TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Visit to Lebedinsky GOK. (excerpts)

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium Gesturing

( – July 14, 2017)

[Complete transcript here]

On the eve of Steelworker Day, Vladimir Putin visited the Lebedinsky GOK ore dressing plant that is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and watched the launch of the third sponge iron production shop.

The President visited the viewing platform of Lebedinsky GOK, learned about the production process and observed the launch of the new shop via video link in the presence of the heads of the plant and the region.

Lebedinsky GOK is Russia’s and the CIS’s largest enterprise for the extraction and enrichment of iron ore and the production of high-quality iron ore raw materials and metal resources.

The plant is the only producer of sponge iron in Russia and the CIS It is developing an iron ore deposit by open-pit mining. The deposit’s confirmed reserves amount to 3.9 billion tonnes.

The first shop for the production of sponge iron reached its design capacity in 2001. The second shop was launched in 2007. Construction and assembly work started in 2014 on the third shop with a capacity of up to 1.8 million tonnes a year.

Sponge iron is used in the production of steel. Its distinctive feature is a low content of harmful admixtures and stable homogeneity of the chemical composition.

The President also met with plant workers….

Gennady Polyakov: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Gennady Polyakov, and I work at the Oskol Electrometallurgical Plant (OEMK).

You met with Donald Trump recently. It would be interesting to hear your impression of him as a person.

Vladimir Putin: I would tell you more if there were no journalists here. (Laughter) But since we are not alone here…

You know, what I can say for sure (I think I already said that at a news conference in Germany), is that he is quite an open person and he is very different from the TV image that he created during the election campaign. However, there is nothing unusual here, since the election campaign is not something you judge a person by. An election campaign requires a special mind-set and behaviour.

What I also noticed and could share with you – this is no secret, and it surprised me a little, I did not expect this and I believe it is very important for a person who has a public profile, a politician – he has the ability to listen. At least, this is what our conversation was like.

I do not know what he is like with the other people he talks to, but during our conversation I listened to him with attention as well, when he set out his ideas and proposals on developing cooperation, and he did the same. You know, this is something that does not happen all the time. For a person who works with people, who is involved in in politics, I reiterate, this is a vitally important ability – to be able to listen and to respond and communicate promptly.

You have substantial experience, I believe. There are some people who only hear themselves, whatever you tell them – it is like a buzz in the background for them… You are talking to them, but they are not listening at all.

The current US President is different: he responds to what his interlocutor says, to the arguments, and responds to them. Even if he does not like something or does not agree with something, he asks questions and responds to arguments. This is very important. I believe this is a positive quality.

And if this dialogue between us continues in this way on the interpersonal level, as you said, there is reason to hope that our communication will further develop….

Yevgeny Zaidulin: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Yevgeny Zaidulin. At present IT technologies are booming, different work processes are automated in our company, and I myself take some part in that. A question follows: will machines replace humans in the future? And what is to be done next?

Vladimir Putin: They are already replacing them…

You see, it has always been like that. Let us recall the work-to-rule strikes, which were invented, I think, in the UK during the technological revolution. They did everything according to rules, and labour productivity plummeted immediately.

There were different movements that fought against the introduction of machinery that was modern at the time because when workers were removed, people remained in the street without jobs. Since we know about it, and we know the entire history of humankind, not just of our country, all we have to do is think it through beforehand.

We must be aware from the onset about how, where, when and according to which rules we will do retraining and what funds will be spent on this. We have been talking about that for a few years already.

You may remember that we spoke about the need to create 25 million new jobs. It had to do with the awareness that as new technologies are introduced, hands will be released. But if we do not think beforehand about where and how people will be working, then we are going to have problems.

Meanwhile, if we think about it beforehand, develop programmes and introduce them systematically, not by fits and starts, then people will be gaining much more from that than they have now, and the country will be developing faster. It is impossible to move forward without this.

Technologies will be introduced anyway, you cannot escape it. We will have to do that; we will be forced to do it. However, we have to consider right now, how social issues will be resolved. We are drafting certain programmes, including development programmes, development strategies for the coming 10 to 15 years. This is one of the key tasks of all the development strategies proposed by different groups, strategies proposed for implementation after 2018.

Vladimir Kovtun: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Vladimir Kovtun. I come from Donbass, and so I cannot avoid the topic of Ukraine, my heart is bleeding as the situation there is getting worse. How long will it last, and what is your vision of a settlement to the situation?

Vladimir Putin: You know, this is a rhetorical question, of course, about how long it will last. Our people are very patient. When I say “our” I mean both Russia and Ukraine.

You know my position; I spoke about it a number of times. I believe that we are one nation with practically no differences. There are some cultural differences, and the linguistic colouring is a little different. As for me, for instance, the identity of the Ukrainian people’s culture is worth a lot. It is a very rich culture. But in essence, on the whole, we are one people, and a very patient one.

I cannot say how long this situation will go on in Ukraine, bit it is definitely deteriorating. You know that. The country’s GDP compared to what it was, say, under President Yanukovych, has fallen by over a third in the past years. Peoples’ incomes plunged while costs rose. How much lower are incomes in Kharkov compared to Belgorod Region, for example?

Yevgeny Savchenko: Two times lower.

Vladimir Putin: Kharkov is a rich city. Most of the country’s wealth nowadays is generated in large cities all over the world. And Kharkov is a very large industrial and research centre, but you see that the situation there is much worse than in Belgorod. Even though during the Soviet times Belgorod used to be a much more modest city and region. Meanwhile, you see that the development here is very significant, very noticeable.

How long will all that last there? I do not know. It depends on the people living there, on how long they will tolerate it. But I really hope that it will be over one day, and this time, with God’s help, it will be over without blood in the course of democratic processes and the restoration of our natural ties.

After our economic ties with Ukraine were severed, it was Ukraine that suffered most. I have already given some examples, say, with aircraft engines, helicopter engines. I would like to remind you that all Russian helicopters, absolutely all of them, both military and civilian ones, were equipped with Ukrainian-made engines manufactured by Motor Sich.

They stopped delivering engines to us; they thought we would be in trouble. We have already launched two plants in St Petersburg, all complete, using a new technological basis, a modern one. Where are they going to sell their goods? I do not know. Who wants engines for the Mi helicopters? Nobody does.

The same goes for engines for the Navy. Cooperation within the USSR was arranged in such a way that the former RSFR did not manufacture any marine engines – we just did not produce them. It was not only a special kind of manufacturing, but a special branch of science, knowledge and production, and Russia did not have it. This equipment was delivered to us by Zorya-Mashproekt, a plant outside Nikolayev.

Well, they stopped deliveries. We had certain difficulties, and many of my colleagues wanted to purchase engines in other countries, including for the state defence procurement order, and there was such a possibility.

I can tell you that I made a different decision, I said, let us not hurry. We will delay the Navy re-equipment. That is, we will take longer to do it, but will make our own engines. You may have noticed that a new branch of science and a new industry appeared in Russia: we made this engine, and the whole production chain as well. Both for small vessels and for large ships, all that has appeared in Russia, a new engine has appeared. Now the equipment of ships with engines will begin. Actually, we have even acquired a new competence.

Are you from Donetsk?

Vladimir Kovtun: From Gorlovka.

Vladimir Putin: You know that a great many boys and girls, men and women from large Ukrainian enterprises have moved to Russia. They are very good top-level specialists, the world level actually, they are working with us, and God give them good health.

Yet we would like to restore cooperation as a whole, not everything has been lost there. It would certainly benefit both the Ukrainian economy and the Russian economy since after the signing of the notorious association agreement Ukraine’s trade volumes fell, both trade with Russia and the European Union.

There are practically no efficiently operating industries left except agriculture. However, if they start selling Ukrainian black soil, and will allow GMO products, if they contaminate (there is such a term) Ukrainian black soil, do you understand? Then they will no longer have it either. That is why the sooner we restore normal relations, industrial and economic ties, the better it will be for both Russia and Ukraine.

Denis Azinov: Mr President, good afternoon. I am Denis Azinov, Oskol Electrometallurgical Plant.

Mr President, Russia is one of the world’s leading oil producers. But in the past years there has been a tendency for the world oil prices to fall whereas petrol prices in Russia are still going up. Why is this happening and what can be done about it?

Vladimir Putin: This has to do with a number of factors. The price is determined, among other things, by external markets. As we have a free market, we cannot keep our prices lower than those in neighbouring countries. Otherwise, we will have to set up a new iron curtain.

Petrol is cheaper than in many neighbouring countries anyway, and it is carried across the borders, there is a real flow of petrol running there. This is the reason why we have to keep prices at a certain level if we do not want it all carried away.

This problem is solved in a different way, not by suppressing fuel prices but rather by raising people’s living standards and incomes. This is the way to go. In some countries, let us say, in gas producing countries, they keep gas prices very low. But this is a totally upside-down economy.

They have long been aware that they should act in a different way, yet they cannot make this step to balance the economy because it entails a whole chain of consequences including social ones.

That is why we should never let producers, traders and middlemen raise the prices too much; it is quite obvious that the prices should be economically logical. But it is ultimately not economically sound and even hazardous to keep them at an artificially low level.

However, we still try to keep those prices lower for certain consumers at certain periods of time, such as agricultural producers during the sowing and harvesting seasons. Here the Government works out a number of support mechanisms, agreements with producers, middlemen, and sellers, and we manage to do it overall. This is how we will gradually be able to meet both the demands of consumers and the interests of producers.

Yekaterina Rogova: Catering company, occupational safety engineer Yekaterina Rogova.

Good afternoon, Mr President. Recently the documentary Putin was released. The film is full of private emotional moments where you speak about your grandchildren, and moments in the church. Or consider the episode where you…

Vladimir Putin: Do you mean the American film?

Yekaterina Rogova Yes. Even if we consider the episode where you give the horse a carrot, on cannot but feel sentimental, it is great.

This immediately brings about a question. I would like to ask about your first-hand impressions, your emotions from participating in that project. And Mr President, will there be a follow-up, like with The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years Later? (Laughter)

Vladimir Putin: Where is the culprit mister-comrade-master Peskov? Must have dashed out, he is not here. But it was he who talked me into it. And my first reaction was, why? who needs it? Everybody knows everything anyway; I do not even know what I am going to say. But he said, “Nevertheless, there is this director, he is very famous, he even got an Oscar, he is a talented person, and he will tell this story to the Americans, a broad US audience. Because, ultimately, this will not be so much about you as about the country.

And it is important that an American viewer should learn about Russia as much as possible and from you directly. I had a second question to ask, how objectively was he going to convey what I will be telling him, will he cut things out or comment or distort. He said, “I cannot guarantee it, but he is basically a very decent person, a good journalist.” And so I agreed.

You know, I did not view it as a project. You said ‘project’. I want to make it clear how it was done. So, the Executive Office staff, in particular, my press secretary, would come up to me and say, “The team is coming tomorrow, we found several minutes, an hour to meet them.” And I would say all right.

I would occasionally forget that they were supposed to come. They would tell me “They are waiting.” I would come out to them and begin speaking. Then I would leave and immediately forget about them. So it is not the way they usually make a film, with a set, the other things, questions. In addition, the director was the kind of person who does not prepare you for anything, he just comes and asks his questions.

I should give him credit, though; from what I saw…I did not see the complete film. I am going to reveal a secret to you: I watched this film on my way home from a trip abroad, aboard an airplane. But as I had not got enough sleep there, I fell asleep on the plane as I was watching, so I did not see it to the end. But I will definitely watch it. Actually, judging by reviews, everything is fairly objective there, and no sequel is being considered.

Ivan Lapchenko: Good afternoon, Mr President! My name is Ivan Lapchenko, [I work at] an HBI (hot-briquetted iron) plant. I would like to use this occasion to ask you two questions. They might not let me do it later.

Vladimir Putin: Who?

Ivan Lapchenko: They will take the microphone and will not let me ask.

First questions. There are a lot of historians and non-historians who mangle our history, and apply lots of pressure. A lot of versions. And I would like to know whether the state will fight for our history until the end? Maybe it is worth thinking up some special measures, tools? Can we be sure than next generations will know the truth about war, about Victory, about everything?

And the second question. Setting aside all distractions, and without going into any details, do we have any confidence in tomorrow? That’s it. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The second part: is it a question or a statement? (Laughter.) Do you have confidence in tomorrow, I mean you?

No. Seriously, jokes aside, I want to know your feelings. Now you know that I am not kidding, I am asking you seriously, about your inner feelings – are you confident, is there any hope inside?

Ivan Lapchenko: There is, because everything I do today is for a bright tomorrow.

Vladimir Putin: And the more people we have like you who are doing something, who are involved in specific production, who work with their hands and heads, who talk like you, the more confidence we will have that Russia’s victory is inevitable. (Applause.)

As for various perversions of our history. You know that it has almost always been like that over the course of our history. Why? Because as Alexander III said once, everyone is afraid of our hugeness, because there are only two allies – our army and navy. But this method of challenging Russia has always been used.

Take for example the famous legend that Ivan the Terrible killed his son. It remains unknown in fact whether he really killed his son or not. Many researchers believe that he did not kill anyone at all and that the Pope’s nuncio made it up when he visited Russia for talks with Ivan IV and tried to turn the Orthodox Rus into a Catholic Rus.

And when Ivan IV refused different legends and so forth emerged. He was made Ivan the Terrible, an extremely violent individual. Although, if one examines other countries in this period of time, everything was the same everywhere. It was quite a violent time. I do not want to say that Ivan the Terrible was an angel, he must have been a very tough individual.

But I am talking about something else, about what you said, about the fact that this is a method of fighting our country, this is a competitive struggle that is always ongoing in the world, constantly. And as soon as any rival emerges, all other participants in the process start thinking: no, wait, we have to hold him back. Well, it has always been like this.

We spoke about your metallurgical industry. Since 2000, Russia has invested four trillion rubles in the development of a metallurgical industry. We have ferrous, nonferrous metallurgy. When I came there the first time I thought I was standing in a hospital room. Now that’s high technology.

As soon as the other manufactures saw direct competition, 17 so-called antidumping investigations, and eventually a total of 30, were opened. And what is this? It is a tool to fight you. A tool of fighting you by whom? Your rivals. And the same things are happening in the world, in the global arena.

Russia is becoming more stable, getting stronger – see, getting too strong in fact, we need to put some pressure on it. All kinds of insinuations start emerging, including different perversions of history. If we have always been that bad in their eyes, then what is there to talk about with such people?

And this tool will continue to be used. One cannot neglect this fact. One must not lose his head over this. It just needs to be treated as part of the job. We need to be exact and persistent in clearly demonstrating our own position.

If we do this, if we pay the necessary attention to this, then all attempts to either pervert something or use it against us will be doomed from the start. There are some absolutely obvious things. We just need to talk about them.

Ask the Japanese who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Practically every third person will say that is was the Soviet Union. This is nonsense! But it is so! Ask who made the greatest contribution in the victory over Nazism. Westerners will definitely say: the United State or the United Kingdom.

Around 350,000 people died in the United Kingdom during the Second World War. During the First World War about 1.2 million people died, I believe. And in the Second World War −350,000−400,000. Americans sustained bigger casualties, 550,000 people died, I believe. Russia lost 27 million people! Wehrmacht’s main forces was concentrated in our country.

The Prokhorovskoye field is not far from here. We all know what Prokhorovka is but few people in the world have heard about this. We need to speak out, speak out and not be shy. And not for, I would like to beg your pardon for my mauvais ton − this should not be said in front of cameras, not for thumping our chest about how great we are, no.

But just to show the real role of our country in the global processes, show that we are not going to argue, quarrel, wage war against anyone; we are proceeding from the fact that we will also be taken seriously, our lawful interests taken into account and our lawful rights respected.

The biggest country in the world, in terms of area. Not as densely populated as India or China with 1.5 billion people, but 146 million is still a good number for a population. You understand we simply cannot allow our interests not to be taken into account. We are going to defend them but with lawful, civilised ways and methods. And for this, of course, we need to provide the world with information about us, including about the country’s history, impartially, you are right….

Natalya Cherkashchenko: I am Natalya Cherkashchenko, Chief Ecologist at the Lebedinsky GOK ore dressing plant.

It is always a pleasure seeing you effortlessly giving exact answers to journalists’ questions, which are not always well-intended and are at times even provocative.

Vladimir Putin: Always provocative.

Natalya Cherkashchenko: Always, true. A film has been already mentioned here made by a US journalist, and your interview with a female US journalist has caused large public resonance.

My question is: with whom do you take more pleasure in speaking with – men or…

Vladimir Putin: With women of course..

Natalya Cherkashchenko: I am asking about journalists.

Vladimir Putin: You know, I am being totally frank about this, I am not putting on a show, but it is always easier for me to communicate with people who have both feet on the ground, with workers in a broad sense of this word, those who work with their hands or use their heads. I feel myself to be a natural part of such groups.

Second, this is always useful. You always get a feeling of how people are living their lives, what drives them and what problems they face – this is important for my work. And I say this with complete honesty. And it’s interesting; I mean, this is a real life.

The rest is a kind of playing ping-pong, like some kind of sport. This is more in the realm of propaganda, but this is not what life is about. Life is what you are involved in and what you are working on. This is our life, our country, our people; this is the most important and interesting aspect. What can be more interesting than Russia? Nothing. (Applause.)

Daniil Lysykh: Good afternoon, Mr President. I am Daniil Lysykh, and I am an electrician at the Lebedinsky GOK.

We have many local residents who have found great success in sports. For instance, Denis Lebedev recently successfully defended his WBA title. Everyone knows that you are fond of boxing and Sambo. Do you have any other hobbies?

Vladimir Putin: You mean, hobbies involving sport?

Daniil Lysykh: In general.

Vladimir Putin: Well, everyone knows what my sports hobbies are, at least I think they do, but I can tell them again. Sambo is where it all began, and then I switched to judo. These are my main sports hobbies. Later I learned how to ski. In the past few years, I have tried my hand at playing hockey. Just like any game, hockey is exhilarating and never boring.

I like music very much. In my free time and whenever I get the chance I gladly listen to music. I have friends who are good musicians, and I love listening to interesting and good recordings. That is pretty much it.

I would like to once again congratulate you on all three of your holidays and wish you all the best. I wish you great success and that you have a very festive time. I also wish you all the best in your personal lives, with your families, that they remain healthy and happy.

Thank you very much.

[featured image is file photo from different occasion]