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Meeting with Government members

July 8, 2022, The Kremlin, Moscow

The President held a meeting with Government members via videoconference. 

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko, Deputy Prime Ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Yury Borisov, Tatyana Golikova, Alexander Novak, Alexei Overchuk, Marat Khusnullin and Dmitry Chernyshenko and Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of the Government Executive Office Dmitry Grigorenko, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, and Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov. A number of ministers, heads of federal departments and other officials were also invited to the meeting.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

Our main issue is the current situation in the fuel-and-energy sector and implementation of earlier adopted decisions.

But let’s first review the current issues. I would like to ask Mr Kravtsov to report on school leaving exams and preparations for the next academic year.

Go ahead, please.

Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov: Mr President,

First, I would like to say that we are fulfilling on time and in full all tasks you set related to the education and upbringing of schoolchildren. No foreign pressure and no sanctions can affect our plans.

As for the end of the academic year, the exams took place as planned. Over 724,000 schoolchildren took the uniform state exams in Russia and beyond. There were no serious mishaps or epidemiological complications. Despite continuous hacker attacks, the Uniform State Exam (USE) system was resilient throughout this critical period. There were no problems with processing results – graduates received them on time.

I would like to emphasise that the USE results have been stable for several years now. Despite pandemic restrictions and shortcomings of remote education, graduates did well on their exams. In some subjects, the average score was even higher. In social science and history, the results were 3.5 points and 3 points higher, respectively, than last year. Mathematics saw almost a two-point improvement.

I would like to add that every year an increasing number of school-leavers choose to study natural sciences, including informatics, biology and chemistry. The growing interest in these sciences can largely be ascribed to the installation of modern equipment at schools and extracurricular education.

I want to specially note that we are delivering at an accelerated pace on the task you, Mr President, gave us to rank among the world’s top 10 countries in terms of school education quality. The education standard, which in 2020 was supplemented with specific core content, has turned out to be very helpful. Teachers who rely on federal programmes to train students are showing good results.

Last year, on your initiative, a much-needed programme for major school repairs kicked off on an unprecedented scale. Today, 2,200 schools are being repaired, including 1,650 schools – with funds from the federal budget. In keeping with your instructions, members of the public, parents included, are taking part in this work at all stages, from developing design projects to accepting school buildings after all work is finished. Of course, currently work is in full swing, so that better learning conditions are ready for schoolchildren by September 1.

There is also another issue relating to the development of gas distribution infrastructure to supply heat to schools and childcare centres. In some cases, we plan to carry out major repairs at schools simultaneously with the social gas supply programme.

We are moving fast to prepare for the new school year. Today, every region has interdepartmental acceptance commissions, which will be inspecting all schools between July 20 and August 20. School building security and hot meal arrangements for schoolchildren are of particular importance. I want to say that it is a much-needed programme. Parents regularly take part in monitoring the quality of work. We are doing our best to avoid giving any reasons for criticism.

In September, we will also introduce a new format, Important Talk. We will offer students to discuss fundamental issues, such as the role of the family, human qualities, milestones in our history, and contemporary processes. These classes are expected to supplement the main training process in a most natural manner.

We give special focus on supporting the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and preparing their schools for the new academic year. We are doing our best for the schools in Donbass to start work in a single education space with Russia, so that the educational process is built on our highest quality standards.

We expect 1,120 schools to open in the DPR and LPR in the new academic year. Many of them have already finished the school year under our educational standards, 865 of them. Schoolchildren were able to take the Unified State Exam, about a thousand schoolchildren used the opportunity.

The other schools will have to reorganise and change their curricula, to adapt them to Russian standards. We have launched retraining programmes for teachers and school managers to help them. We expect that 15,000 teachers will complete the retraining by September 1, joining the 5,500 who have already done so.

The textbook issue has been resolved. Almost 3.5 million books will be sent to Donbass school libraries. The children will have high quality literature, without which it is impossible to gain a comprehensive, modern education.

This morning I met with Kharkov Region teachers in Kupyansk. They all say that any support from us is desperately needed by teachers, parents and children. In this connection, we are grateful to the governors and rectors of teacher training universities who join in the work with senior school students and arranged university tours for them. Donbass children are coming to us, they rediscover Russia and learn about the many real and accessible opportunities here.

In conclusion, a few words about children’s health and recreation. The summer vacation campaign is proceeding in regular fashion as planned. A total of over 38,000 organisations are engaged. About six million children are staying in the recreational institutions, this number has reached the earlier, pre-Covid level. You decision, Mr President, to support cashback on children’s summer camp vouchers played the key role here.

And let me also thank you on behalf of all teachers and colleagues for declaring next year The Year of Teachers and Mentors. It is a benchmark event for the education community, for everyone engaged in educating and raising children. We have already begun preparations and will submit the schedule of events to you shortly.

Thank you for your attention.

(Next, at the President’s request, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak explained the issues of gas distribution for heating in schools and kindergartens, raised by Sergei Kravtsov.)

Vladimir Putin: Mr Falkov, how are preparations for the admissions exams at universities proceeding? This year we have increased the number of state-funded places by 7.2 percent. How are things going?

By the way, it is very good that, in addition to majors like law and economics, already very popular among applicants are engineering, IT and so on.

How are you preparing for the entrance exams?

Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov: Mr President, colleagues,

Thank you for giving me the floor.

The Russian higher education system is completing another academic year, and at the same time, a new university admissions campaign started on June 20. For most high school graduates, this will end in the first half of August, when most universities issue enrollment orders.

I would like to highlight three key points.

The first is state-funded places. Mr President, under your instructions, this year we have significantly increased – by 38,000 – the number of state-funded places at universities, and the majority were allocated to the Russian regions. This means that the total number of education grants this year is 580,412, with 75 percent of the total number of subsidised places sent to the regions. This way, as you instructed, we are trying to ensure broad and affordable access to higher education across the country.

The disciplines with the greatest increases in budget grants were computer sciences and ICT, technical systems management, construction equipment and technology, mathematics and mechanics, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. <…>

The second essential point is that right now, universities are conducting their admissions campaign, accepting applications and holding entrance exams. We have retained both the traditional process for high school students submitting documents, that is, personally, and by mail, as well as the new process, which we tested during the covid period – remotely.

We see significant activity here, as well as a clear interest in higher education. The traditional leading majors are the most popular this year as well. These include the engineering, ICT, medicine, and pedagogy.

Thirdly, Mr President, in keeping with your executive order, relevant amendments were made to the enrollment procedure and rules, in particular, a special quota of 10 percent of the total number of government-funded grants for university applicants has been set aside for the children of those involved in the special military operation. Of course, as provided for in your executive order, the enrollment procedure for them has been simplified to include internal tests or they are admitted without any entrance exam at all.

I would also like to note the unique opportunities for university applicants from the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and Ukraine, who can enroll in the first year of classes under a simplified enrollment procedure, without submitting USE test results. However, they will not compete for government-funded grants with other university applicants but will be admitted within the Government’s quota, which we increased this year from 18,000 to 23,000 students. So, the enrollment of graduates from the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and Ukraine in universities is not affecting the level of competition among Russian nationals.

At the same time, we did even more this year as we supplemented these unprecedented opportunities for Donetsk and Lugansk republic graduates with the opportunity to not only enroll in universities in their regions but to simultaneously enroll in programmes run by Russian partner universities. <…>

Mr President, the enrollment campaign at universities this year is helping increase the availability of government-funded higher education for young people while taking into consideration the peculiarities of different groups of university applicants. The enrollment campaign is seeking to supply the country and its regions with professionals and much-needed specialists, while giving talented young people the opportunity to develop and realise their potential.

Thank you for your attention.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Let us wish all young people, both young men and women, every success in carrying out their plans.

Of course, agriculture is a core industry. Recently, this sector has been demonstrating very good quality and growth rates.

The harvest campaign has already begun in the southern regions. The outlook for crops is generally good. I will ask Mr Patrushev to give us more details.

Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev: Thank you, Mr President.

I will discuss the situation in the agricultural industry in Russia over the first five months of this year.

The agriculture production index was 102.3 percent compared to the same period last year. We see growth in almost every area and expect this trend to continue until the end of the year.

I would like to single out cattle breeding, because there were certain difficulties in this sub-industry in the first half of last year. Considering the new projects and the stabilisation of the epizootic situation, we are seeing a more positive trend this year. Cattle and poultry production increased by 6.5 percent, including growth of more than 7 percent for pork and poultry. In the food and processing industry, the indicators increased by almost 1.5 percent. Here, we also forecast general positive dynamics for the year.

Next, the sowing campaign in the Russian Federation is now completed. According to preliminary data, about 53.5 million hectares have been sown with spring crops. Considering winter sowing, our plans to increase the total area by almost a million hectares have been fulfilled.

(The Minister spoke about providing farmers with material and technical resources including mineral fertilisers, and about the supply of plant protection products, pesticides and agrochemicals.)

Harvesting has already started in the south, in the North Caucasus and Central Russia. According to the latest data, about ten million tonnes of grain have already been threshed. The rate is higher than last year. In addition, open ground vegetables and potatoes are being harvested, as well as systematic fodder foraging for farm animals.

In general, we hope for an excellent harvest for all the main crops, weather permitting.

For example, as you said, the planned volume of grain is about 130 million tonnes, and 22.6 million tonnes of oilseed, including very good indicators for soybeans and rapeseed. According to plan, the sugar beet harvest will exceed 41.5 million tonnes, which will make it possible to produce the required amount of sugar.

We plan to harvest at least 6.8 million tonnes of potatoes in the organised sector, and 5.2 million tonnes of open field vegetables. We believe that the harvest will fully cover domestic needs and, thus, ensure Russia’s food security.

Stable production will make it possible to increase food exports. We are the leaders in wheat grain exports, coming in second in sunflower oil, and third in barley and rapeseed oil; and these are products with high added value. Also, Russia is among the largest exporters of soybean oil and corn.

Over the last two years, the Russian Federation has become a net exporter of agricultural products. This year we are planning to maintain the results achieved earlier and provide basic products, primarily grain and oil, to all of our traditional partners.

I would like to note that on your instruction we have upgraded and submitted to the Government the strategy for developing the agro-industrial and fishing sectors up to 2030. In addition, I reported to you the risks in these sectors at the meeting in April.

What are we doing to reduce them?

To supply farmers with agricultural equipment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade we initiated at the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) level the lifting of import duties on a broad range of products for a term from six months to two years.

In addition, we continue implementing the special Rosagroleasing programmes that allow farmers to purchase equipment on subsidised terms. In general, Russian and Belarusian producers are increasing cooperation. Also, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is considering ways to increase its own agricultural machine and equipment manufacturing. We need to start production soon given the sanctions pressure, of course.

Another area: in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Transport Ministry and the United Shipbuilding Corporation, we are considering the possibility of building cargo ships for the export and import of grain and other goods by the agro-industrial complex.

(Further, Dmitry Patrushev spoke about supplying the industry with domestic seed and pedigree stock as well as import substitution in selection and genetics given the sanctions pressure and logistic restrictions. He also spoke about the efficiency and market prospects of exploratory projects at research institutions, the monitoring of prices in the agro-industrial complex and state support measures for farmers.)

With the subsidised investment loans, we are providing additional support for the purchasing of agricultural equipment, the construction and upgrading of seed selection and genetics centres as well as dairy farm projects. We have allocated 10 billion rubles for these purposes.

This year, we will be allocating an additional 8.3 billion rubles to compensate for part of the direct construction cost of dairy farms, storage facilities, and selection and seed-growing centres.

We continue to increase our support for small companies. Starting this year, we will subsidise small individual landowners. We will help them with the production and marketing of their products.

Mr President, in line with your instruction, an additional allocation of over 150 billion rubles has been approved to meet our commitments on subsidised loans. These loans are issued at a fast pace. In short loans we are already ahead of the past year.

To sum up, despite the new challenges, the agro-industrial complex continues to function and develop steadily.

This takes care of my report. Thank you for your attention.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Patrushev, I said this before, and we know that the sector is demonstrating positive growth rates and quality. This is clear and we are seeing it, and we want to wish agribusinesses all the best so they can work effectively this year, too. It is completely true that agriculture is one of the core production sectors.

At the same time, due to certain objective and subjective factors, the situation in world food markets will be challenging. I do not think there is any need to explain why again as we have already talked about it many times. Generally speaking, this is, of course, the result of the erroneous steps by some of our partners, primarily, in the energy sector, which led to everything else in their macroeconomic policy. Well, these are their problems; however, they will also be affecting us.

Therefore, primarily, we need, of course, to take advantage of the positive performance of our agribusinesses to meet the requirements of our domestic market in staple foods and also focus, as much as necessary, on the processing of these products.

Clearly, given the factors I mentioned, the difficulties in world food markets due to inevitable food price increases globally, we must deliver on all our obligations to our traditional regular partners, who, of course, are closely watching what is happening in our agrarian sector and who expect us to honour our obligations. We have everything we need to meet our obligations.

We are aware of the difficulties that are arising due to the so-called illegitimate sanctions. We need to consider logistics, cargo insurance and other issues in advance with our partners and find appropriate solutions. We regularly talk about this with you; we have returned to this subject many times, and I just want to draw your attention to it again.

There are some other issues that need to be addressed – you also spoke about them – I mean seeds, pedigree stock, veterinarian drugs, fodder additives and agriculture equipment – all these issues must be closely monitored by the Government and by you. I expect all this to be done on schedule.

 Let us wish every success to our agribusinesses one more time.

(Reports by Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism Zarina Doguzova and Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev concerned their performance during the tourist summer season, including passenger traffic to holiday locations.)

Vladimir Putin: Let us turn to the main item on the agenda – the current situation in the fuel and energy complex and the implementation of the decisions made at the previous meetings on this industry.

We have discussed this issue a lot recently; it is something we focus on. We discussed this at the meetings in April and May this year.

Today, we will talk about this and look at the implementation of the adopted decisions. We will see if we should take additional measures in this respect.

I would like to note that the situation in the Russian fuel and energy sector is stable despite the unprecedented sanctions pressure. Moreover, we are even recording growth in a number of key areas.

For instance, oil and gas condensate production reached 10.7 million barrels per day in June, which is an increase of half a million barrels over May. Overall, since the start of the year, oil production has exceeded last year’s figure by 3.5 percent. Gas production has decreased, but only by 2 percent in the January-May period.

The sustainable operation of the fuel and energy complex was achieved largely because of the timely support and development measures, the strengthening of technological independence, deeper oil processing and the prompt reorientation of exports.

Russian energy companies have a reputation of reliable and responsible partners. At the same time, the world markets are still in disarray because of the West’s appeals to renounce Russian energy resources. Thus, in anticipation of a shortage, the price of Brent reached $130 per barrel in mid-June. Prices have dropped by $20 to $30 in the past few days. This happened against the backdrop of a forecasted global economic slowdown and the onset of economic difficulties in Europe.

Yes, we know that the Europeans are trying to substitute Russian energy sources. But, the result of this is predictable: prices are increasing on the gas spot market, and end users, including households, have to pay more for energy.

All this shows once again that the sanctions restrictions against Russia cause greater damage to the countries that introduce them. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the further use of these sanctions can lead to even more severe and even disastrous restrictions on the global energy market.

We see that the West is trying to force other oil exporting countries to increase production volumes. However, in reality, the global energy market is relatively stable, and it does not tolerate a lot of fuss. It is impossible to correct the mistakes that have already been made in a couple of days.

The same happened to the so-called green agenda that stopped investment in new projects, technologies and promising deposits. This agenda has hampered, if not terminated, investment processes, and the sector is obviously hard-pressed for investment.

The result is predictable: energy prices have spiked. I constantly warned my colleagues in Europe about this possibility. I did this many times, including at personal meetings in the past. However, nobody is listening, and they treated our warnings with disdain. This situation (that we brought up as a hypothetical scenario) is now taking place, and this is what we are seeing as a result.

I want to note once again that, of course, in the current conditions, we should be guided solely by our own national interests, and we should do everything possible to protect our economy and the well-being of our citizens.

As you know, the European Union imposed an additional package of anti-Russia sanctions the other day. Russian companies should be preparing for this. We noted the possibility of such restrictions at our previous meeting on the fuel and energy sector. Today, I would like to ask you to report on the specific measures being taken in response.

We need to work rhythmically to implement the sector’s long-term development plans, while responding to the current challenges. Key priorities include infrastructure expansion projects to provide more Russian regions with gas and to diversify exports to promising southern and eastern markets.

As you know, the Government is exploring ways to expand the railway, maritime and pipeline infrastructure to ensure Russia’s oil and petroleum product shipments to friendly countries. Please update me on where we stand here.

I am also expecting a progress report on plans for expanding the gas transport infrastructure to increase eastward shipments and domestic gas distribution.

We will also review the overall progress in implementing the other instructions that were issued during the previous meetings on the fuel and energy complex.

Before I hand the floor over to Mr Novak, I have something to share with you. We keep talking about our response to the restrictions and sanctions. Notably, the Central Bank and the Government have taken timely actions, which were supported by the State Duma and the Federation Council, that helped us accomplish quite a lot. The so-called blitzkrieg, which our detractors devised with regard to Russia, their economic blitzkrieg, has failed.

Nevertheless, these actions and restrictions continue to hurt our economy and many risks are still out there. I see that some of our colleagues have relaxed their efforts with regard to the steps we need to take to head off potential threats. They act as if they do not care about these sanctions, as if they are now a thing of the past, as if we have coped with everything and are now on firm ground. Indeed, we should be confident, but we must be aware of the risks as well.

Risks remain for individual industries and for the labour market, so I want the Government leaders and ministers not to treat these risks lightly and to track the situation closely, to analyse the developments and to come up with and implement timely measures that will guarantee the stable operation and further growth of our economy in accordance with our mid- and long-term plans.

Let us get down to the main item on today's agenda.


July 8, 2022, The Kremlin, Moscow