer, I try to find one anyway. And I try to do this with my colleagues.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, this is a very personal question from one of our viewers: What advice would you pass from your father to your grandchildren?

Vladimir Putin: Never lie.

Andrei Kondrashov: Can you tell us when you believed in God?

Vladimir Putin: Now this is a very personal question. It is very difficult to talk about it with the public, but, in my opinion, every person is born with faith in God deep down, everyone is born with it, but people begin to understand this at different times and under different circumstances.

In any case, say, during the Great Patriotic War, when even the most hardened and stubborn atheists stood up in the trench and charged, I am sure that each of them was thinking about God.

I admit there are people who realise this without any extreme situations, but for sure, when a person finds themselves in an extreme situation, almost everyone thinks about God.

Kirill Kleymenov: One more question: Mr President, what does one have to sacrifice to be President?

Vladimir Putin: Sacrifice? The privacy of a personal life, this is inevitable. But there is also very powerful compensation – this is compensated by the realisation that you are engaged in a very important, necessary, unique business aimed at improving the welfare of millions of people and strengthening what is most important of all – their Motherland.

Kirill Kleymenov: Let us once again give floor to our television spectators. The Call Centre, please.

Tatyana Remezova: Kirill, thank you very much.

By now we have received over 1,300,000 calls, 500,000 SMSs and 250,000 questions on the website: over 2.3 million in total.

And now I would like to show how our volunteers process questions. As you can see, all folders here have subjects, and every five minutes they come here and place questions in the right folder: environment, demography or medicine.

I would like to point out that every fifth question concerns social issues, including many questions about pensions. For example: “Why has indexation stopped for working elderly people?” from Noginsk. Or from the Tula Region: “How long will the investment part of the pension remain frozen?” And probably the question everyone is talking about. Alexei Goncharov from Kursk is on the phone.

Mr Goncharov, you are on the air. Ask your question.

Question: Good afternoon. Alexei Goncharov from Kursk.

Mr President, will the pension age be raised? No one will employ you if you are older than 50. Will early retirement be cancelled for miners, railway workers and security workers?

Vladimir Putin: First of all there were several questions from our host: working elderly people and so on. During the Soviet era, as you know, working seniors were not paid [pensions], unfortunately, and the government does the same today, whether it seems appropriate or not.

But we should certainly think about this, first of all, because these are mostly people who work at low-paying jobs such as nurses in hospitals or kindergartens. I mean the situation on the labour market and the low income of these citizens. Of course, we should think about it.

Speaking about the pension age, you know my position: I have always been extremely careful and clear on this, and I continue to be.

I would like to highlight a key task I have charged the Government with: to increase elderly people’s incomes, and significantly.

The Government definitely will have to see to this in the near future, because it would involve solving another task: reducing by half the number of people living in poverty.

We will find out what measures the Government will propose to resolve this key task in the very near future. I hope that this will be done, and we will be able to discuss this and speak about the proposed measures.

But let me stress once again that the key task for the entire pension system is to significantly increase elderly people’s income.

Andrei Kondrashov: Now on Direct Line we have one of Russia’s most classified centres – the famous Kurchatov Institute or as its employees tenderly call it, Kurchatnik. It recently marked 75 years since being founded. Our correspondent Dmitry Kaistro is there. He is live on the air.

Dmitry Kaistro: Good afternoon.

This is the laboratory of the legendary National Research Centre Kurchatov Institute. It is here that the unique biosimilar technology is being developed. This is indeed a new word in science. It is being created by the youngest scientists and I will introduce some of them to you today. This is Yulia Dyakova who is in charge of the research department and Timofei Griogoryev who heads the section that is developing this unique biosimilar technology.

Timofei, what do you have in your hands?

Timofei Grigoryev: Good afternoon, Mr President. I have a device that puts fine fibre on a wound or a burn. This fibre creates a coating that protects a wound or a burn from the loss of moisture and warmth and from infection while a patient is being taken to the hospital. Using the same technology we developed frames of bio artificial organs – trachea, skin, a diaphragm. When inserted into the body they are overgrown by cells and vessels and eventually dissolve leaving what amounts to living tissue. We are also working a lot on biodegradable polymers. Using biodegradable composites we designed screws and plates to fix broken bones or torn tendons. By the time they degrade by design, they will be replaced with bone tissue and the patient will not have to undergo a second operation to remove them. Such intramedullary screws are being tested on large laboratory animals.

Dmitry Kaistro: Thanks to these innovations Russia is now on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. Yulia, is this unique technology already being used in production, medicine or in hospitals?

Yulia Dyakova: Regrettably, not yet.

Mr President, the main problem here that we have a very long and complicated certification procedure that can go on for years, whereas our foreign competitors can complete it in six to eight weeks.

We also think it would be important for the state to spend part of the funds used to purchase medical devices on developments by Russian scientists. This applies not only to medicine but also to other innovative areas.

For example, here at the Kurchatov Institute we have created unique technology that makes it possible, using the microbiological industry and microbiological synthesis, to process a grain surplus into important products, for instance, fodder additives, all of which are currently purchased abroad. We suggest studying possible ways of supporting a couple of pilot companies, supporting the creation of these companies, where grain surpluses can be processed into important microbiological products, including fodder additives.

Dmitry Kaistro: It will not be an exaggeration if I add that there are dozens of innovations here. And you can literally see them with your own eyes.

Timofei Grigoryev: Yes. And while we were talking, we applied this coating. Look, it is absolutely atraumatic, you can remove it without disturbing the injury. So, if every second ambulance has this device, if these shafts and screws are used in average injury care centres, it will make the lives of the Russian people better.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is indeed interesting, this is promising and we need it. As you know, I visited the Kurchatov Institute not long ago and Mr Kovalchuk told me about your innovations. I know that there are problems with certification, that’s true in practice – despite the fact that we have adopted regulatory standards requiring that these innovations be introduced at a much faster pace than in some of other countries, our competitors. According to our regulatory standards, our innovations must be introduced faster than in those countries, but in practice we do have problems.

As regards this particular case, our colleague has just said that tests on animals, as he put it, are currently under way. That means that you have not yet submitted your development for certification. But for us to reach a final conclusion about how the certification system works in this case, you need to go through the technological preparations envisaged by the law in order to commercialise your product.

But you are right in saying that we must properly focus on this. Ms Skvortsova has repeatedly appeared on our screens today. There is no need now to switch back to the Healthcare Ministry again, but we will work on this. And the fact that your inventions need support, including in terms of commercialisation, we will certainly do that.

I want to congratulate you on these achievements. These are indeed important achievements, and I hope that our medical institutions will be widely using this in the near future.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thanks to Kurchatov Institute for that.

Mr President, one of the serious issues we face during preparations for Direct Line is defrauded housing equity holders. The problem does exist, and it is serious.

But we should note that there are regions where this has been successfully resolved, where the necessary mechanisms and methods were found. For example, the Yaroslavl and Tyumen regions.

With their approach, developers who agree to complete unfinished buildings are granted new land for construction for free. Also, a system of special tax incentives is in place. Developers who complete these buildings have the right to sell the flats that were not sold by the previous developer.

And indeed, the situation has improved; people move to these flats and finally get what they should have received years ago. A roof over a warm corner is the most important thing.

Andrei Kondrashov: In fact, there are also negative experiences. We have a lot of them, but I will just read a couple of examples.

Lipetsk, Yevgeny Zaitsev: “About 1,500 defrauded housing equity holders in the Yevropeisky District in Lipetsk are looking to you. We all entered into co-funded construction agreements with the SU-5 group. The building has not been completed yet.” Here are the details.

Vladivostok, Yulia Matveyeva: “These is our unfinished housing behind us built under the Housing for Russian Families in Vladivostok federal programme. The Snegovoi District. The programme was launched in 2014, and 700 families invested in it. Nothing has been built so far, although the houses should have been commissioned over eighteen months ago. And we want to live there. Please help us.”

These are requests for help.

Vladimir Putin: I will put it on record, I promise you, I will put on record these questions, these requests, and I promise you that we will respond to them. The federal centre helps the regional leaders, and we will pay attention to these issues.

But the problem is much broader than the specific cases that you mentioned, because there are a lot of them. Why is this? It is due to insufficiently clear regulations that have been in place until today, and the volume of construction is very large.

Look, we had about 79 million square metres built last year. Industrial construction accounts for around two-thirds of that. What is called industrial construction is primarily construction of residential houses.

Overall, we have over a million, I think 1.1 million, agreements on co-investing construction of a residential house. And the amount of money there is, I think it is 3.4 trillion rubles. These are huge amounts, and funds are not always efficiently used by developers.

Governors bear an enormous responsibility. What I mean to say is that we must eventually start employing civilised methods of residential housing construction without involving taxpayer money.

We face a difficult problem already this year – to reach 88 million square metres, and in the following years until 2024 we will have to achieve a much more ambitious number of 120 million square metres per year.

We must ensure that approximately five million families could improve their housing situation, so that each family in need could improve their housing conditions once every ten years. This is a very complicated task but it is attainable because now about 3.5 million families have this opportunity.

However, if we take immediate steps now to reduce the use of taxpayer money, we are going to face several problems. The first one is an increased number of complaints from people because developments already launched will be impossible to finish. And the second problem – we will sharply decrease the overall volume of development.

This is why we made a decision to stop signing co-investing construction agreements as of July 1, 2019, and to channel only funds from financial institutions and banks to that end.

But I already see our new Construction Minister on the screen. Let us ask Mr Yakushev to comment on what I said and what he would like to add. Please, go ahead, Mr Yakushev.

Vladimir Yakushev: Thank you, Mr President.

Indeed, a number of amendments have been drafted to the Federal Law 214 On Shared-Equity Construction under which we must resolve two crucial tasks that made this market and the shared-equity construction process non-transparent.

First, it is moving away from the “common pool method”; one construction permit – one settlement account. Second, it is banking support. The two tools must start working from July 1 of this year. And as you rightly said, from July 1, 2019 the so-called special accounts will accommodate the funds of the shared-equity construction participants, but the developer will have no authority over the account.

This money is blocked, and the developer uses it as a guarantee to open a credit line at a bank to finance the construction. And this account will be used to settle the credit line and, respectively, the developer will get a profit only after the keys are handed over to the shared-equity construction participants.

This is the mechanism that will allow for using share-equity holders’ money and to keep it intact in the best possible way and to avoid the “pyramids” we have today. We will have to adopt the amendments on June 27 and start working with the new mechanism immediately.

This will clear the market and initiate a very ambitious task – building 120 million square metres of housing. A number of mechanisms are envisaged for this that will be included in the Housing and Urban Environment programme.

And as you instructed, we will prepare the necessary regulatory framework by October 1 in order to achieve this.

Andrei Kondrashov: Thank you, Mr Yakushev.

Let’s continue with the subject of housing by talking about mortgages, or rather, about subsidising mortgages. Our correspondent Ivan Prozorov is now in Ivanovo, and there is a continuation of this subject there.

So, Ivan Prozorov is on the air.

Ivan Prozorov: Hello colleagues.

We are now in Ivanovo visiting a large family of the Verkhovskys. They are building their own house, and have already moved into it. But they live, so to speak, in field-like conditions. This is the future master bedroom. But now the construction materials and equipment needed for renovation are being stored here. In fact, very few rooms have been completed so far, only two. This is a common bedroom and a living room where the family with three children has to be cooped up, and a kitchen where the whole family has gathered. So we have the opportunity to get to know everyone better now.

This is Margarita, mom and wife. She is holding baby Lada in her arms, who is just over a year old. Look, she is glad to see guests, new people; she is looking at the camera with interest. A radiant and sunshiny baby who charges everyone with happiness.

This is Andrei, he is 13; he finished the sixth grade and is on vacation; next year he will be a seventh-grader.

Vanya, he is three. A real fidgety boy. It is quite difficult to watch him get quiet. But now, he’s probably excited by the camera, and has calmed down a little.

And finally, the head of the family, Dmitry Verkhovsky. I want to draw your attention to the fact that everything we see here was made by Dmitry himself. He himself is building this house. He really has gifted hands. But in fact, the construction is not moving very quickly due to the lack of funds for this large family. And this is not just because Dmitry is the only one working, while Margarita is a housewife and cares for the children. The family has a mortgage, which Dmitry talked about in his request through Direct Line.

Dmitry, in what format did you record your request?

Dmitry Verkhovsky: We wrote through a mobile app, via a mobile phone and sent it to the President’s Direct Line.

Ivan Prozorov: And your question for the President is connected with the mortgage, with mortgage rates. Your question please.

Dmitry Verkhovsky: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Dmitry Verkhovsky. My wife and I have three children. Apart from the children we also have a 13 percent mortgage rate that we took out several years ago. Recently we learnt that in accordance with your instruction the Government issued Resolution 1711 (I have it printed here, I have specially printed it out) which allows for cutting the mortgage rate from 13 percent, as we are paying now, to six percent. It would be a great help for us. But when we went to the bank, we were told that, unfortunately, we are not eligible for this programme since we already have three children, and if we have a fourth child, the benefit is not applicable to us. Because clause 9 in the resolution says that the benefit applies only after the birth of a second or third child, whereas nothing is written about the fourth, fifth or sixth child. This is a problem for many families with many children. A friend of mine has 10 children, and he also cannot count on this benefit.

Mr President, we would like to ask you to somehow change clause 9 so that it reads as follows: the benefit of reducing the mortgage rate to six percent applies to persons who have a second or subsequent child, subsequent children. Then families with many children will also be eligible as are those with two and three children now.

Thank you very much. We really rely on you.

Vladimir Putin: What can I say. You are right. The decision you quoted from the Government’s resolution – I might disappoint the Finance Ministry now – is wrong, and it should be rectified. It will cost, if I am right, about 9 billion rubles. This is not so much money. Well, it is a lot of money, of course, but not so much in view of the need to support families with children and settle demographic issues and problems facing the country. I will surely talk to the Prime Minister about that issue. We will do it, we will correct it. And I would like to wish all the best to your family and those families like yours.

Kirill Kleymenov: Well, that issue was [resolved] very quickly and promptly.

Vladimir Putin: Is this the Ivanovo Region? Governor Voskresensky. Let’s ask him as well. Please tell us briefly, in a few words, about this situation. Though this is not within the governor’s competence, but what does the governor think about resolving these problems? I would also like to ask you to pay attention to the situation and simply to support families with children. Go ahead, please.

Ivanovo Region Governor Stanislav Voskresensky: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, Dmitry,

We have positive trends in the mortgage sector. The recent figures show that the number of mortgages in the first quarter of this year grew by about 30 percent compared to the same period in 2017. By the way, new housing commissioning more than doubled in the first quarter of 2018.

This is related to what is, regrettably, still a partial solution to the housing equity holders’ problem. I am monitoring these problems. For the time being we have not resolved all the problems but we are paying much attention to them. It goes without saying that we will look carefully into Dmitry’s situation and follow up on it.

Dmitry just spoke about the interest rate. It is rather high. The banks now lend at less than 13 percent, of course. So, I will certainly meet with Dmitry to see how we can in general support such families.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, the volume of mortgage loans is growing steadily and an increasing number of people choose mortgage to resolve their problems. I have already talked about this and will not return to it. But we will have to do this.

I see First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government, who is Finance Minister at the same time, Anton Siluanov has appeared on the screen. Mr Siluanov, go ahead please.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov: Indeed, we are doing all we can to reduce mortgage interest rates. Now the average rate is about 9.73 percent. Let me recall that some time ago this was a two digit figure. Indeed, we are adopting programmes to reduce it further for some categories of our citizens who require such support. I am primarily referring to families with children, families with two, three or more children. You have given us the instructions and we will make a relevant decision in the Government.

However, our main goal is to make mortgages accessible to the majority of people. The task for us and the Central Bank is to further reduce interest rates in the economy and keep inflation low. This will allow us to expand the use of this instrument of improving housing conditions of our people. We are pursuing our budgetary and monetary policies with this in mind.

Vladimir Putin: I think I mentioned in the Address that we should orient ourselves to a mortgage interest rate of about 8 percent but should strive to keep it down to 7 percent. This is a succinct statement. We have had many debates on this issue. This is linked with budget expenditures but the Government and the Central Bank should strive for 7 percent.

As for the Government’s resolution you mentioned, it should certainly be amended, and we will do this.

Andrei Kondrashov: Mr President, relocation is another issue related to the housing problem. What do you think of the Moscow relocation programme?

Vladimir Putin: This is a large-scale project, with almost a million people involved, and Moscow will allocate 400 billion rubles for this in the next several years.

I know about all the disputes and questions, at least, about the main ones Muscovites asked the Moscow authorities. As of today, I think that the main concerns are settled; the programme has begun and I count on it to be implemented through to 2024 and beyond in the interests of Moscow and its residents, with the same speed and quality as the Moscow Government has been demonstrating so far.

Mr Sobyanin is live, please.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, good afternoon. I would like to thank you for supporting the adoption of the Federal Law on Relocation. This law really guarantees about a million Muscovites that they will be relocated from dilapidated housing.

As of today, we have issued all the necessary regulations and, as you have said, allocated finances to implement the first phase of the programme. The city has begun the large-scale work to develop the construction documents in all the relocation districts at the same time.

We must provide comfortable living conditions for those who are part of the relocation programme and those who live in the neighbouring buildings. I mean transport, social and utilities infrastructure. This is very important.

In addition, we have chosen and started developing and building at 250 starting sites, which will give the first impetus to the subsequent relocation wave. This year, we will relocate almost 10,000 Muscovites who will be given comfortable housing to live.

So thank you very much, Mr President. We will do everything to implement the programme, to make it comfortable for people and provide all the guarantees envisaged in the Federal Law.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Sobyanin. I wish you success. I am sure that the programme will be implemented as it was conceived.

But in conclusion I would like to return once again to what I already said, namely: this does not mean that this programme will be implemented in Moscow, while we forget about all the other regions when it comes to improving the living conditions of our citizens in other territories.

I will return to what I said. We aim to build a total of 120 million square metres of housing, and five million people should be able to improve their housing conditions. At the same time, the mortgage rate should drop to eight, or even better, to seven percent.

In addition to this, we will work to attract new, infrastructure-equipped land. A number of other steps will be taken, including from the point of view of the effective operation of financial institutions, banks directly related to this business.

This whole system, including effective work of the governors (which I really expect), will allow us to solve the problems of housing construction not only in the capital cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, but throughout the Russian Federation.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, and one more topic that is related to our previous Direct Line. If you remember, we then talked about families from the Stavropol Territory who after the flood had to pay money for certificates and damage assessment.

It turned out that this is not the only bureaucratic wall that people have to overcome, and that is why our crew went to the village of Levokumka, Stavropol Territory. Our colleague Mikhail Akinchenko works there.

Mikhail Akinchenko: Indeed, exactly a year ago we were here in the Stavropol Territory on the banks of the Kuma River as part of the Direct Line TV crew. Let me remind you, that back then people were complaining about the issues they shared after last year’s flooding – they could not have their papers processed to receive compensation for the property and homes they lost.

After Direct Line last year, the problem was successfully resolved for the majority of people, however, not all – far from it. Lots of people are still being left in limbo, waiting for their documents to be processed.

This year as many as 17 families from the village of Levokumovka contacted Direct Line. For more than a year now they have been living in homes that are simply unfit to live in. Better, listen to what they say about their problem. Next to me is Yevgeniya Lavrik, the owner of one of the flood-damaged homes.

Yevgeniya, you are on, and the President sees you and can hear you, so you can tell him about your problem and ask questions.

Yevgeniya Lavrik: Good afternoon, Mr President.

I will show you what my problem looks like, rather than just talk about it. On May 24, 2017, our homes were damaged by severe flooding. Water remained in our homes for about five days. The current was so strong that it even carried our threshold away.

Because of high humidity, part of the floor in our home has caved in. In the spring, new residents moved in; I am talking about frogs. My child, Nastya, is already on friendly terms with them, playing games.

We have to cover the floor with boards because we are not really interested in this relationship. As soon as our home started to dry up, things became more complicated as new cracks emerged – just look here. There are more cracks with each passing day.

Let me introduce my mother and my daughter Anastasia to you. Here we eat and here we play – it is kind of a play area. We chose this place because it is the safest – at least, no bricks have fallen yet. These are the awful conditions we live in.

As the water receded, a commission arrived and issued an act confirming that our housing was hazardous and unfit for living as a result of the emergency. We were put on the waiting list for housing certificates, but, to our great regret, we were taken off the state housing certificate list because we had been in the non-residential property group since 2002. In fact, it turns out that our house was excluded from the housing stock in 2002 …

Mikhail Akinchenko: Just show the documents, Yevgeniya. Tell us.

Yevgeniya Lavrik: I registered ownership of this house in 2014, and my daughter was registered as a resident with me in 2016. Nobody ever told me about this, that my house was in a non-residential category. We pay gas and electricity bills like everyone else. Nobody told us anything, that we are living in a non-residential property and basically should not be there.

This is why we tried to see our governor for a year. Our governor, unfortunately, as his assistants explained to us, does not receive citizens, so we could not get in to see him for a whole year. Then just a week ago he heard us, and came to discuss our problem. But all he said was that he would try.

Kirill Kleymenov: The issue is clear. Mr President, please.

Vladimir Putin: Look. In general, problems like this do get resolved, but there are flagrant cases like the one you just described.

I do not know of course the specifics of the administrative system within which local authorities qualify your housing conditions, whether your building is in the housing fund or not.

But if your house is recognized as hazardous due to a natural disaster, then of course, your problems should be dealt with. All the rest is bureaucratic excuses and delays.

Maybe it is also due to a lack of coordination between regional and federal authorities, including the Emergencies Ministry, because the Emergencies Ministry must decide if all the residential buildings on the list comply with the decision to provide new housing or pay a compensation, whether to approve the list or not. If the lists are rejected, the regional authorities must somehow quickly amend them and make sure that money is allocated from federal sources.

I would like to assure you that in your case we, of course, will get things straight, and I will be waiting for a report from the Governor of the Stavropol Territory. But on the whole, the system is more general. We will see how the interaction between the regional and federal authorities works. And I would like to thank you for bringing up this problem, I mean, the need to find a solution for your family, but we will see what we can and must improve in general. Let us hear what the Governor has to say on your case.

Mr Vladimirov, please.

Governor of the Stavropol Territory Vladimir Vladimirov: Thank you for the question. It is actually very helpful.

It is true that the house that belonged to Yevgenia Lavrik’s stepfather was in the flood zone in 2002. In 2011, the court ruled that it be returned to the housing fund. The stepfather gave the house to her, but, unfortunately, it was damaged in another tragic flood last year. Today the documents were returned to us. They were returned on May 21 because a state housing certificate was earlier issued for this address.

Mr President, I slightly disagree with this. I have made a request to the Emergencies Ministry and the Finance Ministry asking to exclude this situation from the grounds for denying a state housing certificate. In addition to this problem, there really are 17 people there. There are people who honestly acquired housing that was flooded but then returned to the housing fund. This is why your help will be necessary to break this wall and to provide these 17 families with state housing certificates. Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Do this quickly and in accordance with the corresponding regulations. Of course, such families need help, and we will provide it.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, by the way, what do you think of the fact that the President has to go into issues that, if truth be told, should be handled by the local authorities?

Vladimir Putin: This is not entirely true, because (the governor is right here) this is an aberration, as I just said, between the regional authorities and the federal authorities. We just need to work harder on both sides.

Andrei Kondrashov: Now let’s return, as we promised, to our young bloggers in one of the Moscow City skyscrapers. Anton Lyadov is there.

Anton Lyadov: Hello again.

The bloggers are indeed closely following everything that is happening here. They are commenting, broadcasting live from here, using their smartphones to communicate.

One of them uploaded a video about an hour ago and it already has more than 100,000 views. These bloggers have huge audiences, a total of about 20 million people are subscribed to those here today. They have asked their viewers, their subscribers what they would like to ask the President.

Next to me are the bloggers Artyom Kholikov and Andrei Glazunov. They shoot entertaining videos, I was told. Go ahead please.

Artyom Kholikov: Hello!

My name is Artyom Kholikov, I’m a blogger.

I have a question about cryptocurrency. This issue is of interest to all young people. So the first question is, will Russia have its own cryptocurrency? Second, will this be somehow controlled by the government? And third, do you think that in the near future cryptocurrency will completely replace standard money?

Vladimir Putin: The question your subscribers asked is somewhat incorrectly phrased, because Russia cannot have its own cryptocurrency by definition; no country can, because if we are talking about cryptocurrency, this is something that transcends national boundaries. First.

Second, so-called mining is not regulated in Russia, and we generally try to handle it with care. In the vast majority of countries, cryptocurrency is not a means of payment. Experts say it is used in some rare cases somewhere in Japan, but in other countries it does not work.

You know the Central Bank’s attitude to so-called cryptocurrencies. The Central Bank believes that cryptocurrencies cannot be a means of payment or settlement, cannot be a means of saving, and that cryptocurrencies are not secured by anything. All this shows that we must treat this very carefully.

Nevertheless this phenomenon exists in the world, and it is developing. We must carefully analyse it, review what is happening, and then look at some stage how we could participate in this process and how we can use it, among other things, to avoid restrictions in the sphere of international financial activity.

Kirill Kleymenov: An exhaustive answer.

Andrei Glazunov: I think that we, bloggers, and our audience can really be used to draw more attention to some problems and solve them. I would like to ask you about the environment. I live near a forest and can feel how clean the air is. But as soon as I come to a place with a lot of cars, the air becomes a bit different. And another question about electric cars that are so unpopular here that only 28 of them were sold last year. I am really interested in this. The question is, will there be subsidies for electric cars? Maybe free parking or even tax exemptions, because they run on electricity?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: It is true that, in order to improve the environmental situation, many countries incentivise the development of eco-friendly means of transport, including electric cars. And we can see what happens in this area around the world. Russia is a bit of special case, however. Why? Because a primary source is necessary to produce electricity and charge the electric car. And here we run into a paradox, because what is the most popular source of electricity? Coal. And coal is not the most eco-friendly kind of fuel. I think that, for Russia and many other countries, natural gas is the primary and much more eco-friendly source. This is why if we are speaking about improving the environmental situation in this area, we should switch to natural gas instead and encourage the development of this direction worldwide.

There are some issues, primarily related to filling stations. This is an accounting matter and Gazprom is working on it. In general, the idea is also supported by the federal government and the regions, but, as of today, this is not enough to make introducing this mode of transport economically viable. Many things will depend on the work in the regions and various provinces. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the number of filling stations in some countries, in this case natural gas filling stations, is much higher than in Russia, although Russia is a natural gas producer, a leader, but lags behind a bit in this respect. We are working on this and will definitely be moving towards this.

Andrei Kondrashov: Thank you very much to our bloggers.

Now on to the problem that was reported by the tens of thousands of people who contacted Direct Line. We will not tell you what this is about straight away. Now we go to the city of Bataisk in the Rostov Region, where our colleague Maria Gladkikh is working.

Maria Gladkikh: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Southern Russia welcomes you. We are in Bataisk, a small city in the Rostov Region with a population of about 120,000.

We have come here at the request of a group of people whom you can see next to me on either side. They have been brought together by the same problem, so they came here with their families and their children. We spoke to them beforehand.

For example, all of them had to move here, although initially they did not plan to live here but they had to flee war-stricken Donetsk and Lugansk. Tatyana, I know it must be four years that you have not seen your husband. You are holding his photograph in your hands…

Remark: Yes, exactly four years ago I left Donetsk because my home was only five kilometres from the airport on the demarcation line and it was very dangerous to stay there. This is our family photograph. Unfortunately, I had to leave.

Maria Gladkikh: Natalya has also ended up in a difficult situation. She also had to leave her home with her child. I know that every day your brother when leaving home for work still has the habit of bidding farewell to his family, just in case.

Of course, it is very difficult for those of us who have not lived through this to understand what it is like to flee your home. Please tell your story in a few words, if possible. I know life is not easy for you and you have problems with your child.

Remark: We came here four years ago. When we were crossing the border during the hostilities, my child – he was 18 months old at the time – suffered severe psychological trauma. Now he needs treatment.

He suffers from developmental delay and his sight is worsening. So, at the moment I cannot go back with a sick child and expose him to another psychological trauma.

We want to be useful here but we have run into serious problems trying to have our documents processed. First, I mean the law on 90 days, under which we must leave the country for 90 days. And we have to go back despite the hostilities there.

I cannot leave for 90 days with a sick child. It takes a long time to have documents processed here. Plus the certificates we have to obtain – they are costly and we have to earn money to be able to pay for them.

It is kind of a vicious cycle: to obtain a certificate, so that we can work here legally and be useful, we must earn money but at the same time they cannot take us on because we have no documents.

Please take note of us and our problem, so that the procedure for obtaining citizenship might be simplified for the people from the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: We have already spoken about the situation in the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics, about the overall situation in Donbass. This is a tragedy, a huge tragedy for Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and our compatriots. You know, I have always treated Ukraine as a brotherly nation, and I consider Ukrainians and Russians to be practically one people. We have a common past, and I am sure, a common future despite any tragedies of today.

Yet there are certain people, certain problems. You know, I actually feel uneasy listening about problems, say with employment, that continue to this day. We have addressed this issue a number of times, and I already instructed the migration service to pay attention to that, to make respective proposals, to address those issues, if necessary, in current law.

All that must be done. I am saying this again to the Interior Minister and the leadership of the migration service itself. We have different draft laws on this but, unfortunately, they are still stuck. I will try to have the problem taken care of in your case, but the problem is much bigger than that.

I am deeply convinced that we must move in the direction of liberalising everything connected with obtaining Russian citizenship. This has a humanitarian dimension, it also has an economic dimension.

In view of the difficult demographic situation in Russia this problem is becoming not only medical and not only social, it is acquiring a clear economic dimension.

The number of Russian women of childbearing age will decrease by over 25 percent by 2032. It becomes a constraint to economic growth. And not because something negative is occurring in the economy or in the social sphere.

On the contrary, it is the result of a severe decline in births in the 1990s – and I am sorry to use such words but we cannot escape it – the number of women of childbearing age has plunged. Now they are approaching the age when they can become mothers but their number fell in the 1990s, and we cannot do anything about it.

One of the few solutions to this problem is getting our compatriots to return to Russia. Of course, this means people without regard to ethnicity or religious affiliation, but also people who consider themselves to be closely tied to the Russian world, who speak Russian, want to work in our country and have the requisite skills.

This is why radical steps need to be taken in this sphere, of course, with account of the interests of the Russian Federation residents living in certain areas, I mean the labour market situation. We have the Interior Minister with us via a video linkup.

Mr Kolokoltsev, I am not going to make you say anything or comment on that now. You heard what I said, I know that much has to be worked through at the legislative level, and this may not directly involve your ministry, but you must initiate all the processes that are related to your ministry and the migration service.

Let me reiterate, when we took the decision to merge the migration service into the Interior Ministry, we presumed that they understand not just the law enforcement aspect of the matter, but also understand the processes that occur in the labour market and in the economy.

Here we have the Governor of the Rostov Region on the line as well as the Mayor of Rostov-on-Don. So I would ask you to work with these people and do everything to safeguard their interests and help them. They are in a tough situation, and they are not strangers to us.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, we have an enormous queue of people eager to call our studio and ask their question at this very moment.

Let us move to the Call Centre. Tatyana, please.

Tatyana Remezova: Thank you, Kirill.

At this point we have received 2.5 million calls. Back to the refugee topic and the Donbass issue. Just like in Donbass, people in Syria are also looking forward to peace. Our viewers have been following the developments in that hot spot with equal attention and trepidation partly because our military is stationed in Syria. Sergei Mikhailov from Karachayevo-Circassia is on the line. Hello, Sergei! You are on the air. Go ahead, please.

Sergei Mikhailov: Good afternoon! Mr President, my name is Sergei Mikhailov, I am a working pensioner from the Karachayevo-Circassian Republic. Since you are the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, please answer, Mr President: when will the Russian military contingent be fully withdrawn from Syria?

Vladimir Putin: Our contingent in the Syrian Arab Republic is not just military…

What I want to say is this. First, the use of our Armed Forces in combat conditions is a unique experience and a unique tool to improve our Armed Forces. No exercises can compare with actually using the Armed Forces in combat conditions.

Yes, we know that the use of the Armed Forces in combat conditions means losses. We will never forget about those losses and will never leave the families of our comrades, who have not returned home from Syria, in trouble.

But that was an important and noble mission aimed at protecting the interests of the Russian Federation and our citizens. Let me remind you that thousands of militants, natives of Central Asian countries, with which we have no controlled borders, are massing on Syrian territory. It was better to deal with them and destroy them over there than confront them with lethal force here. That is first.

Second, our combat efforts have helped stabilise the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. Today, the Syrian army and the Syrian government control the territory with more than 90 percent of the country’s population.

Large-scale combat operations, particularly with the use of the Russian Armed Forces, have ceased. They are no longer necessary. A settlement through peaceful means is currently on the agenda, and we are working on that too.

As regards the presence of our military, again, it is more than just a military contingent. These are two deployment sites: one in the port of Tartus and the other is an air facility in Khmeimim, which is there in full conformity both with the treaty with the Syrian government and international law.

Our military is there in order to secure Russia’s interests in this vitally important region of the world, which is very close to us, and they will be there as long as it benefits Russia and in pursuance of our international commitments.

So far, we are not planning to withdraw those units, but I am drawing your attention to the fact that I did not call these sites bases. We are not building long-term structures there and can withdraw all of our service members quickly without material loss.

So far, they are necessary, they are fulfilling important tasks, including ensuring Russia’s security in that region and ensuring our interests in the economic sphere.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, what lessons from the Syrian campaign would you call the most important for our Armed Forces?

Vladimir Putin: These are not lessons. This is an invaluable experience as I mentioned – the use of the armed forces, and the use of advanced weapons systems.

I have to make a reservation before we go any further. When I talk about the latest weapons systems, I do not mean a testing ground. Syria is not a shooting range for Russian weapons, but we are still using them there, our new weapons.

This has led to the improvement of modern strike systems, including missile systems. It is one thing to have them, and quite another thing to see how they fare in combat conditions.

As I said, and I will repeat, when we started to use these modern weapons, including missiles, whole teams from our defence industry companies went to Syria, and worked there on-site (it is extremely important for us!) to finalise them and figure out what we can count on when using them in combat conditions. That’s first.

Second, our commanders – we had a large number of officers and generals go in Syria and take part in these hostilities – began to understand what a modern armed conflict is, how important communication, intelligence, interaction between all-arms units and formations is, how important it is to ensure the effective operation of the aerospace group, aviation, ground forces, including special operations forces. This has enabled us to take another major step in improving our Armed Forces.

To be continued.