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Meeting of Defence Ministry Board

December 21, 2022, Moscow

Vladimir Putin spoke at an expanded meeting of the Board of the Defence Ministry, which was held at the National Defence Control Centre.

Before the meeting, the President visited the exhibition of modern and future samples of equipment, arms, ammunition and means of protection for the troops in the various branches. The President was accompanied by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Valery Gerasimov. The exhibition was held in the atrium of the National Defence Control Centre.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrades,

This annual meeting of the Board of the Defence Ministry is taking place at a very important time in the country’s life. The special military operation continues. Today, we will discuss key army and navy development areas based on the experience gained in combat operations.

First, I would like to convey my most sincere words of gratitude to our soldiers and officers who are now on the front lines or at military personnel training centres. All of them are fulfilling their military duty with dignity, risking their lives, sparing no effort and providing cover for their fellow soldiers when necessary.

And, of course, today we must commemorate our comrades-in-arms who gave up their lives for the Motherland.

(Moment of silence.)


It is well known that the military potential and capabilities of almost all major NATO countries are being widely used against Russia.

Still, our soldiers, sergeants and officers are fighting for Russia with courage and fortitude and are fulfilling their tasks with confidence, step-by-step. Without a doubt, these tasks will be fulfilled in all territories of the Russian Federation, including the new territories, and a safe life for all our citizens will be ensured. Our Armed Forces’ combat capability is increasing day by day, and we will certainly step this process up.

I would like to once again thank everyone who is fulfilling their combat duty today, including tank crews, paratroopers, artillerymen, motor riflemen, sappers, signalmen, pilots, special operations forces and air defence troops, sailors, military topographers, logistics support specialists, National Guard personnel and other formations for the way you are fighting. You are fighting – you know, I am not afraid to use these comparisons, and these are not some turgid words – like the heroes of the War of 1812, the First World War or the Great Patriotic War.

Special words of gratitude go to the military doctors who are bravely, often at risk to their own lives, saving our soldiers, and military and civilian construction workers who are building fortifications and vital infrastructure in the areas covered by the operation and for their help in rebuilding civilian sites in the liberated territories.

Meanwhile, the hostilities have highlighted issues that need our special attention, including issues we have discussed more than once. I am talking about communications, automated command and control systems for troops and weapons, counter-battery tactics, target detection, and so on.

This is the combat experience that we must and we will use in the further development and build-up of the Armed Forces.

Today, our goal is to implement the entire scope of necessary measures to achieve a qualitative renewal and improvement of the Armed Forces.

I would like to draw your special attention to the following.

We are well aware of all the NATO forces and resources that they have been using against us over the course of the special military operation. You have all the information, and it should be carefully analysed and used to build up our Armed Forces, as I have said, to improve the combat capabilities of our troops, as well as our national special services.

Our units have gained extensive combat experience during this special operation.

The job of the Defence Ministry and the General Staff, as I mentioned, is to carefully analyse this experience, systematise it as quickly as possible and include it in the programmes and plans for personnel training, training troops in general and supplying the troops with the necessary equipment.

In addition, the experience of the special military operation, as well as what our troops gained in Syria, should, as I have said, pave the way for a major improvement in combat training, and should be applied in our preparations and in our exercises and training at all levels.

In turn, officers and sergeants who have shown exemplary achievements during the special military operation should be promoted to higher command positions as a matter of priority, and be the prime personnel reserve to be admitted to military universities and academies, including the General Staff Academy.

Second. I would like to draw the attention of the Government, the Defence Ministry and other agencies to the need to cooperate closely at the Coordination Council, which is a specially created platform. You should also cooperate with the heads of regions and representatives of the defence industry.

I also expect our designers and engineers to continue the practice of visiting the frontline. I would like to express my gratitude to them for making regular trips and making the necessary adjustments to the equipment. I hope that they will continue the practice of checking the tactical and technical characteristics of weapons and equipment in real combat situations and, as I have already said, of improving them.

In general, it is necessary to conduct substantive work with related ministries and departments. We are seeing what works really well and what needs additional efforts. Engineers, technicians and scientists are seeing this. And this entire machine is working. When I said we are improving and will continue to improve our armaments and equipment, I had in mind this process as well. The Military-Industrial Commission must become a headquarters for the interaction of the defence industry, science and the Armed Forces with a view to resolving both urgent and future tasks, primarily related to military-technical supplies for the troops. I am referring to equipment, ammunition and so on.

The third point. We will continue maintaining and improving the combat readiness of the nuclear triad. It is the main guarantee that our sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic parity and the general balance of forces in the world are preserved.

This year, the level of modern armaments in the strategic nuclear forces has already exceeded 91 percent. We continue rearming the regiments of our strategic missile forces with modern missile systems with Avangard hypersonic warheads.

In the near future, Sarmat ICBMs will be put on combat duty for the first time. We know there will be a certain delay in time but this does not change our plans – everything will be done. Our troops continue receiving Yars missiles. We will continue developing hypersonic missile systems with unique characteristics, unmatched in the world. In early January of next year, the Admiral of the Soviet Fleet Gorshkov frigate will start combat duty. I will repeat, it will carry cutting-edge Zircon sea-based hypersonic missiles without equal in the world.

We will continue equipping our strategic forces with the latest weapon systems. Let me repeat that we will carry out all of our plans.

Next. It is important to enhance the combat capabilities of the Aerospace Forces, including the numbers of fighters and bombers operating in the zone covered by modern air defence systems.

A pressing task is upgrading drones, including strategic and reconnaissance ones, as well as methods of using them. The experience of the special military operation has shown that the use of drones has become practically ubiquitous. They should be a must-have for combat units, platoons, companies and battalions. Targets must be identified as quickly as possible and information needed to strike must be transferred in real time.

Unmanned vehicles should be interconnected, integrated into a single intelligence network, and should have secure communication channels with headquarters and commanders. In the near future, every fighter should be able to receive information transmitted from drones. We must work towards this; we must strive for this. Technically, this can be implemented in the very near future, almost now. I ask you to focus on this when finalising the entire range of equipment and tactical gear for personnel.

We know that there are no small things on the battlefield, so you need to pay special attention – I know that the Ministry of Defense is working on this, but I want to emphasise it once again: medical kits, food, dry rations, uniforms, footwear, protective helmets, body armour – everything should be at the most up-to-date and highest level. The troops need to have enough night vision devices, high-quality sights, and new generation sniper rifles. I will not list everything now, but I will mention what is most important: everything that a fighter uses should be cutting-edge, convenient and reliable, and the supply should correspond to their actual needs. If some ministry standards are outdated, they need to be changed – and quickly.

I would like to draw the attention of the Defence Minister, the Chief of the General Staff and all the commanders here: we have no funding restrictions. The country, the Government will provide whatever the Army asks for, anything. I hope that the answer will be properly formulated and the appropriate results will be achieved.

Returning to the topic of drones, I must note that we have good experience in developing unique unmanned underwater systems. I know that the industry has every capability it needs to create a wide range of unmanned aerial and ground vehicles with the best and highest tactical and technical characteristics, including elements of artificial intelligence. In addition, we generally need to consider ways to expand the arsenals of the latest strike weapons.

Fifth, it is necessary to improve the management and communication system in order to ensure the stability and efficiency of command and control of the troops in any conditions. To do this, we need to use artificial intelligence more widely at all levels of decision-making. As experience shows, including that of recent months, the weapons systems that operate quickly and almost automatically are the most effective ones.

Furthermore, the partial mobilisation has revealed certain problems – this is common knowledge – that must be promptly resolved. I know that the necessary measures are being taken but we should still pay attention to this issue and build this system in a modern way. First, it is necessary to upgrade the system of military commissariat offices. I am referring to the digitisation of databases and interaction with the local and regional authorities. It is necessary to upgrade the organisation of civil and territorial defence and interaction with industry. In particular, we need to improve the system of stockpiling and storing arms, combat equipment and material resources for the deployment of units and formations during mobilisation.

As you know, 300,000 people have been drafted into the Armed Forces. Some of them are already in the zone of hostilities. As the Defence Minister and the Chief of the General Staff report, 150,000 people are undergoing training at military grounds and this reserve is adequate for conducting the operation. It is basically a strategic reserve that is not being used in combat operations currently, but people undergo the required training there.


I would like to sincerely thank our people who are helping our Armed Forces out of the kindness of their hearts, sending autos, additional equipment, gear and warm clothes to the frontline and letters and presents to the wounded in hospitals. Even if the Defence Ministry provides our troops with all they need in some segment, we should still humbly thank people for it.

I would like to ask the Defence Ministry to pay attention to all civil initiatives, which includes considering criticism and offering an adequate and timely response. Obviously, the reaction of people who see problems – and problems are inevitable in such a big and difficult undertaking – their reaction may be emotional as well. There is no doubt that it is necessary to listen to those who are not hushing up existing problems but are trying to contribute to their resolution.

I am confident the Defence Ministry’s dialogue with the public will remain ongoing. As we know, our strength has always been in the unity of the army and the people, and that has not changed.

Now for the reports.

The Defence Minister has the floor.

Thank you for your attention.

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

I will begin my report with the special military operation.

Today in Ukraine, Russia is fighting against the collective forces of the West. The United States and its allies have been sending weapons to Ukraine, training Kiev’s military personnel, providing them with intelligence, sending advisers and mercenaries, and waging an information and sanctions war on Russia.

The Ukrainian leaders are resorting to prohibited warfare, including terrorist attacks, contract killings, and the use of heavy weapons against civilians. The Western countries are trying to ignore this, as well as instances of nuclear blackmail, including provocations against the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant and plans to use a so-called dirty nuclear bomb.

It is clear that the current situation primarily benefits the United States, which seeks to take advantage of it to maintain global dominance and weaken other countries, including its allies in Europe.

Of particular concern is the build-up of NATO's advance presence near the borders of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, as well as the West's interest in prolonging the hostilities in Ukraine as much as possible to further weaken our country.

After the confessions made by Ms Merkel, Poroshenko and other politicians about the true purposes of the Minsk agreements, it became obvious to everyone that Russia was not the source of the conflict in Ukraine; the reason was the Western-sponsored coup in Kiev in 2014, which brought anti-Russian forces to power and divided the two fraternal peoples. This provoked an armed confrontation in Donbass.

We are taking action to save the population from genocide and terrorism.

Russia is always open to constructive and peaceful negotiations.

Russian troops continue to destroy military targets, to deliver massive high-precision strikes on the military control system, defence industry enterprises and related facilities, including energy facilities. They are destroying the foreign weapons supply chain and crushing Ukraine’s military potential. At the same time, every measure is being taken to rule out civilian deaths.

As a result, the armed forces of Ukraine have suffered significant losses; a significant part of the weapons and equipment they had available at the beginning of the operation has been destroyed. To compensate for these losses, the United States and other NATO countries have significantly increased their military assistance to the Kiev regime. The 27 countries have already spent $97 billion on arms supplies to Ukraine, which is much more than the cost of the weapons they abandoned in Afghanistan. Some of the weapons the US army left behind in Afghanistan have fallen into the hands of terrorists and are spreading all over the world. No one knows where the weapons in Ukraine will end up.

It is necessary to mention that NATO staff officers, artillerymen and other specialists are in the zone of hostilities. Over 500 US and NATO space vehicles, including over 70 military and the rest being of dual purpose, are working in the interests of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The United States and its allies are spending considerable funds on exerting information and psychological influence on Russia and our allies. We have realised in full what the allegedly free Western press is all about. Thousands of fakes about events in Ukraine are published daily according to the same templates on Washington’s orders. Hundreds of TV agencies, tens of thousands of print publications and media resources on social media and messengers are working to this end.

The silence of the Western media about the war crimes of the Ukrainian military represents the height of cynicism. All the while, the criminal neo-Nazi regime in Kiev is being glorified. The terrorist methods of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are presented as lawful self defence or acts of Russian units. Armed Ukrainian nationalists are in the rear to make sure no one retreats. We receive daily reports of shootings of Ukrainian army personnel for refusing to follow orders.

We had to increase the combat and numerical strength of our troops to stabilise the situation, protect the new territories and conduct further offensive actions. We conducted a partial mobilisation for this purpose. It is a mark of the maturity of Russian society and a serious trial for the country and its Armed Forces.

Mobilisation plans had not been put into action since the Great Patriotic War. The basic system of mobilisation preparations was not even fully adapted to the new economic system. This is why with the beginning of the partial mobilisation we faced difficulties in notifying and calling up citizens in the reserve.

We had to fix all problems on the go. We changed the organisational and staffing structures of military administrative bodies in units and formations as fast as we could and took urgent measures to improve all types of support.

Partial mobilisation measures were fully carried out on time. Some 300,000 reservists were drafted for military service. The concerted efforts of federal and regional government bodies played an important role in this respect.

I would like to make special mention of the active engagement of Russian citizens – over 20,000 people volunteered for service without waiting for a draft notice.

To support the national economy, over 830,000 people have been exempted from the draft. They are employed in companies of the defence industry and other socially important areas that are vital for the activity of the state.

Owing to the decisions by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, mobilised citizens are entitled to the same benefits and guarantees as contract service personnel.

Mobilised military personnel will be trained for combat operations from practicing individual skills to unit cohesion.

Military-political bodies have to shoulder an enormous burden. This confirmed the correctness of the 2018 decision to establish them. At the same time, much still has to be done to make the personnel fully ready for combat operations.

In general, the partial mobilisation made it possible to enhance the combat potential of troops and intensify the fighting. The troops liberated an area five times bigger than what the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics occupied before February 24. In late May, Russian troops fully liberated from the Nazis the large industrial centre of Mariupol. The Kiev regime had turned the city into a powerful fortified area centered around the Azovstal Plant industrial zone. Following successful actions by the Armed Forces of Russia and the Donetsk militia forces, over 4,000 militants were eliminated and 2,500 Azov nationalists and servicemen of the Ukrainian Armed Forces laid down their arms and surrendered.

Peaceful life is being restored. The ports in Berdyansk and Mariupol are fully operational. We play to deploy ship bases, emergency-and-rescue services and ship repair units of the Navy there. The Sea of Azov has again become Russia’s internal sea as it was during 300 years of our national history.

Land connection with Crimea by road and rail has been restored. Rail service with Donbass will soon be returned to normal. Cargoes have been delivered to Mariupol, Berdyansk and other liberated residential areas for several months now.

Control of the North Crimean Canal made it possible to restore water supply to the Crimean Peninsula, which did not exist for eight years due to the water and energy blockade.

During the special military operation, members of the Russian military are displaying courage, stamina and dedication. Over 100,000 people have received state awards, including 120 titles of Hero of the Russian Federation. Over 250,000 regular military personnel have received combat experience during the special military operation.

Today, the Russian Armed Forces are taking an active part in establishing peaceful life on the liberated territories. They have cleared mines from more than 27,000 hectares of land. In Mariupol, military builders have built 12 residential blocks and continue building another six, as well as a kindergarten and a school. In Lugansk and Mariupol, the construction of two multi-purpose medical centres with the latest equipment and 260 beds has been completed in record time.

Much is being done to restore water supply in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. The construction of waterways with a total length of over 200 km has provided water for more than 1.5 million people. A 194-kilometre-long waterway from the Don River, which is now being built, will guarantee water supply for Donetsk.

In general, the special military operation has demonstrated the high professional skills of commanders, chiefs of staff at all control levels, and the readiness of the military to fulfil even the most complicated combat assignments. Our weapon and military equipment samples have confirmed their exceptional reliability and efficiency.

The special military operation is creating a unique opportunity to analyse modern methods of conducting combined operations, and the forces and means used in them for the purposes of refining plans for improving the Armed Forces.

Russian citizens have provided unprecedented support for the national leadership and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. This is graphically illustrated by the unity of the army and society.

This year, the Defence Ministry has been resolving and continues to resolve a number of other important tasks. In the beginning of this year, it conducted an operation jointly with the CSTO countries to stabilize the situation in Kazakhstan and prevent a “colour revolution” in that country.

Russian military units remain the main guarantor of preserving peace in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh. During this year, they conducted humanitarian activities, removed mines and rendered medical aid to the population.

We maintain our nuclear triad at the level of guaranteed strategic deterrence. The combat readiness of the strategic nuclear forces stands at an unprecedented 91.3 percent.

The re-equipment of two missile regiments with the Yars mobile ground-based missile systems has been completed in the Strategic Missile Forces. One more regiment equipped with the Avangard missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle has been put on combat duty. Successful launches of the new Sarmat heavy missile complex during state tests made it possible to start its deployment.

Strategic aviation nuclear forces have received a Tu-160M strategic missile carrier and a Tu-95M aircraft. This year, 73 air patrols have been conducted, including two jointly with the People’s Liberation Army of China. Nuclear-powered missile submarines are conducting planned military service in designated areas of the world’s oceans. The Navy has adopted the Generalissimus Suvorov Borei-A class nuclear-powered submarine equipped with Bulava ballistic missiles. The efforts to enhance the combat capabilities of the branches and types of troops of the Armed Forces have been continued.

The Aerospace Forces further developed the uniform space system and launched the sixth Kupol space vehicle that makes it possible to continuously monitor missile-hazardous areas in the Northern Hemisphere. Training aviation is being steadily developed. Owing to the arrival of new models of training aircraft, the flight hours of cadets have been increased by more than one third. This year saw the first graduating class of female military pilots. More than half of them graduated with distinction.

The Navy has received a cutting-edge submarine, six surface ships, three gunboats, 11 support vessels and boats and two coastal missile complexes.

Serial deliveries of the Zircon sea-based hypersonic missile have gotten underway. The preparations of the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov frigate with hypersonic missiles on board for combat service in an unplanned area of the world’s oceans have entered the final phase.

A vital element of the implementation of the state defence order in 2022 was the delivery of weapons and equipment to the armed forces involved in the special military operation. To build up their combat capability, the delivery of staple systems has been expedited from 2024 and 2025 to 2023. A 10-day schedule has been formed to streamline the deliveries. Its implementation is being monitored by a joint task group of the Defence Ministry, the Military Industrial Commission, the Industry and Trade Ministry and defence enterprises.

The approved 2022 allocations, which include the supply of additional weapons and equipment, allowed us to increase the delivery of staple weapons to the armed forces by 30 percent and the supply of ammunition for artillery and missile systems and aircraft by between 69 and 109 percent. At the same time, the implementation of the state defence order with regard to staple weapons has reached 91 percent.

In 2022, all the planned events of operational and combat training have been carried out, including 14 international exercises held at different levels. At the beginning of the year, we conducted a series of large-scale naval exercises in training to repel sea and ocean military threats to Russia.

The final combat training event was the Vostok 2022 command post exercise, which involved over 51,000 miliary personnel from 14 foreign states. A specific element of the exercise was the establishment of an international group of forces for addressing common tasks. The exercise demonstrated the ability of international groups of forces to effectively fulfil regional security tasks.

During a special exercise, the strategic nuclear forces successfully trained in delivering a large-scale nuclear strike in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the enemy.

An Arctic expedition has been held in the eastern sector of the Arctic and on the Chukotka Peninsula, with a series of combat training and research elements and experiments. This confirmed the technical characteristics of all the types of weapons used in Arctic conditions.

Despite the attempts by the collective West to isolate Russia, we continue to expand the geography of international military and technical cooperation.

The Defence Ministry develops relations with the armed forces of 109 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. This year, we have held 350 significant international events.

The International Army Games have become one of the major joint training events with armies of foreign countries. More than 5,300 troops from 34 countries took part in the games. Held across 12 countries, the games were attended by more than 3 million people. Over the eight years since the first games, 80 training grounds have been modernised. Their training and resource capacity is extensively used for combat training of the military personnel.

The Army annual forum has contributed to strengthening international military cooperation. It was attended by delegations from 85 countries and almost 2 million visitors. Thirty-six state contracts with defence industry companies, worth over 525 billion rubles, were signed during the forum. This event is a successful and dynamically developing project that is substantially more productive than similar fairs around the world.

In August, we hosted the 9th Moscow International Security Conference, attended by more than 700 delegates from 70 countries. It is the most representative military and political event in the world.

This year, we held the first International Anti-Fascist Congress. It was attended by state officials and public activists, Great Patriotic War veterans, nine foreign delegations and military attaches from 26 countries. Forum participants unequivocally condemned any manifestation of fascism, neo-Nazism and chauvinism in the modern world. It is expected that the congress will be held every year.

The Russian higher military school is one of the best in the world. Students from 55 countries study at the Defence Ministry higher educational institutions, which is more than during the Soviet times. Starting September 1, 2023, the Donetsk Higher Military Command School of the General Forces will be included in the group of Defence Ministry education facilities.

We continue working to improve the system of Defence Ministry pre-university education. By September 1, 2023, a new Suvorov military school will open in Irkutsk.

We are working with the authorities to create a Federal Agency for Veterans’ Affairs. It will help us to centralise the military veterans’ social protection system and make it more effective. Mr President, thank you for supporting this initiative.

Housing conditions have been improved for 49,000 military families, and 100,000 people receive subsidies for renting apartments.

We are paying considerable attention to the development of military medicine. Thanks to prevention care measures taken in the armed forces, the incidence of medical conditions has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years. The number of military medical facilities that provide high-quality medical assistance has tripled and the range of services they offer has doubled. Over 28,000 patients have received this type of medical assistance.

Our combat medics have proved their worth during the special military operation. First aid is provided within 10 minutes. The wounded are delivered to medical units within an hour and to military hospitals within 24 hours.

They have decreased the fatality rate during evacuation stages. The fatality rate in hospitals has gone down to less than 0.5 percent, which is the lowest figure in the history of military medicine.

As per your instructions, we have launched a programme to modernise the military healthcare system until 2027. A modern military hospital with 150 beds has opened in Kazan. Nine military hospitals are under construction in Ryazan, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Kaspiysk, Sevastopol, Mirny and Vladikavkaz. The construction of a health rehabilitation centre has been completed at a unique spa resort in Kamchatka.

The Defence Ministry is waging a systematic battle against COVID-19. We have prevented the disease rate from peaking during the sixth wave.

We have fulfilled all plans regarding the military construction complex by erecting over 3,000 buildings and structures, while paying special attention to infrastructure development for the strategic nuclear forces. This year, we built 650 high-technology units, including for the Avangard, Yars and Sarmat missile systems.

We launched coastal energy and social infrastructure facilities for the Northern Fleet in Gadzhiyevo. A 1,154-metre berth has been commissioned at the Caspian Fleet base, and the construction of another berth has been completed. We rebuilt infrastructure at 15 military airfields to enable them to serve all of the latest aircraft as part of the effort to expand the air force deployment system. Efforts to improve permanent military townships proceeded according to plan. We completed 625 buildings in the park and barrack accommodation zones.

In keeping with your instructions, the railway troops continue rebuilding the 339-kilometre section of the Baikal-Amur Mainline between Ulak and Fevralsk, and have already completed some 3 million cubic metres of earthwork, which is about half of the planned work scope.

The Defence Ministry has implemented major patriotic education and cultural projects. Twenty-eight cities hosted military parades, and the traditional Main Naval Parade has been held too. In execution of your instructions, Saur-Mogila, a memorial that is a major symbol for the entire nation, has been restored in just 90 days. The Eternal Flame is once again ablaze at the top of this mount.

We carried on with our system-wide efforts to promote military and patriotic education for young people, focused on the Young Army movement, which has already gained a foothold in all the regions of Russia, bringing together over 1.25 million children and teenagers.

We have been working together with the regions of the Russian Federation to expand the Avangard Education and Methodology Centres for Military Patriotic Youth Awareness. In 2022, this included opening 20 regional centres and 25 centres in cities of over 100,000 residents. More than 150,000 high-school students took courses at 88 Avangard centres over the past year. We believe that setting up centres of this kind must serve as a foundation for basic military training and patriotic education for young people around the country.

Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,

Overall, the Armed Forces have fulfilled the objectives they had for 2022, increasing their combat capability by more than 13 percent and ensuring the country’s defence capabilities at the required level.

Measures to bolster Russia’s security:

Considering NATO’s aspirations to build up its military capabilities close to the Russian border, as well as expand the Alliance by accepting Finland and Sweden as new members, we need to respond by creating a corresponding group of forces in Russia’s northwest.

Regarding the staffing of the Armed Forces, the conscription age must be gradually increased from 18 to 21 years, while raising the ceiling conscription age to 30 years. We must enable citizens starting their military service to serve under contract from day one.

We must create the Moscow and Leningrad military districts as two joint-force strategic territorial units within the Armed Forces.

We must continue improving branches of the Armed Forces in terms of their composition and structure, increase responsibility of the headquarters for training and deploying units and formations. We need to create two new motorised infantry divisions, including within integrated combined armed forces, in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, as well as an army corps in Karelia.

We need to transform seven motorised infantry brigades into motorised infantry divisions in the Western, Central and Eastern military districts, and in the Northern Fleet. The Airborne Forces must get two additional air assault divisions.

Each combined arms (tank) army must have a composite aviation division within it and an army aviation brigade with 80 to 100 combat helicopters. In addition to this, we need to add three more air division commands, eight bomber aviation regiments, one fighter aviation regiment, and six army aviation brigades.

We need to create five district artillery divisions, as well as super-heavy artillery brigades for building artillery reserves along the strategic axis.

We must create five naval infantry brigades for the Navy’s coastal troops based on the existing naval infantry brigades.

In order to guarantee that the military can ensure Russia’s security, we need to increase the size of the Armed Forces to 1.5 million service personnel, including up to 695,000 people serving under contract.

The transition to outsourcing practices in 2008–2012 decimated the army maintenance units, which had a negative effect on the operational status of weapons and machinery. Efforts to revive these structures were taken in 2012. The special military operation demonstrated that we need to further develop maintenance and repair units within our forces. Next year, we will create three repair factories and reinforce maintenance units within the troops.

Staff at conscription offices will receive federal state civil service status with an increased number of military posts. We must complete the transition of these conscription offices to digital technology.

Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,

With your consent, the above approaches will be included in the plans for developing the Armed Forces according to the established procedure.

Our 2023 priorities are as follows:

To continue the special military operation until its goals are achieved in full. The Russian groups of forces are to ensure peace and stability in Nagorno-Karabakh and Syria.

To fully implement a set of operational and combat training measures with an emphasis on the threats stemming from further eastward NATO expansion.

To prepare and conduct the Zapad-2023 exercises.

To put 22 launchers with intercontinental ballistic missiles Yars, Avangard and Sarmat on combat duty in the Strategic Missile Forces.

To put three Tu-160 strategic missile carriers into service of the aviation strategic nuclear forces. To put the Borei-A Project Imperator Alexander III nuclear submarine, four submarines and 12 surface ships into service of the Navy.

To increase the supply of Kinzhal and Tsirkon high-precision hypersonic missile systems. To continue to develop other advanced weapons.

To increase to 521,000 the number of military personnel serving under contract by the end of the year, taking into account the replacement of mobilised citizens in the groups of forces and the recruitment of new formations.

Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,

In accordance with your instructions, will continue to develop the Armed Forces and enhance their combat capabilities next year.

We will discuss our performance in detail during the closed part of the board meeting.

Thank you.

That concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Comrades,

In accordance with tradition, I will say a few words in conclusion of our meeting. I will speak in broad terms, but I believe that it is a matter of interest to us. At least, I think that the matter I will speak about is always of interest but especially so in the current situation.

I have pointed out many times and have written in my articles that the goal of our strategic adversaries is to weaken and divide our nation. This has been so for centuries, and there is nothing new in this now. They believe that our country is too large and poses a threat, which is why it must be diminished and divided. Wherever you look, this has been their goal over the past centuries. I will not provide any examples now; you can find them in the relevant materials. They have always nurtured this idea and such plans, hoping that they will be able to implement them, one way or another.

For our part, we have aways or nearly always pursued a completely different approach and had different goals: we have always wanted to be part of the so-called civilised world. After the Soviet Union’s dissolution, which we ourselves allowed to take place, we thought for some reason that we would become part of that so-called civilised world any day. But it turned out that nobody wanted this to happen, despite our efforts and attempts, and this concerns my efforts as well, because I made these attempts too. We tried to become closer, to become part of that world. But to no avail.

On the contrary, they undertook, including with the use of international terrorists in the Caucasus, to finish off Russia and to split the Russian Federation. There is no need to prove this to many of you in this room, because you know what took place in the mid-1990s and the early 2000s. They claimed to condemn al-Qaeda and other criminals, yet they considered using them on the territory of Russia as acceptable and provided all kinds of assistance to them, including material, information, political and any other support, notably military support, to encourage them to continue fighting against Russia. We overcame that complicated period in our history thanks to the people of the Caucasus, thanks to the Chechen people, and thanks to the heroism of our military personnel. We have survived those trials, growing stronger in the process.

It took off from there, as the saying goes. Not to offend anyone, but I will still say that our geopolitical rivals started using every opportunity they had to pursue their agenda. They started brainwashing people across the post-Soviet space, primarily in Ukraine. And they have been quite successful at that and well prepared, since back in the Soviet era they had entire institutions working on these matters.

After the 2014 government coup in Ukraine – let me emphasise that we spent decades trying to improve our relations in the new geopolitical environment – we did everything to build not only neighbourly, but brotherly relations: we granted them loans and supplied them with energy resources for next to nothing. This lasted for years. No, nothing worked. I mean nothing.

Let me remind you that when the Soviet Union was breaking apart, Ukraine withdrew from the union. In its Declaration of Independence, and I think – I am actually certain that back then the Russian leadership took this into consideration – Ukraine wrote that it is a neutral state. For this reason, we can understand why the Russian leaders at the time did not see these threats. They viewed Ukraine as a neutral state, a brotherly nation sharing a single culture with us, as well as having common spiritual and moral values, and a shared past. They did not see any threats. However, our adversaries persisted in their efforts, and we must recognise that they have been quite effective.

We pinned our hopes, it seems, on our efforts to improve these relations, but they proved ineffective and failed to reach the desired objective. Let me emphasise that we have nothing to blame ourselves for. I say this with full responsibility.

You know my position on this matter: we have always treated the people of Ukraine as a brotherly nation. I still think this way. What is currently happening is, of course, a tragedy. It is our common tragedy. But it does not result from our policy. On the contrary, it results from the policies carried out by other countries, by third countries, which have always wished to split the Russian world apart.

They succeeded, to a certain extent, and pushed us to the brink we are at now.

So, after the 2014 coup – I am not going to talk about the reasons behind this coup and will only say that it was unacceptable. As you may remember, in February 2014, three foreign ministers from Poland, France and Germany arrived in Kiev and put their signatures as guarantors of an agreement between the opposition and the incumbent government. The coup took place several days later. Everyone forgot about these guarantees, as if they had never existed. What should have been done instead? All they had to do was say, “Friends, we are the guarantors and major European countries, so please go back to the negotiating table, go to the polls and resolve the power issue using political procedures.” That is all they had to do.

Everyone realised perfectly well that, for better or for worse, the then government would have certainly lost the elections, especially since the then president agreed to almost all the opposition’s demands, including early elections. And when I ask our so-called colleagues why they allowed the coup to happen, they have no answer to that. They just shrug their shoulders and say it just happened. Good grief. It just happened? That way they let us know that no pro-Russian forces, and all politicians, journalists, or public figures who were even slightly in favour of developing relations with Russia were simply killed in the street, and no one thought about investigating anything. It became clear that we would not be given any chance, simply no chance whatsoever to restore relations with this portion of our former common country. No way. In fact, they used terror in a shameless and brazen manner.

The brainwashing of the citizens of Ukraine and the neo-Nazi and extremely nationalistic ideology that went on for decades did their job, one way or another.

What is it all about? Hitler's acolytes were elevated to the rank of national heroes, and no one seemed to care. Indeed, they are nationalists, but there are nationalists in any country, and we have them as well. But we are fighting manifestations of neo-Nazism and fascism; we are not elevating it to the rank of national policy. While in Ukraine they do and everyone pretends not to notice it. Nationalism does not seem to be a bad thing since it is about fighting for national interests, but the fact that this is done on the basis of a Nazi, neo-Nazi ideology is simply ignored. They walk around wearing swastikas in central parts of major cities, including the capital city, and they make it look as if it were nothing unusual. Why? Because it is the same approach they used in the 1990s and the early 2000s with the international terrorists fighting Russia. Pardon me, but they did not give a damn that those were terrorists, recognised international terrorists. They did not care, because they used them to fight Russia. It is the same now: neo-Nazis are used to fight against Russia. No one cares about the fact that they are neo-Nazis. What matters to them is that they are fighting Russia. But we do care.

It became clear back then that a clash with these forces, including in Ukraine, was inevitable, the only question was when. Military operations and hostilities always come with tragedy and loss of life. We are aware of this. But since it is inevitable, better do it today than tomorrow. I think that everyone in this audience understands perfectly well what I am talking about, including the state of our Armed Forces and the availability of advanced types of weapons and other equipment that we have but other countries do not. All of the above gives us a certain margin of safety.

We know our advantages: the nuclear triad, the Aerospace Forces, the Navy in certain segments, and so on. We know this, we have it all, and all of it is in the right state. We also see what we need to do to improve the Armed Forces, including the Ground Forces, our counter-artillery warfare, communications systems, and so on. Everyone in this room understands what I am talking about, and I am sure you agree with me.

There is something I want to emphasise. We in Russia (there are very few such countries in the world, and certainly not our neighbours, who will be left with nothing soon except for foreign handouts such as money, weapons, ammunition, only handouts – things are completely different in Russia), we have everything. I want to emphasise this: we have every single thing, we have the resources to build up this potential, and we will certainly do this without cutting any slack. Moreover, unlike many other countries, as I said, we will rely on our own (I want to emphasise this) our own scientific, technological, production and personnel resources. Moreover, we will attain our goals without detriment to economic growth or social development, while unfailingly fulfilling our social obligations to our citizens. All the plans outlined here, all our long-term goals will be achieved, and all plans will be carried out.

We will not repeat the mistakes of the past, when we harmed our economy to boost our defence capabilities, regardless of whether it was warranted or not. We are not going to militarise our country or militarise the economy, primarily because we have no need to do it at the current level of development and with the structure of the economy that we have. Again – we do not intend to, and we will not do things we do not really need, to the detriment of our people and the economy, the social sphere.

We will improve the Russian Armed Forces and the entire military component. We will do it calmly, routinely and consistently, without haste. We will attain our objectives to strengthen our defence capability in general as well as meeting the goals of the special military operation.

I agree with your proposals regarding further structural changes in the Armed Forces, but I ask you to report back after the discussion at the board meeting, and we will talk about this in detail again.

I would like to thank you all for the effort you have put in, and to share my confidence with you – you must also feel it, the general sentiment across Russia. The whole nation has its eyes on the Armed Forces, wishing you success and good luck. And we have no doubt that we will achieve all the results that we have planned, and everything you are formulating and reporting to me. I have no doubt that all the goals that we set will certainly be achieved.

Thank you.

All the best.

December 21, 2022, Moscow