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Expanded meeting of Defence Ministry Board

December 19, 2023, Moscow

The President arrived at the National Defence Control Centre of the Russian Federation to attend an expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers, Mr Shoigu,

A year ago, we met at the concluding meeting of the Defence Ministry Board and discussed priority tasks linked with the conduct of the special military operation, and we talked about additional measures to strengthen the army and navy.

Today, we will evaluate the achievements of the past 12 months and single out the spheres where we still have to fundamentally improve and step up our work.

The year 2023 was intense and uneasy for the Armed Forces, and I would like to say right away that our officers and soldiers and commanders of all levels bravely and professionally dealt with challenges during the special military operation, ensuring the country’s global sovereignty, as well as Russia’s nuclear missile parity and strategic security. At the same time, units and elements of all military districts and fleets maintained high level of combat readiness. Systemic combat training programmes took place strictly according to plan, and we also addressed mobilisation, technical and personnel issues.

I would like to thank the leadership of the Defence Ministry and the Ministry’s personnel for their service and for conscientiously accomplishing the tasks, set by the Motherland.

I would like to specially thank everyone who has fought or is fighting in frontline areas, fulfilling their difficult duty in the special military operation zone, defending Russian airspace, repelling attacks by the enemy’s aerial and naval drones, thwarting artillery barrages and incursions by subversive groups in our western border areas.

Of course, I would like to note the unprecedented support of our people, including support for the defenders of the Fatherland, the patriotic mood of the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens, the unity and cohesion of people of various nationalities and religious denominations. This is a reliable and indestructible pillar of our army and navy.

We will always remain loyal to the cause for which our comrades-in-arms gave their lives. I invite everyone present to rise and observe a moment of silence in tribute of their memory.

(A moment of silence is announced.)


The past year’s developments have confirmed, and we can all see it, that the West continues to wage hybrid warfare against Russia, actively providing the Kiev regime with real-time intelligence data, sending military advisers, transferring new weapons systems to the country, including high-mobility multiple rocket launchers, long-range missile systems, cluster munitions, and large batches of new UAVs. As we know, Western countries are also planning to send F-16 multirole fighter jets to Ukraine, and pilots are now being trained in the West.

The NATO military bloc has increased its overall activity dramatically of late. Considerable forces and resources from the United States have been redeployed to our borders, including aircraft. The number of NATO troops in Eastern and Central Europe has increased. As we know, Finland has been dragged into NATO already, and Sweden is planning to join. In fact, this means a new stage of the alliance’s advance to our borders.

Let me remind you of what we all know: in 1991, they promised Gorbachev: no, no, not an inch to the east – well, there you go. This is the kind of partners they are. They lie shamelessly, through their teeth. At the same time, the bloc is no longer hiding its aggressive nature behind defensive rhetoric. I was told years ago it was not a military bloc, but a political organisation. And last time I checked, Article 5 was still there. At the same time, as I said, the aggressive nature of the bloc is not being hidden. US policy doctrines explicitly spell out its claims to global supremacy.

The West is not abandoning its strategy to contain Russia and its aggressive goals in Ukraine. Well, we are not going to give up the goals of our special military operation either.

Assessing the current situation on the ground, on the line of contact, we can say with confidence that our troops hold the initiative. In fact, we are doing what we think is necessary, and what we want to do. Where necessary, where you, the commanders generally consider it appropriate to use active defence, tactics, you do that; in other areas, we are improving our positions.

The enemy is suffering heavy losses and has largely squandered their reserves trying to show their real bosses at least some progress in their much-hyped operation they call a counter-offensive. Speaking of which, the myth about the Western military equipment being invulnerable has also collapsed.

All attempts, as they used to say in the West, to inflict a military defeat on us, a strategic defeat, were frustrated by the courage and resilience of our soldiers, faced with the increased power of our Armed Forces and the potential of our domestic industry and defence production capacities.

At the same time, and we have said this many times, the special operation has also revealed some problems. For example, we need to seriously restructure the communications system and use modern reconnaissance, target designation and counter-battery warfare methods more effectively. We need to increase the capabilities of our satellite constellation not only for the special operation zone, but also at the global level.

We have to seriously increase the production and supply of high-precision projectiles and drones of various types. I know that changes are taking place, and they are happening quickly, I will talk about this later, but we still need to work on it, we need to consolidate this effort. The air defence system also needs improving. Of course, our well-known Pantsir, Buk, S-300 and S-400 systems work without fail, they are the best in the world, without exaggeration.

But the things we did not pay attention to before, that we thought were just details, some plywood and so on, maybe, small drones that fly around – no, it turned out that these things also cause damage and should not be missed in any case.

Yes, I said, there has been a reaction, that’s clear, it is known, and the men on the battlefield are noting it. There are some fighters here who will receive decorations today – they probably also see it and can talk about it. But nevertheless, we need to work on it.

I would like to draw your attention to a number of priority and systemic tasks.

First. Given the changing nature of military threats and the emergence of new military and political risks, the role of the nuclear triad, which ensures the balance of power, the strategic balance of power in the world, has significantly increased.

This year, thanks to the consistent implementation of the state armament programme and the efficient operation of the defence industry enterprises, the level of modern weapons and equipment in the strategic nuclear forces as a whole has reached 95 percent, and the naval component – almost 100 percent.

By the end of the year, 15 Yars and Avangard missile system launchers will be put into combat service in the strategic missile forces. We have received four submarines, two just recently; last week I accepted the Krasnoyarsk, a multi-purpose nuclear-powered submarine, and the Emperor Alexander III, equipped with Bulava ballistic missiles.

The aviation component is also being upgraded. In particular, four Tu-160M missile carriers have arrived. We must continue to maintain the combat readiness of strategic forces at the highest level. All plans approved in this area will certainly be implemented.

Second, the indicators achieved in re-equipping the nuclear triad are a benchmark for our work on conventional weapons and equipment. New equipment deliveries to the troops have tripled compared to last year. It is expected that, in general, the state defence order will be completed at about 98 percent by the end of 2023. It is necessary to continue sending cutting edge weapons to the troops.

In 2024, the volume of purchases and repairs of weapons and equipment will be significantly increased considering the additional budgetary allocations. It is also necessary to continue creating the foundation for the Army and Navy’s future, including the development and production of promising types of weapons, such as robotic systems and combat lasers, weapons using artificial intelligence technology and based on new physical parameters.

The third most important task is the timely and full supply of everything necessary for the troops participating in the special military operation.

Over the past year, the Coordination Council under the Government and the working group of the Military-Industrial Commission have been working on the implementation of this task. Regional heads and representatives of the defence industry provide effective assistance. And of course, there are results, the supplies to the troops are improving.

I would like to especially note the staff at the defence industry enterprises and workers in related industries, research institutes and design bureaus. They have made real labour breakthroughs. Many companies operate three shifts. They gave their working, engineering, and scientific response to the challenge of the entire potential of the West, which is working to contain Russia, to support the Kiev regime and the war in Ukraine.

Our defence workers are faster – and this is the essence of today’s conflicts. They respond faster and more accurately to the latest developments and to the needs of those who are fighting on the battlefield. I hope this continues.

This year, the volume of supplies of armoured vehicles has increased threefold, and other vehicles by 4.5 times thanks to the effort of the defence industry. In general, the number of purchased basic weapons has increased by 2.7 times, and those in high demand by seven times.

At the same time, I would like you to note that there are representatives of the Government and the leadership of the Defence Ministry here [in the hall]; what is happening on the battlefield must be carefully analysed every day, and we must carefully look at what else our soldiers on the frontline need. We need to constantly analyse this. I have talked about armoured and other vehicles. Yes, the supply of armoured vehicles has tripled. But more are needed. We need advanced tanks and advanced armoured vehicles.

It is important to continue increasing the supplies of the most popular weapons, as I have said, and also create a production line of unmanned aerial vehicles from heavy attack vehicles to ultra-small ones; to engage high-tech businesses and engineering design companies in the development and production. By the way, I want to thank them for this. Many private enterprises, which previously were in no way connected with the defence industry, have started working in certain areas, and are doing this quickly, efficiently, and with high quality. This is great. Many probably did not expect it. Some states are trying to organise the production of seemingly conventional weapons and are failing, but we are succeeding. Thanks to everyone who is working to resolve these problems.

Like a few days ago, during Direct Line, I would like to mention once again the enormous support provided to our military units by many average people, entrepreneurs, and volunteers, as well as representatives of public organisations, parties and company teams, schoolchildren, students, and the elderly. Of course, everything that goes to the front is important to us, but the general consolidation of all the forces of Russian society is no less important – and perhaps even the most important thing. I once again thank everyone who helps our soldiers at the front, transfers money and sends to the frontline vehicles and drones, radiosets and body armour, as well as New Year’s gifts and letters of support, warm clothes, medicines, and much more. This help, this patriotic spirit, this solidarity cannot be overestimated.

Next, the fourth point is, as I have already said, the wide use of the experience gained during the special operation in tactical and combat training, in the teaching process at military universities and academies. I know that this work is ongoing. Programmes and training plans for personnel have been updated, in particular, training modules for using drones have been included in the programmes of all Defence Ministry educational institutions and centres. The educational and material base of training grounds is being upgraded. Instructors with combat experience are being engaged in teaching classes. They need to be engaged in working with military personnel, and also on the civilian side, but this is a separate topic, we will talk about this with our colleagues.

Based on these developments, we need to continue improving the forms and methods for using our troops, specify provisions for combat documents, regulations and manuals, and take account of this experience in preparing and conducting exercises and training sessions at all levels.

What is there to say to this audience – we understand that nobody in the world has the kind of experience of conducting modern warfare that the Russian army has. But this experience should be used in practical terms to further improve training of our military personnel.


I would like to focus separately on the important issue of prompt material and social support for our participants in the special military operation and their family members. Much has been done in the past year for adjusting the system of monetary allowance for contract service personnel, mobilised personnel, and volunteers and for providing them and their families with additional payments, benefits and other compensation.

At the same time, some problems have not been resolved yet. Some issues remain. In this context, I would like to emphasise again – all participants in the special military operation – servicemen under contract, volunteers, mobilised individuals, fighters of separate units, and the Donbass militia forces whose combat path began as early as 2014 – let me repeat, all defenders of Russia, the families of our fallen heroes, our comrades, should receive equal guarantees. This is a principle of justice and combat brotherhood.

This applies to the procedure for receiving full status as a combat veteran, which entitles these people and their family members to benefits and additional support measures.

The Defence Ministry, in cooperation with other departments and regions, should promptly resolve any arising problems and ensure that payments are made in full and on time.

And, of course, anyone wounded participants in the special military operation should receive proper medical care, including assistive devices, medical treatment in military sanatoriums, as well as in civilian – the Healthcare Ministry always offers its services and is always open to cooperation with the Defence Ministry.

I will note that in general, the system of benefits, compensation and additional payments in the Armed Forces should and will be further improved. This applies to our work on housing and social programmes for military personnel and the space planning for military towns and garrisons. We will definitely continue our efforts in this area.

Let’s move on to the reports. I am giving the floor to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Go ahead, please.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,

I will begin with the preliminary results of the special military operation.

Russian groups of forces have liberated a territory five times larger than that of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics before the special military operation began. Following the results of referendums, the Russian Federation included four new entities with a total area of more than 83,000 square kilometres and a population of about five million people.

A naval area has been created in the Sea of Azov, which has become Russia’s internal sea. Railway traffic with Donbass has been restored. A land corridor with Crimea has been operating for more than a year. Connection by rail and road has been established. Almost three million refugees who have not seen their relatives since 2014 have returned to new regions of the Russian Federation.

Since the beginning of the special military operation, 54 countries have announced military supplies to the Kiev regime. In fact, weapons and military equipment have come from 15 states.

At the moment, Ukraine has received US$203 billion from foreign donors, which is US$30 billion more than its gross domestic product. In fact, the country is bankrupt, since a significant part of these funds are loans that must be repaid.

In total, Kiev has been supplied with 5,220 tanks, armoured infantry fighting vehicles, and armoured personnel carriers, 28 aircraft, 87 helicopters, 23,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, over 1,300 artillery systems, of which 494 were M777, Caesar, Paladin and Krab howitzers, and 2,650,000 shells of 155- and 122-mm calibre.

NATO military personnel directly control air defence systems of operational and tactical missiles and multiple launch rocket systems. We record conversations between Americans, Poles and British via radio intercepts in which they are planning strikes. NATO officers prepare military operations and train personnel of the Ukrainian armed forces both in their countries and at Ukrainian training grounds; 410 military and dual-capable spacecraft from NATO countries are operating for the benefit of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

On June 4, the Ukrainian armed forces launched a large-scale counter-offensive, prepared by their foreign curators. Without breaking through our troops’ tactical defence zone, the enemy was stopped and suffered colossal losses: 159,000 military personnel killed and wounded, 121 aircraft, 23 helicopters, 766 tanks, including 37 Leopards, and 2,348 armoured vehicles of various classes, including 50 Bradleys. Apparently, this is why we still do not see the American Abrams, delivered several months ago, on the battlefield.

Since the beginning of the special operation, the losses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have exceeded 383,000 military personnel killed and wounded, as well as 14,000 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers, 553 aircraft and 259 helicopters, 7,500 guns, field artillery and multiple launch rocket systems.

Ukraine has had nine mobilisation waves, with the tenth wave currently underway where even individuals only partially fit for service are being called up.

Mercenaries that had been recruited since the beginning of the special military operation have, for the most part, been taken out. Over 5,800 fighters have been neutralised, including 1,427 from Poland, 466 from the United States, and 344 from Great Britain. Within Ukraine, 103 military criminals displaying particular cruelty have been eliminated.

As per the decision of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, unprecedented steps have been taken to rearm the army and navy, as well as to provide social support for military personnel.

In order to meet the needs of the Armed Forces, defence industry enterprises have quadrupled their capacities and now operate round-the-clock. Since February 2022, when the special military operation began, the production of tanks has increased 5.6 times, IFVs 3.6 times, APCs 3.5 times, UAVs 16.8 times, and artillery ammunition, which is vitally important, 17.5 times. Currently, the troops in the special operation zone are supplied with sufficient ammunition for the tasks they are assigned to perform.

Coordination centres created by decision of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief have assumed oversight of the execution of state defence order and established a modern and effective system. The repair capacities of military units and subunits are now 1.5 times higher. Over 270 field repair shops of key defence industry enterprises have been created to take care of the most complex jobs in the special military operation zone. As a result, the time needed to repair and return the equipment to service has been cut by more than half.

To enhance the resilience of defence groups, formidable projects to fortify the defence lines have been completed as instructed by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Seven thousand kilometres of minefields, 1.5 million anti-tank Piramida-type barriers, 2,000 kilometres of anti-tank ditches, 12,000 prefabricated reinforced concrete structures, 3,000 platoon strongholds, 45,000 bunkers, and over 150,000 equipment hideouts have been created along the line of contact which is over 2,000 kilometres long. Currently, the depth of mining reaches up to 600 metres, which is twice the adopted standard.

Military builders, engineering, and railway troops have performed a colossal amount of work accounting for 82 percent of the entire effort. By decision of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the state company Avtodor and civilian specialists from the regions have been involved in this work. Many governors personally visited and coordinated the construction of fortifications. These efforts are yielding results.

We adjusted approaches to the use of troops, given modern warfare conditions. Combined arms tactics underwent major changes; assault units and unmanned aircraft units were created and deployed. We revised approaches to the formation of reserves. As a result, each army has its own reserve regiment.

We are using air defence systems in a comprehensive manner during the special military operation. This significantly improved their responsiveness and strike range. Over the last six months, we have shot down 1,062 of NATO’s HIMARS rockets, short-range and cruise missiles, and guided bombs.

We are successfully using precision weapons despite the enemy’s modern air defence and electronic warfare systems. Hundreds of ammunition depots, weapons and equipment drop-off points, workshops, and enterprises producing and repairing military equipment were hit at strategic depths. Thousands of Ukrainian militants, nationalists and foreign mercenaries were killed in centres for reserve unit training in the rear.

During the special operation, we have significantly improved the quality and reliability of the weapons and military equipment used. In the shortest possible time, 107 items were upgraded by industry representatives working in the troops. It takes our leading designers just a few months to develop the latest complexes and weapons for the tasks of our troops.

Weapons that used to be developed and tested under normal conditions for five to eight years are now brought to mass production within four to seven months. This has not happened since the Great Patriotic War.

Modern Russian equipment and vehicles have undergone rigorous testing during the special operation and shown their superiority over NATO analogues. Firing grounds and training centres were created to train soldiers to use FPV drones, individual electronic warfare equipment, and new aviation-based weapons.

More than 1,700 crews of unmanned aerial vehicles and over 1,500 FPV drone operators were trained. New non-standard tactical methods of unit action were added to combat training, having proved their effectiveness on the battlefield. The capacity of district and army firing grounds was tripled. Over 1,500 additional training spots were equipped, and more than 800 training centres operate 24/7. A new system for training military specialists was created in the shortest possible time.

Medical support has achieved good results. As a rule, medical aid is rendered on the battlefield in the first minutes after the wound. Field hospitals are deployed in the direct vicinity of the frontline. They are staffed with experienced surgeons from central medical institutions. The survival rate of the wounded has been increased many times over. Owing to prompt treatment on the battlefield, timely evacuation, and high-precision medical assistance, over 98 percent of the wounded are discharged from hospitals after recovery. All wounded servicemen undergo personal medical certification by military medical commissions in military hospitals where they receive treatment. At present, there are 440 such commissions. The mortality rate in hospitals is less than 0.5 percent and continues to go down. This is the lowest figure in the history of military medicine. All this makes it possible to return military personnel with combat experience to their units.

Hospitals and health resorts offer an effective system of rehabilitation. Today, there are nine rehabilitation centres in which wounded servicemen receive new military and civilian professions after prosthetics. Of these, 75 percent receive jobs at military conscription centres, higher educational institutions, and other organisations of the Defence Ministry.

Russian military personnel and volunteers are showing a lot of courage, fortitude and dedication in the special military operation. Tankmen, motorised riflemen, paratroopers, marines, pilots, artillerymen are fighting bravely. About 320,000 service personnel have received state decorations and 272 were honoured with the title Hero of the Russian Federation.

Military-political bodies are making a tangible contribution to ensuring readiness for fulfilling combat missions. Officers and political officers work in combat units. They explain to the military the goals and tasks of the special military operation and encourage them to believe in victory. Their work and patriotism ensure a high combat spirit among our fighters.

The special military operation has united the army and the people. Every day, over 1,500 people submit applications for military service. This year alone, about 490,000 contract servicemen and volunteers were enlisted. Over 4,000 Russian students have taken an academic leave on their own free will and are now fulfilling combat missions. The number of foreign volunteers wishing to fight on the side of the truth has increased by seven times. The Ukrainian army is seeing the reverse – the number of foreign mercenaries has decreased six-fold.

I would like to separately thank the volunteers who have established additional 348 facilities for manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles, camouflage nets and tactical gear. Students alone have manufactured over 50,000 square metres of camouflage nets – enough to cover four battalion-level defensive positions. University students have donated over 17 tonnes of blood, and they continue to do so. This blood has saved the lives of many soldiers. One can say that the entire country is supporting the Armed Forces and has rallied around the country’s leadership.

When summing up the results of the year, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief noted that the state was completely meeting troop demands. In addition to providing all the required materiel for army groups, reserves have been created including 500,000 kits of military uniform and accessories, equipment, body armour, 300,000 first aid kits, as well as 160 medical evacuation vehicles.

Every day, army groups receive up to 15,000 tonnes of ammunition and fuel, as well as 2,000 tonnes of food and 1,500 tonnes of drinking water, to replenish their supplies. Contract soldiers, volunteers and conscripts receive well-balanced pay grades totalling at least 210,000 rubles monthly, depending on specific positions and combat objectives. Service personnel get paid for destroying or capturing enemy weapons and military equipment.

Service personnel receive all payments due on time. This issue is being specifically monitored, and in case of any problems, measures are taken immediately.

Those serving in the special military operation zone receive housing ahead of others. The government has allocated 40 billion rubles for these purposes. The Defence Ministry is setting up its Military Social Centre based on the one-stop-shop principle. The centre will provide social guarantees for active and retired service personnel more effectively.

The procedure for issuing war veterans’ certificates has been simplified. Applicants no longer have to personally request these documents, and 458,000 certificates have been issued to date. All veterans will receive them in the near future.

Following the implementation of specific measures, all service personnel supporting the Armed Forces in the special military operation zone, including those serving in private military companies, receive war veterans’ certificates on time. As per the Defence Ministry’s decision, 50,000 certificates have been issued in the past 30 days. There are plans to issue electronic war veterans’ certificates starting from early 2024.

On the whole, the experience of the special operation has demonstrated that the Russian Armed Forces are capable of effectively and promptly responding to the actions of any enemy. A total of 650,000 servicemen have gained combat experience.

Today, the Russian army is the most well-trained and combat-ready in the world, equipped with advanced weapons tested in actual combat conditions.

Our nuclear triad is maintained at a level that ensures strategic deterrence. The strategic nuclear forces have achieved an unprecedented 95 percent level of state-of-the art armaments, guaranteeing high combat readiness.

The Strategic Missile Forces have completed the rearmament of the modern Avangard missile system and continue to be equipped with the Yars system.

The delivery of four Tu-160M strategic missile carriers to the Strategic Air Forces is nearing completion.

This year, the strategic aviation forces conducted 20 air patrols, including two joint patrols with the China’s People's Liberation Army Air Force.

Another nuclear-powered submarine cruiser of the Borei-A project, the Emperor Alexander III, armed with Bulava ballistic missiles, has been delivered to the Navy.

The Land Forces have received 1,530 new and upgraded tanks, as well as 2,518 infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers.

The Aerospace Forces have received 237 aircraft and helicopters, 86 surface-to-air missiles and 67 radar stations.

Training aviation continues to develop. With the arrival of new combat training aircraft, the flight time of cadets has increased by an average of 20 percent.

The space and ground components of the Missile Attack Warning System are operating efficiently. This year, it detected 78 launches of various types of ballistic missiles, including foreign ones, as well as 168 launches of domestic and foreign space missiles.

The construction of a unified technical complex for Angara launch vehicles has been completed at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, enabling the entire range of preparation work for launching this type of missile.

The Navy has received four modern multipurpose submarines and eight surface ships. Despite the sanctions, we produce more high-tech weapons than NATO countries. The Admiral of the Soviet Union Gorshkov frigate, armed with Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles, has successfully completed its combat service tasks in important areas of the World Ocean, travelling more than 46,000 miles in 263 days.

All the staffing plans for the Army and Navy have been fulfilled for this year with their headcount reaching 1,150,000 service personnel.

We have created, staffed, and equipped two combined arms armies, a mixed aviation corps, as well as 50 formations and military units, including four divisions, 18 brigades, and 28 regiments.

On December 1, we embarked on an effort to carry out your instruction, Mr President, to increase the headcount of our Armed Forces to 1,320,000 million.

The effort to create the Leningrad and Moscow military districts continues following Finland’s accession to NATO and Sweden’s upcoming membership. In doing so, we took into account the agreement signed by the United States and Finland to enable the Americans to use 21 military facilities in Finland, including four air bases.

Moving forward, the size of the Armed Forces will increase to 1.5 million, which is an appropriate figure for addressing external threats.

In 2023, we carried out all scheduled initiatives in terms of operational and combat training, which included holding 17 international military exercises at various levels. In August 2023, the Ocean Shield 2023 naval exercise took place in the Baltic Sea. During these drills, the Navy and the Aerospace Forces have successfully fulfilled tasks related to defending maritime communication lines and ensuring sea coast defence.

During a dedicated exercise, Strategic Nuclear Forces practiced launching a massive retaliatory nuclear attack in response to the use of WMDs by an adversary. In 2023, the Pacific Fleet underwent a snap inspection involving over 25,000 service personnel, about 900 aircraft and helicopters, and some 160 ships. The Pacific Fleet demonstrated the high level of readiness to deflect an aggression by a possible adversary coming from the ocean or from the sea.

We have been proactive in developing training for military professionals. In 2023, the Military Engineering Academy opened in Krasnogorsk, and a Military Higher Combined Arms Command School was created in Donetsk. The Baltic Higher Naval School named after Admiral Ushakov in Kaliningrad became an independent higher education institution.

We have been supplying modern training equipment in order to offer service personnel better training, while the Defence Ministry’s educational institutions included into their curricula modules for training specialists in using unmanned aerial vehicles, robotics, and information technology. Military academies remain highly selective, with an acceptance rate for these specialties of one in four applicants.

Many foreign countries are highly interested in the combat experience we have gained during the special military operation. We are accommodating their wishes by sharing the experience with them.

As per your instructions, we continue to gradually build up the system of combat training at civilian universities. To date, over 60,000 students are undergoing training at 120 military training centres. This number will increase to 137 next year. Miliary training will be available in all Russian regions. We continue improving the network of pre-university educational establishments. In particular, we have opened a Suvorov military school in Irkutsk.

We are stepping up military and military-technical cooperation with foreign countries. We are developing ties with the armed forces of 110 countries. We continued to strengthen all-round strategic partnership with China. This year, we have held 600 major international events.

Despite the threat of sanctions, a growing number of foreign defence companies take part in the Army forum. This year, we welcomed delegations from 83 states, and the number of visitors exceeded one million. We have signed state contracts worth in total over 400 billion rubles.

The 11th Moscow Conference on International Security, which was held in August, was attended by over 800 delegates from 76 counties. This conference is the most widely attended military-political event in the world.

The Second International Anti-Fascist Congress was held in Minsk. It was attended by government officials, public figures, veterans of the Great Patriotic War and delegates from 30 countries.

Russian groups of forces remain the backbone and the main guarantee of peace in Syria and Karabakh.

Regarding military construction, we have successfully implemented all our plans, erecting more than 2,700 buildings and structures. Our focus has been on the development of infrastructure for the Strategic Nuclear Forces.

This year, we have built 592 high-tech facilities for the deployment of the Sarmat, Avangard and Yars missile complexes. We have stepped up efforts to create infrastructure for the Burevestnik strategic nuclear-powered cruise missile systems and the Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicles.

The construction of an energy centre to supply the Northern Fleet’s facilities has been completed in Severomorsk.

A fully-fledged naval base has been built at the main deployment site of the Caspian Flotilla.

The facilities at the Baltimore, Lipetsk and Chkalovsky airfields have been upgraded to handle all modern aviation equipment.

More than a thousand buildings and structures, park housing areas and barracks were built as part of the development and improvement of permanent military communities. In the next three months, nine cutting-edge military hospitals will be completed in various regions of Russia.

A new educational and laboratory complex has opened at the medical school of Pskov State University; the first cohort of 850 future Armed Forces medics have begun training there.

Furthermore, military builders completed 18 residential buildings in Mariupol – with 1,880 flats, a school and a kindergarten.

The first stage of construction of a new high-tech complex for the Federal Medical-Biological Agency has been completed.

Three water pipelines, with a total length of over 250 kilometres, were constructed as part of the project to restore the water supply systems in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics; more than 1.5 million people have been connected to the new pipelines and supplied with water.

In accordance with your instructions, railway troops are continuing to upgrade the 339-kilometre-long Ulak-Fevralsk section of the Baikal-Amur Mainline. The main types of earthworks have been completed.

Housing conditions have been improved for 56,000 military personnel families, and 100,000 people have their rent reimbursed. This year, military personnel have been provided with housing subsidies amounting to a total of 73 billion rubles for purchasing or building homes.

Major patriotic and cultural projects have been implemented. Particular emphasis is being placed on the patriotic education of young people. Today, Yunarmiya (Young Army) is the largest military-patriotic organisation in the country, bringing together 1.5 million children and teenagers.

During the year, 79 new Yunarmiya training centres opened, bringing their total number to 261. The Avangard network of education and methodology centres is at the core of the system of basic military training and military-patriotic education of young people in Russia.

Your decision to create regional centres in cities with a population of over 100,000 has been practically implemented. Now we have begun building these centres in populated localities with a population of 50,000. In all, 73 regional centres have been created, where more than 150,000 high-school students received training.

Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the Armed Forces have, on the whole, accomplished all the tasks that were outlined for 2023. The required level of national defence capability has been achieved.

Next year’s priorities are as follows: the special military operation will continue until all tasks set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief are attained in full. The main effort in combat training will focus on high-quality training of the newly formed units and on developing teamwork and coordination between formations and military units. Russian military contingents will continue to maintain peace and stability in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh in a volatile situation.

A set of operational and combat training measures will be implemented with account taken of the threats of NATO’s further expansion eastwards. The Ocean-2024 strategic command and staff exercise will be prepared and conducted. The Strategic Missile Forces will complete the task of putting the Sarmat strategic missile system on full combat alert. Two Tu-160M strategic missile carriers will join the Strategic Air Forces. The Knyaz Pozharsky nuclear-powered submarine cruiser of Borei-A project, three submarines and 11 surface ships will join the Navy.

The production of Kinzhal and Tsirkon precision hypersonic missile systems will be stepped up, and deliveries of missiles and ammunition will grow by 80 percent. The work on other promising models will continue.

The number of contract soldiers will reach 745,000 by the end of the year, given the need to form new units. It is also necessary to guarantee the timely construction of military social infrastructure facilities with account taken of the Armed Forces’ growing needs.

Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,

We will continue to ensure the progressive development of the Russian army and enhance its combat capabilities next year as per your instructions.

We will discuss the results of our activities in detail during the closed part of the Board meeting.

Thank you for your attention.

Vladimir Putin: Comrades,

We are about to conclude this part of the discussion. As usual, I will say a few words before we wrap it up. It is unlikely that I will say something you have not heard before. Nevertheless, considering the circumstances we are living, working, and fighting a war in, I would be remiss in not mentioning it.

I would like to revisit the causes of the current conflict. The audience we have here is quite knowledgeable, but I still think it is important to highlight certain things again and to point out the reasons for today's conflict in Ukraine.

Let’s go back to the times when shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West used widespread efforts in Russia to win over our fifth column, which we never stopped propitiating, patting them on the head, and talking to them, trying to steer them to a patriotic path. It does not really matter. There are different people there; let’s not paint everyone with the same brush. Nevertheless, the adversary knew what they were doing it for and knew whom to work with, namely, the fifth column, the terrorist organisations, including international terrorist organisations, and separatists in order to fulfil their goal of breaking down Russia. At the same time, they were equally active in the post-Soviet space, tearing apart the newly formed independent states, the former Soviet republics. A particular emphasis, even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, was placed on Ukraine.

First, based on a series of historical considerations and the fact that many former Nazis had moved to the American continent, particularly Canada and the United States, they worked with them. Entire institutes were created there that focused exclusively on this topic. They were priming themselves. And as soon as the collapse occurred, they went for it full throttle. They worked inside our country and they doubled and tripled their efforts there. Why? Because they always believed that once it had lost its potential, Russia would never regain its previous geopolitical position and would not pose any threat as a competitor, at the least, as a competitor.

They planned to divide Russia into five parts. They did not hide their plans; it was all discussed openly.

The work on Ukraine was conducted separately. Of course, they bet primarily on nationalists. They forgot that these extreme nationalists were former Nazis that collaborated with Hitler. Without a moment’s hesitation, they allowed Ukrainian nationalists to turn these former Nazis into national heroes, including Bandera and the like. We had done everything we could over the decades to develop normal relations with our neighbouring state. We have always said, and I keep saying that this is a fraternal people. However, this adversary acted differently.

Politically, Russia emphasised the southwest [of Ukraine] and this is also common knowledge. Why? Because these are historically Russian regions. They are inhabited, in fact, by Russian people regardless of any stamp in their passports. They have only one native tongue – Russian, and their entire culture and traditions are also Russian, everything. They are our people.

We always focused on this part of Ukraine, and this had important domestic political consequences because it did not allow ultra-nationalists to obtain real power through legal political means. The political forces and leaders that claimed the state’s top positions always had to consider the opinion of the voters in the southeast of Ukraine. This was always the case. Without this, it was impossible to come to power. But as soon as these forces came to power, they immediately forgot about these regions. Nobody thought about their interests or mandates, and the authorities instantly followed in the wake of the extreme nationalists that were active, offensive and aggressive. They also immediately adopted the latter’s domestic political agenda.

We tried to counter this. How? Primarily with an economic approach, you know that. We sold them energy for next to nothing, gave them loans and encouraged cooperation. Believe me, we did everything to build relations, having gained a lot of patience for this. But no. Relying on these active and aggressive nationalist forces in Ukraine, the West simply did not leave us any chance for this.

But they also realised their inability to achieve their ultimate goals through legal means and to drag all of Ukraine to their side. It just didn’t work out that way. The residents of the southeast went to the polling stations and voted for those who spoke about good relations with Russia. This is what happened in real life. But it didn’t work out. Decade after decade, it never worked out. So what did they eventually choose? A coup d’état.

Indeed, Ukraine was plagued by a host of internal, economic, and social problems, as well as many iniquities. But why the coup? Go to the polls, as we were always told: only through political means and only within the framework of the constitution. Where is all that? I do not feel like making certain gestures here since the camera is on, ok? I am sure you know the gestures I would like to make right now. This is exactly what they showed us. They realised that they wouldn’t be able to steamroll Ukraine using just political means, and they took advantage of the mistakes and miscalculations of the then Ukrainian leadership – again with an emphasis on aggressive nationalist forces – and fomented a coup. It is not clear why they did this. Perhaps, just to put an end to this issue once and for all.

In this sense, they achieved their goals. We had no choice but to support Crimea, or else it would have drowned in blood.

But then the issue of Donbass arose. You know, we tried to negotiate a peaceful solution. Overall, we were ready, under certain conditions outlined in the Minsk agreements, to gradually restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Donbass, in order to keep the local people out of harm’s way and to create proper conditions and guarantees for their safety. That was the whole point of the Minsk agreements.

But if the Ukrainian authorities and their Western handlers had agreed to it, agreed to implement these arrangements, everything would have gradually – I sincerely believe it – would have worked out. But they did not agree to it and unleashed a real war there in 2014.

I am open about it. It is no secret to those who participated in these events: we did nothing but were gradually forced to get involved in order to protect the people and save them from extermination. That is how it all began.

The West, especially the people overseas, enjoyed watching this. In this sense, they outplayed us if I can put it that way. We were compelled to respond to this aggressive position. Later, they simply tossed out the Minsk agreements, said this publicly, and then the Western leaders said it publicly and confessed that this was just a front to revive or rather build up Ukraine’s armed forces.

Why do that? Here comes the second part of their plot. It was to pull Ukraine into NATO. And this is what they kept telling me: what are you concerned about, we will not let them join right now. I said, what about tomorrow? When will this tomorrow come? In a year, two years? Looking at it from the historical perspective and from the strategic interests of the Russian state, even 10 or 15 years are unacceptable. What does “not right now” mean? What about tomorrow? Clearly, their goal was and is to pull Ukraine into NATO.

Let’s go back, I just said this from the rostrum. We have been talking about this the whole time. They said back in 1991 – not an inch eastward. Like hell it’s not an inch. Here they are, at our fence, sticking out here. And they stuck there. They took the Baltic region and all of Eastern Europe. The same question suggests itself – why? There were many alternatives that would have been acceptable to everyone. But the point is simple – I have said this many times and will say it again – to them, a country like Russia is not needed – it’s too big. It should be divided into pieces and subjugated – the same way they are subjugating Europe. I will say a little more about this.

In short, they basically brought these matters to the point of war. They unleashed the war in 2014, and we had to get involved gradually. Unfortunately, or maybe not, we had no choice, we had to get involved.

At the same time, they took care of another important problem for themselves. They cleared the air for themselves – they had been worried about Russia-Europe rapprochement. This was their concern. They wanted to control the whole show, and they intimidated everyone the whole time – look, this malicious Russia is threatening you! I have talked with many leaders and they asked, why are they scaring us? We realise that Russia is not going to fight Europe. We are not going to fight against them today either. US and NATO leaders keep saying, if Russia wins in Ukraine now, the NATO countries will be next in line. Why do we need these NATO countries? We have never needed them and don’t need them now and won’t need them in the future. Why are they saying this? To encourage them to pay – this is the whole point.

Having reached its current goals, having torn Ukraine away, as they saw it, and having severed Russian-European relations, the United States has achieved what it was after, unfortunately. We simply couldn’t act in any other way – or we should have given up everything and watched them lick their lips while eating up everything that was ours, everything that was originally Russian. But we could not do that, and they realised we could not do it, so they did it on purpose. They deliberately pushed us and Europe into this conflict and reached their goals in this sense by setting Russia and Europe against each other. Now they are also shifting the burden of financial responsibility and the costs for this to Europe.

Meanwhile, the current weak-willed, spineless generation of politicians in Europe cannot oppose it, considering the enormous dependence of their media, their economy and politics. Pick any large media outlet in Europe, and you will find that the ultimate beneficiary is some American foundation, after you sift through three of four layers. Everything is over there, everything is overseas. This comes down to influence over politics. We know that the secret services there get their proponents at a young age, as young students. They are working with these young people, dragging them to the political stardom of the European countries.

But it’s not that simple now; the Europeans are starting to realise what is happening and a certain shift is already taking place in Europe. I am not even referring to the economic problems – they exist and this is reflected not only in the rallies in Europe – it has been recorded in documents. The leading industrial economies of Europe are seeing a decline – they are in a recession.

However, changes are taking place in the political consciousness of many European nations as well. They understand that the United States is shamelessly and ruthlessly exploiting Europe in its own interests and does not care about Europe’s interests at all.

However, this is the choice made by the European nations. We have never interfered, are not interfering and do not plan to interfere in their affairs. But there is something we will certainly do. We will uphold our interests. Because what the Unites States did in Ukraine, as I mentioned earlier, the United States has essentially denied us the chance to build good relations with that country using political means. What they did was a case of utter lawlessness. In 2014, they carried out a coup d’état, and from then on, they continued down that path of lawlessness. They simply forced us to respond to it.

Regarding Europe, the people are becoming increasingly aware that other countries, primarily the United States, are using them to advance their own agendas. Well, their awareness is growing. Good for them, but we are not going to interfere.

Here is what I would like to say in closing: Russia was the only guarantor of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I mentioned this earlier. When creating the Soviet Union, Russia transferred to it vast historical territories, Russian territories, along with the population, a huge potential, and invested immense resources into this land.

The western lands of Ukraine? We know how Ukraine obtained them. Stalin gave them away after World War II. He gave part of Polish lands, Lvov, and so on including several large regions with a population of ten million. Not to offend the Poles, he compensated for their losses by giving them the eastern German lands, the Danzig Corridor, and Danzig itself. He took some from Romania and some from Hungary and gave it to Ukraine.

The people who live there – many of them, at least, I know this for sure, 100 percent – they want to return to their historical homeland. The countries that lost these territories, primarily Poland, dream of having them back.

In this sense, only Russia could be the guarantor of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. If they do not want it, so be it. History will put everything in its place. We will not interfere, but we will not give up what is ours. Everyone should be aware of this – those in Ukraine who are aggressive disposed towards Russia, and in Europe, and in the United States. If they want to negotiate, let them do so. But we will do it only based on our interests.

Of course, Russia will not be able to do this without strong, reliable, well-equipped, and properly motivated Armed Forces. The Armed Forces will not be able to achieve this without a strong economy, without industry in general and the defence industry in particular working like clockwork and, most importantly, without the support of the multi-ethnic people of Russia. You have it all now, and the Motherland expects you to deliver.

Thank you.

December 19, 2023, Moscow