Putin’s Q&A Marathon: overview

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The yesterday’s “Direct Line” with Vladimir Putin received a record number of questions - more than 3 million. He could answer, of course, only a few dozen of them; however, many questions were repeated and thus categorized on related topics by the anchors. The sharpest questions were mostly asked by politicians and public figures, who were invited to the studio. Here it is an overview of the most important topics of the “Direct Line”.

Sanctions and ruble rate

Putin believes that Russia should not tolerate sanctions, but use them for its own development. In his opinion, Western sanctions helped the government and the Central Bank. To prove that, one of the anchors read a few statements by farmers who asked Putin not to cancel the sanctions to allow domestic producers to have the opportunity to increase production.

According to Putin, adjustment of ruble exchange rates was inevitable even without sanctions, and not only oil prices strengthened the ruble.

Finally, Putin changed his own forecast, given during the October press conference, and stated it would take less than two years to recover the Russian economy.

In general, Russia did everything right, chose an optimal way, and there were “enough” human resources.

Ukraine

Answering the question of residents from the town of Gukovo (at the Ukrainian border), Putin ruled out the possibility of war between Russia and Ukraine. Furthermore, he once again reiterated that the there were no Russian troops in Ukraine.

As for the future of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, Putin associated it with Ukrainian authorities’ actions. In the end, the population of these territories will say the final word, stressed the President.

He also commented on the rumor about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s offer “to take Donbass”, made during the talks in Minsk. No, nothing like that happened,” admitted Putin.

The President said it would be preferable if the economy of Ukraine was restored, as Russia needs a strong and effective neighbor. He confessed he made no difference between Ukrainians and Russians, considering them one people, adding he was ready for discussions on that issue.

Nemtsov murder

On the course of the investigation into the opposition activist Boris Nemtsov murder, his former ally Irina Khakamada and chief editor of the radio station “Ekho Moskvy” (“Echo of Moscow”) Alexey Venediktov made some questions. Putin said the crime investigation was prompt, pointing out how quickly the perpetrators had been found. At the same time the President highlighted Nemtsov killing was “an absolutely shameful and tragic event.”

In response to Venediktov’s question about installing a plaque commemorating Nemtsov at the murder scene, he said that in accordance with the law, it could be done only ten years after the person’s death, and it was within Moscow authorities’ competence.

Retirement benefits

Putin said he did not think the pension system was changing too often. In his viewpoint, the proposed scheme is not very clear to people, and any changes should be carried out so that everyone knew what was going on.

At the same time, he stated that the cumulative pension scheme did not contribute to the economy development. Thus, he did not support the position of the Ministry of Finance and other finance and economy blocs which asked to return the cumulative pension system in 2016, arguing that the development of such a system was the main factor of economic growth considering the external sanctions.

Head of State also touched upon a possible retirement age increase. In his opinion, Russia is not ready for acute changes in this regard, although after increasing life expectancy the authorities can consider the issue. He reassured the Russian citizens of pre-retirement age: if the retirement age is extended, this category of Russian citizens will not be affected by the changes.

Income of state-owned corporations heads

The discussion on whether heads of state-owned companies should disclose their income has been conducted for years. At the end of March this year, the government personnel department issued a clarification stating that heads of state-owned companies could avoid announcing their income. Thus, it became clear that income of such top managers as Vladimir Yakunin (Railways head) and Igor Sechin (President of “Rosneft”) would remain a mystery to the general public.

Responding to one of the reporter’s questions during the “Direct Line”, the President explained that he understood the reasons for which heads of state-owned companies had been exempted from the obligation to publish their income and expenses, but he recommended them to follow the example of their Western colleagues who publish data on their income voluntarily.

“If you ask my opinion, I would strongly recommend heads of our companies to announce their income. I don’t think it would be wrong,” said Putin.

Medicine

Several questions for Putin were related to medical care. Citizens complained to the President of the lack of medicines for beneficiaries in some regions; he called this situation a crime and stated he would instruct the Ministry of Health.

He also highlighted that the government had no plans to abandon buying imported drugs, at the same time continuing to develop the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the questions came from Anna Federmesser, President of the Hospice Foundation “Vera” (“Faith” – ed). She told Putin about the difficult situation of terminally ill people, who cannot live without ventilators: in Russia there are no legal provisions that would allow those patients to stay at home with their ventilators, as when the patient comes home, he/she immediately loses state support. As a result, people die in hospital in “not very friendly conditions.” Federmesser also brought the President’s attention to the fact that in Russia there was no a system of palliative care and pain relief for people in their place of residence, regardless their registration place.

Vladimir Putin admitted that for the first time he heard about the problem with the patients and promised that the Ministry of Health would deal with that and other issues raised by Federmesser.

Text and pictures by INTERFAX.RU