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Putin’s 2019 ‘Direct Line,’ in a nutshell Russia’s president spoke on national TV for four hours, but you can read this summary in five minutes

Источник: Meduza
Alexey Nikolsky / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA

National projects

The country needs to revitalize the economy, but first we need to figure out where to find the money for this development work. That’s why we raised the VAT [value added tax), and as expected it increased inflation, but only temporarily. The cabinet ministers are personally responsible for seeing their work through.

Income and wages

If someone says they’re earning below the minimum wage (by the way, we’ve raised it to the subsistence minimum), then you need to check if that person is working part time. A few years ago, earnings dropped because of economic shocks — not just the sanctions, but also because of falling prices on our raw materials. Falling earnings are primarily due to borrowed credit. We’ve already taken measures to raise wages, and the average pay is rising.

Healthcare

There are a lot of problems here, but the main ones are availability of medical care, a lack of specialists, and shortages of certain medicines. We’re going to build new first aid and obstetric centers, remodel existing facilities, and create mobile brigades to bring assistance to villages. Doctors have just told us via video link that their salaries are too low, but in fact they’re rising across the country. Yes, they say there aren’t enough subsidized medicines, but the money has definitely been allocated; people are just unable to spend it correctly.

Waste management

During last year’s “Direct Line,” we learned that nobody in Russia wants to deal with waste management. One of the reasons for the trash accumulation is that we’ve developed a consumer society with lots of packaged goods. No one wants a landfill near their home, which means we have to move the trash even farther away.

Foreign sanctions

Russia has lost $50 billion, because of the sanctions, whereas the European Union has lost $240 billion. The United States has lost just $17 billion, because of the relatively small amount of trade it does with Russia, while Japan has lost $27 billion. They accuse us of occupying the Donbas, which is utter nonsense. We’re ready to work together, if all partners can adhere to some general rules, instead of trying to pressure the market’s major players, like what’s happening now with China.

The 1990s

The people in charge in the 1990s started a civil war in the Caucasus, and nearly cost Russia its sovereignty. Someone should be held responsible for this. United Russia, meanwhile, takes responsibility for what’s happening in Russia today, and is working to improve the lives of Russia’s citizens.

The economy

The generation of economists that led Russia in the 1990s is gone, except for Alexey Kudrin, who was “reforged and is already drifting toward [presidential adviser] Sergey Glazyev,” because he’s now ready to spend Russia’s oil revenues. Russia has no skyrocketing inflation or debt, and the state’s reserves are growing. A pure market economy simply doesn’t exist — regulation is sometimes necessary. The key here is the state’s motivation.

The battle against corruption

I’m sometimes encouraged not to disclose information about corruption offenses, but I insist. State officials and security officers receive billions of rubles from businesses, which means somebody is paying them bribes. The main thing isn’t the prison sentences handed down to corrupt officials, but the inevitability of punishment. The number of these offenses is falling.

Jailed entrepreneurs

We cannot abuse the practice of jailing people suspected of economic offenses. I’m constantly repeating this. Can we release these people on bail more often? We can! In fact, we should! But we can’t completely rule out jailing suspects in these situations. After all, if the wealthy can buy their way out of trouble over and over, ordinary people will think the rich are allowed to get away with anything. But the board of directors at any organization can be tried under Russia’s law on criminal networks, if one member breaks the law, and that’s totally unacceptable.

Planted drugs

Punishment for fake news and online insults against state officials

Russians have the right to criticize the authorities, but the law addresses something else: insults against state symbols, to stop people from desecrating Russia’s flag and coat of arms. To protect people’s rights, the new law should not be misused. Fake news, meanwhile, can alarm the public. We’re talking about the deliberate dissemination of false information. We need to look at this practice and determine whether tighter regulations are necessary.

RuNet sovereignty

Why was this law adopted? It wasn’t to restrict the Internet. Most servers are located abroad, but what if they’re shut off? We need to ensure the reliable operation of the RuNet. This isn’t about restrictions — just our sovereignty.

Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky

He’s a talented person. I recall his comedy performances on KVN — they were funny. But what’s happening now in Ukraine isn’t a comedy but a tragedy. We need to address problems, but he doesn’t want to talk to representatives of the DNR and LNR. He needs the political will.

The U.S. of A.

If the Americans ever show any interest, we’re always ready for dialogue. The president there just isn’t allowed to take any steps, even if he wants to. In the United States, the political establishment is trying to cash in on ties with Russia. Some American companies, incidentally, aren’t leaving the Russian market.

Militarization and military parades

“If you want peace, be ready for war.” The U.S., China, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, France, and Japan all spend more dollars on defense than Russia. We’ve actually reduced our military spending, which is something no one else is doing. But our weapons are unrivaled around the world, and this is a point of pride.

Closing, extremely random remarks

I love jokes, but I’m not about to share any right now — I’ll leave that to the professionals, one of whom is now my colleague [in Ukraine]. Even if they ever replace state officials with robots, who will program them? Why am I so polite? I may have been raised in the courtyard, but it was a Leningrad courtyard. I haven’t gotten bored of being president, otherwise I wouldn’t have run for another term in office. I’m not an alien, and I have witnesses: my family. Like anyone, I feel ashamed at times. Twenty years ago, a woman in front of me dropped to her knees to hand me a note, and my assistants lost it. To this day, I can’t forget it.

Summary by Mikhail Zelensky

Translation by Kevin Rothrock