Monthly Archives: January 2011

‘I am happy to give the most expensive, my soul, in the way of Allah (swt)’ [ The Last Will of the First Sister Who Attacked Moscow ]

Muharram 26, 1432 A.H, Sunday, January 02, 2011

Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum
Language and Translation Department


In the name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful.

All praise be to Allah, and peace and prayers be upon Prophet Muhammad, his family and his Companions.

Peace, mercy and the Blessings of Allah be upon you, brothers and sisters.

I would like, Allah willing, to address this message to those sisters who strive in the path of Allah, who wish to be useful to the religion of Allah, for the sake of Allah. Allah says in the Quran:

“Verily Allah hath bought from the Believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah?”

Dear brothers and sisters, I have made a covenant with Allah that I will exchange my soul in order to gain Paradise. The time has come for me to complete my part of the bargain.

If Allah wills it, I will carry out a martyrdom-operation in the path of Allah. If Allah wills it, this martyrdom-operation will be purely for the sake of Allah, for the sake of His religion, in order to elevate His word on earth.

Sisters, I appeal to you to open your eyes and see the truth, Allah willing. I am telling you, by Allah, those things that you do, the way you usually spend your time and efforts won’t bring any benefit to religion of Allah. If you truly want to help Allah, you must enter into a covenant with Allah, in the same way the female Companions of the Prophet (peace and prayers be upon him) did, in the way that many of our sisters, Allah willing, have done before. This is what our sister Hawa Barayeva did, may Allah have mercy on her.

I swear by Allah this is better for you, as Allah has ordered to fight in His cause. The only thing we ask is for Allah to be pleased with us, that our deeds are accepted by Allah, and pleasing to Him.

Sisters, Glory be to Allah, our Jamaah is facing some trials and tribulations – I seek Allah’s protection from Satan, the Accursed. Seek refuge in Allah from this, if you sincerely want to help Allah, to help His religion, my sisters, then I call you to martyrdom in the path of Allah.

My sisters, Glory be to Allah, today Allah has given us the opportunity to sell our souls in exchange for Paradise, so how can you stay away from Paradise, when the gates are opened – Allahu Akbar – and Allah is saying: “Come in my slave, Come in my slave”.

But still we seem to prefer this temporary life, saying that we are needed here. Sisters, why do you wear Hijab? When you waste your time with other sisters? This idle chat, or gossip, is the second enemy, after Satan, we seek Allah’s protection from him, and it brings a lot of harm to the Jihad for Allah’s religion.

Instead of this idle talk, it would be better if you give your soul in the path of Allah. By Allah, I know so many sisters and I love them, I know that they want to benefit the religion of Allah, but know my beloved sisters, and I swear by Allah, there are no bigger or better benefits than that which comes from martyrdom for the sake of Allah.

We terrorise the Disbelievers who have occupied our lands, and installed their own laws.

Glory be to Allah! How can you live in peace my sisters, when the Disbelievers have introduced these man-made laws? When the Disbelievers have taken up arms against our Creator?? Glory be to Allah! Stand up and sell your souls!

And my brothers, who sit at home, who have resigned themselves to the fact that we ruled by the Disbelievers: Fear Allah! On the the Day of Judgment you will be responsible before Allah, for you staying back in your warm houses, for the fact that you stayed back when the sisters were selling their souls, when sisters haven’t spared their blood, or souls for the sake of Allah, for the religion of Allah.

Is there something more valuable than a soul?

I swear by Allah I have nothing more than my own soul, I have no money or possessions to give to Allah. By Allah, if I had anything else to give, I would give it as well. I have only one soul, and I have decided to give it to Allah. If I had ten souls, then I would give all of them!

I appeal to my relatives:

If Allah wills, soon you will hear me being condemned. Someone might say she is a ‘terrorist’, a ‘suicide bomber’. Yes, I am a terrorist! Why am I a terrorist? I am a terrorist because ‘terror’ means to cause fear, so I am certainly a terrorist, because I will bring fear to the Disbelievers, those who raised their weapons against us!

You call me ‘bomber’, and I say yes: I am a bomber. Why, because I chose death, when you choose a life full of temptations and fitna. A life which is full of temptations. This cursed life. I choose death, because death in the path of Allah (the Glorified and Exalted) is the life for me.

And so I say with pride: I am a terrorist, and I am a bomber.

But I must tell you, the way that you chose to spend your time and your money, by Allah, you will be responsible before Allah for it!

So don’t condemn me, although it will make no difference to me if you criticise me, for all that matters to me is gaining the pleasure of Allah. I’m sure I’m on the Straight Path.

Because, all praise be to Allah, Allah has taught me, so I urge you to wake up and see that you cannot keep living under this system of Disbelief.

You have seen the way that these Disbelievers have spread their narcotics to even the children! But as long as you are not directly affected you stand back and smile, saying “this is not my concern”. It is only when you are directly harmed you suddenly say: “These people are our enemy and the Disbelievers should be killed!” Glory be to Allah! This is not right!

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “This Ummah is like one body: when one part of the body hurts, the rest responds with restlessness and fever”

So why do not you feel this pain, if you call yourself a Muslim?? So why do not you feel the pain when they imprison our brothers and sisters, when they are tortured and raped?? If you consider yourself a part of the Ummah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) why do you not feel this pain, why do you sit quietly in your homes?? Why do you condemn those who voluntarily surrender their souls to Allah, who give everything it is possible to give in this life? This temporary life is cursed – we seek Allah’s protection from it! How can you enjoy this temporary life?

My dear sisters: I have seen – Glory be to Allah – many sisters who buy themselves a jilbab for 7000, for 9000 rubles. Who buy brooches and other things for 300 or 400 rubles. Glory be to Allah! Would it not be better to spend this money in the path of Allah, to aid the Mujahideen in the name of Allah? The reward will be in the Hereafter, so fear Allah my sisters!

Fear Allah, for you will stand before Him tomorrow!

I see no cause more worthy than to give my soul to Allah.

Some might call me a mindless zombie. My relatives will say: “If she embarked on this path, there was no way for us to pull her out of there”. Of course! Glory be to Allah, Allah has said:

“The one whom Allah guides will never be led astray”

Is this not proof enough?

Some will say that I have done this for money, or because I have lost my husband. But why wouldn’t I want to fulfill my covenant with Allah? Think about it!

Glory be to Allah, the truth is better, it is the best reason. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked:

“Do want to know upon whom Allah smiles?” The Companions replied: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah!”

“They are the ones who rush into the midst of enemies, and fight until they are killed. And the ones upon whom Allah smiles will never touch the Fire, they will have succeeded”

Now think: he didn’t say the ones who rush into the midst of enemies in order just to fight and then return. But in order to fight until the death.

I am so pleased that Allah has given me the opportunity to sell my soul, Allah willing, this is not something that everyone can do! I am pleased, all praise be to Allah, and I tell my dear sisters: don’t shy away from selling your souls to Allah. Do not regret: the markets of Paradise are open now, but tomorrow these markets will be closed. And then you have nowhere to sell your soul.

Rush to Paradise, whose width is far greater than the earth.

Rush to Paradise my sisters!

My brothers: enough of this sitting at home.

It’s time to change yourself.

May Allah open your hearts.

May Allah guide you to the true path, and open your hearts to the true Jihad, and make you more useful to Allah’s religion than what you are now.

Allah willing, victory will be ours, either victory or Paradise.

If there is no victory, then there will be Paradise Allah willing.

Allah is the Greatest! Allah is the Greatest! Allah is the Greatest!

Peace, mercy and the Blessings of Allah be upon you.

Submitted by a Mujahid


President Medvedev’s annual address to Federal Assembly: full transcript
Published: 30 November, 2010, 15:31
Edited: 02 December, 2010, 18:57


Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his annual address to the parliament, the Federal Assembly, on Tuesday.

Below is the full transcript of the address.

Citizens of Russia,

Deputies of the State Duma and members of the Federation Council,

Speaking in this room a year ago, I presented my political strategy: standing on the foundation of democratic values, we need to modernize our economy and give impetus to progress in every area, to raise a generation of free, well-educated and creative people, to raise the living standards of our people to a fundamentally new level and to confirm Russia’s status as a modern world power whose success is based on innovation.

These processes, modernization in our country, began at a time which was hard for the whole world, a time of the global crisis. Compounding this were the heat wave and wildfires of last summer. Yet, despite the difficulties, on the whole we were able to accomplish quite a few things, and would like to thank all those who contributed to renewing our society.

We managed to stabilize our economy after a significant downturn, and this year we expect economic growth of 4 per cent. Despite the rise of food prices, which regrettably occurred throughout the world, we prevented an inflation upsurge. Our objective for the next three years is to bring it down to 4-5 per cent a year.

Almost 150 billion rubles were allocated to the agricultural sector in order to mitigate the consequences of the drought. Our decisions will stabilize the situation in this key industry, help the farmers and prevent a drop in living standards in the affected areas. I will continue personally monitoring the implementation of these decisions.

The number of the unemployed is now about five million people, a reduction of two million since the crisis peaked. This is a significant achievement. Sovereign debt is at a very low level. Russia’s international reserves today amount to about $500 billion, much more than at the end of 2008.

After the anti-crisis measures, which were unprecedented in scale, we are now moving on to a more balanced budget policy. The budget deficit, unfortunately, remains quite high. We will reduce it lest it becomes an obstacle to development. All the leading nations have taken on similar obligations.

Of course, the economic situation is still quite complex. We haven’t overcome all the consequences of the crisis yet, and we must admit this openly. But we will fulfill our social obligations regardless of anything.

The real income of our people has grown by approximately five per cent over the last few months. Next year, we are planning to raise the salaries of public employees. We are implementing targeted programs to provide housing for war veterans and army personnel.

We have been able to raise pensions every year. I had set an objective to provide all pensioners with an income above the poverty line, and this goal has been achieved. Yet, the average level of pensions remains quite low, of course.

To raise pensions and modernize the healthcare system, we made a number of tough decisions, including raising mandatory medical insurance premiums. People talk a lot about this today. We need to find a way to mitigate the negative impact of this measure on businesses. In this context, I made the following decision. Small businesses working in manufacturing industries or providing social services will be given a two-year transition period with a lower taxation level set at 26 per cent.

This year, we focused on the priority areas of technological modernization. Our goal is to raise our economy’s energy efficiency by 40 per cent by 2020. This goal is realistic, and I am absolutely sure we can achieve it. This will both reduce corporate expenses and help people save their money, primarily and perhaps most importantly, when they pay utility bills. We discussed the issue recently, and the main conclusion we came to was that, in order to prevent further degradation of the utility infrastructure and at the same time enhance energy efficiency, we need to attract private investors to the utility sector more aggressively. I have already given all the necessary orders on this issue.

Also, I’d like to note some achievements in high-tech development. For example, Russia’s nuclear industry is once again building and launching new power plants every year. Nine reactors are currently under construction in Russia. In addition, Russia is working on projects in India, Iran, China and other countries. The total volume of orders generated by nuclear construction for the machine building industry has grown tenfold over the past three years, or by 25 times if we compare it with 2005. A good figure. Of course, the state budget and all the people employed in the industry benefit from that.

To give you another example, the list of the world’s top 500 supercomputers includes 11 systems made in Russia. The speed of Russia’s Lomonosov supercomputer will grow more than 2.5 times next year, making it one of the most powerful computers in the world. GLONASS satellites will be ready before the end of this year, and within the next two years all key digital navigation maps will be ready, so our own satellite navigators will be available for use, and GLONASS capacities will become available for mass consumption.

By next year, most border regions will have digital access to major TV channels. We will build over 1000 facilities for the public digital broadcasting system. This year, we taught the Internet to speak Russian, so to speak. It is important, even in terms of Russia’s reputation. The .rf domain is open and gaining popularity. I consider that to be another one of our achievements.

Also, we are implementing a new development strategy for Russia’s pharmaceutical industry. Over the next few years, the share of Russian-made pharmaceuticals on the domestic market must radically increase – from 20 per cent to 50 per cent, and to 60 per cent for innovative medicines. This will make medicines more affordable. I hope that growth in pharmaceutical exports will also generate substantial revenues for Russia.

The Skolkovo Center is our most famous innovation project. I proposed this initiative less than a year ago. Today, the project is becoming reality. We have a land plot, an administrative team and a special law offering unique benefits to those who will be involved in the project. Finally, we have specific offers from both private and state companies that are ready to start anytime.

I’d like to emphasize that tax benefits and state financing for research activities should be available to all those who have ideas and meet our criteria.

Also, over the next three years we plan to allocate approximately 30 billion rubles for joint research projects by leading universities and industrial companies. This is a serious figure, but if we see positive results we should increase financing for this program even further.

Another project that’s important to us is making Moscow a major international financial center. Federal agencies, the municipal administration and the new mayor of Moscow are all responsible for this project. Major Russian and foreign financial institutions have joined the work. I am convinced that with this project, too, our chances are quite good. Furthermore, an efficient financial market will provide obvious benefits both for people and for businesses, which will have access to a whole range of modern financial services, and, of course, for the whole country, which will benefit from an influx of capital and taxes generated by increased economic activities.

We have really achieved a lot, considering, of course, that it was all done in one year. But I hope we all realize that this is only the very beginning. We should use our resources to modernize our economy, not to mend holes. We need to create new competitive goods and services and millions of new jobs. We need to generate demand for innovation, develop our small and medium-sized businesses and expand our people’s professional and social prospects.

I order the government to use at least half of the appropriated funds that weren’t spent plus some additional revenues from the federal budget to support the priority areas of modernization, which include, as you know, making our economy more energy-efficient and developing new energy, information, telecom and medical technology. Our people’s quality of life depends on our success in all those projects.


Of course, modernization, and all the things I’ve referred to just now, is not a goal in itself. It is an instrument which will help us resolve some old economic and social problems, support those who need it the most and create conditions to develop the potential of those we pin our hopes on – our children and our young people. It is mostly for their sake that we are carrying out modernization. We don’t want to be ashamed of the country we pass on to our children and grandchildren. But who we pass Russia on to is equally important. The 26 million children and teenagers living in Russia should have everything they need to develop. They should be healthy and happy as they grow up, and eventually they should become proper citizens of Russia. This is our Number One priority.

Taking care of future generations is the most reliable, smart and noble investment we can make. A society which really protects children’s rights and respects their dignity is not only kinder and more humane. Such a society develops faster and better. It has a positive and predictable future.

I believe it is vitally important for us to develop an efficient policy for children. This should be a modern policy which will help us develop as a nation. That’s why I will make this the key subject of my address today, and I will speak in detail about the issues which I think need new solutions and new approaches.

First of all, a few words about the measures we are taking to improve the demographic situation. The birth rate in Russia has increased by more than 21 per cent compared with 2005. Incidentally, I’d like to mention that this is one of the highest growth levels in the world. The infant mortality rate has dropped by 25 per cent. Last year, for the first time in 15 years we saw an increase in the Russian population. Of course, this is mostly thanks to the maternity capital, the Healthcare national project and other family-oriented social support measures.

We will continue working hard on the demographic problem but we should realize that during the next 15 years we will be confronted with the negative effects of the demographic downturn in the 1990s and the number of women in the so-called reproductive age group will considerably decrease, which is a serious threat and a challenge to our entire nation.

What do we need to do about it?

First, we should enhance both the quality and the accessibility of medical care and social benefits provided to mothers and their children. We should develop the maternity certificate program and the rehabilitative treatment program for underweight children during the first three years of their lives. Also, we should increase government subsidies for infertility treatment programs, including in vitro fertilization.

Second, we need to modernize children’s clinics and hospitals and improve the competence of the personnel working there. Starting next year, we will allocate substantial funds for these purposes by co-financing regional programs. At least 25 per cent of the total amount of money allocated to modernize the healthcare system should be used to develop health care for children. This is a lot of money. In fact, it may amount to 100 billion rubles over the next two years.

Today, almost a third of all children have health problems by the time they reach school age. Statistics for teenagers are even worse. Two-thirds of them have health issues. Starting from 2011, we must monitor more closely the medical condition of Russia’s children.

Special attention should be given to vaccination, to making quality medications available to children and teenagers, and to early detection of tuberculosis, cancer and other dangerous diseases. We will provide the funds required for these purposes as well.

Third – and this is a very important point – we need to support young families and families with many children. Housing remains one of the most acute issues. Since 2008, the law allows paying out mortgages and housing loans from maternity capital even if the contract is concluded prior to December 31, 2010. In other words, you don’t need to wait for your child to turn three. Almost 250,000 Russian citizens have already availed themselves of this opportunity. Incidentally, this also stimulates the housing market, which is important in the post-crisis period. I believe that starting next year we should make this a permanent rule.

Fourth, experts believe that the best way to deal with a demographic crisis is to radically increase the number of families with three and more children. Recently, I came across an interesting online report about a social advertising campaign in the Altai Region. The idea is simple but I think it’s quite interesting: you show famous Russian people, the pride of our country, who were third in their families. These include Nikolay Nekrasov, Anton Chekhov, Yuri Gagarin, Anna Akhmatova and others. Without these great people, without their writings and achievements, the world would have been different. Humanity would have been left without something in terms of ethics and culture.

That’s why I believe we should provide the most favorable conditions possible for large families. I know that in some regions (for instance, in the Ivanovo region), when a third child is born the family is given a free plot of land where it can build a house or a dacha. This is a very appropriate decision and a good example for other territories.

I believe this should become common practice across Russia. I instruct the government to consult with regions and develop a procedure by which a family with three or more children would get a free plot of land to build a house or a dacha. Of course, this rule may be implemented gradually, taking into account special situations in various regions.

Regions may use other ways to support large families. For example, the Ulyanovsk Region provides young families with a 100,000-ruble certificate when a third child is born and for every child after that. I suggest that the heads of all regions consider introducing regional maternity benefits. Of course, this is a costly measure and you have to consider the situation in your region, but the results will be worth it.

Fifth, we should introduce additional tax benefits for families with three or more underage children. For example, we should increase the tax deduction for each child starting from the third one up to 3,000 rubles. I instruct the government to prepare their proposals on this issue and to consider tax deductions for all families with children, at the same time cancelling the so-called standard deductions. For the vast majority of our people, they are purely nominal anyway.

Sixth, charities and media often raise funds for children with various serious diseases. There are also businessmen who help orphanages and support athletic and entertainment programs for children. They don’t seek any publicity for what they do, and this is important. To support such initiatives, we’ve been improving our legislation on charity for a number of years now. However, there are still some problems in this area. For example, financial aid provided to children more than once, even if those children have serious diseases, is included in their parents’ tax base. That’s not fair.

Funds received from charities for children should never be included in taxable income. I expect the State Duma to adopt a law on this issue shortly. Judging by your applause, this will be the case.

Seventh, young families often face a very difficult problem – they can’t get their children into a kindergarten. Wherever I go, whenever I meet with people, they practically always ask me this question. At the beginning of this year, we had 1,684,000 children on waiting lists for a place in a kindergarten. In fact, parents often have to get on a waiting list even before their child is born. It’s often because kindergartens are not available that young families put off the decision to have a child until later in life, or decide to have just one child.

Because of this situation, I give the following instructions. First, regions should have a program to repair old kindergartens and build new ones that meet modern requirements, or provide suitable facilities for them. At the same time, those requirements must be justified reasonable and feasible. As I said in the past, they should not be excessive.

Second, we need to support alternative forms of preschool education, including a system of private institutions for children and family kindergartens. Also, we need to consider the possibility of lowering rent and introducing property tax benefits for new types of kindergartens, including family kindergartens.

Third, schools should provide pre-school classes for children who don’t go to a kindergarten.

Colleagues, two years ago I instituted the Parent’s Glory Award. It is awarded not only to fathers and mothers with biological children but also to foster-parents. We are deservedly proud of such families. To be frank, just talking to them when they come here, to the Kremlin, to receive their awards gives me much joy.

Sadly, our country still has 130,000 children deprived of parental care. They have neither biological nor foster-parents. They are deprived of the most important thing, a family atmosphere. We still have a long way to go before we can boast of a society without abandoned children. Foster care authorities should make it their priority to find families for orphans and to help foster parents. We should not have “nobody’s children” in our country.

The so-called correctional orphanages remain a serious issue. Unfortunately, they often tend to isolate children rather than integrate them into society. Therefore, not only government services but also civil society must oversee the situation in those institutions. Every orphanage and every correctional institution should have a board of trustees, and their work should be as transparent as possible.

Finally, we need social adaptation programs for those leaving orphanages. It’s not enough to just teach and feed children; they should enter their new adult life prepared and confident. It’s not only teachers but also local authorities that play an important role here. They could, for instance, help those leaving orphanages pay for preparatory courses to enter a university or a college.

Our policy towards children is based on universally accepted international standards. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN General Assembly states that “mankind owes to the child the best it has to give,” while the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that the interests of the child are above those of society or the state.

In 2009, we appointed a presidential commissioner for children’s rights. He has a lot to attend to, to put it mildly. Last summer, for example, it was revealed that some summer camps grossly violated safety standards. This led to children getting ill and in some cases even dying. We need to make sure such things never happen again.

Local administrations and oversight agencies need to prepare for the next summer season ahead of time, which means they should start practically right now. 58 regions of Russia already have their own commissioners for children’s rights, and they too should participate in this work. By the way, I believe every region of the Russian Federation should have its own commissioner for children’s rights.

Violence against children is a truly horrible problem. According to Interior Ministry data, over 100,000 children and teenagers suffered from criminal violence in 2009. Just consider this figure! Many cases really break your heart. Children, mostly orphans and children from dysfunctional families, are involved in drug abuse, prostitution and other criminal activities. The scoundrels responsible for this should be punished with utmost severity.

Last year, we introduced harsher punishments for sexual crimes against underage children. But preventive measures against such crimes are no less important. I believe that people convicted of violent crimes or of involving children in criminal activities should be banned from working with children. Such people should never be allowed anywhere near children.

I have sent a bill with amendments to the Labor Code to the State Duma. I expect that it will pass into law by the end of this year.

Deputies of the State Duma and members of the Federation Council,

Protecting the life and health of a child is a direct responsibility of the child’s relatives. That’s why it is even more horrible when violence against children occurs in their families. As we know, cruelty breeds cruelty. Children adopt the behavior model they see in adults and apply it in their lives – in school, in college, in the army and then in their own families. Our society should adopt an attitude of intolerance towards cruel treatment of children. We need to expose domestic violence and stop it. I know that several regions have social aid centers that work with domestic violence victims. St. Petersburg, the Orenburg Region and the Khanty-Mansi Region have a lot of experience in this area, and other regions should learn from them and follow their example.

I have to mention another problem. Our country has practically no infrastructure for people with disabilities and serious diseases. I don’t need to explain to you how much of a problem that is for children. Even a trip to school often becomes torture for a disabled child. Finding a wheelchair-accessible bus is a real problem. Residential and office buildings are usually just inaccessible to children in wheelchairs. Although, I have to say that new buildings, at least the ones I saw, are built according to new standards.

At the same time, disabled people often achieve great results in sports and art. They are truly the glory of Russia. Take, for instance, our Paralympian team. Their success was amazing. When these things happen, however, they happen in spite of the circumstances rather than because of systemic measures taken by the state and society. Creating a favorable environment for disabled children should be a priority in our new federal program called Accessible Environment.

The job of raising future generations is closely linked with the modernization of the education system. By implementing the Our New School initiative, we have redefined our standards for elementary school and prepared new standards for junior high and high school. Also, during the Year of the Teacher, we introduced new qualification requirements for teachers and new procedures for regular professional examinations and re-training. Also, teachers should have an opportunity to undergo internships at Russia’s best schools and receive additional professional training at the best universities. We are planning to allocate over 2 billion rubles for those purposes in 2011. But regional and municipal authorities should provide their share of financial support.

As Winston Churchill said, “headmasters have powers at their disposal with which prime ministers have never yet been invested.” Those powers should be used today to bring out the potential of every child and prepare children to choose their future professions as well as we can. In order to achieve that, we have to pay attention to the following.

First, in 2011 each school should design its own “school of the future” project. It will be a vision of how the school should develop. Of course, these projects should be devised primarily by teachers, current and former students of the school and parents. But I think that regional administrations could devise implementation procedures for those projects, working with businesses if necessary.

Second, we need to conclude the creation of a nationwide system that would help locate and support talented children. All children should be able to develop their potential regardless of where they live, the incomes of their families or their social status. I order the government to take this recommendation into account when new educational standards are introduced and to establish a standard per capita subsidy for educational programs for gifted children.

Third, children today are different from what we were at their age. Every generation is different from the previous one. They feel at home in the world of telecommunications and are used to new ways of information gathering. They like using new gadgets. As it has been said, and rightly so, no one in the world is as sensitive to novelty as children. Using modern software and technological advances in education has to become the norm. It has to be envisaged in the new standards.

The teachers have to learn all about that as well. We can’t tolerate the situation where students know more about modern technology than teachers. Teachers have to know about these things.

Fourth, the upbringing of our children is a responsibility not only of the education system but of our culture and society as a whole. We need new, quality films that will interest our children. Let us remember the influence that good science fiction has had on entire generations. We all read those books. They fascinated children, encouraging them to make their own discoveries.A whole generation was raised on those books.

Fifth, we need to pay more attention to the patriotic upbringing of our youth. True, we need to make serious changes in this area, but some traditional methods, such as military and patriotic games, can still be used today. They build character, promote teamwork and teach children how to cope with difficult situations.

I would like to specifically note the work of groups that find and identify soldiers’ remains. In 2010, the year when we marked 65 years since our Great Victory, they helped a lot of people find out where their loved ones were buried. This way our young ones are learning true patriotism.

I instructed the government to step up efforts to recover the remains of missing soldiers and repair war memorials. The situation is not altogether positive. But I believe authorities on all levels should be doing that constantly rather than just during special years like 2010.

Sixth, promoting the healthy way of life is a strategic priority of our policy for children. Of course, this applies not only to children. We, adults, have to set an example. Our whole society has to get over its childish mindset when it comes to healthy living. As Leo Tolstoy said, you can’t develop children properly unless you develop yourself first. Yet 80 per cent of Russians, or four-fifths of our entire population, don’t exercise or do sports.

Russia has one of the highest percentages of smokers in the world. The age at which young people start drinking and smoking keeps decreasing. Those who sell alcohol to underage children must remember that sanctions, including criminal prosecution, will be applied to them.

I hope your applause means the bill currently under consideration in the State Duma on penalties for such sales will be approved shortly. (Applause)

The health and future success of our nation depends directly on what kind of environment we leave to our children. In spite of the fact that Russia’s environment is unique and rich, we can hardly say that it is in perfect condition. We can only solve that problem by introducing a modern and efficient environment protection system.

We urgently need to take the following steps.

First, we have to evaluate the real condition of all polluted territories and use this as a starting point for our programs to minimize environmental damage and clean up accumulated pollution.

Also, some experts believe we need a so-called environmental amnesty, as long as the companies subject to the amnesty take it upon themselves to make their production facilities environment-friendly and clean up the territories where their plants are located. I think the idea is reasonable. The companies which are implementing such programs – not just preparing them but really implementing them and spending money on them – should not have to pay excessive fines, as it would only make it harder for them to amend the situation. On the contrary, we need to support such programs and use private-public partnerships as much as possible. I order the government to prepare their suggestions on this issue.

Second, the government should devise environmental standards that would take into account special conditions in some territories. Those would serve as a reference point for the authorities in their decision-making and setting requirements for production facilities. In fact, those standards will also serve as a clear benchmark for our people and our foreign partners.

Third, our civil society needs to play an important role in environmental protection. I often hear that “green” ideas are not popular in Russia because our people are not ready for them. To some extent, this may be true. That is why, as I have mentioned, the role of environmental education is crucial. We have to take that into account in our new educational standards.

Fourth, the quality of the environment should be the most important indicator of the quality of life and one of the main indicators of the territory’s socio-economic development. Consequently, it should to be a criterion to measure the efficiency of local authorities. I order the heads of all regions to present annual reports on the environmental situation in their regions. The people of those regions should have complete and true information about that.

As for non-governmental environmental organizations, if those people genuinely care for the environment, we need to have detailed discussions with them and find mutually acceptable solutions before we start building industrial or infrastructural facilities.

In conclusion I would like to say that childhood and youth is a time when people define their future, a time when people try new things. They discover. They experiment. They have no fear. The spirit of innovation, the desire to produce something new, bold thinking – those are the things our country needs today. We are counting on the energy and ambitions of our young people and their desire to work together and together achieve the goals they set.

Deputies of the State Duma and members of the Federation Council,

Modernization produces a smart economy but it also requires smart policies that provide conditions for an extensive renewal of society. We need new standards in governance and public services, a higher quality of courts and law enforcement, modern ways by which people can participate in the development of their city or village and more involvement on the part of the people in the work of municipal authorities.

In order to achieve that, I propose we take the following steps. First, we need to make day-to-day relations between the state and the citizen transparent, clear and simple. The understanding that government officials serve the people rather than control their lives is the foundation of democracy. For a regular citizen, the state is the official to whose office he comes with his problems, the judge who makes a ruling in his case, a local police officer or a tax inspector – any person who has the authority to solve his problems, like all of you sitting in this room. Government officials should not discredit the state with their activities. Their main mission is to improve the conditions that people live in.

We are optimizing our system of state and municipal services. Even today, people in many regions can file an electronic application for a passport or check their retirement account from home. Also, they can register a vehicle or get a driver’s license in any traffic authority office, not just the one closest to their registered residence, as long as it’s within their region.

Thus, some of the new rules are already working, even though I know from the letters I receive that some people are not satisfied with the way the system works. We need to keep improving it. The rest of the rules will become effective next year or the one after that.

The most important rule is to keep the “one-stop” principle. People should not have to run from one government office to another collecting all sorts of papers, the way parents have to do when they want to get support for their children that they are entitled to by law.

Government officials should be legally liable if they violate maximum periods for providing public services or if they violate procedures established by appropriate administrative regulations.

I want the government to prepare their proposals on these issues in a month’s time.

Second, while modernizing the system of public services, we need to pay special attention to the social services we provide to people. I think we should involve non-commercial organizations more in providing those services. They often know the actual situation even better than the authorities, they have unique experience, and they help people who find themselves in a difficult situation. I think by involving non-commercial organizations we will make social services more substantive and targeted. Also, this will reduce corruption among government officials, which is crucial.

Federal agencies should develop a clear and transparent system of selecting NGOs for such jobs. We need to choose organizations with a well-established reputation which people really trust, which have been working in this area for a number of years or which have been converted from another organization with years of experience.

I want the government to prepare necessary changes to laws and regulations which will allow non-commercial organizations to participate in providing public social services. At the same time, in providing funds for such organizations, we should have competitive mechanisms more often.

Third, each region should have a clear program to improve the investment climate and create new productive jobs based on the so-called best regional practices. These include reducing the time required to get all the permits necessary to start a new business, creating prepared industrial sites, and a number of other measures. On a more general note, we need to reward the regions which manage to increase their revenues rather than strip them of support, and to take this into account when distributing federal subsidies. However, that’s not enough.

The government needs to prepare its proposals on how we can change the current ratio of revenue distribution between the budgets of different levels. As a result, regions and municipalities will play a bigger role in resolving key socio-economic problems.

The main responsibility for the situation in a region lies with the governor. His work will be evaluated based on how many investors he manages to attract, how many jobs he creates, especially in industries not related to raw materials. This should be used as a basis for personnel decisions.

Fourth, the authorities must get rid of the property which is not related directly to their duties. It seems that property can never be excessive. But in reality, managing excessive property takes up a great deal of time, effort and money, as you all know, but the worst part of it all is that this may lead to corruption.

This year, I signed a decree which reduces the list of strategic companies to a fifth of what it used to be. Following my instructions, the government adopted a plan to privatize a large number of big companies. The main goal of privatization is boosting the efficiency of those companies and attracting more investment – serious investment – into the Russian economy. The revenue from this privatization will be used primarily to modernize our economy. Similar decisions need to be taken on regional and local levels. The law defining the general principles according to which regional authorities operate says that regional authorities may only possess the property they need to perform their duties. Accordingly, all other property must be privatized. The authorities should not be owners of “factories, newspapers and ships.” Everybody should be occupied with their direct responsibilities.

Fifth, modernization will bring the expected results only when there are fair laws in place, when there are independent and respected courts and law enforcement bodies which people really trust.

All these components are definitely closely connected, and it’s the whole system that needs reform rather than individual institutions. That is why in addition to developing legislation on the judicial system, which we have been doing for some time, we have now started reforming the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Also, we are adopting amendments that will help boost the efficiency of investigation and prosecution services. That’s why I have sent two bills, one on the police and another one on the Investigative Committee, to the State Duma. Today, not only federal but also regional and municipal authorities must prepare to implement those new acts effectively. They contain a lot of new things. Government officials should not be hiding in their offices while crime groups grow and take over their territory. They must make sure that people don’t need to be afraid for their lives and the lives of their loved ones; that they don’t need to worry about attacks on their person, their property or their dignity.

Sadly, recently we’ve seen a number of tragic events that took the lives of Russian people. To some extent, this happened because of negligence on the part of police and other government agencies. In some case, they even had direct ties with criminal groups. Following one such case, I made a decision to dismiss the police chief of the Krasnodar Region and asked the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Federal Security Service and the Investigative Committee to submit their proposals regarding punishment for their officers who were responsible for maintaining law and order in that area.

Sixth, in my address last year I spoke about the need to amend the Criminal Code. I said that the law should be tough and at the same time modern and reasonably humane. While bringing about justice and protecting the rights of the aggrieved party, we should not produce new members for the criminal world. Let me stress it again: punishment for minor offences should not involve imprisonment if possible. This is, by the way, particularly important when dealing with minors having violated the law for the first time.

Today I am going to introduce a law to the State Duma allowing the court to use a case-by-case approach when choosing punishment. In a number of criminal offence categories, bottom-line sanctions will be eliminated. The court will now be able to use such alternative punitive measures as fines and forced labor. But most importantly, in the absence of the bottom-line sanctions the courts should not be guided by the gravest possible punishment. The power of the court consists in the unavoidability and justness of the punishment rather than harshness, while the mission of justice is not just to punish but also to correct.

Seventh, fighting corruption remains our important objective. I believe that we must thoroughly analyze how our decisions are being implemented and move ahead. In our experience, even the threat of being imprisoned for up to 12 years does not stop bribe-takers. It seems that in a number of cases economic sanctions in the form of fines may turn out to be more effective. Thus, giving or receiving a bribe may be punished with fines to an amount 100 times the size of the bribe itself.

Currently we are facing a new type of criminal activity – that of bribery mediation. Everybody knows far too well that there are lots of crooks hanging around courts and other state agencies who assure that they know how to resolve any issue and to whom and how much money one should give. I think that bribery mediation, as well as the size of the fine I’ve been talking about, should be introduced to the Criminal Code.

Eighth, there’s another issue I would like to raise. I am not going to demonize the notorious Law 94. Everyone is criticizing it, as the situation has indeed gone beyond conceivable boundaries. The goals it stipulates have mostly remained mere declarations. According to the most conservative estimates, improper expenses including direct theft and bribes amount to at least one billion rubles. Therefore, it’s time to start working on a new version of the law on procurement, a modern and more balanced version.

I also believe that all planned open purchases must be announced in advance. Information about such plans must be posted on a special website with a possibility to give feedback, as companies may want to express their willingness to participate in a tender, or experts may want to express their opinions regarding the compliance of those plans with today’s requirements and market prices.

We need to define preliminary purchase plans of modern equipment, medications and other hi-tech products by the state and major state companies for the next nearest three years. In the future, we need to have similar plans for an even longer period of five to seven years. In this case both investors and researchers will be confident that the results of their work will be in demand.

Army modernization can be another factor in boosting demand for new technology. Like it or not, but in different periods of history it was only security issues and state investments in new technological defense solutions that were driving science and technology forward.

Today we are facing a fundamental task of creating a new hi-tech mobile army. We are ready to spend more than 20 trillion rubles on it. This is a lot of money. But this kind of investment will be twice as effective, if as a result, it will provide us with the so-called dual-purpose technology leading to industrial modernization and contributing to fundamental and applied research, as well as to collegial science. That’s why we are creating a special structure, which will search for and develop breakthrough technology for the defense industry. As you know, similar structures exist in other countries. We expect that much of that technology will be applied later in everyday life.

Ninth, the quality of the political system is a crucial indicator of the quality of life. In order to improve this system, a number of decisions have been made at the federal and regional levels. Speaking from this platform in 2008, I mentioned ten points for improving our political system and democracy, and then I mentioned another ten points in 2009. I would like to thank again everybody who took part in discussing these initiatives, all State Duma deputies and members of the Federation Council.

However we need to take additional steps at the local self-government level. Local self-government is a major element of any democratic state. Unfortunately most of our political parties don’t really play a significant role in municipalities. As a result, not all parties act as national political organizations at this level. I suggest we use mandatory proportional or combined electoral system in municipalities with 20 or more deputies.

Political competition at the bottom level will help build trust in the party system and make parties more accountable to voters. They need to be closer to the everyday life of our people. It is another step towards strengthening our democracy, which sees the well-being of our people as its main goal.

So the State Duma election next December will take place with a political system that has been renewed at all levels.

Tenth, all of us present here had an open and detailed discussion of the new law on police. In my opinion, this discussion has brought about some pretty good results. We will have a similar discussion of the new law on education. I think that we need to develop this practice. There should be a certain procedure for organizing public hearings, like we did with the law on police. I commission my staff to prepare their proposals on these public hearing procedures by the end of this year.


Our state and nation cannot develop without efficient national security and defense. We are moving in the direction of major modernization of our armed forces, in the direction of systemic and deep reforms. We have modernized the structure of our Armed Forces and their combat readiness, administrative and logistics systems. We’ve started conducting regular large-scale military exercises again. Four military districts replaced the old six. Under the state armament program the troops will be equipped with modern weapons and hardware by the year 2020.

What objectives are we yet to reach? First, next year we need to put a special emphasis on aerospace defense, combine the existing missile and air defense systems, missile attack alert and space control systems. They must be under one strategic command.

Second, modern Russia needs a modern army and navy, compact and mobile troops equipped with modern weapons and led by professionals with the highest qualifications. For this we need serious funds (I just gave you the figure) and new decisions, which are sometimes not easy to make. At the same time, we need to fulfill all our obligations towards people who chose to serve in the army. First of all, we need to provide them with housing, and do that according to the existing timeline.

Third, the army should not have non-military duties and functions. These functions should be transferred to civilian organizations. The army should focus on combat training, first of all. A young man is only drafted to serve for one year, but the combat training program does not get any simpler. Every young man should become familiar with all the aspects of this program.

Fourth, not only are we developing our Armed Forces, we are also developing international co-operation in the security sphere. Russia is ready to work on strengthening the missile non-proliferation regime with countries that are interested. I shared my ideas of the possible architecture of the European missile defense system at the recent Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon. This architecture would merge the potentials of Russia and NATO, protecting all European countries from missile strikes. We have started a joint evaluation of all issues related to that. This is certainly a positive development. But here, in this room, I would like to speak frankly. One of the following two things will happen within the next ten years: either we reach an agreement on missile defense and create a full-fledged cooperation mechanism, or (if we can’t come to a constructive agreement) we will see another escalation of the arms race. We will have to make a decision to deploy new strike systems. It is obvious that that would be a very unfavorable scenario.

The Lisbon summit made decisions related to the forming of a modern partnership, one based on the indivisibility of security, mutual trust, transparency and predictability. We decided on how we will work on the creation of a common space of peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region. This makes us moderately optimistic when we evaluate the prospects of our work on the Russian initiative on a European security treaty.

Fifth, we have to develop our economic diplomacy, evaluating its results based on practical benefits it produces for modernization, first and foremost. Our foreign policy today should not be limited to missiles. We have to make specific achievements that our people can appreciate: creating joint ventures in Russia, supplying high-quality, inexpensive goods to the Russian market, creating modern jobs and simplifying visa procedures.

Our foreign partners, I should note, understand our pragmatic approach. They are ready to share their experience in innovative development. I believe we should work directly with the countries and companies that are ready to co-operate with us. Thanks to this mutual interest, we are currently developing what I would call modernization partnerships with, for instance, Germany and France. I see a great potential for expanding the innovation aspect in our cooperation with China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Canada, Italy, Finland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and several other countries. These partnerships will help develop primarily the five priorities Russia has set out in its technological modernization program.

I see great potential that can be used to achieve these goals as our relations with the European Union and the US expand. The mechanisms of Russian-US partnership should be used to establish a full-scale economic co-operation, improve the investment climate and co-operate on high technology.

The “Partnership for Modernization” agreement signed by Russia and the EU, as we formulated the idea one year ago, should work in the following three areas. Firstly, the mutual exchange of technology and the harmonization of technical regulations and standards and practical assistance by the EU for Russia to join the WTO.

Secondly, a simplified visa regime with the prospect of introducing visa-free travel in the near future.

Thirdly, we need to seriously expand our exchange programs for professionals and scientists. I will speak about this during the Russia-EU summit in Brussels next week.

Sixth, Russia’s integration into the Asia-Pacific economic space is of utmost importance. We have to better exploit the potential of Russia’s participation in APEC and other forums. Some of these forums just recently held sessions. Building up our ties with other countries in the region is our strategic objective. You can see that clearly in our relations with China. Our unprecedentedly high level of bilateral cooperation is projected on to the international arena and consequently reflects positively on the standing of alliances such as BRIC and the SCO. We have serious potential in the sphere of long-term mutually beneficial cooperation with Latin American and African nations.

Seventh, the CIS and its alliances, EURASEC and the CSTO, remain a priority for our foreign policy. We have already established a customs union and are now building a common economic space within EURASEC, testing new integration models and efficient economic cooperation concepts. Eventually, we need to work towards creating a common economic space that would stretch from the Arctic to the Pacific, all across Eurasia.

Eighth, Russia with its unique experience and human and technology resources, can initiate a global, or trans-European, emergency management system. Approximately six months ago, at the G20 summit, I proposed uniting our efforts to protect the marine environment from oil spills. We now have to approach our main goal – exchange our best practices in that area and prevent, or clear, oil spills together.

And the last of the foreign policy issues: We have to step up international co-operation in fighting piracy. We have put forward an initiative to create an international mechanism for piracy trials. We believe that would help resolve the issue of prosecuting pirates as impunity remains one of the key factors that drive piracy.

I expect specific results in all of these areas from our Foreign Ministry.

Dear friends,

We will work together to implement the plans that I set out today. I don’t have the slightest doubt that we will be successful. I believe in your support. Let me add a few words of the kind you rarely see in official documents. These words may, however, be the most important. We are renewing our country and our society. We are changing our lives and we are changing ourselves. All we are doing we are doing for the sake of those we love the most – our children, because we want them to have a better life than we have. We want them to be better than we are. We want them to do things that we perhaps won’t have time to do. We want their achievements to create constitute a successful future for our great country.

I am sure that is the way it will be!


Russian President sums up year’s events in TV interview
Published: 26 December, 2010, 10:38
Edited: 28 December, 2010, 15:46

President Dmitry Medvedev on December 24 spoke live with the heads of three federal TV channels: Konstantin Ernst of Channel One, Oleg Dobrodeev of Rossiya, and Vladimir Kulistikov of NTV.


: Good afternoon, viewers.

Today, like a year ago, we have this opportunity to look back over the year together with President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev in this conversation broadcast live on three federal channels. Good afternoon, Mr President.

D.MEDVEDEV: Good afternoon.

K.ERNST: Mr. President, looking back over the outgoing year, each of us has particular images that will remain etched in our memories for good. What are your main images of 2010?

D.MEDVEDEV: I think this is a good comparison. I would name five images, though this is not an exclusive list of course. First, there is the recovery from the global economic crisis, a more drawn out event in nature, but very important for all of us. This year, instead of falling we grew and developed. Yes, there are still difficulties, problems and shortcomings, but we achieved fairly stable growth this year and are close to a GDP growth rate of four percent. What’s more, this is not just standard economic growth, but reflects too our economy’s increasing modernisation, and thus the increasing modernisation taking place in our lives too. Another very important event is that we began taking a new attitude towards children’s issues and our country’s demographic development. I deliberately made this the main theme of my [Annual] Address [to the Federal Assembly] and proposed a series of measures. Are these measures sufficient? I think not, but we will continue our efforts to develop them and improve our institutions. Whatever the situation, this is a core link in our social development, and without the right policy towards our children we simply will not have a future. The third big image that will remain with me is the weather problems we had, the fires and the heatwave that our country suffered this last summer. This was a very difficult time both psychologically and physically, and it affected our economy too, slightly lowering our growth rate and creating problems with some foodstuffs. This was definitely a very serious event, all the more so as people lost their lives. Another subject that I think is extremely important is security. By security we mean not just our country’s internal security but security all around the globe. This year was marked by a very big event. We and the Americans successfully concluded a very important new arms treaty – the New START Treaty. This document will form the cornerstone of security over the coming decades in Europe and around the world, and I am very pleased that we are now moving towards ratifying it. I must mention the 65th anniversary of Victory too. This is unquestionably a very special date for us, a date that shapes our identity as Russian citizens and that makes us modern individuals, but does not let us forget the memory of the past. I would place these five things among the year’s biggest events and greatest challenges. Of course, others could be named too, and we will talk about them, no doubt. I think, for example, that our efforts to improve the law enforcement system, fight crime and improve the laws on the law enforcement agencies’ work are also very important.

GENERAL DIRECTOR OF NTV TELEVISION COMPANY VLADIMIR KULISTIKOV: Talking about the New START Treaty, Mr President, when Carter and Clinton were in office there was a phrase in O. Henry’s Cabbages and Kings that I particularly liked: “to add to all the other misfortunes, there was a Democrat president in the United States that year“. Obama is a Democrat, but he is a completely different kind of person, and good on him for getting this important treaty through the Senate. Why did your telephone conversation with him take place so late yesterday? Was he celebrating the ratification?

D.MEDVEDEV: No, he simply left to take a break. Our conversation did indeed take place late, after 11 in the evening here, but like anyone else, he has the right to get some rest too. He left to take a break for Christmas, and I think he did so with a feeling of duty done. He did indeed do a good job to get the treaty ratified in not the easiest of circumstances, and as I said to him, this really is important, as it will form the foundation for our security over the coming years. I can say in general that I find President Obama easy to work with. He knows how to listen, hears what you’re saying, and is not prisoner of various stereotypes. Perhaps most importantly for a politician, he is someone who keeps his word, whether it be New START, the WTO, ratification of an important nuclear cooperation agreement, or work on international issues. I therefore wish him a good break. He has done a good job, and I said to him yesterday, “Barack, you get some rest now.

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr President, he might have a tougher time in his work next year, as the election defeat in November complicates his situation in many ways. Is there not the danger that your agreements will not be fulfilled and our relations with America will take a turn for the worse?

D.MEDVEDEV: I hope this risk is minimal. I realise that there are people in America who see the reset in relations as something positive, and others who can’t bear the thought and think that the Russian Federation is the centre of all evil. Yes, there really are such people there. But what can we do? This is all part and parcel of developed democracy, which brings people with a wide range of different views to power, who then try to lobby these views in the legislative bodies. But I hope that American society and the American establishment have enough tact and perseverance to keep the reset on course. Perhaps President Obama will face increased difficulties, but I am sure that he will be able to cope.

K.ERNST: Mr. President, when we looked back over 2009 a year ago, we talked about the results of the crisis, the losses it caused, and the exit scenarios, and you said that we need to seize the opportunity to overcome our technological backwardness. The word ‘modernisation’ was probably the most popular term in Russian domestic politics last year. How would you assess the initial results this modernisation has produced for ordinary people, the man in the street?

D.MEDVEDEV: I think the results are not bad. I think we have achieved results, though not many yet. I hope we are all pragmatic people, however, and when we set this course, when I wrote my article that you know, we realised that we would not be able to achieve huge success in just a year. But what is important is that modernisation really has become part of the political agenda. There is not just talk but actual work underway now. Laws have been passed, and I thank the State Duma for tackling this work and supporting the president’s course. Government resolutions are coming out in this area too, and business is also showing more interest in innovation overall now. There has not been a radical transformation yet, but business does realise now that if we do not invest in modernising production and developing innovation, if we do not work on the five priorities we set, we will most likely end up technologically backward and with a raw materials-dependent economy. Many assessments have made this point over recent years. So, modernisation is going ahead. It is perhaps moving faster now than at the start of the year, but we still have much to do, of course. As for the results in terms of ordinary life, we are seeing even light bulbs coming onto the market now, modern light bulbs that use less electricity. These are things we need to work on at the everyday level. 

GENERAL DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL RUSSIAN TELEVISION AND RADIO BROADCASTING COMPANY OLEG DOBRODEEV: Mr. President, you mentioned the main theme of your Presidential Address – children. In this respect there is a big issue that has society very worried – the problem of abandoned children. As we know, there is a drinking problem in many families, with the result that children are abandoned and left to look after themselves. This creates all kinds of dangers, not to mention that some parents use their children as a source of income in these circumstances. In our streets and in our schools they encounter what is probably one of the biggest dangers today – drugs. We are seeing this more and more often here. What can we do about it?

D.MEDVEDEV: This really is a serious problem. I spoke about this in part in my Address, but there are indeed some issues that perhaps do not get the direct attention they need or are kept hidden in out-of-sight corners out of a sense of shame. As for abandoned children, yes, we do have a big problem here. Going by the formal numbers, there are fewer children in children’s homes now. The number has gone down by around a third over recent years, including through adoptions. These adoptions are a good thing if carried out in accordance with the law and with the proper follow-up. But at the same time, there are children who have a family only formally, but who suffer in this family, and there are no decent statistics on the numbers of such children. This is why I created the post of children’s ombudsman, and this ombudsman is working actively, looking into the situation in various places. I am certain of this. The most important thing is to diagnose the danger in time, identify the risk to a child’s life and health and take a decision. Decisions can be various. Last year, more than 60,000 parents were deprived of their parental rights. This is something we need to take seriously. A child has only one mother and father, and if the court deprives parents of their parental rights, it essentially deprives the child of these closest people. But at the same time, in some cases this is simply necessary to protect the child’s life and health. This is a big task for the authorities and the public organisations, including NGOs, which I think should be particularly attentive and active in this work. The fact that we have really started to focus on the issues of children, motherhood, and demographics has drawn public attention to them. I see that a lot of people are writing about them now, writing to me in various forms, via the internet too, and you can always see some trends, some particular developments, and perhaps make some adjustments even. A law was signed recently concerning a number of benefits paid to women, maternity and childcare benefits. When the Government drafted this law they acted on the assumption that it would affect only a relatively small number of women. Some would gain, and others would perhaps lose a little. But I received a lot of correspondence from people asking how can this be happening, saying that there we were working on the demographic situation and protecting children, and how could the decision be made to lower these benefits for some people? How would this help to build normal families and encourage people to have children? 

I therefore want to say here and now that I have decided to come back to this issue and draft amendments that will enable women to set the period that will be used to calculate the benefit themselves. Let it be as they want. This will settle the problems that were raised in this respect. Why am I announcing this here on live national TV, because the authorities need to listen to what our citizens say, and if a decision has been made that creates problems, it is no sin to fix it. This is a normal situation.

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr. President, coming back to the drugs issue, Egor Bychkov in the Urals decided to fight this problem in his hometown of Nizhny Tagil. To the delight of the local drug lords our justice system almost locked him away for several years, but public opinion intervened, and thanks to you too for saying your word. This danger has passed now. He made extensive use of compulsion methods in his work with drug addicts in an attempt to get them to break this destructive habit. Do you think that such methods should be more widely used, all the more so as this practice already exists in developed countries, in the United States, for example?

D.MEDVEDEV: I am not a specialist, but I will give my view. First, it is not popular here to talk about the issue of drugs in our schools and universities. One could sometimes get the impression that we have no problem here, but sadly, we do have a problem. Official statistics give a figure of 160,000 schoolchildren who have drug problems. This is a huge number – 160,000!

REPLY: Yes, it is a huge number.

D.MEDVEDEV: An enormous figure, and as I said, this is just the official statistics. This is something we need to talk about in the open, something we must not be ashamed to bring up. I have spoken with media people and had them say things like, “you know, this is a tough issue and it’s better not to talk about it because it ruins people’s moods. Things are tough enough as it is without hearing about these drug addicts too.” This is maybe a hangover from the Soviet period, this illusion that “we don’t have drug addicts and everything is fine here.” Perhaps this stereotype still lurks in people’s minds, but sadly, the problem is such now that we really need to beat the alarm. That is the outer aspect of the issue, but as far as treatment goes, I am not a specialist. I know that various methods exist. These methods must be lawful. Force is a bad thing of course and sparks our indignation, but at the same time, it is a question of choice. Ultimately, I think these are decisions that should be taken by the drug addicts themselves, or perhaps by their families, because in some cases there is perhaps no other way of saving a person. The dilemma is straightforward: either death, or perhaps compulsion and cure. Those who criticise such methods should keep this in mind too.

O.DOBRODEEV: Perhaps labour therapy would have an effect? We all remember how in the Soviet times people were dreaming about small patches of lands. Your idea to give land to families with three or more children that you stated in your annual address was welcomed. As we know, Russia has millions of acres of abandoned land. Perhaps it would be good to think of a way to bring people back to the land?  Find a mechanism to provide land plots for those who want them?

D.MEDVEDEV: I think about it all the time. Our country is unique but it so happens that it also has the largest territory. It’s mostly northern-type land but not just that. Generally speaking, Russia, historically, has always been a major agricultural producer. We have 10% of the world’s arable land, and 20% of the fresh water reserves. This is not only huge capital to use in the agrarian business and export, it is also something that we can use to start living a good life. We know how things happened. A huge number of Russians today live in apartments. This was good at its time because it was an improvement on communal apartments. But what we have to do now is disperse evenly around the country. We have to implement the right land policy. 

Children and encouraging childbirth is just one area of focus. I hope our experience here will be used, we are currently working on the relevant regulations. But in general we have to start thinking about ways to simplify procedures for our people to acquire land plots – land not just for farming purposes, but for building a house and living there too.

I think that we have to change our mindset. We can’t stay bunched together. We have to try and provide normal living conditions for people. A lot will depend on how our policy is implemented in Russia’s regions.

This is what happens when you come to a big city. It has several satellite towns around it and that’s all. No one lives outside those towns. At the same time, the living conditions in the city itself are often terrible.

O.DOBRODEEV: Of course, it’s crowded.

D.MEDVEDEV: Crowded and very dirty. The living conditions are terrible and the ecological situation is not very good, to put it mildly. We need to spread out. This is important both in the geopolitical sense and it is important for our future.

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr. President, your words that our political system is showing signs of stagnation has left a great impression on great many people, including me. The fact is that if people ask for land, they simply demand justice, and these demands cannot always be satisfied through official political channels. Especially since you said once that the system is “coasting”. You know, I can just see the faces of some of our politicians, with their Courchevel suntan replaced by a Dubai suntan and then a Sardinian suntan, and so on. This is a very powerful image. So, such things in an official political system is one thing, but at the same time street politics is being promoted, having most disastrous consequences, as we have recently seen. You said that we must not allow such a mess happening on the streets; and, on the whole, it worked. Could you tell me if a police response is enough in a situation like this?

D.MEDVEDEV:The answer is obvious — of course, it’s not enough. Police should act quickly, effectively, sometimes toughly — and within the law. I would say that our police have demonstrated these qualities in a number of instances recently, despite a good deal of criticism the Interior Ministry’s work attracts lately.

But it’s obvious that police measures alone can’t solve the problem. We need a systemic solution. Politics shouldn’t be taken to the streets. Politics should use proper channels. We may have street politics but it should stay within the limits set forth by law. It is okay to have rallies, demonstrations and picket lines but they should be properly sanctioned.

There is such a thing as direct democracy, and that’s alright too. I have said more than once that we are progressing towards direct democracy. In some cases, we will re-introduce procedures that may even have been forgotten.

But there should also be another aspect to politics. Parties should feel responsible for the authority they have received. Our main political force, United Russia, should not just rule; it should be smart, tactful and strong. It should promote the right people. As for corrupt officials and those who do not want to work, they should be demoted or even punished.

Other parties should be invited to discuss all the issues. The fact that they are in the opposition doesn’t mean that they should be isolated from public affairs. They should speak openly about existing problems. This should also be done on television. I know that you have made efforts to have the opposition parties appear more frequently on the air and encourage them to speak the truth.

O.DOBRODEEV: This is unimaginable at the moment.

D.MEDVEDEV: They asked for it and they got it. What’s important now is that they don’t only come to federal channels but to regional channels too because in the regions there are a lot more opportunities to conceal some things and so on.

I think the law worked. Yet, we can’t revel in our achievements too much. We managed to achieve something at a certain point. We’ve stabilized the situation in Russia, we reined in some very difficult social processes that were destructive and threatened to tear our country apart. That was very important. But we can’t develop on stability alone. Something has to drive us. A driving factor is the desire to do something. It’s the desire to improve yourself. If anyone thinks they are doing great in every way, they can stay in Courchevel.

K.ERNST: Mr. President, people have said that the police were not tough enough when they dispersed the Manege Square riot. Are you getting reports on the investigation into the murder that triggered the riot?

D.MEDVEDEV: The police acted in many different ways. Perhaps they should have been more decisive in their reaction to the very first attempts to violate order. That was obvious and that is what the police started doing later on.

This means that the police cannot forget about the skills that all law enforcement officers should have, regardless of what it is called. The police have to treat suspects with tact. They have to be polite with people. They have to help people. But those who start violence – hitting people or damaging buildings – can’t be spared. They have to be punished to the full extent of their crimes. They have to understand that demonstrations of this sort will be stopped, the participants detained and, if they are found guilty, tried and put in jail. That is what we should do, there is no other way.

I receive all the reports of course, including reports on the progress of criminal cases that have been opened. They were opened on various charges, not just hooliganism. All of these investigations we will see through to the end. They concern the murder of the football fan and other murders.

There is one thing I have to say here. The authority – any authority be it federal, regional or municipal – has to have a fair and balanced approach to the situation. You cannot take sides. It’s wrong. We have to ensure everyone stays within the framework of law and order. If we fail to do that, we might overstrain the country, one part of it or the other part. This is what we have to remember.

K.ERNST: But many people claim that it wasn’t so much the murder that triggered the riot, horrible as it may have been, but the fact that the suspects were immediately released. That is a violation of the principle of justice.

D.MEDVEDEV: I can’t object. I have issued a direct order to the investigation committee so I can’t object. I have ordered the investigation committee to open a criminal case on why the suspects were released while there was substantial evidence indicating they were the ones who committed the murder. If we discover violations, the investigators responsible will be punished. This is obvious. You can’t let a suspect go free if you have evidence that the suspect has engaged in violence, committed a murder or inflicted bodily harm. What does this tell us? Why did it happen?  I spoke about this at a recent meeting. What made it happen? Was it simple corruption? Did the police get scared of mobsters in fancy cars? Why was this done? We will have to look into it.

O.DOBRODEEV: Returning to the subject of police. I believe people will remember 2010 as the year you started reforming that institution. Probably one of the most serious and conservative institutions of the Soviet Union and Russia. This makes me wonder. Will these reforms be limited to changing the name of the law enforcement agency from “militia” to “police” as some fear they might be? Many people don’t like the word “police” anyway. What’s your stance on that?

D.MEDVEDEV: I have explained this many times and will gladly do so again. Obviously, it’s not about the name. The point of the reform is to give us an efficient law enforcement structure. There are a lot of questions that people would like to ask the police and the Interior Ministry. That’s not because the people who work there are all bad. There are all sorts of people working there. Most of them risk life and limb protecting us and they do it on a daily basis. Of course there are rascals there, as in any other structure. But the point is that our police, the way they look, the way they work and the regulations on their work – all of this came from the Soviet era. We had a different society back then. There were not as many problems in the street, and not as many opportunities, the police force should correspond to the level of development of our economy and society. The legislation on the police has to be up to date. The police, I think, still have to lose some birthmarks that make it look bad. That’s why I supported the idea to make amendments not only to laws on the police (which is the most important thing). The way the police is financed will change too. Starting from 2012, all police lieutenants will receive a substantially higher salary than they do now, not to mention the higher ranks. As we are changing the backbone to provide police officers with modern equipment and normal working conditions, we have to change the image as well. As I see it, the name is part of that image. A “militia” as we understand it since the early post-revolutionary times, is a voluntary citizen’s defense force. The professional structure is called the police, in every country of the world. This should not be ideological, it is just a statement of fact. But this is not the main thing. Lawmakers are free to do what they consider the right thing. We are evaluating the law right now and it should come in effect early next year, the second quarter.

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr. Medvedev, when you said we might return to forgotten forms of direct democracy, were you referring to the public discussion of the law on police?

D.MEDVEDEV: Not just that. It was, however, a good example. Whatever people might say, the public discussion yielded a huge number of amendments. A part of them was rejected of course, just because they affected the essence of the law. But a significant number of very important amendments were integrated into the bill.

V.KULISTIKOV: So that actually helped the work of lawmakers?

D.MEDVEDEV: It really helped. We ended up introducing institutions that we had no plans to introduce, including some interesting techniques used by foreign police services like giving suspects the right to make a phone call if they are arrested and so forth. Some people wrote to me: “Let’s do this.” I included it in my draft. To be honest, people had different positions on that. Not everyone wanted it to be that way but I think our society is mature enough for us to give detainees the right to make phone calls. This should not obstruct investigations of course but it is another way to ensure the rights and freedoms of the detainee are observed.

V.KULISTIKOV: What if he calls his friends in the mob?

D.MEDVEDEV: That’s what people said to me. They told me: the criminals will call their friends in the mafia. But listen. There is a legal term for that and if there is any reason to believe that we are dealing with organized crime and the suspect may use his phone call to contact his associates, then of course we have to stop him. If the suspect is calling home, then that’s a different matter. I am a lawyer by education. I have been places. I was an intern in the prosecutor’s office and I have visited police offices on various occasions and I have to tell you – our colleagues in the police have to learn to work in a different way. They can’t create sterile conditions for themselves: it’s the easiest way out to shut a person in jail and then force a testimony out of them. But we all know how that ends. The case falls apart in court. As a result, we feel like criminals have been set free. You have to have the right approach to collecting evidence.

But let’s get back to democracy. Democracy isn’t just discussing draft laws. Right now, by the way, we are considering a law on education. You see, modern democracy is not just representation, when people elect a deputy to represent them in the parliament or a regional lawmaking structure. Modern democracy is people openly expressing their opinions. People who use digital media and the Internet know that the web often gives birth to public opinion. Now this opinion can be wrong but nevertheless it is formulated there. In some cases people are able to directly state their position. I believe that today all politicians from the president to the village head are obliged to follow public opinion and gather information via direct contact with people or digital media. That’s why I believe that when we reach a high level of record of intention, as lawyers say, then what can stop us from organizing online referendums? I won’t even mention regular elections.

V.KULISTIKOV: You know those referendums, public politics and open discussions. Are they always good? Say we were talking about a construction project. We start discussing the project with the public. Russia, I think, has more “sacred places” than any other country in the world. A polluted forest may turn out to be a favourite picnicking spot. Therefore we can’t touch it.Or say there is a meadow that Pushkin once visited. The footprints are still there. We can’t touch that either. So where do we build? If we discuss every construction project openly isn’t there a risk that Medvedev’s modernization will only exist in the sphere of discussions like Gorbachev’s Perestroika?

D.MEDVEDEV: You don’t like the public, do you?

V.KULISTIKOV: Oh I love them. They’re cannon fodder for our talk shows. How can I not love them?

D.MEDVEDEV: All right. I’ll leave that part of your question without comment. Now for the essence of your question. You know of course that public processes cannot be destructive. They have to remain within the framework of law, that much is true. But on the other hand, you know our officials. They don’t care what the public says! They can’t hear it and they don’t want to. Your example with the construction site. You must be referring to the Khimki forest.


D.MEDVEDEV: Or something similar. That’s exactly an example of when everyone – from the government to local authorities – could have paid a bit more attention to social trends and realized what would happen right from the start. There is nothing fatal there. And in my opinion the decision which was finally made is quite balanced.

We considered the opinion of society, and at the same time we did not ruin the project; and the Khimki forest, which can be viewed as an integral whole – though experts say that it does not exist – will grow bigger in the end. We decided to plant five new trees to replace every one cut down. So in the end, everything was fine, I think. But we had to use our authority for that. I had to put a freeze on construction. And it was an extravagant decision.

It will be rather good if our officials learn how to make arrangements. But it does not mean that society in a broad sense of the word should behave irresponsibly. The thing is that we realize that there are different people among the activists. Some are being paid, let’s call it, interference with certain economic projects.

I will not withhold from you that law enforcement agencies informed me that certain activists had asked for a suitcase of money to give up their stance. And I said to agree and then to catch them red-handed. We should put an end to such activity, because it’s a crime. But upon the whole I think that the government and the society and the government and NGOs have to learn to work together. That’s how it happens in the world. Nobody likes when somebody puts a stick in their wheels, but everyone wants to work without considering public opinion. But due to established traditions and legislation, they have learnt how to work together. And we are to learn too.

K.ERNST: Mr. President, there is a classical Latin phrase that the voice of the people is the voice of God. But at the same time the government has to make necessary economic decisions including, for example, to increase the retirement age. No matter in France or in Russia, it’s clear that a referendum on this issue would fail. People cannot realize how necessary and indispensable certain decisions are. So such a decision is inconvenient to everyone and is a concern of every citizen.

D.MEDVEDEV: Only issues to be decided by a referendum can be discussed at a referendum. You don’t organize one for every issue. Moreover, you are right to say that there are unpopular decisions which are to be made too, and public opinion is against them. In such a case, we are to explain to people why we have to make such a decision, why we need to, for example, save the money. But anyway I think that huge involvement of civil society into discussion of acute issues will do good to our country. We have deeply rooted totalitarian traditions, and it will take time while we are making the utmost to get rid of them. So far, it’s too early to be worried that the society is far too active, in my opinion.

Back to what you said, about bending people’s ears about modernization, like it happened with Perestroika. I’ve read comments on that. You know, you can distort any idea regardless of the name. The main thing is that people have to want it. Why do you think there was dissonance in the 80s? We do remember it. It happened because the authorities were telling one thing, but in reality quite a different thing was happening. If there is such a gap between the authorities’ position, the president’s position, the position of the government, the decision making party and real processes, modernization will fail. And it will be really bad. The next modernization which will be made by the people will cost us much more. It will start from a lower level; degradation will have become very serious by then.

K.ERNST: Mr. President, the fiercest debate of last year was about the situation with the Okhta-Center construction. Of course the biggest dispute took place in Saint-Petersburg, and we took an active part in it.

V.KULISTIKOV: You do not like Gazprom.

O.DOBRODEEV: Whose side did you take?

K.ERNST: The side of those against it. The situation was resolved in a favourable way, I think.

D.MEDVEDEV: It’s a TV democracy.

K.ERNST: I would like to ask you, what was your role in making this decision?

D.MEDVEDEV: I guess, it’s the kind of question that requires a direct answer. But, you know, I do not consider myself an expert in architecture. Some of my predecessors used artists and poets. I would not like to follow their example and use epithets so well-known to you. But when we are talking about a city like St.-Petersburg, and apart from being my native city, it’s the second capital of our country and a very beautiful and special place, all decisions should be very precise. In a situation when the majority of people especially when they are recognized professionals, say that the building won’t fit, unwillingly you start thinking whether it will or will not. I repeat, I am not an expert, and I did not make any decisions. It was the decision by the city’s authorities: first to initiate the construction together with Gazprom, and then to move this piece of architecture to another place. It’s all in their power. But I had to speak up about that problem to attract more attention to it, so that the process will be performed in a more civilized way; to make the people’s voice heard. The President has a strong enough voice for that.

K.ERNST: We’ve noticed it. Mr. President, during the past year the most acute discussion was about the topic you’ve announced – fight against corruption and bribery. As a lawyer you may know the term “legislamy” [sic]. I would like to explain to my colleagues what it means.

D.MEDVEDEV: Please, do. Many at the screens shuddered just at the sound of it.

K.ERNST: Legislamy is a statement that adoption of new laws cannot change the reality, the current existential situation.

Does it look like legislamy?What should we do to fight corruption existing in the minds of Russians for centuries?

D.MEDVEDEV: It’s a topical issue. You may remember that some time ago I started talking about it, saying that Russia is ill with its disregard of legislation. It has been forming for quite a time, not at present, and not during the Soviet times, but many centuries ago. Our society was formed in such a way that it had no belief in legislation or courts. On the contrary, they believed only in the kind tsar and in physical strength. It’s not right. We are to do the utmost to increase the legislation’s authority, to make people observe laws because it’s indecent to violate them and not out of fear. The system of public relations is built on this idea in all civilized societies. In this case the illness will step away. Do I have a strong medicine against it? I will tell you the truth – I do not. The therapy is to be prolonged, because you can’t fix this problem with surgical methods.

We are to work hard and explain to people why it’s right to observe the law, why it’s easier than to violate it, and what’s most important, that it’s necessary that civil servants set a good example to people. Of course people see that corruption has gone through society and the state like a needle, so whatever is said, it’s regarded as idle talk, while bribes are still taken.

That means that it’s not only an injection to become law-abiding, but an example of the use of force. But what force? The force of the state. Last year we had many cases of corruption. This year, about a thousand people – according to September data – if I am not mistaken were imprisoned for taking bribes, 1,700 – for offering bribes. It’s often harder to catch the bribe taker. About 2,000 of them are employees of law-enforcement agencies: the police, the prosecutor’s office. There are 18 people from the judicial system, though it’s very closed, and judges enjoy very strong immunity. Nonetheless these processes are against judges as well.

It’s very important because there are about 3,000 criminal cases with a high possibility of imprisonment – it’s a sign. Our people often act in a self sacrificing way thinking that others are caught and not them; when they are caught, they decide that it’s okay to stay in prison for a couple of years to provide a good living for their family. Anyway, good examples will work sooner or later. And the punishment should be very strict.

We have changed a number of legislative acts, and I supported the idea to introduce a multiple size penalty for bribes. In some cases it may be a hundredfold. A bribe can be relatively small for Russia, say 30,000 Roubles which equals around 1,000 dollars, but the penalty of 300,000 Roubles or three million is a lot of money. But the bribe’s size in this country varies.

K.ERNST: In your opinion greed is stronger than fear in this country, isn’t it?

D.MEDVEDEV: Anyway we are to consider this factor. People care about their financial standing, it’s absolutely clear. It’s one thing when you are caught, spend a few months in prison and then they let you go. But it’s a different situation, when there is a sanction of this kind, when your property can be seized, or they will make you pay a penalty for the rest of your life.

O.DOBRODEEV: Talking about corruption. Among the most tragic events this year was the massacre of civilians in the village of Kushchevskaya; the investigation into which highlighted the deep corruption between the police, the authorities and criminals. There were similar occurrences elsewhere. How can this be tackled, Mr. Medvedev?

It’s an important subject and I’m glad you brought it up. We all remember the 1990s. I wasn’t working in the government or the administration at that time. I lived in St. Petersburg and many of us got the impression that very different people work in authority structures. Some of them were criminals. They infiltrated the State Duma and other institutions… I think that in the past few years we’ve managed to largely cleanse the federal authority. There is crime, yes, and there is corruption. But I believe we’ve cut off the people who were obviously criminals. The situation is different at the level of regional and municipal authorities. There are people there who still live by their own code. That’s why we need purges. Not the same purges as took place in the 1930s, but we need to cut those people off from power. Some of them are members of the ruling party. That does not mean the ruling party, or any other party, should turn a blind eye to it. On the contrary, we need to bring them out into the light – expel them from the party to strengthen the party’s authority. So, back to this issue, it’s the problem of authorities’ responsibility – both regional and local.

When I started dealing with the situation in Kushchevskaya, I was struck by the fact that it was sort of dumb. Nobody knows anything, or on the contrary, we speak about it, and the law enforcement bodies do not react. Criminal cases were initiated and then dismissed. Probably depending on who comes to which room. Newspapers wrote about it, but nothing happened. In the end, governors asked me to make a decree so that neither governors, nor law-enforcement agencies could play back and say, ‘We do not hear. We do not know.’ Or it may be so that they informed the police and prosecutors, but they did not do anything.

So no they gather every month and listen to each other with a record. If you know about a situation like in Kushchevskaya, or have suspicions that there is a gang working there, write it down and let us solve the issue. And if some one did not react, we will be able to sack this person. And those who had a mercenary interest to turn a blind eye to it are to be put in prison.

But the investigation is not over yet there. I am sure that apart from settling issues with criminals, we are to deal with the law enforcement agencies who worked there. It’s clear that it was not just their blindness, but corruption. And it is systematic. We will deal with it.

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr. Medvedev, as far as I remember you have dwelt in detail about housing and utilities infrastructure. That’s why I am not going to ask you about it. I have another question. It’s about the Khodorkovsky’s case.

D.MEDVEDEV: You’ve put it in an unusual way.

V.KULISTIKOV:About Khodorkovsky. I see him as the ‘Portrait of Dorian Gray’ for our business community. Every businessman does what Khodorkovsky is accused of but Khodorkovsky alone takes the blame. He and his associate Lebedev. Do you think our judicial system may have been too hard on these people? What do you think about that as a lawyer, and as a person?

D.MEDVEDEV: Let me tell you what I think as the president. No government official, and this includes the president, has the right to state their position on this – or any other case – until the verdict – be it an acquittal or a guilty verdict – has been voiced. This is perfectly obvious. As for my position as a lawyer—not on this case, I emphasize, but in general—you know, lawyers and law enforcement officers operate with what is possible. If there is evidence showing that other people have committed similar crimes, where is this evidence? Where are the investigations? If there are similar crimes, the people who committed them should be held responsible because the person who committed a similar crime was punished. I’m talking about the current trial. So if this evidence exists, you should bring it to me, or to the prosecutor general, which perhaps would be more appropriate—for obvious reasons. And you should say, “This evidence proves that some major businessmen have committed some crimes. Let’s investigate it.” And if there is no response to that, then you are right, what we have here is discriminatory justice. But at this point I don’t have this evidence on my table, even though I’m not a prosecutor, I’m a guarantor of constitutional rights. But I can order the prosecutor to look at the case. If I see the evidence, I will tell the prosecutor to look into it. It’s a matter of having concrete evidence. Everything else is just speculation. It’s obvious that in any country, in any society, not all the criminals are in prison and not all of them are brought to justice. It’s all a matter of evidence. Bring me the evidence, and we’ll work with that.

K.ERNST: Mr. Medvedev, in Moscow and in general in all Russia’s big cities many people have died this year after being shot by air-guns classed as non-lethal weapons . When you see reports on TV or on the Internet, have you ever thought of abolishing them altogether?

D.MEDVEDEV: Of course I have been thinking about it. Moreover the processes in the State Duma regarding this were initiated by me. Almost a year ago I took care of this issue and ordered the Minister of the Interior to prepare a draft law. At the moment the document is being viewed by the State Duma. It’s aimed atlimiting the use of non-lethal weapons. They will be to a bigger extent equated to fire-arms, because it’s clear that you can still kill someone with a non-lethal weapon at close contact. That’s why selling them should not differ much from that of other lethal weapons.

There is the possibility to prohibit them. But we are to think carefully about it, because if we consider the current criminal situation, despite the well-known facts, there are more crimes involving the use of fire-arms, knives, and other field equipment. But those crimes are in the spotlight. People with such a weapon armed with non-lethal ammunition think they are cowboys. Thus self-defense arms turn into a weapon of assault and threat. It’s a matter of education and the rule of law. Those decisions will soon be made, but if they are not enough, we’ll prohibit their use.

K.ERNST: In my opinion, the danger is that on the one hand, a person feels like a cowboy, on the other – feels that he cannot kill anyone, and that’s why it’s not a lethal weapon to him.

D. MEDVEDEV: The threshold of danger is narrow, that’s right. That’s why the proposed law says a lot about undergoing a training course before obtaining a permit for such a weapon. It’s a weapon and not a pretty thing in your pocket to show off to your friends. There are foreign versions too. Really, I can’t say if we need it in this country or not. So we’ll deal with it.

O. DOBRODEEV: Right, as you personally control all the serious crimes which get a lot of public response and media coverage …

D. MEDVEDEV: It is my duty to do so.

O. DOBRODEEV: Don’t you often get a feeling of there being a power struggle among the law enforcement agencies? For instance, there are conflicts between the Investigation Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office, and then between the Prosecutor General’s Office and police – and it often gives an observer a bad impression.

D. MEDVEDEV: I’ll put it this way – there are conflicts and conflicts.Why do you think everywhere in the world, especially in large countries, it is usual to have more than just one law enforcement agency? Why should there be a number of law enforcement agencies employed to carry out relevant law enforcement functions? The answer is: in order to have them do their job properly, i.e. keep an eye on each other. This is competition, and it’s part of human nature. But it should happen within a legal framework. That’s why the Prosecutor General’s Office should be watching over the investigation agencies, and I mean all of them: the former Prosecutor-General’s investigation subdivision which is now by my order being transformed into a separate agency, and police investigation, as well as Federal Security Service investigation, and investigative bodies of other agencies.

On the other hand, of course, if it all comes down to some crude score-settling, blackmailing and unjustified PR acts, like when officials try to get on camera with public accusations of the kind “we caught them, and these bastards let them go”– this is totally wrong, and the wrongdoers must be punished.

Everyone must act and behave properly. But since there is a wide discussion now not only around the relations within the law enforcement branch of power, but also around the mass media, I’d like you to talk to each other as well.

I’d like to ask you a question. It has also received quite a large public and media response, as I follow it up on the Internet and keep track of how the media discuss the situation. Recently, there have been some charges laid at the door of some digital media, in particular, some TV channels, of censoring information, of keeping the truth away from the audience, of having some certain rules on what to show and what not to show. That results in the fact that although we have great television shows and they are very engaging, the newscast is just miserable, as TV doesn’t show what it should, and that means there’s no freedom of speech. Do you have anything to say on the subject?

V. KULISTIKOV: I certainly do.

D. MEDVEDEV: You’re welcome to share.

V. KULISTIKOV: I think that on the whole the question of freedom is a very intimate question. If you ask a person whether he or she is free it’s the same as asking them whether they are happy, you know, whether they are happy in love. I believe that freedom is one’s state of mind.

D. MEDVEDEV: That’s right.

V. KULISTIKOV: And so this question can be answered by any journalist individually. I, as a journalist, can tell you that I’ve always had my freedom when I worked for the media, both on television and on Radio Liberty although, you know, the Americans are quite strict and you can’t just do whatever you like.

D. MEDVEDEV: Can you do whatever you like at Gazprom?

V. KULISTIKOV: You certainly can, it’s a totally different environment at Gazprom.

As for your question, you know, there is such a thing as editorial policy, and editorial policy can be discussed. But it’s not a question of freedom, as being creative, making TV, taking risks, going to dangerous places are things that only truly free people can do.So my opinion is that although there can be different viewpoints on the degree of freedom, freedom is definitely there as without freedom such television as we have would have been impossible.

D. MEDVEDEV: I see. And what do you think?

K. ERNST: Mr. Medvedev, I think that freedom on television is limited. It is limited by the law. It is limited by moral values, by cooperation with the authorities, and by cooperation with the social structures. It is limited by people’s individual frames of thinking and views – and by people I mean not only people who like us are heads of channels, I mean all the huge numbers of people who work on channels and make television happen. I can understand the nature of such charges, but nevertheless a television free of any limits imposed by a dictatorship is free of any censorship, and in this sense I think that current Russian TV is free to the same extent as television in major democratic countries.

D. MEDVEDEV: I see. And what is your view?

O. DOBRODEEV: I think that the level of freedom always corresponds to the historical time a nation is living in. I think that these days we’re having about the highest level of freedom our television has ever had. And I know enough facts to be able to draw such conclusions. I worked on Soviet television, and in the nineties I worked for NTV channel, whose head today is Mr. Kulistikov. I am currently the head of the key state-owned media holding company [VGTRK]. You know, just to give you an example, I remember very well the nineties, it was the time when, for instance, Mr. Zyuganov – and he can confirm my words – could not get on TV for years.

Another example.I am not talking now about political figures who are not widely known, but even such an outstanding public figure as Mr. Solzhenitsyn – and Mrs. Solzhenitsyn can confirm – he was strictly banned from television even in the most liberal times back then. And this is Solzhenitsyn. By the way, I do not wish to denounce the nineties which is the tendency now. And I don’t want to do this because the government at that time was very much in a way sitting on a volcano with a risk of being blown up in the air at any moment. Yet, we must admit the truth. And if we are to talk about freedom, I think there are two major things here. First of all, it is about the freedom for reporters who retrieve and provide the information from hot spots, from Tskhinval to Baghdad, not only for the Russian audience but for the whole world. And that constitutes the freedom of the viewers. There is yet another important thing. Ten years ago, when Euronews came to Russia, and Russia-24 channel was launched, those were direct broadcast channels. Following your decisions, in two to three years Russia will have 20 TV channels. That’s a completely new level of freedom. That’s why I’m saying that freedom corresponds to the time we’re living in.

If talking about our time, I think that, honestly (we all read media reports and know the feedback and criticism TV is often given), many critical responses, if not all of them, are quite presumptuous, because we must remember that it’s the very hard work of many people, and I feel hurt for those who go to the hot spots, into the field, and get the crucial information for all of us.

D. MEDVEDEV: Since I sparked off such a discussion, I think it’s quite useful. Let me say a few words, too.

You are totally right, every one of you, and yet it remains your personal viewpoint. Each person has his or her own perception of freedom, and that’s totally right. Recently I gave a speech in St. Petersburg and I said that we can consider ourselves a developed democracy only if every single person can say to themselves that they are free. If we have people who think they are not free, we can’t boast of our political achievements. Freedom is really what we feel.At the same time, there are laws in each sphere of life, and there are state laws. And in this sense you all are totally right. Those laws exist everywhere, not only in Russia. Still, what should not happen, in my view, is a gap between the things that happen in real life and the newscast.

Of course, assessments may differ. Some say WikiLeaks is the number one event, while to others icicles in town are the major problem. Yet others say the New START Treaty is the most important thing. Channels should decide for themselves what is more or less important. Sometimes I hear people complain that channels don’t report the news right away. But this is a matter of editorial policy, of what you think is right. Still, the list of the news on TV, say, for one day, should not be strikingly different from what we read on the internet or in other media. And that’s what I think the case is today.
If you don’t mind I suggest we return to the established order and you keep asking me questions, rather than the other way round, although I have more things to ask.

Then, in order to have no gaps, as you suggested, I’d like to ask a question about Defense Minister Mr. Serdyukov.

D. MEDVEDEV: Brace yourself, Mr. Serdyukov.
O. DOBRODEEV: Here is the question. On the one hand, a lot has been done to upgrade the army’s technical and material condition. One and a half times more than before has been spent on this. Still, there are many things which are not quite clear, which make us wonder whether military academies have stopped taking students. This story received a huge response. Can you comment on this?
D. MEDVEDEV: You know, I can comment on this, and I’ll be absolutely serious about it. I think that the ministry works hard, and as any large ministry it may make some mistakes, but on the whole it implements the policy set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, that is, by me.
And the policy’s objective is to create an efficient army. Our army, as well as the police service, is largely based on the Soviet Union’s principles. And I’m not saying Soviet means bad. It was a different time. It was a different country, with a different territory, and it had different tasks. We need to reform the army.
Army reform entails a change in the number of personnel so as to have fewer officers on a dramatically higher payroll. We are, in essence, getting close to the level of military payroll which is totally competitive with that of developed countries. Starting from 2012, a lieutenant’s monthly salary will be set at 50,000 rubles. And that’s just the beginning. A unit commanding officer’s salary will range from 150,000 to 180,000 rubles. This is remuneration comparable to that in the most developed armies. The same applies to housing. It’s a huge program.
Let’s face the truth. Previously, the issue of housing for military personnel was ignored. Army officers have had a good salary. I recall that when I was graduating from my university some people advised me to join the army, as the salary was high, 250 rubles a month right away. And then, they said, you can make a career, and when you’re a colonel, you’ll make 500 a month. Yes, the pay was nice. But what about the housing? If you’re ordered to serve in a hot spot, you can spend the rest of your life there without a home, without anything. And we finally started to tackle this problem.
Almost 100,000 residential apartments have been granted to retiring military personnel, and that’s merely for the past two years. This program will be completed within the next two years, because a certain number of officers are still undergoing the retirement procedure upon this decision. We shall provide housing for everyone as we have agreed.
Of course, some processes are quite painful. We are performing staff cuts, and therefore some of our capacities get reduced, too. We’ll have a smaller number of subdivisions in order to ensure higher efficiency of the army. That is why the military academies are taking a break in their operation.

A huge number of officers have graduated from our military schools and academies, and there were not enough jobs for all of them. They ended up either unemployed or simply sitting around doing nothing and waiting for their term of service to end. Just recently I met with officers and asked them how things were. Theysaid – youknow, a lot of people have left, but the ones who stayed are the best people. They are the most capable, and they really love the Army and want to serve. Those who ended up in serving by accident, leave.

But they are not just left hanging. They get housing, benefits, opportunities to train for another vocation. That’s why we decided to make a two-year pause in this army officer training. When this period is over, we will start admitting people into military academies again. The admission numbers will be lower though, we need to base them on the size of our army. And the size of the army will depend on our objectives, our territory, and our population.

K. ERNST: Mr. Medvedev, you mentioned Wikileaks. The global media have made Wikileaks the main brand of the year. There is no doubt about that. How do you feel about it?

D.MEDVEDEV: Some of what’s been revealed is interesting, some things were surprising.

K.ERNST: Are you afraid of Wikileaks?

D.MEDVEDEV: Why would I be afraid? The Department of State might be afraid but not me.

Well if I was scared of what people might write about me I would never go on the Internet or watch television. A person who assumes this kind of responsibility has to understand that people don’t praise the authorities too often, and there is probably a good reason for this. The authorities have to work efficiently. No, I’m not afraid of what people might write about me. As for the consequences… the publication might have an effect on other countries’ relations, but not on our relations with the U.S. We all understand the general attitudes of the media and the public. We get that information from television and newspapers. Open sources. So we saw nothing new. This reminds me of a story that happened to a Soviet diplomat. He served as ambassador in a European country and had been granted an audience with the queen. After the audience he sent a cable back home saying: “The queen asked me about dissidents. I had to bring her down a peg.” That’s what happens with diplomats. They show each other how tough they are, putting labels on everybody. Every profession has its own laws. Our diplomats write to each other too. Everyone is entitled to their minute of fame, including ambassadors and diplomats.

K.ERNST: Mr. Medvedev, we have already mentioned the summer wildfires, it really was an absolute cataclysm. Last time we had anything similar to this was forty years ago. What lessons did the authorities in Russia learn from this situation?

D.MEDVEDEV: We learned several lessons. Firstly, no matter what happens, we need to help the people. They are just innocent victims. People suffered from this, many lost their loved ones. I think the authorities did a lot in this situation. We did what authorities in other countries don’t necessarily do.

We provided housing practically for everybody, for thousands of people. And let’s be honest, this new housing is much better than what they used to have. Secondly, we paid out compensation, got the whole community involved in helping [the burned down villages]. Schools and sports facilities are being rebuilt. It is important to react quickly in these circumstances. The second lesson is how to react. And here we ran into problems.

We don’t have a mechanism in place that would allow us to make speedy decisions about payments, apart from direct compensation from the budget. This practice is very different everywhere else in the world. Real estate should be insured. Insurance payments can be very sizable, even huge. And in this case the money comes not from the state budget, but from insurance and reinsurance funds. This is the civilized way of doing things. We need to start thinking about that. I gave all the orders, and am now waiting for the Government to tell me how we will go about it.

We al understand that heat is not something we can prevent. Heat can start fires. Nonetheless, Federal, regional (first and foremost, municipal) authorities have to be responsible about their obligations. And this is the third lesson. If a fire starts even far way, they need to start digging trenches, so to speak. We need to create fire containment areas, primed with minerals; provide people with necessary equipment. In some cases none of this was done. People just sat around staring at the sky and waiting for the fires to get to them. This showed the poor capacity of our municipal government bodies, and to be completely honest – in some cases of regional governments as well. That’s one more lesson.

And finally, the last lesson that we learned is that we need to invest in special equipment for emergency situations. Our emergencies forces are very capable and well equipped, but the country is very big. Look at what happens in other places, just recently in Israel, for example, where 50 people died basically in one day. And the emergencies services could not do anything until we sent our jets there. All because they simply don’t have the right emergencies equipment, even though their police forces are exceptional. We need to invest in the emergencies infrastructure, because Russia is a huge and very complicated country.

K.ERNST: Will changes be made to the Forestry Code?

D.MEDVEDEV: Of course. I have given all necessary orders; a new draft is being prepared.

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr. Medvedev, our agriculture really suffered from the recent draught. Farmers had just recovered, on some genetic level I guess, from collectivization, requisitions, they finally started coming back to normal life, and now this huge disaster. Do you think our farming will survive?

D.MEDVEDEV: I felt very sorry for them myself. While working in the Government, and I was mostly involved in coordinating national projects, I began to understand the needs of our farmers. I myself am a city boy, but while working in the Government I had to deal with agriculture a lot. Thisreally helps, I would recommend it to everybody, to go through this at some point in life. To work in some area of agriculture, in one capacity or another.

So we invested a lot of money, created great conditions for farmers, gave them loans. But because of this weather anomaly a third of our crops was destroyed. We gathered only 60 thousandtons. Now we need to implement the intervention plan. We just made the decision to supply over a million tons under this intervention plan.

We provided financial aid for 25 thousand farming businesses, allocating a total of 35 billion rubles to them. So of course we gave support to our agriculture. But it is still very disappointing, because things had just started going so well. Sometimes when I am in a helicopter and we are flying over some Russian region, the Belgorod region, for example, I feel so proud! All those animal farms sitting next to each other, everything so clean and new, it looks great. We cannot lose this. A third of our people live in the countryside.

V.KULISTIKOV: We are not going to lose this, are we?

D.MEDVEDEV: We won’t. But we shouldn’t forget about it. And it is not just about weather anomalies. We can’t sit back, relax, and think that agriculture will survive on its own. Everywhere in the world the government, the state always monitors the development of its agriculture.

О.DOBRODEEV: Let’s return to what will definitely be remembered – this year a record number of governors left office. The Presidents of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, and the governor of the Rostov region resigned. All these leaders had headed their regions for decades.

We won’t be wrong in saying that the dismissal of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov got the biggest public reaction. Looking back at those events – what contributed the most to his dismissal: the vacation that he took during the summer wildfires, which greatly affected Moscow; or maybe his wife’s extensive business activities? Some time has passed since then. Can you tell us how you assess the situation now, and what played the biggest role in this important decision?

D.MEDVEDEV: His lack of attention to Moscow. Instead of promoting himself and playing political games, the mayor should’ve worked. Any leader in our big country, the head of any region, should pay attention to his region. We all, the people who live here as well as the visitors, know and love Moscow.

This city has a huge number of problems. Corruption is going through the roof, its level is very high even for such a big city with a population of over ten million. The corruptionishuge. Then there’s the traffic. From time to time the city practically stops moving. And not only when the President or the Prime Minister go somewhere by car. The city infrastructure doesn’t allow for normal traffic flow. They just stuck buildings wherever, without careful planning.

Also, business competition. This is unheard of – it’s impossible to get anywhere through fair competition. Who gets all the work contracts and tenders? Who has always won until recently?

O.DOBRODEEV: Affiliated structures.

D.MEDVEDEV: As the mayor of Moscow used to say, those who exhibited outstanding business skills and proved their right to work on these projects, the most talented entrepreneurs. But we know what kinds of decisions were made. It needed to be stopped. And I hope that the new mayor will act differently. He is a man of action, very capable, he doesn’t fancy himself as a star, doesn’t try to promote himself or win any political competition. He has work to do, so let him work hard. These were the reasons [for this decision].

V.KULISTIKOV: Mr. Medvedev, is it difficult for you to search for new governors, new regional heads? Wouldn’t it be easier to switch back to natural selection? Hold a vote and see who beats whom at these regional elections?

D.MEDVEDEV: I agree – that’s always more exciting to watch. But the question is – will it be a natural or an unnatural selection? And not just unnatural, but even monstrous…

O.DOBRODEEV: Something that goes against nature…

D.MEDVEDEV: Against nature, right. We’ve just talked a lot about democracy. But not all democratic methods work well. You told me that public institutions could work against national interests. Unfortunately, so could democratic institutions.

I think that the system of installing governors that we have now is the most appropriate in the current situation in the country. Why? Becauseourcountryisverycomplicated. It is a federation, a national federation. And let’s be honest with each other – at one point we were very close to falling apart.

One of the reasons for that was the selfishness of our regional authorities. I will not name any names right now, you all know what I am talking about. So we can’t let that happen. I have already said that maybe in a hundred years’ time we will go back to direct gubernatorial elections, but I guess a hundred years was an overstatement. At this point and in the foreseeable future we need to maintain unity in governing the state, when everybody is part of the same executive chain of command: the President, the Government, and the governors. Municipal self-government bodies are a separate thing but they, too, should work in close co-operation. This should be the basis.

During my presidency I replaced one third of governors, and I think it is a normal, objective practice. New people need to come. We have a lot of good, talented people. And all governors should understand that they have two, three terms at the most to prove themselves, show what they can do, how they can help people and change their lives.

Secondly, people need to understand that they can’t be in office forever. At some point they need to step down and rest, letting others take their place. They also need to think about how people view them. The fact that we are using this system of installing governors doesn’t mean they should forget about people. They need to talk to the people. As for making decisions about the prolongation of terms, or dismissing governors, if I lose confidence in someone, they will have to be fired. Absolutely, no doubt here. This is not a one-off occasion. It is an institution that has to function.

So if a governor doesn’t talk to people, it affects his rating. And this should be taken into consideration as well. If a governor is not popular with people, if he has a so-called anti-rating, he should not be appointed for another term.

The system works. Not perfectly, but it works. And we have a lot of talented people, the party helps in this situation, because they search for people and suggest candidates.

K.ERNST: I wanted to ask you how you felt about Japan’s reaction to your visit to the Kuril Islands.

D.MEDVEDEV: Well what about me? Nothing changed for me. The Japanese seem tense.

O.DOBRODEEV: They recalled their ambassador.

D.MEDVEDEV: Well I’m sincerely sorry that I was the reason for a break in his political career. That was not what we aimed for. I am not sure what he will do now.

ANSWER: Commit suicide?..

D.MEDVEDEV: I’d like to remind you that all Kuril Islands are Russian territory. The president can go there and the only reason none of my predecessors went there is because they are so far away.

But they are our territory, and we need to care about them and provide decent living conditions for people living there. I personally promised it to them.

After my visit, I sent [Deputy Prime Minister] Igor Shuvalov there. He went there, and he is continuing this work. Other government officials wil be visiting there too.

But this doesn’t mean that we’re not willing to work with our Japanese counterparts. We are ready to implement joint economic projects. We are ready to take into consideration some historic facts concerning the Kuril Islands. We’re ready to work with them but this doesn’t mean that we should no longer regard the Kuril Islands as our land. And our partners should clearly realize that.

V.KULISTIKOV: But why this serious reaction? Maybe the Japanese were deceived by the fact that we now love sushi, sake, and are interested to learn more about geishas… Maybe they thought since we are so interested in Japanese culture, they can…

D.MEDVEDEV: We do like Japanese culture, starting with the cuisine and finishing with poetry. But I think this should make our Japanese friends happy. It makes them more popular and brings certain advantages. In my opinion, they just need to look at the Kuril issue from a different angle.

Nothing brings countries closer together than joint economic projects. We could work on creating a single economic zone, a free trade zone. People will make money there. It will be a special micro-environment. People will go there to work, the Japanese will have the chance to come, visit historic sites and work there. I think this would be the correct approach. And I told my colleague Mr. Naoto Kan, the Prime Minister of Japan, about this, when I invited him to visit Russia.

K.ERNST: Mr. Medvedev, human memory chooses what it wants to remember. People rarely remember what a past event looked, smelled or sounded like. But the year 2010 saw an event even I will long remember. I’m sure it was even more vivid for you. How did you find out about the crash of the Polish Air Force jet near Smolensk, and how did you react?

D.MEDVEDEV: It was a difficult day. I was in St. Petersburg at the time. It was a Saturday and I was planning to have a break. Then my aide told me about what happened. I was shocked. It always comes as a shock, taking in news of this sort. You feel shocked and sorry for the people who were killed. And this time, it was the entire Polish political elite, as well. It happened at that spot too. It seemed eerie and hard to believe. It turned out to be true, nonetheless. Our relations with Poland have come a long way since then. Things were very complicated. I think that our relationship is less complex now. I paid an official visit to Poland. We talked. The investigation still has to be concluded of course. It can’t be politicized or serve as a reason to start blaming each other. We have to listen to all parties involved and accept the conclusions made by international agencies. Then there is the internal investigation of course.

K.ERNST: How do you feel about Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk calling the interstate aviation committee report ‘unacceptable’?

D.MEDVEDEV: I would rather think that his evaluation was emotional and the result of occurrences in Poland’s internal politics. Poland is shattered. Their communal mentality is shattered, which is understandable because it was a real tragedy. But it can’t affect our relations. And it can’t lead to the results of the intergovernmental committee, and the investigation into the incident, being politicised.

I hope that Polish politicians have the common sense and will to accept the conclusions made by the committee without any excessive political comments.

K.ERNST: Why did the government break with a tradition that has been going since Soviet times, and admit that intelligence agents caught were working for Russia?

O.DOBRODEEV: What agents?

K. ERNTST: What agents? You know what agents I am talking about [talking to Dobrodeev]. Were any conclusions drawn from this? [Talking to Medvedev]? The incident made it clear to me that Russia has illegal agents.

D.MEDVEDEV: Anyone working for our special services is, first and foremost, a Russian citizen. They are not cannon fodder or ‘heroes’ that the state is willing to sacrifice. If the Soviet Union or, perhaps, even Russia has not talked about them before, then it was a mistake on the government’s part. Our main goal in that situation was to get our people out. We did that because, as I said, they were Russian citizens. I recently met with intelligence officers and I told them that we will continue doing the same thing in the future if anyone from the intelligence service – with or without official cover – is in trouble. These people defend our interests.

V.KULISTIKOV: And now a question for foreign intelligence services.

D.MEDVEDEV: Careful with the words…

V.KULISTIKOV: I will be very careful. Russia’s political life is dominated by you and Mr. Putin. Do you think we have any other promising politicians? If so, then probably you would like to see one as your ally, or maybe you see a serious rival in somebody else?

D.MEDVEDEV: I have an official announcement to make. There are such politicians in our country. You even know some of those names. I cannot but mention such distinguished people as heads of the factions of our State Duma. Indeed, they are well-known politicians, and there’s no irony in my words. These are people who have worked in Russian politics for more than a decade. There are also renowned politicians outside the State Duma. Some may say they are prominent, others may not. Well, they are famous too; such famous politicians as Mr. Kasyanov, Mr. Nemtsov, Mr. Limonov, Mr. Kasparov. They are well-known politicians. People have different attitudes towards them. They have, so to say, their own electorate. But they are also public figures. But the greatest resource is the resource we don’t talk about. These are talented people from our country. That’s where future presidents, prime ministers and deputies are now. Our country has a lot of talent.

Are they telling us to wrap up?

O.DOBRODEEV: No, no. How about the phone that Steve Jobs gave you? Does it still work?

D.MEDVEDEV: It does, I gave it to my son.

V.KULISTIKOV: Tell us about more about your son. Has he chosen a profession? Where is he celebrating New Year?

D.MEDVEDEV: Well since we are talking about him and he is in the focus of attention of the heads of federal channels… He is 15 years old and so he celebrates the New Year together with us. And I’m very happy because I don’t have that much time that I can devote to him. Those are very happy moments for me. As for his hobbies they are the usual things that children like: sports, books, and I hope studies. I don’t know what he will do with his life, we have some ideas but I don’t want to talk about them. This would be inappropriate because he will hear me saying this on television and do the exact opposite. So let’s let him make the decision himself. Of course New Year is a wonderful holiday, and I plan to spend this day at home like every other Russian family does. Family members think about the close ones who have to work, and toast their health.

K.ERNST: Thank you for this in-depth conversation. We wish you a happy New Year on behalf of our audience. It would be naïve to say we hope the next year will be better. We just wish you a happy new year.

D.MEDVEDEV: Thank you very much. I would like to say that I wish you a happy New Year too, but I promise this: I will do it again. You know when that will happen.