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Answers to journalists’ questions

September 12, 2015, Sevastopol

During his tour of the Chersonesus Tavrichesky national preserve, Vladimir Putin and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi answered to journalists’ questions.

Question: Mr President, whose idea was it to come to Crimea?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Berlusconi asked to see it. He wanted to see Crimea, what is happening here, how people live and what they think of what is going on, he wanted to meet representatives of the Italian community.

Incidentally, as we were meeting with representatives of this community yesterday (there turned out to be a lot more of them than I thought), the head of the community drew my attention to the fact that the executive order on rehabilitation of repressed peoples never mentioned Italians.

They were forgotten, despite the fact that the other peoples – Crimean Tatars, Armenians, Bulgarians and Germans – were all listed there. I promised to set this straight and I would like to inform my friend that today I have signed amendments to that executive order that speak of the need to rehabilitate the Italian community, the Italians living here.

Silvio Berlusconi (retranslated): I personally saw this happen.

Question: Silvio, what impressed you most during these two days in Crimea?

Silvio Berlusconi: I think the Crimean land is beautiful. Everything impressed me: the nature, the sea, and the mountains that are hundreds of meters tall – a beautiful backdrop for this wonderful nature. It sometimes took my breath away when I looked at it! President Putin is showing me very interesting places. Thus, the place we are at now, where Christianity in Russia actually started.

I like the idea of creating a historical and cultural centre here. I can see, of course, that a lot needs to be done here. I believe that if Mr Putin finds this necessary I would be ready to send Italian architects here so they could help, or maybe bring some Italian plants to restore the understanding of the significance of this place, which certainly deserves it.

Question: Mr President, yesterday on the esplanade people from Donbass were shouting to you asking to take in Donbass. The situation with the Minsk agreements is very complicated now. In your opinion, should you respond to these calls from the people of Donbass or should the Minsk agreements be extended?

Vladimir Putin: We are with Donbass in our hearts, but unfortunately, such matters are not resolved in the street. There are serious issues that have to do with the future of all of Russia and of the people living in Donbass.

As regards the implementation of the Minsk agreements, I believe there is no alternative to bringing calm and peace to this territory. The most important thing that should be done is establishing direct contact between the Kiev authorities and the authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk republics to implement the Minsk agreements.

I would like to remind you that they say clearly that amendments to the constitution and the law on local elections should all be adopted upon approval from Donbass. Such approval is not being sought, and this is the main problem.

Besides, there should be a law on amnesty in place. How can you have a dialogue with people who are under criminal prosecution? And the fourth is that the law on the special status of these territories, approved by the Rada earlier, should finally be made effective. These are all key elements of a political settlement.

Besides, this territory needs rehabilitation in socioeconomic terms. Thank God, coal, as I know, is now coming to Kiev from Donbass. This means that we can also start with extra supplies of coal.

I believe we will also resolve the issues dealing with gas and power supply, if necessary. Overall, we need to restore the entire range of relations.

Question: Should the term of the Minsk agreement be extended?

Vladimir Putin: Mr Kuchma said they probably cannot get everything done within the given timeframe. Generally speaking, we could consider some sort of extension, but it would be best to try to achieve everything we agreed on in Minsk – to try to get everything done in time.

It is good to know, of course (this is probably most important) that the shelling of Donbass by Ukrainian army and so-called Ukrainian volunteer battalions has ceased – there are no more strikes. I believe that this is the main achievement for today.

September 12, 2015, Sevastopol