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"No one can stay in power forever," Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev told
conference by President of Russia
The news conference was broadcast live from the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management by television channels Channel One, Rossiya, Rossiya-24, Russia Today, and Eurovision, as well as by Radio Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda. Live video stream of the news conference was available online on the following websites: www.1tv.ru, www.vesti.ru, RIA Novosti website and Komsomolskaya Pravda television channel. Broadcast in English was available on www.RT.com.
Over 800 journalists were accredited to cover the news conference. Of these, 300 represented television channels, 45 represented radio stations, and 240 journalists were from print and online media outlets; more than 40 photographers were present. About 300 accredited journalists will represent foreign media outlets, nearly 500 were from the Russian media, including 208 journalists from regional organisations.
More than 200 professionals and six mobile satellite TV stations provided technical support.
Simultaneous translation was available in four languages: English, German, French and Japanese.
* * *
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Colleagues,
First of all, I want to welcome you all. We have a lot of journalists today, more than 800 people, so I’ve been told. I am happy to see such interest in this press conference.
Of course, I cannot complain that I don’t get enough chance to meet with the press. I talk with journalists regularly, during my everyday work, and during my visits to the regions too, and these visits were frequent both during my time in the Government, and now, as President.
Actually, there are only two regions in Russia that I have not visited yet, but I will visit them too very soon. I have already met with many journalists from the regions, and I see a few familiar faces here today, which is very nice. But for all this contact with the media, I have never yet held such a big press conference. The whole point of this big event, as I see it, is to exchange views on our country’s development and on international life and events.
Once more then, I thank you all for your interest in this event. I am sure that interesting questions await, and I hope my answers will prove of interest too.
I am ready to start work now, so let’s begin with the questions.
I’ll just say a couple more words about the way things are organised today. I think this is the first ever press conference of this kind that the President is holding on his own, without the Presidential Executive Office’s help, and so I ask you not to be offended, but I will simply point my finger and say, “that man or woman in such and such a row”, and if I point at you, you just stand up and put your question.
But to get things started, I think it would be proper first to give the floor to our television colleagues. I noticed Sergei Brilyov here. Sergei, I visited you just recently, and we had an interesting conversation…
ANCHOR OF VESTI V SUBBOTU [NEWS ON SATURDAY] CURRENT AFFAIRS PROGRAMME SERGEI BRILYOV: You flatter us.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Anyway, let me reply by giving you the floor first today. Go ahead.
SERGEI BRILYOV: Thank you, Mr President.
I wanted to ask you about just how irreversible the modernisation policy is.
This press conference is taking place at Skolkovo. We all know now that Skolkovo
is the modernisation and innovation centre. It’s a good thing, and probably rather symbolic too, that Skolkovo is located beyond the Moscow Ring Road, beyond the ‘magic circle’,
as it were. But Skolkovo also has its boundaries. What I want to know then is
how you view the depth of the modernisation process, and its irreversible nature
for the country as a whole over the period since your Go, Russia! article came
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I don’t think we should look at modernisation within some firmly fixed timeframe. I remember the time when we all counted how one year had passed since perestroika began, and then two years, three years, and we all know what happened in the end.
Modernisation is a process, a very important process, and I think its main goal is to give our country’s development a new quality. Modernisation is not just a gradual development process that consolidates the achievements we have already made over this last decade, but is about bringing about quality improvement in the situation.
I know for a fact that we have not achieved this goal yet, but this does not mean that we should now raise some new flag instead and launch a new wave of modernisation or whatever other new campaign. Modernisation continues, and I am confident that the five priorities I outlined will continue to develop as technology-focused but nonetheless very important areas of work.
We have state and government programmes underway in all of these areas, programmes that are being financed and implemented. True, we have not achieved any extraordinary results yet, but this is all the more reason for me and my colleagues in the Government to work even harder, day and night, in order to change our country’s life for the better.
I therefore stress the point that modernisation has a huge part to play in our country’s development, and its goal is to bring about real change in the situation, rather than providing us with particular dates we can mark. But I am very happy to have the chance to discuss this here at Skolkovo, since this place holds special significance for me, because it is here that we are developing our new technology, here that we have established the Skolkovo university and the school [of management], and here that our innovation centre will be located.
Of course I hope the whole world comes to know this brand, not as the only place where investors should put their money, but because any big development undertaking needs to have its main engines that drive the whole process, and in this sense Skolkovo, though not the only component in the modernisation project, certainly has a very important part to play.
I take this opportunity to thank everyone working here, including for hosting us today. We could have held this press conference at the Kremlin, but I think this is a more interesting venue.
It’s hard to choose. Let’s take a question from Ksenia Kaminskaya from ITAR-TASS. I will name a few names to start with from among the familiar faces, but don’t worry, I won’t be giving the floor to people from the Kremlin press pool only.
KSENIA KAMINSKAYA, ITAR-TASS: Thank you all the same for the opportunity.
Mr President, you have replaced a couple of dozen regional governors, but not
a single minister. What is the reason for this? Is this a sign that things are
worse in the regions than in the federal centre, and that you are really happier
with the federal officials’ work than with that of the regional officials? Could the Government’s or Prime Minister’s
resignation be on the cards closer to the elections? This has happened in the
past after all.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Ksenia, I have replaced not just a couple of dozen governors; almost half the corps of regional governors has changed over my time in office so far. New people have come in. Some people stepped down of their own accord, in some cases the decision was mine, and in other cases governors simply came to the end of their mandates and were not appointed for a new term. All of this represents serious changes in the group of people responsible for running our country.
I think this is important because no one can stay in power forever. People who harbour such illusions usually come to a rather bad end, and the world has given us quite a few examples of late. This applies to the regional governors too. You cannot have one and the same person in power for 20 years, even if they are competent, well qualified, and know their region.
Such people are good of course, but we need to open the road to young people too, broaden and develop the human resource pool, and try to nurture a new generation of worthy successors. This policy of appointing new people will continue therefore, and I hope that it will ultimately bring to the fore in the regions modern-thinking people with a real desire to work. Of course, there is never guarantee against mistakes too.
As for the federal government, the absence of new appointments there is not a sign that things are better at the federal level than in the regions, it’s just that every decision has its own basis. When we talk about the Government’s work, we are taking about the work of a whole team, and not just individual ministers, because the Government is a team and functions as such. You know that I criticise the Government quite often, tell them what I think, what I want, but at the same time, I think the Government operates as a coordinated team, a single body, and so it would not be wise to simply yank out individual links in this overall chain.
Finally, the President has specific powers, including with regard to forming and dismissing the Government. I have neither changed nor renounced these powers.
I want to say one more thing. So as to make things fair, if you don’t object, I will do as I usually do when talking with student audiences – excuse me for comparing you to students – and take questions sector by sector. I’ll go from one sector to another, say, left to right, then to the upper rows.
I’ll stay for now with the left sector. Let’s hear from the young man holding up the letter ‘P’.
SERGEI STRAKHOV: Mr President, I am Sergei Strakhov from Avtoradio, and
I have a question about parking cars. This is really a big issue and a problem
for all drivers in Moscow. The thing is, Moscow city officials recently decided
that parking space on Moscow’s streets would cost 500 rubles an hour. What do
you think of this initiative? And what can be done in general to sort out the
parking problem in Moscow?
Oh, and one small question in addition: I know that your wife owns garage space for two cars, and you see, I have nowhere to park my car. (Laughter in the audience). Maybe you could rent me out space in your garage?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: We all know about the parking problems in Moscow. The situation is bad indeed. This is partly the result of the way work was conducted over previous years. I understand the complaints of everyone in Moscow who can't find space to park their cars and spend hours queuing for a place, or stuck in traffic jams. As for what we need to do, we need to expand the possibilities, build new roads, and make rational decisions on traffic regulation. I hope the new mayor will tackle these issues.
500 rubles an hour for parking space is a mockery even for Moscow, where people are generally better off than in some of the other regions. I can see the logic behind this decision: it’s about intimidation – pay 500 rubles if you want to park your car and 1,000 if it’s some particularly important spot – and all with the hope that this will dissuade people from parking there. But I do not think this is an ideal solution. I hope the city will sort this problem out, and as far as I know, Mayor Sobyanin has already given the instruction to look into this matter, and said much the same thing as me about the rates that were set.
Now, as for your car... (Laughter). Let me think about how to make it a mutually beneficial deal. Yes, we do indeed have garage space for two cars, not currently in use, and so there is a chance, but as you rightly noted, this garage space belongs not to me, but to my wife, and I cannot make a decision without talking to her first. If she agrees, and the conditions you propose suit her, let’s look at the matter then.
Let’s move onwards now. How about the young woman sitting there.
ROZA TSVETKOVA: I am Roza Tsvetkova from Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Mr President, I have to ask the question that I am sure is on everyone’s minds
here. When will you put an end to the guessing games over the election? You have
probably already made up your own mind after all.
And let me add one further question. Our country is known worldwide as an oil power, but why then are our petrol prices rising? The Government has promised to deal with the situation, but so far, no one has been blamed for the situation? Why is this?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Ah, I was waiting for that question. (Laughter). I thought it would be the first question, but it came only fourth.
My friends, I read the various publications in the media in the run-up to this press conference, and I know that all of you, you here today, and many others too, are waiting to hear some interesting announcements. But you have to realise that political life is not just a show. In fact, it is not a show at all, but is a complex job that, as I and many others involved in political life see it, has to follow certain rules and technical considerations.
The whole point of the work we do is to achieve the goals we set. The big goals are about changing and improving our country’s life, so that people are happier, better off, and social programmes are in place. These are all technical, organisational aspects of our work, and all very important.
We are involved in political work not for the sake of keeping warm and cosy, but in order to achieve results. Decisions of the kind you are talking about therefore must be made at the right moment, at the moment when all the right conditions are in place, otherwise they risk backfiring politically.
I think too in this respect that no matter appealing and tempting a moment it might seem, a press conference of this kind is not the right occasion for such an announcement. I think decisions of this kind need to be taken and announced in a somewhat different format.
I think too that every politician should make this kind of announcement when he or she thinks necessary. The world has seen a huge number of politicians who declare, no sooner one political campaign over, that they will run for president in the next campaign, and more often than not, these promises and declarations come to nought. The only rational tactic is a tactic that will produce success.
No matter what people say that in such and such a country the announcements have already been made, while we here are silent for now, let me say again that all of this has to follow a rational scenario. Of course this silence cannot last forever. The whole election process sets its own rules of the game, and I will follow them too. If I make such a decision, I will certainly announce it. As I said not so long ago in an interview with the Chinese media, there is not long to wait now. You can expect an announcement soon.
Now, on the question of petrol prices, there is probably a link here between the decision to run for office and the petrol prices. You all realise that the petrol price increase is linked to the overall jump up in oil prices. The Government is indeed taking steps to keep things under control, but even its efforts are not enough to produce results. In some cases there are perhaps cartel deals going on, and I think this is very likely, but overall, the situation is more a reflection of the objective trends on the oil market. You need to understand that our efforts to regulate the situation are not always successful, but the Government nevertheless does have full power to act, and I have instructed them to deal with this issue and take action to bring down prices for petrol and oil products.
How? The answer is clear. Unfortunately, I cannot propose anything better than restrictive measures, and the Government has the power to impose such measures. By restrictive measures I mean the introduction of high export duties. This might be a temporary solution, but it does not solve the problem in the long term. Oil prices are always a very important indicator for us, and I think that it is in Russia’s interests to have high prices, but not too high. Prices are climbing at the moment, but such high prices can actually lead to problems in the end. Remember how in 2008, prices reached USD 147 a barrel, and how did it all end? It ended in the global financial crisis. Of course this is no good, no good for us either. We will continue to address this issue, but it is a very complex problem. Any cartel deals on the market must be prevented, and such action is already being taken.
Let’s hear from our television channels again. I see Anton Vernitsky from Channel One over there. Go ahead, Anton. I saw your interview in the internet with someone who was telling you interesting stories about Bin Laden. Is that all true or not?
ANTON VERNITSKY: Well, he says it is.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The Americans will have something to tremble about then.
ANTON VERNITSKY: My question is not about this, but about Russia. I’ve been taking advantage of the speedy internet connection here in Skolkovo to keep an eye on what's going on in St Petersburg’s
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Yes, I’ve got my eye on that too.
ANTON VERNITSKY: The Legislative Assembly’s members are currently discussing
the question of recalling Sergei Mironov as senator. Could you comment on this?
What is your view in general on the way the Federation Council is formed? Do you think it is in keeping with the principles of democracy and federalism?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: There is nothing so unusual in the departure
of any official. As I said just before, sooner or later, everyone
sees their time in office come to an end, presidents too. This
is something you need to start preparing for right from the moment
you first decide to enter political life. If you prepare in advance,
you will have less cause later to rue or regret actions you did
or did not take.
The situation with Mr Mironov is no different in this sense
to that of any other politician. Sergei Mironov is the speaker
of the Federation Council, our parliament’s upper house.
He has been in this job for some time now and I think has worked
decently on the whole, but he represents a particular political
party, A Just Russia, and there is nothing so terrible about
the fact that another party, United Russia, has questions regarding
his work. On the contrary, this is a sign of political competition.
We all support political competition after all. None of us wants
to have just one party deciding everything. What we are seeing
now reflects the differences that exist in political life at
the moment. I think that if the recall decision goes through
today, Sergei Mironov should accept it calmly. In the end, both
parties, United Russia, and A Just Russia, will gain. Why?
United Russia will gain by showing that it is not just criticising,
but that it does have influence and that its opinions count,
that it can not only put forward a candidate, but can also decide
to revoke that person’s powers. Such is the way of party
life. As for A Just Russia, it shows that it is a real opposition
party and not just a group of people helping the country’s
political development. Everyone stands to gain. Let them all
get on with real politics. We have important elections coming
up after all.
Regarding the Federation Council, it has been formed in different
ways over the years, all in accordance with the basic provisions
on the matter enshrined in our Constitution of course. Initially,
its members were elected directly, and then were appointed. It
was initially formed by the regional governors and representatives
of the regional parliaments, and then we moved over to a different
This year, a third system began to function, or rather, a modernised
version of the second system, under which people holding elected
office in the regions can enter the Federation Council. I think
this is entirely democratic in spirit and is more in keeping
with the Federation Council’s ultimate purpose, which is
to be the chamber representing the regions.
But in every situation I always take the view that our democracy
is still young and I do not rule out that as time passes by new
ideas might emerge on how best to form the Federation Council.
Let’s get the current system working first, but at the
same time, “never say never”. Perhaps electing the
Federation Council’s members would be more in keeping with
the principles underlying the parliament’s functioning,
but for this to happen we first need to travel the road we have
mapped out for ourselves, which I think is a normal process,
and ultimately reach decisions on the best model to choose. Many
countries spent decades adjusting their parliamentary models
after all, and we are going through this process too.
There’s a big sector here, so I will start with a couple
of those I know. Alexander Kolesnichenko from Argumenty i Fakty,
you have the floor if you want to ask a question.
ALEXANDER KOLESNICHENKO: Yes, I certainly do want to
ask a question, and in this sense am going to seize the opportunity
for my personal
interest, though I am sure that it coincides with the interest
of millions of our newspaper’s readers, and millions of
our people in general.
You said at the end of April that the vehicle roadworthiness
inspection procedure should be either abolished altogether, or
made less cumbersome. I would say it should be made more rational
too. I can say in all honesty that this is not the only senseless
formality our country imposes, but let’s start by at least
sorting this one out. Has your instruction been carried out?
Is there an idea now of what the inspection procedure will look
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Yes, there is.
I heard a report on this subject from the First Deputy Prime
Minister just yesterday, and I can tell you now what conclusions
have been reached, and can say too that it all looks very rational.
You are right in saying that if we have this formality it should
make sense, and should not be a cumbersome or simply stupid procedure
that only complicates everyone’s lives.
What do we need to do? First of all, we need to know what vehicles
people are driving. A very sensible proposal has been made to
end the practice of technical inspections carried out by the
police, and combine these inspection procedures with the conclusion
of the compulsory civil liability motor-vehicle insurance contract,
with the vehicle inspection thus taking place at car service
All drivers go to a car service centre after all, even if they
do a lot of the maintenance themselves, there are still always
some things they have to go to the professionals for. When you
conclude the insurance contract, you will get the warrant of
fitness sticker too, and this will be a straightforward procedure
for keeping track of the car’s technical condition.
New cars will not have to go through the procedure. I think
that the first three years could be exempted too. Vehicles aged
between three and seven years, and in use, could be inspected
once every two years, say, and vehicles older than seven years,
should be inspected once a year.
The main thing is to make this no longer the police’s
responsibility, and make it as straightforward as possible a
procedure of doing the roadworthiness inspection together with
the civil liability vehicle insurance contract, which is compulsory
for all car owners anyway. I think this is a sensible solution
that will make this procedure a much simpler formality.
ALEXANDER KOLESNICHENKO: When will the decision take effect?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The sooner the better. Do you mean when will
the law be passed? I think it will be today or tomorrow that
the Government, acting on my instruction, will submit the draft
law to the State Duma, and I hope that everything will go into
effect as from next year.
(To be continued)
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