Thursday, March 26, 2020

At the helm: 20 years ago, Putin was elected as Russia’s president for first time

26 MAR, 03:55
Keeping a broad range of issues under strict control has become Putin’s way of life
Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS
MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. Russia’s four-time President Vladimir Putin marks a political anniversary on March 26: 20 years ago, he was elected for his first term as the head of Russia. However, the president will apparently have neither free time nor the desire to celebrate: Putin is reluctant to marking personal dates, and, under present conditions, he will simply have no chance to take a pause in his hectic work schedule.
Work schedule
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that on Thursday the president would meet with a group of entrepreneurs from Russian regions. Another important event on Putin’s agenda today will be G20 summit, to be held in the format of a video linkup to discuss the novel coronavirus pandemic and ways to mitigate its impact on the global economy.
In charge of everything
Keeping a broad range of issues under strict control has become Putin’s way of life. Each of his 20 years at the helm of the Russian state (15 years as president and five as the prime minister) was turbulent in its own way, posing new questions and problems: international conflicts and terrorism, economic troubles and natural disasters were only the tip of the iceberg of problems that required a prompt and weighted response.
However, those turbulent periods failed to stop Russia’s steady development, including changes in the vertical power structure, political party system reforms and measures to boost Russia’s defense. In his TASS interview for the project entitled "20 Questions with Vladimir Putin", the head of state asserted that a tsar merely issues orders, while the president works every day. "A tsar is one who just sits there, looks down from above and says: ‘They will do as I order’, while he just tries on a cap and looks at himself in the mirror," he said.
Putin’s hectic schedule, which he compared to the work of a galley slave after the first two terms in office, is widely known both in Russia and abroad. For more than two decades, he has been keeping both his friends and enemies surprised at how one person can handle it all. In an interview with TASS, Putin confessed that the idea of having a body double was floated for the sake of ensuring the safety of the head of state in the early 2000s, but the idea was rejected once and for all.
Creating trends
Although his post envisages maximum publicity, Putin prefers to keep personal things, including those related to his family, out of the public eye. His official biography only mentions two adult daughters, and the president spoke of having grandchildren, too. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that putting everything on a display is ruled out as far as the head of the Russian state is concerned.
Putin is very upbeat on scientific and engineering progress, but still prefers the special hotline phone to any of the modern gadgets. The reason is simple. "It is far easier for me to use a special phone line to be connected to any number," the president explained in an interview with TASS.
Following modern trends is not Putin’s style. He prefers to create them on his own, be it healthy lifestyle (which encouraged thousands of Russian boys to practice judo and sambo wrestling) or the choice of a remote location in taiga for his two-day vacation (after which tourists flocked to Russia’s Tuva region).
The same applies to the Russian leader’s foreign policy as well. Opposing the start of the war in Iraq in 2003, Putin managed to win the support of powerful allies, such as then French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. In 2007, Putin made his famous Munich speech, speaking out loud about Russia’s position on the international arena and expressing ideas that were ahead of their time. Almost a decade and a half later, other states started to refer to the same notions in their international affairs. A strong and confident Russia, which is no longer trying to catch up with others, has reclaimed the global recognition of a key player on the global arena, whether others like it or not.
Putin, who has always called for a diplomatic solution of any conflict, says firmly and unambiguously that Russia is not going to fight against anyone and it is laying the groundwork so that other countries, too, will not have the slightest urge to unleash an armed conflict with Moscow.
Serious work ahead
Putin has accumulated vast experience of a state leader, which has surpassed that of his incumbent counterparts from other major world powers, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (in office since 2013) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (since 2005). As far as the ex-Soviet space is concerned, Putin’s time at the helm is second only to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for almost 26 years.
In an interview to TASS, Putin confessed it had never occurred to him that his stay at the helm of power would last so long.
"It never crossed my mind. I never thought that I would wind up here. That never would have occurred to me," he said.
About the possibility of dropping out of the race at some point, Putin said he felt "responsible for what is going on, and for what will happen in the future."
He added that in 2008, he did not have the slightest idea that in four years’ time he would occupy the presidential office again, although he did not exclude that possibility altogether.
However, Putin believes that it is too early to raise the question of his status when his term expires in 2024.
When leaving Kremlin on December 31, 1999, and appointing Putin as his successor, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin told Russians: "I wish you to be happy. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness and tranquility."
During the March 26, 2000 presidential elections, in which 11 candidates took part, the most Russians cast their ballots for Putin, and have since confirmed their choice thrice.
On March 27, 2000, the day after being elected as the president of Russia for the first time, Putin said: "There is a lot of serious work ahead. A lot remains to be explained. Many things that might cause disputes are still to be done. But I have the idea of what should be done next."
The world and the country changed drastically since then, but those words still remain true today. Putin chooses to focus on what remains to be done rather than on what was done. This is what he sees as his main motivation in steering the country.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

President of Russia Vladimir Putin -- Address to the Nation

March 25, 2020
Address to the Nation.
Address to the Nation.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Citizens of Russia, friends,
I am reaching out to you on an issue that has become a matter of concern for all of us.
We are witnessing an acute escalation of the coronavirus epidemic on a global scale. The number of new cases continues to grow in many countries. The global economy as a whole is at risk, and is already expected to shrink.
By taking precautionary measures, we have been largely able to prevent the infection from rapidly spreading and limit the incidence rate. However, we have to understand that Russia cannot insulate itself from this threat, simply considering its geography. There are countries along our borders that have already been seriously affected by the epidemic, which means that in all objectivity it is impossible to stop it from spilling over into Russia.
That said, being professional, well organised and proactive is what we can do and are already doing. The lives and health of our citizens is our top priority.
We have mobilised all the capabilities and resources for deploying a system of timely prevention and treatment. I would like to specially address doctors, paramedics, nurses, staff at hospitals, outpatient clinics, rural paramedic centres, ambulance services, and researchers: you are at the forefront of dealing with this situation. My heartfelt gratitude to you for your dedicated efforts.
I would like to ask Russian citizens to listen very carefully to the advice coming from doctors and the authorities. This could make a very big difference at this point in time. This is especially true for the most vulnerable categories of citizens: the elderly and people who have chronic illnesses. Minimising the risks should be a priority for them and all people in general.
There is also the question of the national vote on the amendments to the Constitution, which has been tentatively scheduled for April 22. You know that this is a very serious matter to me. Of course, I will ask you to go to the polling stations to express your opinion on this issue of fundamental and crucial importance to the country and society.
However, as I said before, our absolute priority is the health, life and safety of the people. This is why I believe the vote should be postponed.
We will look at the situation in the regions and throughout the country, and we will rely on the professional opinion and recommendations of doctors and specialists when setting a new date for this vote.
Next, the immediate priority is to prevent the quick spread of this diseases.
Therefore, I declare next week to be an official non-work period while maintaining wages. In other words, the days off will last from Saturday March 28 to Sunday April 5.
Of course, all public infrastructure facilities, including medical facilities, pharmacies, stores, institutions responsible for banking and financial settlements, as well as transport, and ministries and agencies at all levels, will continue working.
As I said, the extended days off are being declared to reduce the speed of the virus spreading.
I am addressing all our citizens. Let us not rely on chance as we tend to do in Russia. Do not think, as we usually do, that this cannot happen to you. It can happen to anyone. And then we will very quickly see what is now happening in many western countries, in Europe and across the ocean, happen here in Russia. We must strictly comply with all the recommendations. We must protect ourselves, our families and friends, and we must adopt a more disciplined and responsible approach. Trust me: the best thing to do now is stay home.
I will now specifically focus on the current socioeconomic situation. Here, we also need to take additional steps, primarily to ensure the social protection of our people, their incomes and jobs, as well as support for small and medium-sized businesses, which employ millions of people.
In this regard, the following priority measures will be implemented.
First, all social protection benefits that our citizens are entitled to, should be renewed automatically over the next six months, with no additional certificates or visits to the authorities needed. For example, if a family is entitled to subsidised housing and utility payments, they will not need to regularly confirm their per capita income to continue receiving this state support.
Please note that all payments to war veterans and home-front workers timed to the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory, 75,000 and 50,000 rubles, respectively, should be made before the May holidays, earlier than usual, in April.
Second, it is essential to support families with children. In the next three months, starting in April, I propose paying all families that are eligible to maternity capital, an additional 5,000 rubles a month for each child up to three years of age.
This support is especially important for families with children who are not attending day-care nurseries or kindergartens, and for parents who are on sick leave or on maternity leave.
Regarding our new support package, I mean benefits for children aged 3 to 7, I now instruct the Government to expedite all organisational arrangements so that eligible families can start receiving these payments not in July, as planned, but a month earlier, in June. I also ask the governors to expedite the transfer of the necessary information from the regional civil registry offices to the tax service. Colleagues, it is fundamentally important to start making these payments. Pay attention to this.
Third, we need to support those on sick leave and people who have lost their jobs. Today, all sick leave payments are calculated based on employees’ period of work and salary. As a result, employees, primarily young people, can receive very low sick leave payments. This is, of course, not fair. I suggest the following provision: Sick leave payments should be calculated based on the amount of at least one minimum wage a month. This provision will be in force until the end of the year, and from there we will decide how to proceed depending on the situation.
Just like other countries’ economies, the Russian economy is experiencing substantial headwinds due to the effects of the epidemic. And, as I have already said, we need to support those who may lose their jobs.
Today, with the exception of some categories of individuals, maximum monthly unemployment benefit is 8,000 rubles. I suggest increasing it to the minimum wage amount or 12,130 rubles per month.
Fourth, loans taken out by individuals present another risk. Naturally, it is difficult if not downright impossible to completely repay debts when incomes are plunging.
I suggest declaring consumer loan and mortgage holidays. If a person faces a difficult situation, meaning their monthly income declined significantly, by over 30 percent, then they should have the right to temporarily stop debt servicing and reschedule it. It goes without saying that any penalties are out of the question.
I am asking the Bank of Russia to set up a similar loan rescheduling mechanism for self-employed people, too.
If people are unable to repay their debt for objective reasons, they should not be left without options and they should not fall hostage to creditors’ claims. We need a bankruptcy process that is fair and not burdensome. I am asking the Government and the parliament to expedite approval of the necessary regulatory changes.
Fifth. Small and medium-sized businesses and micro businesses, especially in the services sector, are now facing objective difficulties due to declining orders and revenue.
These businesses need help to stay open, which means retaining their employees. I would like to address all employers right now: once again, our most crucial task is to ensure stability in the labour market and to prevent a surge in unemployment.
Government assistance will be provided to businesses to deal with this problem.
I propose the following measures to support the enterprises and industries most affected by the current difficult situation.
I believe it is necessary to defer all taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, except for VAT, for the next six months. In addition, micro businesses should also be granted a deferral on their contributions to social insurance funds.
Bank loans held by struggling SMEs and micro businesses must also be deferred for the next six months.
Generally speaking, I am asking the Government and the Central Bank to propose and take additional action to ensure stable lending to the real economy, including through state guarantees and subsidies.
Next. Companies experiencing hardship must be protected from bankruptcy. In this connection, I am proposing a six-month moratorium on bankruptcy claims by creditors against companies and on the recovery of debts and penalties.
Once again, these measures will apply to companies operating in the sectors most affected by the current difficult situation. At the same time, I am instructing the Government to constantly monitor developments and, if necessary, expand and review the list of the industries requiring support.
Sixth. Right now, we must do everything we can to support the incomes of our citizens – especially those employed by small and medium-sized businesses.
In order for these businesses to get additional resources to support their employees, I am proposing to cut their insurance contributions in half, from 30 to 15 percent. This reduced rate will apply to any salary above minimum wage. For those making minimum wage or less for some reason, the rate will remain 30 percent.
I would like to stress that the reduced rate is being introduced not just for several months, not only as an anti-crisis measure, but for the long run. This way we are creating a long-term incentive for employers to increase wages.
Finally, there are two more measures I would like to suggest. Allow me to elaborate.
First, all interest and dividend income that flows from Russia and is transferred abroad into offshore jurisdictions must be taxed properly.
Today, two thirds of these funds, and basically we are talking here about incomes of specific individuals, are taxed at the rate of only 2 percent, thanks to so-called optimization strategies of all kinds. At the same time, people with modest salaries pay an income tax of 13 percent. This is unfair, to say the least.
For this reason, I suggest that those expatriating their income as dividends to foreign accounts should pay a 15 percent tax on these dividends. Of course, we will need to amend Russia’s double taxation treaties with some countries. I ask the Government to work this out. If our foreign partners do not accept our proposal, Russia will unilaterally withdraw from these treaties. We will begin with countries that attract substantial resources from Russia, which is a very sensitive issue for our country.
Second, many countries levy income tax on interest earned by individuals from their bank deposits and investments in securities, while Russia does not tax this income at all.
I propose that people with over 1 million rubles in bank deposits and debt securities pay a 13 percent tax on this income. I would like to reiterate that this is not about taxing the deposits themselves but only applying income tax to the interest individuals earn from these investments.
I would like to emphasise that only about one percent of deposit holders will be affected by this initiative. At the same time, Russian banks will still offer attractive deposits with some of the highest returns in the world.
The solutions I am proposing are far from simple. Still, I would like to ask you to treat them with understanding. Let me add that I propose using the budget revenue from these two measures to fund initiatives to support families with children and help people who are unemployed or on sick leave.
People of Russia,
All the measures that are about to be adopted or will be taken in the future will work and will produce results only if we are in it together and recognise the complexity of the current situation. We need the state, society and the people to work together, and we all have to do everything each and every one of us can do.
We have to be mindful that we bear personal responsibility for our close ones, for those who live near us, and who need our help and support. By and large, it is this sense of solidarity that underpins the resilience of our society, as well as an unwavering commitment to mutual assistance and the effectiveness of the response we come up with to overcome the challenge we are facing.
Thank you for your attention.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Ukraine (Interview to TASS News Agency)

The second part of Vladimir Putin's interview to TASS News Agency has been published.
The 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin project is an interview with the President of Russia on the most topical subjects of social and political life in Russia and the world. Total recording time is 3.5 hours.
February 21, 2020
Ukraine (Interview to TASS News Agency)
Andrei Vandenko: The next subject is Ukraine.
Have you seen the ”Servant of the People“ series?
Vladimir Putin: No.
Andrei Vandenko: Even the segment when president Goloborodko is choosing a wristwatch like Putin's?
Vladimir Putin: I haven't seen it. I don't know either Goloborodko or who is choosing what there. I haven't seen it.
Andrei Vandenko: Ok. Though a very interesting pair forms: a galley slave and a servant of the people.
Vladimir Putin: As you know, whatever goes around comes around. Ultimately, it’s not how you call yourself, it’s what you do and how you do it.
Andrei Vandenko: Is there a chance that you come to terms with Zelensky?
Vladimir Putin: What about?
Andrei Vandenko: About peace, about friendship.
Vladimir Putin: Hope is the last thing to die. Yes, there is a chance. But unfortunately, after his return from Paris he started talking about the necessity to revise the Minsk Agreements. This begs the question.
Nevertheless, we managed to agree on the exchange of detained persons and we now managed to agree on gas.
Andrei Vandenko: Does the fact that today we are not friends with Ukraine represent a loss for us?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, but as I have repeatedly said I believe that we are one and the same people.
Andrei Vandenko: The Ukrainians don't like it very much either.
Vladimir Putin: I don't know whether they like this or not but if you look at the reality that is true. You see, we had no difference in our languages until the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
And only as a result of Polonization, the part of the Ukrainians who lived in the territory under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, only around the 16th century the first language differences appeared. In general, the Ukrainians [with an accent on the first a] were called the people who lived …
Andrei Vandenko: Ukrainians [with an accent on the first i].
Vladimir Putin: Ukrainians [with an accent on the first a] were the people who lived on the frontiers of the Russian state. There were Ukrainians in Pskov; Ukrainians were the people who defended the southern frontiers from attacks by the Crimean khan. Ukrainians were in the Urals. Ukrainians were everywhere. We had no language differences.
Moreover, around the same time, before the 14th and 15th centuries, even those people, the east Slavs, who lived in the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – both in Muscovy and in Poland – were called Russians. The first language differences appeared much later…
Andrei Vandenko: History is history, but now we are talking about the present day.
Vladimir Putin:To talk about today or tomorrow we need to know history, need to know who we are, where do we come from, what unites us.
What unites us is…
Andrei Vandenko: Now many things divide us.
Vladimir Putin:Many things divide us. But we should not forget about things that unite us. And should not destroy what we have. For example, the Church. Why did one need to destroy the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church?
You know that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is in fact fully autonomous; it has been fully autonomous before, including in terms of the election of hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow Patriarchate has never had any influence on the election of hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
In fact, it has always been independent, completely. There has been only spiritual unity and mentioning. The Patriarch of Moscow has been mentioned, recalled all the time in churches. That's it! It has been the only thing uniting the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. But they needed to cut the cords that bind. Why?
You say people do not understand. They simply do not know it. If they know, they will understand better. They should be told that. Why should one be embarrassed? Is it insulting for people?
Some time passed. As a result of people sharing the border with the Catholic world, with Europe, a community of people feeling to some extent independent from the Russian State began to emerge. How should we feel about that? I have already said: we should respect that. But we should not forget about our shared community.
Moreover, in the modern world our joint efforts give us huge competitive advantages. And, vice versa, division makes us weaker.
The Ukrainian factor was specifically played out on the eve of World War I by the Austrian special service. Why? It is well-known – to divide and rule. Absolutely clear.
Nevertheless, if it happened this way, and a big part of the Ukrainian population got a sense of their own national identity and so on, we should respect that. We should proceed from the reality but not forget who we are and where we come from.
By the way, the fathers of the Ukrainian nationalism, they never spoke about the urgent need to break up with Russia. Strange as it may seem, but their major works of the 19th century say that Ukraine is: a) multinational and should be a federal state, and b) should build good relations with Russia.
Today’s nationalists seem to have forgotten that. I will tell you why they have forgotten that. You know why? Because the interests of the Ukrainian people are not the main issue on their agenda.
How can it be the interest of the Ukrainian people if the break-up with Russia has led to loss of space engineering, shipbuilding, aircraft engineering and engine manufacturing; it is virtually the deindustrialization of the country that is happening. How can it be among interests?
The World Bank demands to stop cross-subsidizing. What's good in it? Or, they make them export round wood from the Carpathians. Soon the Carpathians will turn bald.
Why do this if, by joining efforts, we increase our competitive advantages manifold? Why lose it? Why throw everything away, what for?
Because the Ukrainian leaders or those who got power pursued their self-interests. And what were they? It was not even to earn more by robbing the Ukrainian people but to retain what has been plundered before. This was the main objective.
So, where is the ‘dough’? Pardon my French. Where is the money? In foreign banks. What do they need to do for this? Show that they serve those who have this money.
Hence, the only thing they sell is Russophobia. Because some like dividing Ukraine and Russia, they believe it's a very important mission. Because any integration of Russia and Ukraine, along with their capacities and competitive advantages, would lead to the emergence of a rival, a global rival for Europe and the world. No one wants it. That's why they'll do anything to pull us apart.


On the tasks of the new Government (Interview to TASS News Agency)

The first part of Vladimir Putin's interview to TASS News Agency has been published.
The 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin project is an interview with the President of Russia on the most topical subjects of social and political life in Russia and the world. Total recording time is 3.5 hours.
February 20, 2020

On the tasks of the new Government (Interview to TASS News Agency)
Andrei Vandenko: How are you doing?
Vladimir Putin: Honestly?
Andrei Vandenko: Honestly.
Vladimir Putin: I am doing very well.
Andrei Vandenko: I am happy for you.
I will ask questions, and you will hopefully answer.
Vladimir Putin: I will try. Depends on the questions.
Andrei Vandenko: We are facing a non-trivial task today. There are actually 20 topics. There are 20 because you have been in office, at the helm for 20 years. Now, the year is 2020 and that is quite symbolic.
Vladimir Putin: Let us not forget that I was Prime Minister for four years, not President.
Andrei Vandenko: The resignation of the Government. There are a lot of jokes and witticisms on this subject on the Internet. The first was probably as follows: because of the unusually warm weather in Russia, its Government has melted away like the snow.
Vladimir Putin: That is funny.
Andrei Vandenko: Here is what it looks like. (Showing a photo collage)
Vladimir Putin: Ok, but why exactly did it melt away in parliament, I do not understand.
Andrei Vandenko: Well, I suppose they just found this picture.
Vladimir Putin: You know, the Internet is an interesting tool, but at times inaccurate.
Andrei Vandenko: True. And now, all kidding aside, in fact, Medvedev’s government, his cabinet, underwent a reshuffle not that long ago, just in 2018, after the election. Some left – Dvorkovich, Shuvalov, Men’, Abyzov, though let us not even go there in the latter's case; so they started to work. What happened over this year and a half to provoke…
Vladimir Putin: First, more might have happened in a year and a half, or two years. Secondly, the previous cabinet has really done a lot in terms of preparing the main phase of the implementation of national projects. They had to identify national development goals. And this only seems easy at first glance. In fact, it is an enormous effort.
Then, tools needed to be developed on which to rely in order to achieve these national goals. The Government did that as well. But then, I felt some inner certainty that this is when new people should come in to pursue work in new areas of crucial importance; people with modern training and commitment to achieving the overarching goal on key development elements.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the core has remained. Some people from the Executive Office, including those directly involved in the work on national projects, have moved to the Government. This is of paramount importance, I believe. I will tell you why. If they were behind the development of these national projects and the goals we are expected to achieve in terms of national development, it stands to logic that they should be tasked with putting into practice exactly what they have suggested as these goals and tools to achieve them. Therefore, some people from the Executive Office have come to the Government to do it because that is where it is done.
Andrei Vandenko: And some from the Government have moved on to the Executive Office…
Vladimir Putin: Yes, yes, let them work here.
Andrei Vandenko: So changing the order of the addends does change the sum?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, it does, for sure. That is why there is nothing unusual or unexpected here. You can of course ask me, I did say there would be no change, no plans for that. Yes, I did. If I had said that I was going to change the Government tomorrow, all work would have just stopped the day after tomorrow. As the saying goes, call it a day and hit the hay.
Andrei Vandenko: That is why we call it a “special operation”.
Vladimir Putin: It is not.
Andrei Vandenko: No one knew. Did anyone know?
Vladimir Putin: I did.
Andrei Vandenko: Anybody else?
Vladimir Putin: Is that not enough?
Andrei Vandenko: When did you make the decision?
Vladimir Putin: I will not say.
Andrei Vandenko: When did you tell Medvedev?
Vladimir Putin: That is between the two of us.
Andrei Vandenko: But we should know, shouldn’t we?
Vladimir Putin: We have enjoyed very frank, collegial, friendly relations with Mr Medvedev for many years. We have no secrets from one another. Therefore, we discussed this issue with him.
Andrei Vandenko: You mean earlier? Or did you just confront him with the fact?
Vladimir Putin:We discussed it earlier and he knew what was going on.
Andrei Vandenko: He has been given a position invented for him specifically, which never existed. You even had to hastily adopt a law to provide for this post.
Vladimir Putin: Why hastily? The law was adopted.
Andrei Vandenko: The appointment came first, and the law followed…
Vladimir Putin: There is nothing out of the ordinary here. If there is something in the legislation that needs adjustment, the President in accordance with the Fundamental Law has the right to fill in this gap in the legislation by issuing an executive order, which will be followed by the adoption of a relevant law. This is normal practice. Nothing unusual.
Andrei Vandenko: There is a certain feeling of hastiness. As if you needed some solution…
Vladimir Putin: Your feeling is not exactly the same as reality. You may have all sorts of feelings. You may feel that you are running a high temperature judging by your senses, but this might not be the case. You need a thermometer to know whether you have a fever or not. So, we have nothing out of the ordinary here. I will say it again. The legal practice is as follows: if there is a gap in the legislation, a President issues an executive order, and the provision is later implemented through a law. Just wait a second. This is number one.
Number two is the question: why should we wait to decide on such issues? What will that achieve? According to those who do not have a clear understanding of what is going on or are critical about it, would it be better to spend another six months after the resignation of the Government in order to form a new one? Can you imagine what a mess the country would be in? There should never be a gap in power. Never.
Everything should be discussed and thought through in advance, in a calm and business-like manner, each step should be prepared, and then the decision should be taken and implemented. We cannot afford to muddle along here. Russia is not Belgium that can stay a whole year without any government.
Andrei Vandenko: The new Government is yet another topic. And I would like to get back to the old one. Zhirinovskiy suggested that the Security Council deputy Chairman be referred to as vice-president. Is it so, at face value?
Vladimir Putin: No. Because a vice-president is the one to step in for the President assuming all his or her rights and responsibilities. We have introduced the post of deputy Chairman of the Security Council. The President is Chairman of the Security Council. And now I have a deputy on this particular track.
Andrei Vandenko: Another joke on the Internet: the duo has fallen out of sync.
Vladimir Putin: Nothing is out of sync.
Andrei Vandenko: The tandem…
Vladimir Putin: We are working with Mr Medvedev as we used to. He has switched to another track in his career. That is true. And natural, too.
Andrei Vandenko: As for the choice you made of the new Prime Minister. Who was on the short list? They mentioned Mishustin, Sobyanin… You had two executive orders for signing on the table, and you were hesitating till the last moment.
Vladimir Putin: No one mentioned Mishustin except me. I can tell you that there were three candidates.
Andrei Vandenko: Three?
Vladimir Putin: Yes. Three, or maybe even four candidates were submitted. But Mishustin was not on the list.
Andrei Vandenko: So this was your…
Vladimir Putin: Mine.
Andrei Vandenko: What was your reasoning?
Vladimir Putin: I took into account Mr Mishustin’s personal traits and professional skills.
Andrei Vandenko: And the result of the digitalization he carried out at the institution he headed, did you take it into account?
Vladimir Putin: I did. Not so much the fact that he carried it out, but the fact that he really became an expert in this area. A man of practice, who understands very well what needs to be done and who knows how to do it; and he is doing it and achieving concrete results.
Andrei Vandenko: But what about the fact that he is a tax collector by trade, in other words, he is accustomed to taking, while this position is more about giving?
Vladimir Putin: This is a very primitive understanding of the work of the tax service.
Yes, of course, it is one of the main bodies bringing funds to the state treasury; however, to think that a tax collector walks around with a club, squeezing money out of people is very primitive. No, it is quite the opposite. His mission was to ease the situation for taxpayers, to make the procedure more transparent and clear and less burdensome for citizens.
An honest man who knows he properly pays all due taxes has the right to expect that the state will use the money wisely.
But the first thing to do is not to simply extract money from people – it is to organize the system in such a way that both the state and the tax payers could comfortably work with each other and it would be clear how things are arranged, and everybody could pay taxes without impediment, without unnecessary hassle and stress, and without running the risk of doing something that the state may interpret as illegal.
Andrei Vandenko: When this team was formed, some noticed, first of all, that you had broken, or at least it was perceived that way, certain rules that you had used to stick to, such as ”not to turn your back on your old mates“, to avoid dismissals of those criticized and not to pay heed to critics on the Internet, to public opinion. This time, the most toxic figures, who had been most fiercely criticized in the media or social networks, walked away to be replaced by ‘no-names’ – that is, people you had to ‘google’ or ‘yandex’.
Vladimir Putin: You know, the criterion was not lack of knowledge about those people, it was their professional qualifications. I know, and Mikhail Mishustin knows these people as competent professionals. And I was to a considerable extent guided specifically by his opinion in this regard. There were a number of candidates whom I had doubts about, but Mr Mishustin would prove to me that this or that person was best fit for the job. I agreed with him because, at the end of the day, he was forming his own team and the final concrete result it achieves will depend on the efficiency of its work.
Andrei Vandenko: What window of time do they have? I mean, when will you evaluate their professional efficiency?

Vladimir Putin:There is no window of time. All of these people are, I will say it again, competent, they all are well informed and know their job. Many of them worked, one way or another, on the national projects and national development targets, so they are totally in the know. Thus, there can be no window, no time for warming up.