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High-profile cases, National Guard and dispersing rallies (interview to TASS)

February 26, 2020

The fourth part of Vladimir Putin's interview to TASS News Agency has been published.

The 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin project is an interview with the President of Russia on the most topical subjects of social and political life in Russia and the world. Total recording time is 3.5 hours.

Andrei Vandenko: When was the last time you called a judge?

Vladimir Putin: ?

Andrei Vandenko: When was the last time you called a judge?

Vladimir Putin: I never call judges. At all. I meet with judges from time to time, I mean my former university classmates. There are many judges among them.

Andrei Vandenko: What about those who are in office?

Vladimir Putin: There are some who are currently in office. However, I meet with them as my classmates and not in their capacity as judges.

Andrei Vandenko: With whom?

Vladimir Putin: With my class-… Uni mates.

Andrei Vandenko: Does that expression exist?

Vladimir Putin: Well, let's say I've invented it.

Andrei Vandenko: Do you know what case was the most high-profile in 2019?

Vladimir Putin: No.

Andrei Vandenko: The Ivan Golunov case.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I heard about it.

Andrei Vandenko: And it became a high-profile one in part because active members of society were very disgruntled with what was done to that young man, a journalist.

Vladimir Putin: There was nothing good about it, true.

Andrei Vandenko: Most likely, he could have ended up behind bars.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, but that didn't happen.

Andrei Vandenko: It didn't happen because people got involved.

Vladimir Putin: That's good, very good.

Andrei Vandenko: Is that the only way to guarantee justice?

Vladimir Putin: Look, what I want to say is people getting involved…

Andrei Vandenko: Yes…

Vladimir Putin: That makes a difference in today’s Russia. And it's good. Currently, I think…

Andrei Vandenko: Five people have been detained…

Vladimir Putin: The situation evolves in a simple way, law enforcement agencies are looking into the matter.

Andrei Vandenko: It would have been better if the mastermind behind it all had been found.

Vladimir Putin: Some have been fired, some detained. Do you want them to beat confessions out of people or to obtain them in due course in accordance with the law?

The latter seems to be a better option. But it takes time. There shouldn’t be any rush, nor any haste.

Andrei Vandenko: Konstantin Kotov as well. His case is currently being reviewed, and the Constitutional Court has ordered that… Things got going after this issue had been referred to you, to you personally, after the news conference. So, it appears that the President's personal involvement, this hands-on control does matter after all.

Vladimir Putin: It appears that the President, acting as the guarantor of the Constitution, has such a right and must respond to these sorts of issues, which we see happening in real life.

Andrei Vandenko: It turns out, as the actual figures stand… The percentage of acquittals in 2018 was 0.23 percent.

Vladimir Putin: Do you know what the prison population was in the early 2000s?

Andrei Vandenko: No idea.

Vladimir Putin: It actually halved.

Andrei Vandenko: The prison population? You mean those behind bars?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. The number halved. Decreased in an unnoticeable manner, with no fuss. In fact, it's actually a sort of revolutionary development. It has been taking place gradually, as a result of various decisions liberalising the legal responsibility of citizens who committed minor offenses or are first-time offenders, and so on. It halved.

Andrei Vandenko: You know perfectly well, I don't have to tell you that there were some cases that sparked a widespread public outcry…

Vladimir Putin: That happens.

Andrei Vandenko: Everything is judged based on just one fact.

Vladimir Putin: I understand.

Andrei Vandenko: They judge everything.

The Serebrennikov case, for instance. How much longer must it last? And you will say again that this is for the court to decide.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Andrei Vandenko: They have already put their signatures and names on petitions.

Vladimir Putin: Who put their signatures and names on petitions?

Andrei Vandenko: People who have prestige in society, prominent people, they penned a petition for him.

Vladimir Putin: Andrei, listen to me! The opinions of people respected in society are important. I think that the court takes into account the opinions of respected people. But still, it has to make judgments based not on their opinions, but based on the law and legal awareness.

Andrei Vandenko: Certainly. However, there was an incident, which triggered just as much of a public uproar, this concerns the Moscow rallies last summer.

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Andrei Vandenko: When the bottle…

Vladimir Putin: Everyone can…

Andrei Vandenko: Which, in your interpretation, immediately turned into something.

Ok, somebody threw a bottle. You draw a parallel right there with Paris and Hong Kong.

Vladimir Putin: This cannot be allowed!

Today they throw a bottle, tomorrow – a chair, then cars are smashed to pieces. It cannot be allowed, things mustn’t get out of hand, it has to be within the law.

Andrei Vandenko: And the National Guard of Russia, why are the troops so vulnerable, timid?

Vladimir Putin: They are both vulnerable and timid. They are doing their job. And they must do it. Moreover, here they’re dealing with protesters, tomorrow they will face a barrage of bullets, and what’s more they take part in combat operations. And when somebody spreads information over the Internet that their children should be killed, what in the world is that? This is being said about those who, if the Motherland calls, have to put themselves in the line of fire to protect the interests of the state, society and our particular citizens? You know, this can really disrupt the country’s balance. To an extent there will be hell to pay. We can’t risk it.

Andrei Vandenko: But when nightsticks are wielded…

Vladimir Putin: Nobody resorts to swinging a nightstick without a reason.

Andrei Vandenko: Mr President…

Vladimir Putin: Please, listen to me. If people act within the existing rules and laws, who would want to swing a nightstick? On the contrary, they should be protected.

Andrei Vandenko: Watch the video.

Vladimir Putin: I believe you.

Andrei Vandenko: Showing a woman being beaten in her ribs, and then they don’t find the perpetrator – who is he or where is he?

Vladimir Putin: Most likely, you’re talking about the so-called unauthorised protests.

Andrei Vandenko: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Well, there you have it! Get permission, go and express your opinion. After all, you see, the Internet, the mass media, including the opposition media, they will come wherever you are. Just anywhere you are, wherever you go, wherever you gather to express your discontent with the ruling authorities, since millions of people will be informed about it via the Internet and mass media. Right?

Andrei Vandenko: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Why block traffic? In order to incite security forces into swinging their nightsticks. And then you’d ask me about it. That is the point! And nothing more!

To display what kind of heroes they are, and that they will protect the interests of citizens with the same zeal if they get into power and engage in governing. It is not enough to just blame the authorities in order to convince the electorate that those who do the blaming are exactly the people they need. It is necessary to provide a positive programme.

Andrei Vandenko: A pike lives in the lake to keep all fish awake.

Vladimir Putin: Right. That is good, but not enough to effectively develop the country.

February 26, 2020