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Meeting with Government members

August 26, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

The President held a regular meeting with Government members via videoconference.

The participants discussed new approaches and getting rid of red tape in the area of major construction work. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin delivered a report on this issue.

At the beginning of the meeting, reports were heard on the readiness of educational institutions for the new academic year.

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, Acting Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko, deputy prime ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Tatyana Golikova, Alexei Overchuk, Marat Khusnullin and Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of the Government Staff Dmitry Grigorenko, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Minister of Transport Yevgeny Ditrikh, Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic Alexander Kozlov, Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov, Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, Minister of Construction and Housing and Utilities Vladimir Yakushev, President of the Republic of Tatarstan and Head of the State Council working group on the development of the housing market and the creation of a comfortable urban environment Rustam Minnikhanov, Governor of the Ulyanovsk Region Sergei Morozov, and Head of the Russian Popular Front Executive Committee Mikhail Kuznetsov.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

Today, the main item of our agenda is major construction work and new approaches to this very important issue, including the need to reduce red tape in this area. Mr Khusnullin will report to us on the subject.

However, I would like to start the meeting with another matter, which is absolutely natural at this time of the year. Only a few days are left before the beginning of the new academic year. Therefore, I would like to ask Mr Kravtsov and Mr Falkov to tell us about the preparations for the new academic year in schools, technical colleges and universities.

Let’s start with Mr Kravtsov. Please.

Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov: Mr President,

At the meeting on August 11 I reported that 50 percent of Russian schools were ready for the academic year. Today I can say that all schools, including kindergartens and colleges, are ready to begin the new academic year.

Over 90,000 various education institutions across Russia have completed the necessary preparations and comply with the anti-terrorist and fire safety rules. The equipment and technical resources have been checked. Most schools have high-speed internet connection. With the help of the Communications Ministry, all schools will be connected by 2022.

And, of course, strong epidemiologic protection is another extremely important task we have addressed today. Together with Rospotrebnadzor, we sent notification to the regions with a list of clear rules and requirements that are in compliance with the doctors’ recommendations that should be followed. The main rules include disinfection of premises, separation of student flows, giving every class their own classroom and thermometry. Let me repeat that all schools and education institutions, including new ones, are ready to implement these measures.

(The Minister went on to talk about awareness-building among teachers, students and their parents to ensure sanitary safety; preparations for a nationwide parents’ meeting on August 28 and the national Health open lesson on September 2; and the voluntary flu vaccination for the teaching and administrative school staff that will begin in September.)

Now to school canteens. Mr President, you instructed us to provide schoolchildren with hot meals starting September 1, and not just in the 58 regions that comply with Rospotrebnadzor requirements, but in every region. Today the situation is as follows: the Government has allocated additional funds for 27 Russian regions, almost 30 billion roubles for 2020–2022. The regions have received this money.

Above all, we are focusing on small schools: the issue has already been resolved in 271 small schools out of 483, and work is underway at the others. Nevertheless, there will be hot meals in all Russian schools, even where Rospotrebnadzor requirements have not yet been fulfilled. I would like to stress this: in all schools.

The general coverage will include about 7 million schoolchildren.

We will control the practical implementation of these plans starting September 1 together with the Russian Popular Front. We have all the necessary resources and leverage. We will control the regions and report back to you, Mr President, on how your instructions are being fulfilled.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you very much, Mr Kravtsov.

All the issues that you have pointed out are important, but in today’s context, some of them are of special interest and value, including the organisation of free meals. We have already addressed this issue on several occasions. I ask you to do everything to ensure that our plans are implemented, throughout the Russian Federation, gradually of course, but not drawn out endlessly.

Go ahead, Mr Falkov.

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

The national system of higher education is completing preparations for the new academic year.

A great deal of work in a variety of areas has been done. It concerns upgrading facilities, including the current major repairs, and carrying out activities to improve antiterrorism protection and fire safety.

In keeping with the recommendations of Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare), universities are prepared to implement a set of coronavirus prevention measures. The final meeting of university rectors on all of the above issues took place at Moscow State University yesterday. We have discussed in detail the specifics of the current situation. A number of universities shared their experience.

Mr President, our work with the universities is not limited to preparations for the new academic year. Currently, we are working together on efficient ways to protect students’ and teachers’ health and provide high-quality training.

Universities and all higher education institutions as well as schools traditionally celebrate the beginning of a new academic year on September 1. It is of special importance for the first-year students because this day signifies a new stage in their lives. And the year 2020 will not be an exception: Knowledge Day will be marked at universities. An overwhelming majority of universities will start the new academic year in the usual format on September 1.

In view of Rospotrebnadzor recommendations, universities will hold introductory classes for first-year students and online lectures of leading scientists and prominent graduates. The universities will also carry out sanitary and hygienic awareness-building work from the very beginning.

Mr President, the higher education system is ready for the new academic year.


Vladimir Putin: Mr Mishustin, you recently visited the Far East. The Presidential Executive Order of June 26, 2020 outlines the national programme for the socioeconomic development of the Far East until 2024 and subsequently for the longer term, until 2035. The Government is to approve this programme by September 26. Can you tell us about the progress and share your observations? Of course, you reported to me on your visit earlier; however, it would be good for our colleagues to be informed about the current situation in the region you visited.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin: Mr President, colleagues,

Last week I finished my working trip to the Far East, and I would like to briefly report on our findings.

Several Government members and I visited four regions, including the Chukotka Autonomous Area, the Kamchatka Territory, the Magadan Region and the Amur Region. We had an opportunity to meet not only with the governors of these territories but also with the heads of all the Far Eastern regions and, most importantly, with local residents and representatives of public organisations – to get a good first-hand assessment of this federal district’s current circumstances and understand the priority measures that need to be taken to improve the quality of life, develop the economy and the social sector.

There are both issues concerning individual regions and issues that exist commonly across the entire federal district and which require close attention.

(The Prime Minister elaborated on specific local problems concerning healthcare, energy supply, gas supply and the district’s inclusion in the gas system, construction, and upgrades of greenhouse facilities. Mikhail Mishustin noted that the Government is thoroughly reviewing the proposals from the public that particularly concern improving the terms of mortgages in the Far East, the Far Eastern Hectare programme, and solving the problem of dilapidated housing.)

All these issues require a comprehensive approach; therefore, as per your instruction, we have developed a national programme targeting the region’s development until 2024 and in the long term until 2035. The Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic consulted with experts, representatives of the public and businesses and, most importantly, relied on the opinions of local residents themselves because they have the best understanding of the problems in the Far East and the possible solutions.

The final document maps out the development vectors for each of the 11 constituent entities within the Far Eastern Federal District while taking into account their peculiarities. It also contains the specific steps required for achieving the goals set out in the Presidential Executive Order.

The Far Eastern territory accounts for almost half of our country. The majority of almost 2,000 towns in the district have populations below 5,000 people. The national programme sets forth the requirements for each town or village, whether it needs a sports centre or a sports ground, a district hospital or a paramedic centre.

It is important to create comfortable conditions for Far East residents and ensure that the quality of life is improving and the local economy is showing results similar to the national average thus preventing further migration out of the district.

In addition to the measures targeting the social sector, the national programme includes measures for the local economy. We discussed these at length during the meeting on the socioeconomic development of the Far East in Blagoveshchensk. The Far East has huge potential and every opportunity to become a truly developed and modern region for comfortable life and work.


Vladimir Putin: Ms Golikova, I would ask you to tell us in general about the situation with the coronavirus infection, the development and production of vaccines, incentive payments to medical workers and about the general situation in this area.

Please, you are welcome.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova: Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, colleagues, good afternoon.

Currently, there is steady stabilisation in the number of new cases in Russia. I can say that the country has fully formed the regulatory and methodological base to fight COVID-19.

All regions have worked out algorithms for providing assistance to patients, including the work of infectious disease hospitals and outpatient clinics in terms of both admission of patients with the coronavirus and taking into account the upcoming season of influenza and ARVI.

Since March of this year, the daily growth rate of new registered cases has decreased by 54 times. Today, the daily growth is 0.5 percent. By the third decade of August, asymptomatic forms of the disease predominate among patients with COVID-19; 3.2 percent of those infected have severe symptoms.

According to our monitoring, almost half of the beds prepared for COVID patients in the Russian regions are free.

Based on the results of laboratory studies, it was found that almost a quarter of the medical personnel providing care to patients with the COVID infection have late antibodies against the causative agent, which makes them immune to this infection in the future.

In this regard, I would like to just comment on the issue you mentioned. We have repeatedly reported to you on the situation with the development and preparations for the production of Russian vaccines. As of today, as you know, the first registered vaccine has entered the third stage of clinical trials, this is Sputnik V. The Healthcare Ministry, together with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Roszdravnadzor, have selected three industrial sites that have the competencies for the industrial production of the vaccine.

I would also like to inform you that as of today, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, 27 countries have expressed interest in purchasing the Russian vaccine against COVID-19. They are interested in various forms of cooperation, including joint vaccine development, clinical trials, procurement, domestic production on their territory and humanitarian aid. We have received requests from Belarus, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Venezuela, Kazakhstan and other countries. According to the information available to us, 26 countries are closely following the third stage of the Sputnik V clinical trials and waiting for the results.

(Tatyana Golikova also reported on the safety measures being taken due to the beginning of the new academic year. At the highest estimate, 30.6 million children and students will be attending classes at various educational institutions and preschools simultaneously. An additional project will be launched on September 1 to monitor COVID-19 morbidity among schoolchildren and students.)

It should also be noted that in late September we expect the clinical trials of another Russian vaccine to be finished at the VEKTOR State Research Centre. This vaccine based on peptide antigens was named EpiVacCorona. We believe it will be registered in late September or early October. As of today, the first and second stage of the clinical trials have not shown any complications among those immunised with the vaccine.

(The Deputy Prime Minister also reported on the payments to medical workers and other categories of citizens directly dealing with COVID-19. She reported that the Government will allocate additional funds for this purpose.)

Vladimir Putin: First, as far as Belarus is concerned, I discussed this with Alexander Lukashenko and we agreed that Belarus will take part in the final stage of additional trials of our vaccine and will subsequently be one of the first countries to receive it. You mentioned that you are in contact with your Belarusian colleagues. Please see this joint work through to the end.

Now, as concerns the payments. Medical workers are receiving one-time insurance payments to cover the temporary inability to work due to exposure to these conditions. However, the Russian Popular Front has reported violations with regard to the insurance payments in several regions, including the Novosibirsk, the Chelyabinsk Region and St Petersburg.

What is going on there, Ms Golikova?

Tatyana Golikova: First, concerning Belarus. We will fulfil all your instructions. Mr Mishustin has already talked with the Belarusian representatives and issued respective instructions which we are working on right now.

(With respect to insurance payments, Tatyana Golikova told the President about the necessary amendments being made, including those related to the above mentioned violations, the procedure for calculating payments and about the fact that each case is being investigated. In addition, the Deputy Prime Minister drew attention to the excess bureaucracy, specifically the requirement to present additional documents that are not included in the applicable regulations.)

Vladimir Putin: You have finished with what I wanted to say. The decision-making process is too bureaucratic. An applicant has to collect 16 or more documents to get the payment due to them. Some cases require investigation, still they need to be generalized and the decision has to be taken either at the federal level or a recommendation must be given in the regions. This bureaucratic process must stop.

Tatyana Golikova: All right, Mr President, we’ll do as you say.

Vladimir Putin: And finally, I want to say this:

I often talk with my foreign colleagues on different occasions. Many of them say the same thing; they say, “Yes, we can see that the trends in combatting the coronavirus in Russia are favourable in general, but in some countries (their country) there is an upsurge in the level of the disease.” And all of them say the same thing: of course, you need to remain open, you cannot just keep people locked up, you need to allow them out selectively to avoid another wave or upsurge. So we have been doing this until now. I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that when you gradually open various areas of activity and sectors, you need to adjust this to what is really happening and plan the proper sanitary and epidemiologic efforts. I can see that everything is being done like this, but we need to remind ourselves and our people and leaders at all levels, to act very cautiously.

And before we move on to the main question on today’s agenda, I would like to say this, especially to the Government, the Prime Minister and some other colleagues. I will tell you what I mean.

I would like to draw you attention to the conflict involving Bashkir Soda Company in the Republic of Bashkortostan. I have documents at my disposal and here is what they say: naturally, people are concerned about their jobs, which is obvious. But there is more to it. They are concerned about the spiritual and cultural values, the environment and its protection, development of the social sector and infrastructure. It should be remembered that the controlling stake in Bashkir Soda Company belongs to private owners. The money earned by the company is hardly ever invested in its development and does not stay in the region. Considering that the company’s total revenue in 2019 was about 45 billion rubles, only 2.5 billion was invested. Where did the money go? It went to offshore accounts, of course. Look, 12.3 billion rubles was spent on dividends in 2018. Can you guess what percent of net profits this was? It was 106 percent. More than the entire net profit. 2019 dividends were 107 percent of the net profit.

Once again, the money goes where some of the shareholders reside, to bank accounts in Cyprus, France and Switzerland. Of course, people are allowed to live anywhere they want. We are a free country. But if you work in Russia and make money here, you must think about the people working for your company, about new jobs, the social sector and the infrastructure. We need to look into these kinds of processes. Andrei Belousov reported to me today on how we deal with offshore zones. Everything is clear. But in general, we need to get back to this issue with a more system-wide approach. Siphoning off money uncontrollably and with no investment obligations whatsoever is an unfortunate affair.

What is the most interesting fact? In early 2013, in a miraculous turn of events, through consolidation, the state’s share was washed out and dropped below the controlling stake. The state used to own 62 percent and suddenly, its share dropped to 38 percent. As a result, the company’s priorities have changed. It does not look like the company’s long-term development is the shareholders’ current goal. It appears that their goal is to siphon off as much money as possible, no matter the implications.

I would like to instruct the Government and the Republic’s administration to thoroughly investigate the situation and propose solutions. I think the people who noticed what was happening and expressed their distrust must be right. There is no point in conflict. A dialogue with people will be more efficient when it comes to finding a solution.

Once again, of course, it is necessary to maintain jobs, but this must be done in due course, consistently, by investing in production, creating new production capacity, training staff, etc. All these tools are standard practice; they just need to be applied.

Also, I would like to instruct the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the legality of the deal that resulted in the state losing control over these assets.


August 26, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region