TRANSCRIPT: Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Kremlin.ru – December 17, 2015)

[Text in Russian and video here http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50971]

The President’s news conference was broadcast live by Rossiya-1, Rossiya-24 and Channel One, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations.

Television channel Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site (http://www.otr-online.ru/online/) provided live sign language interpretation of the news conference.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues,

We regularly meet at the end of the year. Only recently I made my Address [to the Federal Assembly]. Honestly speaking, I do not know what else to add to what I said then. I believe I covered all the key points.

Nevertheless, there must be issues, which you want us to clarify. When I say ‘us’, I am referring to my colleagues in the Presidential Executive Office and the Government Cabinet and myself.

Therefore, I suggest that we skip any lengthy monologues and get right down to your questions so as not to waste time.

Mr Peskov, please.

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Last year we started a good tradition by beginning the press conference with a question from one of the most experienced members of the Kremlin’s press pool, Vyacheslav Terekhov. However, we have another press pool old-timer, Alexander Gamov from the Komsomolskaya Pravda. I would like to give him the opportunity to ask the first question.

Alexander Gamov: Thank you very much Mr President, for your 11th press conference of this kind.

Here is my question. Before coming here, I reread the transcript of your last year’s press conference, and there we also discussed the difficult situation developing in the Russian economy. When Vyacheslav Terekhov and our other colleagues asked you then how long it would take to get over this complicated situation, you said in the worst case scenario this would take a year or two. These were your words. I am sure you remember them. This means this would be roughly late 2016 – early 2017.

Could you please tell us if your feelings regarding our economic recovery have changed? The country is going through very hard times, and you know this better than we do. What is your forecast for the future?

Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself: Alexander Gamov, Komsomolskaya Pravda – radio station, website and newspaper. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: To begin with, I will tell you a very old joke.

Two friends meet and one asks the other: “How are you?” The other says: “My life is all stripes – black stripes followed by white ones.” – “So which one is it now?” – “Now I’m in the black one.” Another six months pass, they meet again: “How’s life? I know it’s all stripes, but which one is it now?” – “It’s black now.” – “But it was black last time!” – “Looks like it was white last time.”

We are having something very similar.

When a year ago we spoke of our plans and how we would move ahead to recover from the crisis, about our prospects, we, knowing that unfortunately our economy is very dependent on foreign economic factors, mainly the prices for our traditional exports like oil and gas, petroleum products and chemicals, which are all calculated based on oil and gas prices, proceeded from the idea that the average price of Brent, our crude oil, would be around $100 a barrel.

This was in early 2014. We used this figure in all our further calculations of macroeconomic parameters, revenue and spending, and social support and support for the economy, and late last year the Economic Development Ministry built its development plans proceeding from these figures. However, by the end of this year we had to rerun all our calculations, and even last year we had to do this as oil prices fell almost by half, not by some percentage, but by half from $100 a barrel to $50.

We calculated the budget for next year based on this very figure, a very optimistic one of $50 a barrel. However, now it is what – $38? Therefore, I believe we will have to make further adjustments.

At the same time, I would like to use your question to demonstrate where we stand.

Statistics show that the Russian economy has generally overcome the crisis, or at least the peak of the crisis, not the crisis itself.
Naturally, after the drop in energy resource prices all our other figures started ‘sliding’. What are they? The GDP has gone down by 3.7 percent. As of December 7, the inflation has reached 12.3 percent since the beginning of the year.

I find it important to say this, because there are sure to be other questions dealing with our development prospects and our current state of affairs. To understand these things we need to know these figures and proceed from them.

The real disposable household income has gone down; fixed investment has dropped by 5.7 percent over the first 10 months of the year. At the same time, as we have already said, statistics show that the Russian economy has generally overcome the crisis, or at least the peak of the crisis, not the crisis itself.

Starting with the 2nd quarter of this year, we have been observing signs of economic stabilisation. What leads us to such a conclusion? In September-October the GDP grew (it is growing already) by about 0.3-0.1 percent compared to the previous month. The volumes of industrial production stopped falling as of May. In September-October, we also had a small growth in industrial production – 0.2-0.1 percent. Incidentally, industrial production in the Far East grew by 3.1 percent.

Agriculture is demonstrating positive dynamics with an at least 3 percent growth. This means we are doing all the right and timely things to support agriculture. For the second year running our grain crops exceeded 100 million tonnes – 103.4. This is very good. I would like to use this opportunity to once again thank our agricultural workers for their effort.

The labour market is stable, with the unemployment rate hovering around 5.6 percent. We can see that if we look back at 2008, this is an overall positive result of the Government’s efforts.

Our trade balance also remains positive. The overall trade volumes have gone down, but the export surplus remains at a rather high level of about $126.3 billion. Our international reserves stand at $364.4 billion – this is a slight reduction, but a good figure nevertheless.

The Russian Federation’s external debt has gone down by 13 percent compared to 2014. Capital outflow has also significantly dropped. Moreover, in the 3rd quarter we observed a net inflow.

The reduction in our debt burden is a very important positive indicator. This is the other side dealing with the so-called sanctions. It would have been good, of course, to have access to foreign refinancing markets, so that all the money would stay in the country and help us develop, but on the other hand over-crediting is also a bad sign.

So, what did we do? Despite all limitations, we complied with all our commitments to our partners, including international credit institutions. We pay everything due on time and in full. As a result, the overall joint debt, which is not the state debt, but the total debt of our financial institutions and companies operating in the real sector of the economy – the overall joint debt has gone down, which is generally a very positive thing.

As I have already said, we are observing a net capital inflow, which is also a very positive factor, and I am sure experts are saying this as well. This means that investors, seeing the realities of our economy, are beginning to show some interest in working here. Despite the complicated situation, the fuel and energy complex continues developing. The production of oil, coal and electricity has grown. More than 4.6 gigawatt of new generating capacity will be commissioned by the end of the year.

We have already commissioned about 20 facilities; this is somewhat less than last year and the year before that. In the previous two years, we had an absolute record, but 4.6 gigawatt is also very good. We will retain this rate in the following years. This is also very important as it shows the growing capacity of the economy as a whole, its energy security.

The infrastructure is also developing actively. Russia’s entire seaport infrastructure has grown by 19.5 million tonnes worth of capacity. I would like to use this opportunity to draw your attention to the fact that over the January-September period the volume of cargo loaded at Russian ports went up by 3 percent. What does this mean, colleagues? Why have our budget revenues from our export goods gone down? Because of the prices. Meanwhile, as we are observing growing trade turnover at the ports, it means the physical volume has not gone down but has actually increased. This is a very positive factor.

We continue developing our airport system. In the first nine months, our airports served over 126 million passengers, which is 2.5 percent more than last year. Internal air traffic has also grown noticeably – by more than 16 percent.

Despite the complicated financial and economic situation, we continue our responsible state financial policy. In the 11 months of this year federal budget revenue reached 12.2 trillion, spending – 13.1 trillion. The budget deficit, as we can see, stands at 957 billion. The expected budget deficit by the end of the year is about 2.8 – 2.9 percent of the GDP. This is a satisfactory figure for the current economic situation, even more than satisfactory.

To achieve a balanced federal budget this year we used our reserve fund. At the same time, it is very important that the sovereign funds generally remain at a healthy level of 11.8 percent of the GDP. The reserve fund amounted to 3.931 trillion rubles, which is 5.3 percent of the GDP, while the national welfare fund was 4.777 trillion rubles, which is 6.5 percent of the GDP.

We have complied with all our social commitments this year and are witnessing a natural population growth. This is a very good figure that speaks of the people’s state of mind, shows that they have the opportunity to plan their families, which makes me very happy. Thus, 6.5 million Russian families have received maternity capital over the entire period since the programme was introduced. We have now extended this programme. I would like to remind you that in 2016 maternity capital payment will remain the same as in 2015 at 453,000 rubles.

In the majority of regions, the situation with accessibility of preschool facilities has been resolved by over 97 percent.

According to the Federal State Statistics Service, life expectancy at the end of this year is forecast to exceed 71 years.

We have complied with our commitments in terms of adjusting pensions to the actual inflation in 2014, with the PAYG component increased by 11.4 percent. As of April 1 of this year, social security pensions have gone up by 10.3 percent.

You began your question by asking about last year and our expectations for next year and the year after that. Proceeding from the current value of our exports, the Government is expecting our economy to achieve at least a 0.7 percent growth in 2016, 1.9 percent in 2017 and 2.4 percent in 2018.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that all our calculations were based on the oil price of $50 a barrel. Now the price is lower. Volatility is high. We will not rush to adjust the budget, as this would lead to a reduction in the funding of both the social and real sectors; however, the Government is of course working on different development scenarios. The Government should have this instrument available, to be ready for any developments.

Our calculations were based on the oil price of $50 a barrel. Now the price is lower. We will not rush to adjust the budget, as this would lead to a reduction in the funding of both the social and real sectors; however, the Government is working on different development scenarios.
Of course, potential GDP growth is not limited to our export-related opportunities. We must also promote import replacement, as I said in my Address to the Federal Assembly, which is not a cure-all, but we believe that it will help us retool a large park of the production sector and the agriculture industry. This programme will enable us to introduce novel technology and, hence, to increase labour productivity. We must certainly continue working to improve economic management, to de-bureaucratise our economy, and to create more attractive conditions for doing business and for helping entrepreneurs achieve the goals that are facing them and the national economy as a whole. We will be working hard, with a focus on these targets.

Thank you for your question: it allowed me to use the materials at hand.

Yelena Glushakova: Thank you. Yelena Glushakova, RIA Novosti.

Good afternoon! Mr President, you said we are past the peak of the crisis, however the economic situation continues to be very disturbing, something economists say. In particular, your team mate Alexei Kudrin calls for reforms, but he is known to be an optimist.

This week, for example, your Ombudsman, Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, Boris Titov, expressed very disturbing thoughts. He said, in particular, that the Central Bank interest rate is extremely high. So our entrepreneurs, who for obvious reasons are unable to borrow in the West, cannot borrow in Russia either because the costs are too high. He said that if this situation continues, we will turn into Venezuela, where there is one national currency exchange rate on the black market and a very different official rate.

Do you share these concerns? Do you support the monetary policy of the Bank of Russia? Do you consider it necessary to lower interest rates?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Please give a long applause for this question.

Naturally, these are everyone’s concerns. And of course, everyone wants the Central Bank refinancing rate lowered, because everyone knows it guides commercial banks in lending to businesses. This, by the way, is not the only thing that affects the rates in the commercial sector, but a major one of course.

Boris Titov does the right thing in fighting for the interests of the business community, and it is important that we have such a man and such institutions. Why do you think I insisted on appointing a business ombudsman in the first place? Because I want to hear different points of view, and I do not want to miss important and essential elements of our economic life over all the current issues.

To begin with, I will simply answer your question. I support the policy that the Central Bank and the Government pursue to ensure macroeconomic stability. That is first.

Second, however much we want to lower the rate, it cannot be done by administrative methods. We have to work from the realities of our economy and its structure. Of course, I often hear this talk about interest rates being far lower outside Russia. Of course, there are lower rates. So they do it on purpose. But they have other problems, and a different economic structure. We are threatened by inflation, and they probably have deflation looming when manufacturers cannot sell what they make. That is their problem.

We have a different problem. To lower the rate, we need to help the Central Bank and the Government suppress inflation and reduce devaluation risks and expectations, rather than snap at the regulator as was common in Soviet times in the planned economy. Once we can do both, once we start down this road, then the market will calm down naturally and Central Bank refinancing rate will decrease.

When there’s a possibility to support the real economy, the Central Bank is doing it anyway. That said, it should not be pushed to do even more, since this could affect its ability to keep the inflation at bay, which is one of the key issues, not the only, but still a very important one. It could prompt the question: Does the Central Bank have any objectives other than making sure that the country’s financial and banking systems are up and running? And we can argue that this is the way things are at the present time. What else is the Central Bank doing? For example, together with the Government it is working on the so-called project financing programmes: the Government oversees a wide range of projects under various programmes worth tens of billions of dollars, about 250 billion already, and up to 500 billion moving forward. Under these programmes, the Central Bank provides funding to Russian private banks so that they can finance these specific programmes. The Central Bank is also involved in new investment projects. It uses a wide range of instruments. For now, this is enough.

Veronika Romanenkova: TASS news agency, Veronika Romanenkova.

Mr Putin, could you tell us in all honesty whether you are satisfied with the Government’s work? To what extent are the initiatives that are being taken against the backdrop of crisis developments you’ve just described adequate? Can any changes in the Government line-up be expected?

Vladimir Putin: Well, as you may know or could have noticed throughout the years I’ve been in office, I a) value people highly and b) believe that staff reshuffles, usually, but not always, are to be avoided and can be detrimental. If someone is unable to work something out, I think that I bear part of the blame and responsibility. For this reason, there will be no changes, at least no major reshuffles.

We are working together with the Government on ways to improve its structure. This is true. This is about finding solutions for enhancing the Government’s efficiency with respect to the most sensible economic and social issues. There are plans to this effect, but there’s nothing dramatic about them and they don’t boil down to specific individuals. Our efforts are aimed at improving the operations of this crucial governing body.

As for the question whether I’m satisfied or not, overall I think that the Government’s work has been satisfactory. Of course, it can and should be even better. An anti-crisis plan was drafted and enacted in early 2014. I don’t remember its exact title, but essentially this was an anti-crisis plan. If you look at what has been done, you can see that unfortunately 35 percent or more than one third of the initiatives listed in this plan have yet to be implemented. This goes to show that efforts on the administrative, organisational front undertaken by various ministries and agencies did not suffice to respond to the challenges we are facing in a prompt and timely manner. However, let me reiterate that overall in terms of its strategy the Government is moving in the right direction and is efficient.

Let’s give the floor to Tatars. There’s such a big poster. How can we possibly do without Tatars? Nothing is possible without Tatars here.

Yelena Kolebakina: Thank you very much, Mr President. I’m Yelena Kolebakina with Tatarstan’s business newspaper Business Online. The people of Tatarstan won’t forgive me if I don’t ask you these questions.

In your address, you said – you stressed, actually – that the kind, hard-working people of Turkey and the ruling elite should not be put on the same plane and that we have a lot of reliable friends in Turkey. As you know, over the years Tatarstan has forged extensive economic and cultural ties with Turkey. What are we supposed to do now? Rupture these ties, cut our bonds with the entire Turkic world? After all, this is precisely the message of Vladimir Medinsky’s recent cable with his recommendation that all contacts with the international organization Turksoy be broken. What is to be done with the Turkish investors who have invested a quarter of all foreign direct investment in Tatarstan? This is my first question.

And allow me to ask the second question or the people of Tatarstan will be unhappy. In keeping with the federal law, from January 1, 2016, President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tatarstan will no longer be referred to as president. However, this can hurt the ethnic feelings of all Tatars in the world while you – let me remind you – have always said that in accordance with the constitution, it is up to the republic itself to decide what to call the head of the region. So, will the federal centre insist on renaming the position of the head of Tatarstan after all?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I saw the “Turkey” poster. Please go ahead with your question and you too. We’ll sort this out.

Yelena Teslova: Yelena Teslova with the Anadolu news agency. I have a similar question. I’d also like to start off with the fact that in your Address to the Federal Assembly, you said that we should not put the Turkish people and the part of the Turkish elite that is directly responsible for the death of our military personnel in Syria on the same plane. On a day-to-day level, however, the impression is somewhat different. Complaints are coming to the Turkish embassy in Moscow from students saying they have been expelled and from business people who say that are about to be deported. What is to be done about this?

The second question concerns Syria. The position on the fate of the Syrian president is well-known. Russia says it should be decided by the Syrian people while the United States and its allies insist that he has no political future. Did you address the issue with John Kerry during his visit to Moscow? Will this issue be raised in New York? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: And your question please.

Fuad Safarov: Mr President, Fuad Safarov with the Turkish news agency Cihan.

The rapid deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey benefits neither side. What’s more, this has only harmed both sides. Do you believe there is a third party in this scenario?

The second question, if you’ll allow me. An Islamic anti-ISIS coalition was established recently, but we know that there is also the NATO-led coalition and the Russian-Syrian coalition. It turns out that there are three coalitions against ISIS. Is it really so difficult to deal with this evil? Maybe there are some other goals and some other plans here? Maybe it’s not ISIS that is the problem? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Okay, I’ll talk about Syria in the end. Now, regarding the conflict that has flared up. We believe that the actions of the Turkish authorities (in relation to our warplane, which they shot down) are an unfriendly, hostile act. They shot down a warplane and our people were killed.

What outraged us so much? If it was an accident, as we heard later, apparently, the Turkish authorities did not even know it was a Russian plane… What is usually done in such cases? After all, people were killed. They immediately make a phone call and straighten things out. Instead, they immediately ran to Brussels, shouting: “Help, we’ve been hurt.” Who is hurting you? Did we touch anybody there? No. They started covering themselves with NATO. Does NATO need this? As it turned out, apparently it does not.

What is the most important thing for us? I want you to understand this. I want our people to hear this and I want Turkey to hear this as well. Apart from the tragedy, the fact that our people were killed, what has upset us so much, do you know? After all, we have not abandoned cooperation.

When I was last in Antalya I had contact with Turkey’s entire leadership. Our Turkish colleagues raised very sensitive issues and asked for support. Even though our relations have soured now (I won’t say what the issue was – this is not my style), but believe me, they raised issues with us that are very sensitive and that do not fit into the context of international law when we consider the decisions proposed by the Turkish side.

You’ll be surprised, but we said, “Yes, we understand, and we’re willing to help.” You see, I hadn’t heard about the Turkomans (Syrian Turks) before. I knew that Turkmen – our Turkmen – lived in Turkmenistan, and so I was confused… Nobody told us about them. But after we indicated our willingness to cooperate on the issues that are sensitive to Turkey, why didn’t they phone us via the cooperation channels between our militaries to say that during our discussions we overlooked a certain part of the border where Turkey has vested interests. They could have expressed their concerns or asked us not to hit a certain areas. But nobody said anything!

As I said, we were willing to cooperate with Turkey on very sensitive issues. So why did they do it? Tell me, why? What have they accomplished? Did they think we would just pack up and go? They couldn’t have thought that of course, Russia isn’t that kind of country. We have increased our presence and increased the number of warplanes [in Syria]. We didn’t have air defence systems there, but after that we dispatched S-400 systems to the area. We are also adjusting the Syrian air defence system and have repaired the highly effective Buk systems that we’d sent them before. Turkish planes used to fly there all the time, violating Syrian air space. Let them try it now. Why did they do it?

You asked if there is a third party involved. I see what you mean. We don’t know, but if someone in Turkish leadership has decided to brown nose the Americans, I’m not sure if they did the right thing. First, I don’t know if the US needed this. I can imagine that certain agreements were reached at some level that they would down a Russian plane, while the US closes its eyes to Turkish troops entering Iraq, and occupying it. I don’t know if there was such an exchange. We don’t know. But whatever happened, they’ve put everyone in a bind. In my opinion – I’ve looked at the situation and everything that’s happened and is happening there – it appears that ISIS is losing priority. I’ll share my impressions with you.

Some time ago, they invaded Iraq and destroyed that country (whether this is good or bad is beyond the point). The void set in. Then, elements tied to the oil trading emerged. This situation has been building up over the years. It’s a business, a huge trafficking operation run on a commercial scale. Of course, they needed a military force to protect smuggling operations and illegal exports. It’s great to be able to cite the Islamic factor and slogans to that effect in order to attract cannon fodder. Instead, the recruits are being manipulated in a game based on economic interests. They started urging people to join this movement. That’s how I think, ISIS came about.

Next, they needed to protect delivery routes. We began attacking their convoys. Now, we can see that they are splitting up with five to 15 trucks hitting the roads after dark. However, another flow, the bulk of the truck fleet, is headed for Iraq, and across Iraq through Iraqi Kurdistan. In one place there – I will ask the Defence Ministry to show this picture – we spotted 11,000 oil trucks. Just think of it – 11,000 oil trucks in one place. Unbelievable.

Whether there’s a third party involved is anyone’s guess, but a scenario whereby these moves were never agreed with anyone is quite likely. However, today, the Turkish authorities are taking quite a lot of heat – not directly, though – for islamising their country. I’m not saying if it’s bad or good, but I admit that the current Turkish leaders have decided to let the Americans and Europeans know – yes, we are islamising our country, but we are modern and civilised Islamists. Remember, what President Reagan said about Somoza: Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch. Just keep it in mind, we are Islamists, but we are on your side, we are your Islamists.

There may be such an overtone, but nothing good came out of what happened. And the goals, even if Turkey had any, not only were not achieved, but, on the contrary, the situation got even worse.

Now, regarding Turkic peoples residing in Russia. Of course we need to continue to maintain contacts with those who are close to us ethnically. I’m saying “us,” because Turkic-speaking peoples of Russia are part of Russia, and in this sense the Turkish people, whom I mentioned in my Address as our friendly people, and other Turkic-speaking peoples remain our partners and friends. Of course, we will and must maintain contacts with them.

We have learned from experience that it is hard or almost impossible to reach common ground with the current Turkish leadership. Even when we tell them “yes, we agree,” they are trying to outflank or stab us in the back for absolutely no good reason.

Consequently, I don’t see any prospects for improving relations with the Turkish leaders in terms of state-to-state relations, while remaining completely open to humanitarian cooperation. However, even this area is not without issues. I think that Turkish leaders have actually gone beyond their own expectations. Russia is forced to impose restrictive economic and other measures, for example, in tourism.

You know, the creeping islamisation that would have made Ataturk turn over in his own grave, affects Russia. We know that there are fighters from the North Caucasus on Turkish soil. We have told our partners time and again: “We don’t do such things with respect to Turkey.” But these fighters are still there, they receive treatment and protection. They benefit from visa-free travel arrangements and are able to enter Russian territory using Turkish passports and disappear, while we have to go after them in the Caucasus or in our million plus cities. For this reason, we will certainly have to do it along with a number of other initiatives to ensure our national security.

As for the President of Tatarstan, there’s a saying in Russia: “Call me a pot but heat me not.” This is Tatarstan’s business. I don’t think that this is such a sensitive issue or that it could hurt national feelings. You know the people in the Caucasus always react vehemently to all issues related to their national identity. However, even Chechnya said: no, the country should have only one President, and we will not call the head of the Republic this way. This was the choice of the Chechen people. We will respect the choice of the people of Tatarstan. It is up to you to decide, all right?

Anton Vernitsky: Anton Vernitsky, Channel One.

Vladimir Putin: I’m sorry, I forgot, but I wrote down your question. Again, I’m sorry, Anton.

The fate of the Syrian President. I have said it many times, and I would like to repeat it: We will never agree with the idea of a third party, whoever it is, imposing its opinion about who governs who. This is beyond any common sense and international law. Of course, we discussed it with US Secretary of State Kerry. Our opinion remains the same, and this is our principled approach. We believe that only Syrians can choose their leaders, establish their government standards and rules.

Therefore, I will say something very important now. We support the initiative of the United States, including with respect to the UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria. The Secretary of State’s visit mainly focused on this resolution. We generally agree with it. I think Syrian officials will agree with the draft, too. There may be something that somebody does not like. But in an attempt to resolve this bloody conflict of many years, there is always room for compromise on either side. We believe it is a generally acceptable proposal, although there could be improvements.

As I have said before, this is an initiative of the United States and President Obama. This means that both the US and Europe are highly concerned with the current situation in the Middle East, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. We will do what we can to help settle the crisis and will aim to satisfy all parties with our solutions, however complicated the situation.

But first, it is necessary to work together on a constitution and a procedure to oversee possible future elections. It must be a transparent procedure that everyone trusts. Based on these democratic procedures, Syria will decide which form of government is the most suitable and who will lead the country.

Anton Vernitsky: Back to the Syria issue. Mr Putin, do we have a clear-cut plan on Syria or we are acting impulsively? I mean, Turkey shot down our plane and we immediately increased our military presence in Syria. When will our military operation end? What will you regard as the end point of our military operation in Syrian airspace? Do you believe that the intra-Syrian conflict can, after all, be switched to a political track? Though you already talked about it, is it possible?

VladimirPutin: I have been trying to answer this. We think that, A, it is possible; and, B, we believe that there is no other way to resolve the situation. Anyway, this will have to be done sooner or later, and better sooner than later because there will be fewer casualties and costs, and there will be fewer threats, including to Europe and to the United States as well. Look, 14 people were killed in the United States − ISIS has made its way into the US. US law enforcement has acknowledged that it was a terrorist act committed by ISIS, so it’s a threat to everyone. And the sooner we do it, resolve this, the better.

Let me repeat, there is no solution to this problem except a political one. Do we have a plan? Yes. And I just spelled it out. In its key aspects, strange as it may sound, it coincides with the American vision, proposed by the United States: cooperative work on the constitution, creating mechanisms to control future early elections, holding the elections and recognizing the results based on this political process. Of course, it’s a complicated objective and of course there are various claims: some don’t like this group and others don’t like that group, some want to work with the Syrian Government and others refuse categorically. But what is necessary is that all conflicting parties make an effort to meet each other halfway.

Anton Vernitsky: And what about the military operation?

Vladimir Putin: So what about the military operation? We’ve been saying that we would carry out air strikes to provide support for offensive operations by the Syrian army. And that’s what we’ve been doing while the Syrian army conducts their operations.

To be continued.

[featured image is file photo]