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Meeting with students from Sirius Educational Centre

July 21, 2017, Sochi

Vladimir Putin met with students from the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children in Sochi.

Vladimir Putin answered the students’ questions and reviewed some of their projects.

The President was shown, among other things, a device for laboratory blood testing, the so-called Lab of the Future, which, according to its inventors, can replace a number of tests with just one. Vladimir Putin also saw a wireless charging device for drones used to inspect power lines. Also, young scientists showed the President a technology they are proposing for computer processing of x-ray images, and the Moon Greenhouse project which studied possibilities for growing plants in the moon’s gravity.

The Sirius Educational Centre was established on the basis of the Olympic infrastructure at the President’s initiative in December 2014. The aim of the centre was to reveal talent early, and develop and support gifted children from all Russian regions. These are children who display exceptional abilities in the arts, sports, the natural sciences or who have achieved success in technical creativity.

Every month 600 children aged from 10 to 17 receive tuition-free education at the centre. They are guided by over 100 teachers and coaches. The 24-day programme includes studies on a specialty, intellectual games, workshops, meetings with recognised professionals in their area of knowledge, sets of health-building programmes, and general education classes during the school year.

* * *

President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon friends,

Your session and the academic year are coming to a close. So let’s say our meeting is timed to these.

But for the beginning of our meeting, and I hope it will be interesting to everyone, I would like to return to where we started and say how this project – Sirius – came about.

You know that all countries that host major international competitions like the Olympic Games, always face a challenging question – what to do with the buildings and facilities, all that infrastructure that was built for these major international competitions. We, Russia and the city of Sochi, also faced this question. We had various plans for them; and we built a lot. In fact, Sochi has changed its image a lot and become a major international resort destination.

But I really wanted that project to be expanded with something that would truly be worthy of the Olympic legacy. This is how the initial idea came to create sport centres here – but for popular sports for which we, as they say today, have the greatest aptitude. These are primarily winter sports because we hosted the Winter Games and there were plenty of artificial ice arenas. First of all, I thought about ice hockey and figure skating.

Then it occurred to me: Why just sports? Why just sports for which we have developed an aptitude over decades? We have other abilities – for example, in science, education and the arts. We have always been proud of our musicians and our ballet, and the world admires them. Then I remembered that we also have specialised educational institutions that were established back in the Soviet times and still exist. These are not only ten-year schools for future conservatory students but also physics and mathematics schools, chemistry schools, and biology courses that opened later.

All these things I just mentioned are what we need now and what will be in great demand in the short and long term. This is how I eventually arrived at the conclusion that we need to create a multidisciplinary centre. I shared this idea with some of my colleagues in Moscow. They all are very intelligent, progressive people and competent professionals. They told me, although not directly but through our common connections: “This will not work.” I said: “Why not?” “Because if you bring all your big hockey players together, and they are strong boys, they will start by beating up those mathematicians in their nerdy glasses.” (Laughter.)

Frankly speaking, I had certain concerns but then I talked to the outstanding hockey players, our national pride by right. And they said, “Do not worry about it!” I asked why. “Because our guys who achieved real success in sports, they know the true cost of victory and they know it requires talent and hard work. They will absolutely value that in others.”

The director of the centre told me that she believes this is how it is going now. And this means that the project was necessary and it is successful. I want to congratulate you because it is your achievement above all.

Television anchor Irada Zeinalova: Now we will watch this unchildish conversation that is very important not only for children who will ask you questions but also for us. We will find out what they think and what they really want because adults often do not understand this. We will try to minimise our participation and will not be acting as moderators – we will just be here with the children. So let us get right to the questions.

Guys, raise your hands, stand up and introduce yourselves. All of you have an opportunity to ask the President a question.

Remark: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Artyom. First of all, I would like to thank you for this place. Thank you for Sirius. I think the whole of Sirius joins me in that.

Vladimir Putin: By the way, Artyom, I can also boast that I invented the name. I was thinking for a long time of a name that would combine everything in your future educational centre, so that the name would make it clear that this centre is for talented, bright young people that look to the future. When I said “bright” to myself, I recalled that Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. This is how the name emerged, by the way. I think it fits well, how about you?

Remark: I totally agree.

In general, my specialty is science but my question is not about science. I am an active user of the internet and as such I would like to ask you: Do you use social media or are you perhaps planning to use it? Say, when you come home after a hard day of work, do you look at Instagram or watch YouTube?

Vladimir Putin: A hard day of work ends so late for me that I have no time for Instagram. I think about how to get to my bed as fast as possible. (Laughter.) My staff in the Executive Office use the internet very actively, but, to be honest, I practically never use it myself.

Irada Zeinalova: By the way, they use a language of their own, such as “tags” or “nicks”, and if you were a user, what nickname would you choose for yourself, as there are already one million accounts named “Vladimir Putin” or “Real Vladimir Putin” out there?

Vladimir Putin: I am aware that there is a bunch of all sorts of accounts, somewhere around 5,000, I believe. I have nothing to do with any of them, so that you and other users know. What is being written there on my behalf, is not written by me. I hope they do not write anything bad there, but, again, it is not me. This is my first point.

Second, with regard to nicknames. It is a pseudonym. As you may be aware, I started my career in the foreign intelligence service, and I sometimes used cover names out of technical necessity, but using a nickname now would be plainly ridiculous, I certainly would not choose any, and would use my own name. By the way, I think it is the right thing to do for everyone. Why hide behind pseudonyms? When I studied at the intelligence school, my pseudonym was “Platov.” Everyone had pseudonyms, because that line of work involves a certain degree of conspiracy. Why do so here? Why hide? I believe that it should be the other way round: If a person does something worthy and interesting, something he or she can be proud of, one should take credit for it. Why hide behind a pseudonym? I am not sure about this. Anyway, I think I answered your question.

Irada Zeinalova: We are not hiding, either. This is being broadcast not only on the NTV Channel, but also on website, and (I learned a lot of new words while preparing this programme) on our Vkontakte account and on YouTube video hosting. So everyone can watch us now.

Television host Sergei Malozyomov: And I would like to draw your attention to the fact that online broadcasting offers us some technical opportunities that, unfortunately, television is unable to provide so far. For instance, in our studio there are two boxes on stands – these are 360-degree cameras. They provide a complete view, showing everything that is happening around them in the studio. And the most important thing is that you can choose, on your mobile device or computer, a segment of the studio that you want to peruse and zoom in on it. And, for example, your parents or your friends, all who have gathered there, they will be able to watch you, what you are doing during this unchildish discussion.

Television host Yegor Kolyvanov: Well, it is a secret agent's dream. Anyway, let us take questions from the children. OK?

Question: Good morning, Mr President.

My name is Ivan.

We are aware that being a President is a very hard job, great responsibility lies on your shoulders. And I have a purely human question. Would you like to relieve yourself of this burden at least for a day, during which you would not be a President? What would you do on such a day?

Vladimir Putin: You know, I regard myself as an ordinary person. True, my job cannot be called ordinary due to its specific characteristics. Even so, I live a normal, ordinary life. There is just certain degree of stress, of course – moral, psychological and physical. And yet, I live a normal, ordinary life, that is, not when there is spare time, but I plan my work schedule in such a way as to afford myself spare time for some creative development, to listen to music, to play sports, to spend time with my friends. I set aside special time for that. But then, I was used to living like that long before I became President. Little has changed for me, except certain specific features related to carrying out my presidential duties.

So, I see nothing special here. And there is nothing special that I would like to do if I relieved myself of this burden, as you said. But still, I will have to do it some day as there are term limits for the President, which are set by the Constitution.

You are all young people, but you probably know, should know, that I had a possibility, and they even begged me at the time to amend the Constitution. I refused to do it, nor do I intend to do it in the future. All is written in the Constitution. As for whether I should continue to carry on in this capacity, I have not made a decision yet, I will think about it. In 2018, as you know, an election will be held. There is still time before the election campaign, so we will see. But, on the whole, I believe that I live a normal life, though with certain specific characteristics, which, to my mind, exist in every occupation.

Look, you have guys in creative occupations here – musicians and future ballet dancers. We know what it takes to be an amazing musician or ballet dancer. It is gruelling work, day and night. Sometimes I look at some of my friends – musicians at a high international level – they are working 12 to 15 hours a day. Those who play string instruments develop callouses, almost to the point that their fingers bleed. This is what it means to devote oneself to something. Or take ballet where guys and girls have to work so hard. Their training is mind bogging. Or take the career of a scientist – they are peculiar people altogether. They are so engrossed in what they do that sometimes they do not notice anything around them.

But I still think that a person must be well-rounded. This is why, to be honest, I thought up this structure for Sirius – for you and your peers to come here, focus seriously on certain specialties and have an opportunity to interact with other students that are engaged in other types of activities. Athletes can see how science lovers – for instance, maths, biology or chemistry – live, work and think, and budding scientists can see what future musicians or ballet dancers do and how they live and set their minds on work. Such interaction is designed to help you develop, and develop in a well-rounded way. I think this is exactly what is taking place here, in Sirius.

I am trying to organise my life in the same way, too. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes not, but this is what I set my mind on.

Question: And what would you choose yourself – science, art, or, for instance, sports, if you has such an opportunity?

Vladimir Putin: I think I have already made my choice. (Laughter.)

Remark: Politics.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Remark: Thank you very much.

Sergei Malozyomov: Question from behind your left shoulder. Please, do not forget to introduce yourself.

Question: Good afternoon, my name is Maria. When you have spare time, what do you like doing the most? Do you do something creative? What is it?

Vladimir Putin: Look Masha, I have just said that I have very little spare time but I try to do things. It is just that I have a schedule, let us put it that way. At certain times I try to do certain things. I allot certain time – and quite some time – for sports, listening to music and spending time with friends. I allot time for all this purposefully, I schedule it. If I do not do that I will not have time for anything. But there is one more secret – the more you do, the more you are able to do. You should not be idle, should not spare yourself, that is for sure. And I have already said what I do. I like reading, especially historical literature. I like listening to music and playing sports, and socialising with friends – just like everyone else, just like you.

Irada Zeinalova: And now a question from our rostrum.

Question: Mr Putin,good afternoon. I would like to ask you what you are going to do after you leave the post of President.

Vladimir Putin: I have not yet decided yet whether I will leave the post of the President or not. Only after I answer this question for myself will I think about my next step.

There are a lot of interesting things to do in the world. This is not to say that I should sit and only write memoirs. After all, you can engage in political activity outside your presidential duties, really. There are public organisations and there are other areas that are very interesting to me, for example, ecology. I like this area very much and I consider it promising for the present and the future. You may have noticed that for several years in a row I participated with scientists in various activities related to the protection of rare species: tigers, polar bears, white whales, and so on. I enjoy this greatly. It fascinates me, so I will definitely find what to do. First, the main question should be answered.

Question: Good afternoon, I am Darya Ilyina from Veliky Novgorod. My specialty is painting.

My question is this. You support many Russian artists who have graduated from Russia’s leading higher education institutions. How can young people from the regions get into these institutions considering the problem that many regional schools – not in Moscow or St Petersburg – are simply not supported and not given consideration to ensure that there is a single programme to enter these institutions? In other words, sometimes talented artists have no chance of getting there because they do not paint within a certain school.

Vladimir Putin: You know, this is a difficult question for me, and I do not really understand what it means to paint within a certain school. However, I believe that if a person wants to achieve a goal and knows that a given institution of higher learning has certain requirements then he or she should try to meet these requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to know exactly what there requirements are and do your best, especially with modern methods of distance learning. Perhaps this is not the simplest choice, not the easiest way of solving the problem but when a person decides what to do, he or she should look for ways of doing it, showing talent and perseverance.

Regarding administrative authorities, here of course we will try to do all we can, especially at the regional level, to support art schools. They were traditionally established here in previous decades. And by the way, many of them are quite successful. However, they are focused on ensuring that their students enter two or three higher education institutions in Moscow and St Petersburg, I do not know exactly. If you think this is something that needs to be addressed, we will do so.

And then, you know, when a person is really talented, he or she will be noticed anyway. He will go the Ilya Repin Institute in St Petersburg or Moscow institutes and I am sure professors will not ignore such a person.

Irada Zeinalova: Mr President, you will agree that there is no precise instrument for measuring talent. It is a very subjective matter. The questions that you are being asked now about something human cannot be measures by an instrument, either. It is only possible to create some categories, to decide what is important to you.

Could you please name three main values in your life? Three main things in your life?

Vladimir Putin: In my life or in general?

Irada Zeinalova: In yours. In your life.

Vladimir Putin: In life?

Irada Zeinalova: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Why three? Why not five?

Irada Zeinalova: Because preparing for this conversation we conducted a poll of Vkontakte users. We asked them what is important to them. In other words, these unmeasurable things can only be compared. It is important for us adults to see how well we understand those who will supersede us.

Vladimir Putin: All right, I gained some time to think about it while you answered. What could I say? If I had to name three values in life they would be: first, life itself, it is the greatest value, then love, and freedom. It is possible to write treatises on each of these values. They have already been written and can be written without end. Speaking about life, which is so valuable, is it possible to define it – is it a purely biological condition or is it intellectual? It is possible to talk at length about the nature of love. There are relations between a man and a woman, but there is also love for parents, and love for the Motherland. But, let me repeat that these are all separate things. What is freedom? Where is it? How far does it go? And where does it end? It ends where we start transgressing on the freedom of other people. How to compare one’s own freedom with the freedom of another person?

It is possible to think endlessly on each of these positions but in my mind, these are the most important values – life itself, love and freedom.

Irada Zeinalova: Thank you very much. We are now launching a poll on Vkontakte: What is important to its users, that is, the younger audience? At the end of our meeting, we will tally the results and analyse them.

And now a few more questions.

Head of the Talent and Success Foundation Yelena Shmelyova: Mr President, let me introduce one of the youngest students of our session, Kirill Shapovalov. Kirill is a figure skater from Moscow and he is 10 years old. Let me pass him the microphone.

Kirill Shapovalov: Good afternoon, Mr President. My question is, what is your most vivid memory from childhood?

Vladimir Putin: Well, I am a big kid now, some of my vivid memories have faded.

You know, probably, speaking of the most vivid ones… As a child, I spent most of my time playing in the street, in the courtyard in the centre of Leningrad, a large city. Boys my age spent most of their time there. This was a sort of “university” and a school of life. I will not go into details, but one such vivid memory I have is – let me put it this way – my incorrect behaviour towards a person and his abrupt response. This happened several times; but it is a thing you can learn from, and you learn not just to be polite to other people but to have respect for them. This is relevant, but it does not mean one should spend most of their time in the street as I did. Such experience can be gained at Sirius as well.

Later, in my adolescent years, when I began to play sports, the most vivid memories are from competitions. I began with sambo, then all of us in our group switched to judo, and even at local competitions there were some highlights I still remember to this day. One such moment was when my opponent and I really pushed ourselves to the limit. I can still remember him clearly. I could barely breathe, and I only won by a hair’s breadth. I am still proud that I was able to win and that I gave it my all.

So these are some memories, vivid memories, that I can still recall. By the way, the ability to go all the way to achieve your goal is a very good quality.

Question: Good evening, Mr President, my name is Artyom. I am on the Russian national ice hockey team.

As you are aware, hockey is an aggressive sport. My question for you is how do you handle aggression directed towards you? Do you allow yourself to be aggressive towards other people?

Vladimir Putin: Aggression has been part of our make-up since prehistoric times, when our ancestors were in an animal or semi-animal state. However, the more intelligent and the more educated people are, the less aggressive they are. In any case, they are much better at controlling it.

Of course, I constantly run into stressful or semi-stressful situations, I do not like many things, but I learned to restrain myself. I am not sure how it looks from the outside, but I think that I am good at it. Moreover, I believe that this is a great advantage in dealing with people, especially ones who cannot control these emotions. I may fly off the handle occasionally, which is extremely rare, and, frankly, I get very angry with myself when it happens, because I believe that the manifestation of aggression in today's world, in today's society, in relations between people is a manifestation of weakness. I do not like this. When there are no arguments left to make, a person begins to behave aggressively. Overall, I manage to cope with it, which is what I wish for you, too.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Oksana Pshenichko. I'm from Mezhdurechensk, the Kemerovo Region.

I have a serious question related to education. In addition to my studies, I participate in projects and take part in young physicist contests at school. We study physical phenomena from all angles, which includes theory and, importantly, practice. However, physics at school is taught differently, and, unfortunately, the focus is on the Unified State Exam.

Vladimir Putin: Differently as compared to what?

Oksana Pshenichko: Different from our contests and research activities. The focus is on the exam, and almost all the time is spent on learning definitions and solving standard tasks simply because they are part of the test. However, the students no longer understand why the world looks the way it does, and what is going on around us. Importantly, interest in physics is declining. How should the education system and the teaching of physics in general be improved, so that interest in the natural sciences in children stays alive? This also affects the state of affairs in our country, does it not? Anyway, is it realistic to make any major changes in our time?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Global changes occur at all times – simply at different rates. In the Middle Ages, there was one rate of change and in our days it is significantly higher, which has to do with the accumulation of knowledge. The more knowledge mankind has, the faster the changes. In addition, of course, there is the accumulation factor. First, there is accumulation and then there is a leap. So it seems that we are now on the threshold of a leap and of course physics is very important, which means that changes should also be introduced to the teaching system. I will not tell you now exactly what needs to be done or how the teaching of certain subjects should be changed, for example, physics or mathematics. This is up to specialists. I cannot speak for experts and it would be wrong – as they say, counterproductive – and even harmful to do so because this is of course primarily something for specialists to decide.

Nevertheless, we have very good examples of modern methods of teaching natural sciences. For example, Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alferov has wonderfully combined a secondary school and higher education institution. I have been there and was greatly impressed. Young people there earn advanced degrees – Candidates of Science and Doctors of Science. All of this is done in a single complex. So there are good examples, of course, and not only here but also, for instance, at Moscow University. I am a member of its Board of Trustees. Therefore, we do have good examples.

Regarding the Unified State Exam you have mentioned and the associated dogmatism, this is bad, because the USE was not originally conceived as a dogmatic system. And if this is the way it works, of course, something must be changed. However, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that after all is said and done, the USE is not directly related to a pro forma approach toward teaching.

For example, a lot of national academic contests are held in our country and their winners enter higher education institutions directly, without any USE. It is noteworthy that this year, 21 people have scored 300 on the USE. Experts previously said that it was impossible. However, this proved possible – moreover, 21 people have done it. Some of them were allowed to waive the USE but they went and passed it anyway. This goes to show that in and of itself, the USE does not carry any negative elements, but problems do exist and it is important that efforts are taken to address them, as you yourself have said.

On the positive side, as you know, before the USE was introduced on a full scale, only a small proportion of young people from the periphery got into the country’s leading higher education institutions – just 10–15 percent. Today, over 60 percent of young people from the periphery – not Moscow or St Petersburg – enter the country’s top education institutions. This has significantly expanded the geographical scope and opportunities for talented, gifted young people from all over Russia and there are no preferences only for those who live in Moscow or St Petersburg. This is definitely on the plus side but of course the USE needs to be improved.

Yelena Shmelyova: Mr President, let me introduce colleagues who are not currently here. We have been operating for two years exactly, and over 100 Sirius graduates are winners of international and very significant contests and Olympiads. During this July session, we sent the Russian national mathematics team to the International Mathematics Olympiad in Rio. And we decided that it would be unfair if they cannot ask you a question, which is why we recorded one question from them. Can we show it now?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Question: Mr President, will the work of tutors and teachers be rewarded, those who trained a medalist for an International Mathematics Olympiad? For example, will they be awarded the Merited Teacher of the Russian Federation title?

Vladimir Putin: We have a whole reward system for both coaches and teachers. And tutors who train you for such large events – and they obviously do good, excellent work, our children keep on winning, taking first place (first and second place) at such internationals contests – so if those rewards do not reach them, it is clearly an oversight on the part of respective administrative bodies. We will correct that oversight.

Yegor Kolyvanov: By the way, I would like to remind you that a few days ago equally talented children came back from the International Chemistry Olympiad in Thailand, and they did not come back empty-handed. They had won two gold and two silver medals at the international competitions. I think this deserves a round of applause. It is really cool for me as someone who was always just average in chemistry.

Here on the same stand with me are world football champions. See, we do have them. No matter what, we have world football champions. They are Pasha and Sasha, winners of the international competition among children’s homes. Is that right? They would like to talk to you.

Question: Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Are you Sasha or Pasha?

Question: I am Sasha.

Mr President, thank you very much for the gift, all the children are happy, for the football facility. It will open in September. All the children from the Totem football club, from the home, will be expecting you at the opening of the facility.

Vladimir Putin: I think we met, yes, we did.

Remark: Yes, at the Confederations Cup.

Vladimir Putin: Is this an invitation? Or is there a question to follow?

Remark: An invitation.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Remark: My name is Pasha.

Vladimir Putin: Yes Pasha, go ahead, I am listening to you.

Question: Mr President, will our national team win the World Cup?

Vladimir Putin: Pasha, which of us is the world champion? Answer, please.

Remark: I am. (Laughter.)

Vladimir Putin: Please, tell me, as an expert, will our national team win the World Cup? (Laughter.)

Sit down. (Applause.)

Yegor Kolyvanov: Anything could happen.

Question: Good afternoon, my name is Alla.

Mr President, there was a torrential downpour on June 22, the Day of Memory and Sorrow, during the wreath-laying ceremony. You stood in the rain without an umbrella. Does this gesture have anything to do with paying tribute to the memory of fallen soldiers?

Vladimir Putin: First, the rain started unexpectedly, which it does now and then.

Second. I do not think that those who used their umbrellas broke any rule, especially women, since they do … Here, the artists know what women do. (Laughter) Therefore, they must take precautions and look good.

As for me, it never occurred to me. You know, war is not just about blood and death, no matter how sad it may sound. Of course, there is both blood and death, and they are part of the horrors of war. But, among other things, war is also about hard work. The troops either advance or retreat, and they are in the field all the time, during the day, at night, in the summer, in the winter, in the snow, and in the rain. They never catch a break. They do not go home when their fighting day is over. They live and die in the field. This is a terrible situation. So, it did not even occur to me that I could grab an umbrella at the very moment when the wreath was laid. Indeed, it was raining heavily, but I did not think about it. I did not make a decision to do something in particular. It simply did not occur to me that I could do something differently. I believe that this is normal. We are not made of sugar, we will not melt.

Question: Mr President,

My name is Eva. I am a pianist, in the art department.

I have a question that, I think, concerns many young musicians. Currently ninth-graders take four exams under the Main State Exam: Russian language, math, and two subjects of their choice. Is it possible for the students of specialised music schools to take the musical exam under the Main State Exam, such as specialty, musical literature, or solfeggio? After all, we devote most of our time to musical subjects.

Vladimir Putin: You know, this question should also be answered by experts. There is an Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, a corresponding ministry, and you also have mentors. I believe, but I am not well-versed in this subject, that it is possible. However, I am sure that there will be objections regarding the fact that if someone receives a certificate of education at a certain level, he or she must necessarily have a certain set of knowledge, and an all-round education. So, they will tell you, it is necessary that our students know this and that. However, in my opinion, I would listen to what you are saying, and I will talk with my colleagues about this.

Remark: Thank you.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Question: It is good to see you in good form.

My question is this. Recently, Oliver Stone made a documentary film about you. Tell me, what do you think about the filming process as a whole? What about the film director? Did he take any liberty with the truth? And what did you like more – your interview with Vladimir Solovyov or this documentary?

Vladimir Putin: What I like the most about this film is Oliver Stone himself. He is a remarkable man, a profound, well balanced and pleasant interlocutor.

How was the process organised? I am a little hard put to say because it was so unexpected for me. Of course, I knew that a film crew would come but with the pressure of work – my press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, would come to me for the umpteenth time and say: “Mr President, it is time to go. They are waiting for you.” I would go and we would talk and then I would forget about them. However, they would not forget about me. They would return again and again. In other words, this happened several times – two, three, five – I do not even remember how many times we met.

Regarding how objectively they got everything across. From what I saw, and I did not see everything – as I said earlier, they gave me a cassette with all the episodes. I was flying home from abroad and I put it on to watch but fell asleep because I was tired, so I did not see it to the end but will definitely do so. Still, I believe – actually, I am sure that Oliver Stone is a very decent person and that he did not distort anything. From what I saw – to repeat, I saw one and a half instalments – everything is correct.

Question: Good afternoon, my name is Svetlana. I am at the Russian Ballet Academy in St Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: So I see. I could tell right away.

Question: I have a specific question. In May 2013, we had a grand event – the opening of the Mariinsky Theatre 2. After that, the Mariisky Theatre 1, the historical stage, was to have been renovated. However, time is going by and nothing is happening. What could – let me put it this way – help expedite this process?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know. This needs to be taken up with Valery Gergiev. I do not think there are any financial problems behind this process and I do not think that there are any difficulties with architectural or other agencies. When the new buildings were built – you are a young girl, but surely you know that there was a lot of controversy in St Petersburg about whether such a modern building as the second stage should be introduced into the city’s architectural ambience. However, finally, a decision was made to build it and it was built. In my opinion, it is one of the best theatres in the world in terms of technical equipment, acoustics and convenience for both the performers and the audience.

Regarding the old stage, everything should be simply renovated – there are no difficulties or disputes there. I will look into this, I promise you, but I do not know what has caused the delay. Maybe someone is not ready for this. I do not know, maybe Mr Gergiev’s repertoire is so arranged that at this point he wants both stages to be in operation. I will find out, but there will be no problems. We will renovate the old building as well.

There is another, more pressing problem there: Troupe members need housing. We are currently working on this and Mr Gergiev is thinking about it, too. He is working on it but I will help him.

Yes, please.

Question: My name is Alisa. I study science. Here is my question. What event in your life influenced you most?

Vladimir Putin: An event in my life?

Remark: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: You have put me in a somewhat difficult spot. There were probably no such events that caused a sudden change, or rather there were, but as for the influence… I will try to talk seriously. Perhaps it was the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is an adult answer, sorry, but you asked me an adult question.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Tell us, please, what year you were born.

Remark: 2000.

Yegor Kolyvanov: The girl was not even there to see it.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Maria. Here is my question. How did you do at school? What do you remember from the school curricula?

Vladimir Putin: I did fine at school, but nothing outstanding. What I found curious and what, I believe, is important for you as well, is that I studied at one school up to eighth grade, including the eighth grade, and then moved to another school. It was a school affiliated with a technological university and it specialised in natural sciences: chemistry, physics.

I went there, but something occurred to me, and I decided to enter the law department at university. But when I saw what entrance exams had to be passed in the law department, I realised that I might have made the wrong choice. In order to pass the exams, I needed to improve my foreign language skills, which were very poor, and to focus on history and literature. My teachers immediately noticed that.

But what is important and what I would like to say now is that I am very grateful to my teachers. They noticed me, summoned me and asked me: “Will you study?” I told them honestly that I made up my mind to go to university. They asked me just one question: “Are you being serious? Is that true?” I said: “Yes.” “In that case,” they said, “you should do this, this and this.” I said: “Yes, I know it.” And they deserve credit, they helped me, took care of me. I am still grateful to them for their help. I got into university and graduated. And so on and so forth.

So, first, it is important to decide as soon as possible, make this choice and, second, it is important to understand how to attain your goal, what is necessary for it. And, of course, it is very important to meet understanding people who would support you. I was lucky to have such people.

Sergei Malozyomov: Mr President, many have the same goal you were talking about, I think actually everyone who has come to Sirius.

I wanted to note that the talk we are having today is serious, unchildish – by the way, this is our event's official hashtag that girls and boys use when posting their pictures on social media. Is it also unchildish because many of those present here are engaged into activities that many adults would find complicated.

As one of the people behind the popular science programme Chudo Tekhniki (Technological Marvels) on NTV, I have found here many potential themes and characters, and they are absolutely grown-up.

For instance, the Aircraft of the Future is a device designed after a living organism – its creators will now speak about it in detail. Please, go ahead, this is very interesting.

Remark: Good afternoon, I am Sasha.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Sasha!

Remark: I am from Moscow.

While developing this aircraft, we used optimisation technologies which replicate the evolutionary process – that is, we used the latest programmes to develop the fuselage virtually.

Vladimir Putin: Naturalistic technologies are the most promising area.

Remark: Biological design. And we checked which zones of the material were used the least in analysing the stress, and we got rid of them. So we made a fuselage with a shape similar to an animal skeleton, and this shape is the most optimal one.

Vladimir Putin: What animal?

Remark: We will see how it will come out.

Sergei Malozyomov: They removed everything unnecessary, with only bones and ligaments left.

Vladimir Putin: Can I see it?

Remark: Sure.

Sergei Malozyomov: The result was a very light structure to save fuel and material.

Remark: I also have to say that one rather important point of our project is that we are the first to have used the optimisation technology for developing not separate parts but the whole of the aircraft fuselage.

Sergei Malozyomov: Guys, have you got a question to ask the President?

Remark: Yes, our team would like to ask a question on behalf of the Future of Aviation section that built that drone. I’ll pass the microphone to my colleague.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President, My name is Alexei, I am from St Petersburg.

As is known, the main sources of energy in Russia are non-renewable resources such as oil, natural gas and coal.

Vladimir Putin: Well, actually, that is debatable, they are said to be renewable to a certain degree, but it does not matter.

Remark: But the resources may one day run out. And what will happen when that happens? How do you see the energy future of our country?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, it is not going to happen any time soon. We keep on discovering more and more new deposits, confirmed ones at that. This concerns all the hydrocarbon raw materials: oil, gas and coal. As for what will happen, you and I know perfectly well: I think you are quite aware that the whole world is working on hydrogen energy, on renewable sources of energy, on bio fuels. Humankind has a wide variety of choices. The challenge is that it should be more efficient and cheaper than hydrocarbons. But this issue must be addressed today, and we must think about it today.

I have already quoted one of Saudi Arabia’s energy ministers, I like that quote very much: he said the Stone Age ended not because people ran out of stones but because new technologies appeared. It is the same here, new technologies keep springing up, and we must be on top of this progress, we have to think about it now and get ready for it. And we do, we do so fairly actively in various fields. And I hope we will be fully plugged in when it becomes necessary.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Daniil, I am from Dolgoprudny in the Moscow Region. I would like to ask you whether there will be further material support for the projects that we are doing here in Sirius and the many projects by budding inventors throughout Russia? Or will they never see the light of day?

Vladimir Putin: As for whether they will see the light of day or not, I would like all of them to. Of course, this largely depends on how interesting they are, how much demand there is for them and what prospects they have. We have a whole system of grant support for young researchers in different areas. You have probably heard that in 2010 we launched mega grant support. But this is for outstanding scientists who have worked both in our country and abroad. Many of them came to Russia and established, if I remember well, 200 large labs since 2010. I met with them several months ago. They asked me to extend this programme and we have done so.

We have established several options of grant support for young researchers. One is individual support for, I think, a year or a year and a half. A small sum is allotted for it but it is still 1.5 million roubles. There is also support for research groups. Three million roubles are earmarked for it, and it may be extended. I think its term is two years plus another three.

And there is also support for labs. This is for a fairly large team of researchers and the grant is already 30 million roubles.

This year we allocated an additional three billion roubles. In all, we will earmark 50 billion roubles for the grant support system in the next few years. Let me repeat that this is an additional sum. Apart from funding science, academic science in general, all this is aimed at supporting young researchers.

By the way, those colleagues whom I met in Moscow, in the Kremlin, who asked me to extend grant support, spoke about the need to attract young scientists in many areas, such as environmental protection, agricultural sciences, physics and artificial intelligence. Work is being conducted in all of these areas. In the framework of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, we have several options for supporting young specialists in various areas, for instance, Rusnano and Skolkovo that is building technology parks now. Technology parks for children are being established in 24 regions; 24 technology parks have been set up for young people, and another 17 technology parks will be established in 17 regions before the end of this year. So in general, there are places for you to go. I wish you good luck.

Sergei Malozyomov: Mr President, when we spoke here with young inventors, scientists and innovators another problem came up. They want not only financial but also legislative support. For instance, there is Sasha Kesarin, a molecular biologist from Pskov. Were you 14 when you illegally went to a university and a lab? Formally his documents did not allow him to go there but he made a deal and went there all the same. Tell us about it.

Alexander Kesarin: I was working on ecology when I went into a university because our labs did not have the necessary equipment and there were no specialised labs for research in biochemistry and molecular biology. But I have a different question: How can young researchers get a license for a patent? Under the legislation, this is not quite legal because such permits are issued to people 18 and older, if I am not mistaken. Or am I wrong? What about children who managed to create something when they are 14 or 15, before coming of age? They simply cannot act as entrepreneurs or engage in such activities.

Vladimir Putin: Look, as for entrepreneurship and the age when it becomes legal and full-fledged, our current legislation, our law allows a person upon reaching 14 years to be employed but it is necessary to observe many labour rules and restrictions. They apply to the number of hours of work per day and per week, and also other aspects. For instance, if a young man studies, he must be granted opportunities to continue his education and so on. There is a whole package of requirements.

Next stage is 16 years – 16-year-olds are allowed.

As for entrepreneurship, there really are certain restrictions. What do they involve? Say, a 14-year-old man is not quite legally competent. Suppose, a person involved in business at this age wants to take out a loan. Who will be responsible to the creditor? There are also a number of other consequences. But I still think that considering how this area of activity is developing and that many young people starting at age 14 can do it, it is necessary to make this legal. It is simply essential to think over an arrangement that would guarantee human rights without creating additional complications from the standpoint of exploitation of child labour, responsibility and the like. This can be done in principle. I have already thought about this. I will instruct the Executive Office and we will give it a try.

As for patent protection, to be honest, I do not see any problems or restrictions here. If someone invents something it does not matter what his age is. His invention must be protected. At that point, without attracting any financing, it is possible to receive an income and this income must be fully legalised. I agree with you completely.

Question: (A video is shown.) I would like to make sure that our president is just an ordinary person. He goes to some places; he talks to somebody; he is always on an airplane or in a car. In fact, where is he? When does he get some time to sleep? Does he have any time left for his favourite dishes? What if he feels like having some fast food? This is a natural wish. In fact, does he ever go anywhere on his own, without a security detail in tow?

Sergei Malozyomov: Supposing, Mr President, you would like to have a hot dog. Can you go and buy one? Is that the question?

Vladimir Putin: No, I would not. (Laughter.) I do not want a hot dog.

Do you want me to tell you a story? Some of the guys who work with me will probably be hurt, but it is interesting and straightforward.

When I became the President they asked me in the Kremlin – you know, they do something, they cook something special there, so they asked me: “Mr President, what do you like? What dish would you like?” I said: “It makes no difference to me. What you make is okay – I do not need anything special.” “Perhaps you have some preferences?” I said: “I do not know.” Prior to that I had been to some place as a tourist so I said: “Grebeshki [Russian word meaning both scallops and chicken combs] would be nice.” They said: “Right.” The following day they brought me the grebeshki. I started eating. They asked: “Do you like them?” I said: “Yes, they are not bad.” However, I thought they tasted a bid odd. They said: “Thank God you like it because we had to behead so many chickens.”

Sergei Malozyomov: They gave you chicken combs?

Vladimir Putin: They thought that grebeshki meant chicken combs.

They are simple folks – this is just to show you that there is nothing special there. They are simple, unsophisticated people. Granted, now they know what grebeshki really are – that this is seafood.

Of course, taking this question further, I can say that there are certain limitations in my work and I cannot simply go out for a walk in the street – you know, how can I? Traffic will stop dead in its tracks. Although, whenever possible, wherever I have an opportunity, I try to talk to people, mingle with people when I attend certain events. Perhaps you see this when it is sometimes shown in the media. This is useful. Even just a few words in passing also matter.

Otherwise, as I said, despite the pressure of work, I try to organise my schedule so as to leave a little time for something else as well.

Sergei Malozyomov: One more question. Choose a topic and a number, please.

Vladimir Putin: Let us do “The Price of the Matter,” number two. What is it about?

Sergei Malozyomov: Economics.

Vladimir Putin: All right.

Question: (A video is shown.) Mr Putin, I have an idea to introduce a common currency all over the world. What do you think about it? And do you think this idea is realistic at all?

Vladimir Putin: The idea is good but it is unlikely to be carried out, at least now.

We have Bitcoin and other currencies. Our attitude to them is extremely wary because almost nothing has been regulated in this area. If you are interested in this you probably have seen that there were very high fluctuations on their markets quite recently. They may lead to very serious losses for the people or legal entities investing in these currencies. So today this project is difficult to realise but in the future it will certainly be possible. And if we think about this future, we must think about it now and in this sense nothing will probably be wasted. I wish you good luck.

“With Friends It’s Fine,” number three.

Sergei Malozyomov: “With Friends It’s Fine,” number three. International politics.

Question: (A video is shown.) I would like to ask you about the colonisation of Mars. Is it planned at all?

Vladimir Putin: You think this is international politics?

Sergei Malozyomov: Beyond. Not at home. (Laughter.)

Vladimir Putin: All right, so be it. Colonisation of Mars. Look, Mars is a stunning planet, very interesting. It is also called the red planet because of its colour. It is believed, or strictly speaking it is an established fact that it had an atmosphere. Apparently, due to various reasons it disappeared or rather it is very thin and light, not comparable to the atmosphere of the Earth, so Mars essentially does not have an atmosphere. Apparently it had oceans that do not exist anymore but recent studies have uncovered the presence of methane in the thin Martian atmosphere, and methane does not last for a long time, it disappears. Those of you who study chemistry know that probably as well as me. If it was detected in the atmosphere of Mars today, it means that some processes, such as decay, some boggy processes are taking place there. This shows that apparently there is water there in some state, most likely underneath the surface, and that something is going on underneath the surface.

This is extremely interesting and important for understanding the processes on planets of the solar system, including our planet, now and in the future.

There is another planet that is just as interesting: Venus. The processes that took place there are the exact opposite. The atmosphere there has become denser – many times over. However, whereas the processes on Mars are what I said they are, on Venus it is plus 700 degrees today. And some interesting processes are also taking place there. In fact, what is happening there is what we call the “greenhouse effect” – something that we are so afraid of. This has already happened on Venus, this greenhouse effect. Granted, it was not related to human activity but was due to objective, large-scale events in the solar system. But it happened. And it is very important and interesting to understand the processes that are taking place there.

In this context, I would like to tell you that we are planning to participate in studying Mars with our European colleagues. Actually, we are already participating in this project. Just recently, our European colleagues, with our participation, tried to land Mars rovers. Unfortunately, the attempt failed. Now – I do not remember exactly when, but I believe in 2020 – we plan to make another attempt with the Europeans, but this time we will build our own landing system. I hope that we will make it.

The next project is the movement of the moons of Mars and sending a lander there. So there is a clear-cut deadline. The launch is planned for 2019 and several years later the landing on Mars will take place, and because the atmosphere there is highly rarefied – in fact, there is almost no atmosphere there – the lander will have to move around Mars so that everything happens as scientists plan. We are continuing to work on this.

Sergei Malozyomov: Is the person who asked the question satisfied with the answer? By the way, all the people who asked questions are here.

Vladimir Putin: Are they? And who asked it?

Irada Zeinalova: Gordei, are you happy? Are you satisfied with the response?

Remark: Yes, thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: This is an interesting field of activity. We have an entire research institute working in this field. I advise you to go there as well. Actually, I will ask Lena to invite specialists from it and they will talk to the kids.

Yelena Shmelyova: Absolutely.

Vladimir Putin: What they have to say is fascinating.

Sergei Malozyomov: Let us take another question, “Your Game”. Please chose another category and question number.

Vladimir Putin: We did number 1 and number 2… Which did you like more?

Sergei Malozyomov: We have not been over “We Have Been Through That” yet – that is science and education.

Vladimir Putin: Right.

Sergei Malozyomov: “Home Is Best” – domestic politics.

Vladimir Putin: “Home Is Best.” Of course, home is best. Let us have number 3.

Question: (A video is shown.)Does he have a political successor and who is it?

Vladimir Putin: Who is “he”?

Sergei Malozyomov: As I said, we recorded the interviews with them when they did not know yet that you would come here, so they talk about you in the third person.

Vladimir Putin: I see. In other words, do I have a successor? I would like to tell you right away that general international practice is that if a party leader, country leader or state leader leaves office, as a general rule, but not always, he or she presents and recommends to society a particular person who could lead, for example, a government, country or party. However, at the end of the day, it is the people who decide who will lead the country – by direct and secret ballot in keeping with the Constitution of the Russian Federation. So, whoever is put forward, it is the citizens of the Russian Federal who have the final say.

Irada Zeinalova: We will come back to the game later. We have just received results of the instant poll on the age when people want to start working.

Mr President, the results are very surprising. Please put the results on the screen. Around 41.7 percent want to start working at the age of 14 and this is the majority of the respondents. It is a great surprise for us all but these must be people who truly have ambitions for the future, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: No, the question had slightly different implications. The young man was talking about entrepreneurship. The legal age of employment is 14, subject to certain restrictions. He was asking about starting a business at 14. Did I understand your question right? Yes, of course. So you did not formulate the question correctly.

Irada Zeinalova: Perhaps the point is that one begins to produce something, to do some work and take responsibility for one’s actions.

Vladimir Putin: This is what entrepreneurship means.

Irada Zeinalova: Starting at the age of 14.

Vladimir Putin: But your question was phrased in a different way: at what age do you want to start working? It is legal to be employed at 14. But there are other options besides employment. So, next time please be more specific: at what age do you think one can engage in entrepreneurship?

Yegor Kolyvanov: Generally, I think the aspiration is commendable.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Regardless of the implications.

I would like to bring your attention to this side of the audience. We have another very interesting project. You have seen an aircraft that pushes off a bird, as I understand it. Now, there is an even better high flyer. We have a black box here, let us see it. What do you think is in this black case? A real what?

Vladimir Putin: I have a black case of my own, you know. (Laughter and applause)

Yegor Kolyvanov: Your black case is, no doubt, much cooler. But this one may surprise you too. This black case contains a real satellite. Now tell us about it.

Alexander Vorontsov: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Alexander Vorontsov, I am from Kachkanar, Sverdlovsk Region. We developed a real satellite that has the dimensions of 10x10x10 centimetres and weighs only 1 kilogram.

Yegor Kolyvanov: This is what you would call a nanosatellite.

Vladimir Putin: Can I take a closer look?

Yegor Kolyvanov: Absolutely. This is a rare opportunity to see it. Recently our carrier rocket launched 72 nanosatellites into orbit. That was a record number and now we can see what they are like.

Vladimir Putin: What are the satellite’s purposes?

Alexander Vorontsov: This satellite can be used for studying space weather. We developed a sensor that can detect charged particles and record their energy. My colleagues are demonstrating this process right now. As this satellite will be put into the constantly decaying orbit, during its flight we will be able to collect detailed data on which orbits contain which charged particles, that is, to develop a map of charged particle distribution that could later be used to verify the existing mathematical models.

Vladimir Putin: How do you plan to launch it?

Alexander Vorontsov: We hope to get help from Roscosmos. In 2013, the corporation announced that it would launch training satellites for free. Therefore, we have a question for you because we have no information about the satellite launch procedure.

Vladimir Putin: How much does it weigh?

Alexander Vorontsov: CubeSat satellites usually weigh 1.33 kg but this model weighs, if I am not mistaken, one kilogram.

Vladimir Putin: How much?

Alexander Vorontsov: One kilogram.

Vladimir Putin: Let me see, I can talk to Roscosmos. My understanding is there would be a tender, most likely. You probably need to win a tender.

Alexander Vorontsov: We are ready.

Yelena Shmelyova: Mr President, we also collected questions from our students, wrote them down on cards and suggest that you draw several random questions.

Vladimir Putin: This is really no nonsense. Please draw a question for me. What is your name?

Remark: Kirill.

Vladimir Putin: Kirill, go ahead, draw a card for me. Read it out, please.

Question: What do you think of the people who dodge the draft?

Vladimir Putin: Very good question, well done.

Irada Zeinalova: While we have a brief pause let me remind you that we are live not only on NTV but also at, our YouTube channel, and our Vkontakte page. We have a huge audience that uses all these platforms.

Mr President, so, what do you think of those who dodge the draft?

Vladimir Putin: Kirill pulled out a good question. What do you think of those who dodge the draft, that is, avoid army service?

You know, I would like to begin by saying that the humankind has made a very difficult journey to be where it is today. If we look at ancient times, when people lived in tribes, even then protection of the fellow tribe members was a very important duty, if not the main duty of a man. It was an extremely honourable and important job.

Today people do not live in tribes; they live in countries. However, you can draw a certain analogy. If we look at the defenders of the Fatherland, defenders of our country, what do they do? What is the point of military service? It is willingness to give your life for your fellow countrymen, your loved ones and even the people you do not know but still consider family. This is the meaning of military service. When a man avoids fulfilling this duty one cannot help but feel repulsed and judge this person.

Of course, there are many aspects of military service. There were times not so long ago that the army is not proud of, for example, harassment of new conscripts, and so forth. There is nothing good about this. We have mostly eradicated this phenomenon by now. But this is not the point. No matter what, the army must exist, and men must serve. Some choose military service as their main career, while for others it is only a temporary conscription. But every person must contribute to the country’s defence. And I strongly condemn the people who dodge the draft. And on the contrary, I have great respect for those who are ready to serve their nation and protect it even if it means the ultimate sacrifice. We have many people like this in Russia and many among young people.

You know, we have endured great hardships caused by international terrorism. I will never forget those men who gave their lives and demonstrated their courage and heroism. I was particularly impressed by the fact that, for example, while during the Great Patriotic War entire society was geared towards and all the resources were used to drive away the enemy and win, we did not see a similar situation in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. And young men, many just a little older than those present here, went to the army at the age of 18 or 19 and participated in very fierce military action. They were heroes. When I saw frontline reports, I was honestly fascinated by our young boys’ dedication to the service, their military duty and the country. And, which is very important, they faced bullets not thinking that tomorrow the country will talk about them like today the country is talking about Alexander Matrosov and other heroes of the Great Patriotic War. They just performed their duty to the nation. This deserves great respect.

Those who dodge the draft should think about what I said.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Masha, and I study music.

As a musician I would like to thank you for supporting Russia’s national legacy, our classical music and performance arts.

So, here is my story. I am a student at the Moscow Conservatory’s Central Music School. From the very beginning, I have been learning two instruments, the piano and the violin. I think my studies have been successful. I have won many contests, including the Tchaikovsky Competition, in both instruments. I do not pay tuition for my violin courses but I have to pay full tuition for the piano studies even though the subjects are the same except for the practice itself.

Vladimir Putin: The subjects besides the practice are also important.

Remark: Yes, and all the other subjects are the same.

So I have the following question. Unfortunately, there are not so many of us, musicians who study professional performance of several instruments. Is it possible to introduce a regulation that would allow practicing several instruments without paying full tuition and only paying for the practice?

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: I believe it is up to the school to make this decision, not the Government.

Remark: But my second practice is additional education.

Vladimir Putin: I think this is more of an exception, not an ordinary case. We can definitely make an exception for you. I will ask my colleagues who are present here without being seen to make a note and to look into this issue. We will make it possible.

Remark: Thank you very much.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Danil, and I am from Kazan.

My question is this: which unsolved historical mysteries would you like to find an answer to or unravel?

Vladimir Putin: Mysteries of which history? History of the world, the origin of the universe and the solar system? This is a very interesting history, by the way. I would really like to unravel it. I would love to understand what lies at the origin of the solar system’s formation. Is it the Big Bang or some other phenomena? I will move to other topics as well now.

Several years ago I invited researchers from the Academy of Sciences and asked them to hold a series of discourses, not lectures, but discourses with members of the Security Council. My colleagues do not argue with me much as a rule, but it felt like they did not want to waste their time on very abstract matters such as this. Nevertheless, eventually everyone was carried away by these stories, these discourses.

If we consider the Big Bang theory, the people studying it know that it is one of the today’s main versions of the origin of the universe: there is a giant explosion dispersing matter, and gradually stars, our sun and planets are formed. And then all of this is gradually drawn into the so-called black holes, which is a huge mass of matter, followed by another explosion, and everything starts all over again. And when we reached this issue, I asked the researcher from the Academy of Sciences who was holding these conversations: “Listen, is that really possible?”

“Yes, it is feasible that this is how it happens,” he said. I asked him: “But where did this mass come from initially?” He looked at me and said: “This is not the issue we should be addressing. We do not know the answer yet, so perhaps you could try asking a priest.” It is very interesting to think about these things and to try to understand them.

If we are talking about the history of humanity, of course, it is very important to see how epochs changed, very interesting to see how humanity made the transition from one way of life to another. Slavery, feudalism, capitalism – I hope this is something you study at school. There are other ways to describe the stages of humanity’s development. It is fascinating to get deep into the subject and to look at the way epochs changed.

As for our country, which is a subject of special interest to me, and I hope to you as well, it would be very interesting for me to see how our country made its way out of critical situations, from the most difficult periods. How did it first get into those times of troubles, and which inner forces lead the country out of the situations it found itself in. The so-called time of troubles that I just referred to, the attack on Moscow: those who study history know about this period, how the popular movement originated in Nizhny Novgorod and how it all unfolded.

How peoples and ethnic groups became consolidated over the huge territory that our country occupies today, how some ethnic groups disappeared while others emerged, and how they interacted. It is no secret now that, let’s say, the Finno-Ugric tribes lived not only in the areas around Lake Ladoga, but in the central part of Russia as well. And archaeological sites, artefacts and utensils show that Slavic and Finno-Ugric tribes coexisted in harmony. It is very interesting to get there and see. There are a lot of things to think about and study.

Thank you very much!

Irada Zeinalova: Mr President, could you please choose the next person who will get the microphone? By the way, the people standing in the balconies can also get the microphone, they can also ask questions, so please tell us who I should give the microphone to next.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Irada Zeinalova: Please choose who will ask the next question.

Vladimir Putin: There, give the microphone to the guys over there.

Question: Hello, my name is Irina, and I would like to ask a question about Russia’s environment. Which projects is the state ready to support and which concessions is it ready to make for this?

Vladimir Putin: Concessions to whom?

Question: For instance, young people propose specific projects, so which concessions is the state ready to make to have these proposals come to fruition?

Vladimir Putin: Well, first of all, this year has been declared the Year of the Environment in Russia. You are aware of that, aren’t you? This is not a coincidence. I would like to raise public awareness regarding the complicated processes underway in this sphere, the threats which we encounter or face or will be facing in the near future so that government agencies and NGOs unite their efforts in addressing environmental problems.

There is also an absolutely practical aspect which has to do with introducing new technologies. We have adopted relevant laws in this area making it obligatory for companies to shift to the most efficient technologies that have gained recognition around the world. Unfortunately, we were forced to postpone the laws’ entry into force because the country experienced economic problems over the previous several years and companies convinced the Government that new environmental requirements were an additional burden for them, making it even harder to tackle the current economic problems. On top of that, introducing the most up-to-date technologies required large outlays.

Therefore, we postponed it a little, but the final decision has been made and all of our companies will be shifting to these modern technologies. I hope this will result in significant benefits to high-tech production branches, because this will boost both high-tech technologies and the environment. This is one area of our work.

Another very important area is something I am sure you heard about during the Direct Line because it is an issue that people raised. This issue – rubbish – may not seem important, but all these landfills are located all over our country. There is supposed to be processing of solid wastes there, but unfortunately it is too limited and absolutely insufficient. We have a big programme, but unfortunately, there is only enough financing to cover it partially, but we are making first steps and we will be definitely moving forward.

Question: Hello! My name is Misha. I developed the Govorilla mobile application. I would like to ask about your relationship with your parents when you were a teenager? Whose advice did you follow: the advice of your parents or the advice of some mentor? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: It was different in different periods.

First, we should proceed from the fact that our parents love us. Our parents love us very much. And we do not understand this early on. We do not understand the mother’s role. You are adults now. But we forget a lot of things; we forget all kinds of things all the time. But our mothers never forget, they do not forget how they raised us, fed us and cared for us. And we must never forget this as well. Therefore, everything our parents try to suggest to us, to advise, they are doing it from the bottom of their hearts, because they wish us well. But this does not mean that an individual cannot have a choice of his own; in fact, just the opposite is true. Educated, experienced people realise that you cannot impose anything on anyone.

I would like to tell that your whole life is ahead of you, and one day you will be parents as well. As future parents, you will not have any rights to someone else’s life, including the lives of your children. You need to treat them like people, like individuals, with respect for them and for their choices. But you should try hard to direct them. This is a very fine line. One needs to be a good educator, but not everyone has a talent for it. You need to do your best to teach moral values to a young person, to guide his or her interests in the right direction. But the final choice is up to the individual.

This is why I had a very good relationship with my parents. They loved me very much, and I could feel it all the time. But still I tried to make my own choices. My points of view, my choices did not always coincide with the choices of my parents. And I tried to explain to them without hurting their feelings that my choice was right.

For instance, at some point I wanted to go to university. My parents were totally opposed to it, because by that time I was a judo champion among youth in Leningrad, I trained at the Trud organisation, and our club was allotted to a specific enterprise, very large one, and there was a higher educational institution attached to it, which it would have been easy for me to get into. I made a completely different choice, a choice that was dangerous to a degree, because there was a chance that I would not get in, which would have lead to problems, but I made up my mind that the best way to the target is a direct one. And, despite my parents’ objections, I managed to convince them that I must do what I decided.

Of course, from a certain period in time I deferred to the opinion of my coaches. I had a very good coach, Anatoly Rakhlin, a very thoughtful person, and we never had any doubts about his sincere attitude to us, to the boys he was training. This is why I respected his opinion, deferred to it, although in terms of university studies he strongly advised me to choose a different path. But I made my own choice.

A few words about mentors at different stages.

I believe that it is wrong to disregard the opinions of other people, but eventually we have to make our own choices, even if these choices and paths are fraught with difficulties or mistakes. Everybody needs to go through this.

Irada Zeinalova: How difficult it can be to hear each other, even for people who love and trust each other very much.

Questions keep coming to our VKontakte page. We would like to ask some of the questions that seemed the most interesting to us, because these are the people who are following our conversation and would really love to ask these questions. Could you put up these questions on the screen, please?

Maxim Sintyakov: “Did you do well at school? How did you achieve everything that you have? What does success mean for you?” is the last question is probably the most important one.

Vladimir Putin: I already talked about how I did at school and I do not think it is worth talking about this again, it would be a waste of time. As for success – what does success mean for you? Success for me is a chance to use the results of some achievement. An opportunity to use the results of reaching a goal. You set a goal and reach it, but that is not enough: you must be able to and know how to use these results either by yourself or by delegating it to others.

Irada Zeinalova: Another question on the screen please. Dominique Mare: “Do you consider censorship, limiting the freedom of speech in the Internet justified?”

Vladimir Putin: I would not speak about censorship, we have no censorship. There was censorship in the Soviet time, but it was official, there were corresponding authorities, censors, they worked, it was their work, they were paid for this. Now there is no censorship in any sphere.

As for the Internet and freedom. I already told you that freedom as I see it is a fundamental value. However, as you may remember, I said that freedom either ends or is transformed in some way at the point where it collides with the freedom of another individual.

The same applies to the freedom of the Internet. Everything that does not violate the law must be allowed there.

For example, drug trafficking, promoting terrorism, the so-called groups of death, which push young people to commit suicide, and so forth – what is that? Do we have to grant everyone the right to engage in destructive, criminal activity? Of course not. Society must defend itself against crime.

This is why the Internet must be governed by the same laws that are valid everywhere, regulating public activity.

Irada Zeinalova: If you don’t mind, we will take another question, the third one, very briefly. Nastya Denisova: “How far are you ready to go to reach a goal? That is, does the end justify the means?”

Vladimir Putin: Nastya Denisova asked a very profound question. Many of us are familiar with this formula: the end justifies the means. If the goal is good and noble, it does not matter what methods and means we use to achieve it. I totally disagree with this, because if you use some appalling means to reach your goal, you actually destroy the very goal you live for.

The end does not justify the means, at least not always. To reach a noble goal, a goal that is worth living for, you need to think about the means you can use to achieve it.

Irada Zeinalova: Thank you.

Sergei Malozyomov: Another round of “Your Game”, if you don’t mind, Mr President. Let’s give a chance to the guys who recorded an interview ahead of your visit. Let us take some new categories, not the ones we have seen already.

Eyes on the screen, please.

So, ZOZHizn, ECOnevidal, Ballet Ticket. And A Pig in a Poke – surprise questions.

You need to choose a topic and a number of a question. ZOZHizn – health and medicine, ECOnevidal – the environment, Ballet Ticket – the arts, and A Pig in a Poke – something unexpected.

Vladimir Putin: How about a Ballet Ticket. I wonder what it is about.

Question: What kind of music do you like?

Vladimir Putin: You know I have always enjoyed listening to the so-called popular classical music, both by European and Russian composers: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, of course. Maybe Mozart, first and foremost, for me, in any case. Then, some Russian composers: Rakhmaninov, I love his Vocalise. Schubert, Liszt, the Serenade is a great melody, I really love it, and Liszt’s interpretation of Shubert. Then, from Russian composers: Tchaikovsky, this is magic music. Stravinsky, Shostakovich. It is difficult for me to understand a composer like Schnittke, although he is very well known and we are also proud of him, but, as they say, only a well-educated listener understands all the diversity and all the depth of his work. I have not reached this level yet. But I hope I will make progress in this direction.

Sergei Malozyomov: One more subject and number, please.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s do ZOZHizn. What is it?

Sergei Malozyomov: ZOZHizn – health, healthy living, medicine.

Vladimir Putin: All right.

Sergei Malozyomov: And the question number?

Vladimir Putin: Two.

Sergei Malozyomov: ZOZhizn, question two.

Question: What is your favourite martial arts technique, and why?

Vladimir Putin: My favourite martial arts technique? I already talked about it, and those who love it and who practice martial arts will understand it, but the others will not. The arm throw, first, and the forward trip, second. And why? That’s just how it has turned out, I did them them, and they suit me, my body the best. I was good at them.

Sergei Malozyomov: Let’s do A Pig in a Poke, please, if possible.

Vladimir Putin: All right.

Sergei Malozyomov: And question number?

Vladimir Putin: One.

Sergei Malozyomov: A Pig in a Poke, question one.

Question: Did he ever go nuts when he was a kid?

Question: Did you misbehave as a child, Mr President?

Vladimir Putin: I did not understand anything, what did Masha say?

Remark: She said: did you go nuts as a kid?

Masha is here.

Vladimir Putin: Masha, could you repeat the question, please?

Sergei Malozyomov: Were you a well-behaved child, if I understood it correctly.

Vladimir Putin: Masha, could you say it again, please?

Remark: Hello.

Vladimir Putin: Hello

Sergei Malozyomov: Go ahead, repeat your question.

Vladimir Putin: Masha, say it again please. I am too far to bite you.

Question: Did you ever fool around as a child?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course I did. And I wish you the same.

Remark: Thank you.

Irada Zeinalova: Let’s go! Does anyone else want to ask a question? Mr President, pick anyone you like. As you can see, there are still a lot of arms in the air.

Vladimir Putin: Guys, you put me in a difficult position. Here is a young man in a red tie. He probably wore it on purpose today.

Sergei Malozyomov: Looks like an MP, doesn’t he?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, he does.

Ivan Aleksandrov: Hello, Mr President. I am Ivan Aleksandrov, and I am from Mariinsky Posad in the Republic of Chuvashia. At school, I take part in the Zarnitsa game. My team does well in municipal competitions every year, and in 2017 it became a participant in the republican finals. The games teach us to be unwavering, strong, and to achieve our goals. Mr President, did you take part in military patriotic games Zarnitsa and Orlyonok?

Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, I did not, I can tell you this honestly, I will not lie, I do not like doing this. I did a lot of sports at that time. There was a period when I was a semi-professional. I became a champion of Leningrad among youth quite early, and I devoted all of my free time to it. This is why, honestly, when I studied at the military department at the university, there was a Major Gvozdev, I still remember his surname, he was in charge of military training, and my specialty was a howitzer artillery officer. And since I was often absent because I went away to training camps, he was quite hard on me and urged me to study the equipment.

Question: Mr President, how many pull-ups can you do?

Vladimir Putin: You know, I used to do 15–17 pull-ups in a rep. But once when I was President, I started doing pull-ups – I always do them in the morning – and I had probably not warmed up enough, for sure I hadn’t, and I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. But you remember, as Vysotsky said, “If I decided something – I will definitely drink it until the end.” So I went on with my pull-ups, even though my shoulder was hurting, but I thought I have to finish what I started. Eventually, I could not do pull-ups for six months, and I have stopped doing them since then. This is why you have to be careful. But I used to be able to do 15 to 17 pull-ups. And how many can you do? How many do you do, Vanya?

Remark: 25 times.

Vladimir Putin: Well done. Vanya does more pull-ups than the President. Great job.

Actually, I have a good rule I try to follow: if you respect, really respect a person, then you must admit that he is better at something than you are. Vanya is better at this.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President.

I am Kirill Lakhminov from Moscow. As you know, the world is on the verge of a breakthrough in biotechnology. I have a question. How prepared is Russian science and Russia for implementing incredible and sometimes crazy ideas in biotechnology?

Vladimir Putin: This is a key area of development in the near future along with digital technologies and artificial intelligence. I really hope that specialists working in this sphere will fully execute the tasks facing them. We will help them in every way we can.

I already mentioned that we have a system of grants and support, apart for the current financing of the relevant academic institutions. These mega-grants, including those connected with biology, bio-engineering, and so forth – I am not a specialist and cannot list all of them, hence I name the main, principal and most promising areas of research. But I meet with these people, though not regularly, but we have a whole division in the Executive Office that deals with providing support for science. We created funds that allocate grants and we will be monitoring this.

Academician Tamm used to say that if the 20th century was the century of physics, then 21st century will be the century of biology. It seems to be so.

Irada Zeinalova: Thank you.

Mr President, let us move to this sector, since the audience here is starting to look bored. Who has brief questions, so that everyone can have a turn?

Vladimir Putin: If we let everyone have a turn, we will spend all night here.

Question: Hello, my name is Marina. I am 16 years old. I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to be here. I think that many in this audience have the same question in the light of recent developments. I would like to hear what you think about political competition in Russia and your assessment of some opposition activists.

Vladimir Putin: Here is what I think about this. There was a time when the number of parties was limited in our country. The law was engineered in such a way that in order to register a political party a number of conditions had to be met and meeting them was not so easy, if not quite challenging.

Several years ago, we radically eased these requirements. Today, there are several dozen registered political parties. By the way, there are practical people in politics who do not think that it was a good thing to do, arguing that it makes these political parties less responsible for what they say, what they offer and completely relieves them of responsibility for their work and fulfilling the pledges they make. This is not an easy matter. Anyway, we decided to opt for maximum liberalisation.

What is the value of political parties, even the ones that are not represented in the State Duma? They put forward ideas and criticise the authorities. There are always things the government can be criticised for. Life is complicated and diverse, so trust me no one can resolve all issues and come up with ideal solutions. No one can do that.

This does not mean, however, that we should not try. The issues at stake should not be a matter of speculation. What we need instead are proposals on ways of dealing with these issues. For example, corruption should not be a matter of speculation, since it exists across the world. It is true that in countries undergoing economic transition and where economic laws have yet to take root, the situation is more complex, which gives rise to corruption.

Look at what happened with our neighbours. The current government was voted into power on promises to fight corruption, but this was just one of the banners the opposition used to take over the country. Unfortunately, they chose to do it by staging a government coup. Now that they have the power, what are the results? There is even more corruption. Ukraine is choking with corruption from the top to the very bottom. This means that merely shouting ‘Catch the thief’ is not enough. The ones denouncing the thieves should also stop steeling.

For this reason, society in general, and I personally, look for people offering interesting and sometimes courageous breakthrough solutions that would enable Russia to move forward, regardless of whether they have power or not. There is no doubt that we will always work with people like that.

Question: Good evening, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: You see, there is competition as we speak, the microphone is switching hands all the time.

Anna Negasheva: My name is Anna Negasheva, I represent the Yunost synchronised figure skating team. We are all present here today.

Vladimir Putin: Can I see all of you, girls?

How many of you are there on the team?

Anna Negasheva: There are 16 team members plus some substitutes.

Vladimir Putin: And all of you perform on the ice at the same time?

Anna Negasheva: Yes. This is, actually, what my question is about. Our team won the national championships 15 times, and in March 2017, we won the junior world championships in Canada.

Vladimir Putin: Congratulations.

Anna Negasheva: Thank you.

It is quite frustrating that this spectacular and wonderful sport that attracts so many people is unfortunately overshadowed by other sports. Very few people know about us, and not a single national television network is willing to broadcast competitions or even help promote this wonderful sport. Meanwhile, Russia is a world leader in synchronised figure skating. For example, Paradise, the team from St Petersburg, holds two world titles. Almost every Russian city has a synchronised figure skating team, including Kazan, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, St Petersburg, Salekhard and Perm.

Yegor Kolyvanov: So what is your question?

The kids are waiting. Go ahead and ask your question.

Anna Negasheva: My question is: what can we, athletes, do to change things so that synchronised figure skating finds its way into the Russian information space?

Vladimir Putin: I think that you have done everything you could by becoming champions. From here, it is no longer up to you, but up to government agencies and the leading national television networks to do their part of the job. But I do think that they will hear you, and I am on your side as well.

Anna Negasheva: There is one thing I wanted to ask you on behalf of the whole team, if I may. Could you make one of our dreams come true by taking a photo with us? It would be a great pleasure for us if you could pose for a photo on ice with our coaches and another four team members. We invite you to our gala performance, to be more exact, to a gala figure skating show tomorrow at Sirius’ ice arena. We would be very happy to see you there so you can experience the world of figure skating and fall in love with it, just as we did.

Vladimir Putin: You want me to look out of place with all of you? (Laughter) First Vanya, who can do 25 pull-ups, humiliated me, now you want me to look like a duck on ice, is that what you are saying?

I am joking, of course. It will be a pleasure for me to take a picture with you today, and maybe tomorrow, if I can.

You know, I am also learning to skate, although not in the same way as you. It is not easy for me, since I started skating only five years ago, or even four and a half years ago, to be more exact. I could not skate at all and could hardly understand how people do it. When I first tried skating four and a half years ago, I thought, now that I got moving, how do I stop? I finally managed it somehow. My second thought was that I would never learn to skate, would never be able to do it. I kept saying to myself, just take off your skates and stop this nonsense.

There is some progress, but the way you skate is still beyond my comprehension. I simply do not understand how this is possible. But you are showing us that you can do it. As for broadcasts, this is not an Olympic sport, right?

Anna Negasheva: There are now discussions about making it an Olympic sport. A special commission was created to examine rules for including synchronised figure skating in the 2022 Olympics programme.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I know that, and I am confident that as soon as it happens, television networks will look at you differently. The authorities and I personally will try to make sure that you get the treatment you deserve.

Question: Good evening, Mr President. My name is Shamil Mukhtarov. I come from the city of Yelets in Lipetsk Region. I have the following question: what do you believe to be the key issues in agriculture that Russia is currently facing?

Vladimir Putin: There is an issue that is quite relevant for both cattle breeding and crop farming: Russia needs its own seed grain, its own foundation stock. Even though we are seeing robust growth rates in agriculture, we still depend on imported pedigree cattle stock and seed grain. This is something we should be paying special attention to in the near future.

Yegor Zaytsev: Hello, my name is Yegor Zaytsev, and I am from Kaliningrad. Russia is currently on the black list of countries with negative population growth. When will we get off this horrible list?

Vladimir Putin: It is not true that Russia has negative population growth. Quite the contrary.

Yegor Zaytsev: We are being told at geography classes that almost all regions have negative population growth, with only few exceptions.

Vladimir Putin: You are being misled. This is not the way things really are.

Yegor Zaytsev: Have things changed?

Vladimir Putin: When did you learn it?

Yegor Zaytsev: This year, or maybe last year.

Vladimir Putin: This is not true.

Yegor Zaytsev: When did the trend change?

Vladimir Putin: Two years ago.

Yegor Zaytsev: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Support measures for mothers and children have been in place for several years now. This, as well as substantial, albeit insufficient, improvements in healthcare, has increased life expectancy in Russia and substantially reduced infant mortality. Russia is now among the top countries with maternal mortality at almost zero, despite the fact that we adopted international standards for measuring newborn weight and a number of other indicators, which complicated the statistics. Russia is no longer in this downward spiral. For two years now, or even for a slightly longer period, Russia has reported natural population growth.

Question: Good evening, my name is Anastasia. Here is my question: how can we further develop the country, if the number of state-sponsored scholarships is declining, while the cost of education is increasing?

Vladimir Putin: The number of state-sponsored scholarships is not declining.

Remark: I have the statistics.

Vladimir Putin: No, the number of scholarships is on the rise.

Question: Hello, my name is Anastasia. I am from Novy Urengoy. It is no secret that it is hard for university graduates to find a job, since all employers require experience, but how can a graduate obtain this experience, if you cannot get a job without it? I know that attempts are already being made in Russia to resolve this issue. For example, the company where my parents work holds a contest for young specialists with an employment grant as a prize.

My question is the following: could the Government offer tax benefits to companies that hire a certain number of young specialists? Perhaps 10 or 15 first-time employees or some other number.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding tax benefits, this may not be the best solution. There are many issues. If we try resolving all of them with tax benefits, we would destroy the budget, it would simply cease to exist.

That said, something has to be done. A programme for working with the economy, businesses and corporations has been devised to address this. For instance, this is one of the items on the agenda of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. We also keep in touch with business associations. We promote internship programmes so that corporations and higher education institutions can work together on selecting and training potential employees. This is a major initiative, and I very much hope that it works.

Question: Hello, my name is Yegor, and I am from Sochi.

You have told us that you seek to support gifted school students in Russia. In doing so, you are trying to help students from all across Russia. If that is so, why do only Moscow students get prize money for winning academic Olympiads? Starting this year, winners of national academic Olympiads from the regions are no longer entitled to prize money, while these prize earnings for Moscow students have increased. Is there a way to fix this situation?

Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I have not quite understood the question. An academic Olympiad is what it is, if you win, you get a prize. Is it not the case, if you are from Sochi?

Remark: Prizes are not being paid starting this year.

Vladimir Putin: How come? You mean, if a student wins a national academic Olympiad, he or she is told: “Since you are from Sochi, step aside.” Is that so?

Remark: Yes. From 2006 and until 2016, runner-ups received 30,000 rubles, and winners got 60,000 rubles. But this year the system stopped working.

Vladimir Putin: What about Moscow students?

Remark: In Moscow, runner-ups get 100,000 rubles, and the winner gets 200,000 rubles.

Vladimir Putin: This is the first time I hear about this. I will look into it. Yet, this seems a bit strange.

Remark: This is the way things are.

Vladimir Putin: I mean, I can hardly imagine such a situation. You compete in a contest, say in an academic Olympiad, you win, and then they tell you that since you come from Sochi, you will not be paid.

Remark: This is not just about Sochi, but also about all other cities.

Remark: Yes, all the regions, except Moscow.

Remark: It seems that Moscow students get payments from the city budget.

Vladimir Putin: I will have to look into this. To be honest, this is the first time I hear about this.

Remark: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Maybe you are referring to the prizes that are paid by the regions, and Moscow still pays them. I will find out.

Vlad Belkin: Mr President, my name is Vlad Belkin, and I am from Orel. Here is my question: there are many children in this studio from all across the country, and they all have specific interests to which they dedicate their time and efforts during off-school hours. Some dream of becoming actors, while others want to become Olympic champions. I would like to ask what you did for extra-curricular activities when you were still in school?

Vladimir Putin: What did I do after school?

Vlad Belkin: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Mostly sports. I sometimes went to classical music concerts, and occasionally read history books.

Vlad Belkin: What were your favourite school subjects? I mean, what were you interested in, and what subjects were boring for you?

Vladimir Putin: There were various subjects I preferred at various times, depending on my future life plans. As I have already said, at a certain point I switched to a specialised school, thinking that I would go on to enrol in a technology university. When I had this in mind, I focused on the relevant subjects. I later decided to go to law school and focused on history and foreign language studies. But I always had time for sport.

Question: Hello, Mr President. I come from the city of Zadonsk, Lipetsk Region. My name is Vladimir Vladimirovich, just like you.

Vladimir Putin: A story from my university years just came to mind. We had a professor, Avksentiy Melitonovich, who taught collective farming law. There was this discipline in those days. Since there were collective farms back then, there was an area of law covering them. So, a student shows up for an exam in collective farming law. The professor looks into his grade book and says, “Your name is Avksentiy Melitonovich?” The student answered affirmatively. The professor looked at the grade book again, then again at the student, then gave the student an A and sent him on his way. The professor was a very nice person.

So, Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am listening.

Question: For two years now, I have been attending a rocket modelling class, offered by a youth activities centre in Zadonsk. We make paper rocket models and launch them using a solid-fuel engine to an altitude of 200 to 300 metres.

The problem is that over the past two years, we have not received any financing. I asked around, and it turns out that youth centres in other regions are also receiving very little financing, so students have to pay in order to keep attending these workshops. Can this be fixed? Can you help us?

Vladimir Putin: This is a regional issue. Where are you from? Can you say it again?

Remark: The city of Zadonsk, Lipetsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: I will have to ask your governor to pay attention, since extra-curricular activities are financed by municipalities. Unfortunately, there are many issues in this area. This is true. However, you have a very experienced governor, Mr Korolev. He has been in office for a long time, and I think that he can figure out what to do to improve things.

Remark: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: What do you launch? Rockets?

Remark: Rocket models. This is the rocket modelling division of the aero-modelling sport.

Vladimir Putin: This is great, since all our remarkable engineers also started with modelling, and later went on to become world-class experts. Best of luck to you!

Remark: Thank you.

Question: Hello, Mr President,

My name is Robert, and I am from Kazan. I am here as a science student, but I also do karate. I would like to know whether there are any plans to organise a karate training camp within Sirius?

Vladimir Putin: What kind of training camp are you talking about?

Remark: Training camps for students of karate.

Vladimir Putin: We have thirteen disciplines, including four sports disciplines. In fact, there are three sports disciplines at Sirius: hockey, figure skating and chess. So far, there are no plans to expand this list.

As I said at the outset, I conceived Sirius with the idea that we have to focus on areas where we have a clear competitive edge and are unrivalled, where we have an internationally recognised level of competence.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case for karate so far, but I am confident that with your help and with the help of children who take karate, we will get there.

Remark: Karate became an Olympic sport in 2016.

Vladimir Putin: There are many Olympic sports. There is no way we can have them all at Sirius. This does not mean however that there is no need to develop karate as a sport. This is a very interesting martial art. There is no doubt that we will support it, especially since it is now an Olympic sport.

Remark: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Give the microphone to the girl over there, or she will break into tears.

Question: Good evening, Mr President. My name is Alyona, I am from Moscow, and enrolled in the Sirius’ New Materials programme. I have a personal question for you. Could you tell us what was the happiest and the most unusual moment in your life? You have said so much tonight about time. Do you have time in your day for happy or unusual moments to occur?

Vladimir Putin: This is not an easy question. Could you answer it yourself if you were asked the same question? There are a lot of happy moments, so it is really hard to tell which one was the happiest. As a general rule, these moments are usually related to achievements, victories and life choices. These are the moments you remember, so I think that even if a victory is small, it still matters, since it helps shape a person’s character and identity. For example, I have mentioned that I remember competing one time in some tournament at pretty basic level. It may not seem like such a remarkable event, but it was then that I first started believing in myself, and finally understood that I have the ability to overcome many challenges. There were quite a few moments of this kind in my life. I hope that more are to come, and I would wish this to be the case for all of you.

Irada Zeinalova: We have the results of the survey. As you may remember, at the beginning of our talk we decided to find out what VKontakte users consider most pertinent, how well we understand them, how well they understand us, and how much we have in common. Let us take a look: family, friendship, freedom, health, jobs, well-being. Family ranks first, as you can see. And today's generation of VKontakte users value the same things that you hold dear.

Now, I would like to say that our conversation turned out to be very serious and informative, even for me for the most part, and although I always thought of myself as a well-informed person, I learned a lot from these children.

We started the exchange with a question from one of the youngest participants, one of the youngest students of this educational centre. Now we would like to finish our conversation, as, frankly, we are running out of time and you probably have some state meetings on your schedule. We would like to close the excahnge with a question from a participant of the programme ”You Are Super!“ It is a music show whose participants are children left without parental care, or orphans, as we call them. This little boy came from the Trans Baikal region. We have tried to make all participants' dreams come true, but we were unable to make Vitaly's dream come true as it is beyond our control. He is in the studio now. Vitaly Tolochkin – here he is. He has a dream that only you can make come true; to be more precise, it is already coming true. Vitaly, tell us about your dream.

Vitaly Tolochkin: My dream is to meet Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin: And has it come true?

Irada Zeinalova: Let us capture the moment; let us take a photo of you together. Go stand by the President.

Vladimir Putin: Let us take a photo together now. Come on up here.

Irada Zeinalova: Come over here. Do you have a phone? Let me take a photo of you together. Fabulous!

And do you have a question for the President? Go ahead and ask it.

Vitaly Tolochkin: My question is, what did you dream of in your childhood, and what do you dream of today?

Vladimir Putin: You know, this is not an easy question actually. One’s dreams constantly change as one evolves. When I was a little boy, I dreamt of one thing, when I got a bit older I dreamt of other things, and so on. This is normal. We have to be grateful that we have dreams. Because this is a kind of beacon, a sign that we have to make progress in our lives in order to make our dreams come true. And if our dreams change a bit along the way – that is fine. The main thing is to have a dream. It is my wish that your dream comes true.

But before we finish – although this is a good final question – to make things fair, we will do the following: I will take one question each from this sector, this one and this one.

Question: Mr President, I am Olya, I am from Fryazino, in Moscow region.

I think that my question is relevant for the entire science sector. Maybe not the entire section, but part of it. The list of academic competitions and Olympiads recommended by the Ministry of Science and Education includes 87 Olympiads and two or three conference-type competitions where participants are allowed to present their projects. In fact, no special benefits are provided to those who develop projects, although one specific project can change thousands of lives. Our children successfully present rather serious projects on a global level. They are already preparing for the Unified State Exam and preparing for enrolment at universities, but there are 87 Olympiads and only two or three competitions, you see. Are there plans to do something about this or change anything?

Vladimir Putin: We can expand the number of these competitions. Let us think about how we can do this. Why not?

A remark: Only recently, our team has returned from the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair that took place in the United States, and it is a shame that these 11th grade boys have to take entrance exams right after returning, and imagine how difficult it is for them, despite their projects being very impressive.

Vladimir Putin: Let us give this some thought and increase the number of competitions.

A remark: Thank you very much.

Question: Mr President, good evening. I am Mikhail, and I am from Belgorod. What prompted you to run for president? Have you achieved the goals you had set when you became President?

Vladimir Putin: I have already spoken about it, but I will say it again: I did not plan on becoming president, and nothing had prompted me to do this. But Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin invited me when I was Director of the Federal Security service – or already Secretary of the Security Council, I do not remember quite exactly – and said that he wanted to nominate me to the post of prime minister, so that I could later run for presidency.

I instantly told him: ”Mr President, I am not ready for this! I would have to change my life completely – and I am not ready for this.“ He thought a little, and said, ”Give this some thought. We come back to this later.“ But then he did nominate me at the State Duma, as they are the ones who vote for the prime minister. I became Prime Minister, and then things eventually proceeded from there to the presidential election campaign.

As for reaching my goals, you know, you have to set ambitious, challenging goals. Overall, I think they have been reached or are being reached. This primarily concerns economic development. However hard it may be, our economy has grown almost twofold. The real income of the population has increased many-fold, despite our current difficulties. There has been a bit of a reduction in real incomes, but now this is on the rise again. Compared to the year 2000, the situation with people's incomes, wages and pensions has considerably changed.

These are serious, adult matters, but I will speak of them anyway. By 1999, our Armed Forces had actually fallen apart. Now we have a totally different Army. It is compact and efficient. There is much that still needs to be done – but there are plenty of reasons to to believe that we will reach these goals and solve the tasks facing our country.

Question: Good evening. My name is Ksenia. I am from Ulan-Ude. My question is, are the environmental issues facing Lake Baikal being resolved?

Vladimir Putin: They are. There are many issues there, including those dealing with the shutdown of the pulp and paper plant. Not all these issues have been resolved, of course. This is a very sensitive matter.

The main issue is probably that the chemical discharges of the agriculture enterprises that operate on the shore or close to the shore eventually find their way into the lake, with rainfall or just by themselves. There is work to be done, and on a large scale. There are also other issues, which must be resolved.

We know about these things and the corresponding structures at government and regional administration level are considering them, and proposing various solutions. We will not leave these matters unattended.

A remark: Thank you very much.

Question: Mr President, my name is Alyona, I am from Serpukhov. Thank you very much for all you do for us and our country. I am learning to become a painter, and we have an issue that concerns many painters like me. To be a professional watercolour painter, one needs quality materials, such as paper. We need paper made of 100 percent cotton. Now we purchase paper produced in England, Germany, France, with one sheet costing about 500–700 rubles. I know that in Soviet times, our Goznak enterprise manufactured such paper of very high quality. Can this production be restored today?

The second question concerns paintbrushes. Until recently, we purchased domestically produced Kolinsky sable brushes from a company called Baikal. They are of a very good quality and give the best value for money on the market. But in the past six months, their price has grown from 400 to 2,500 rubles. How is it that goods produced in Russia are now becoming unaffordable for us?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, this has to be examined. As a rule, this is explained by, say, change in exchange rates and that some components have to purchased abroad. Maybe these brushes are assembled here and some parts are bought from other countries, and such purchases have become more pricey as the ruble lost value. This is the most likely cause, and these explanations are rather basic. But this has to be looked into, we have a special agency that handles such issues – the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service. I will tell Mr Artemyev about this to draw his attention.

Secondly, as regards paper, this domestic production sector is actively developing, and we have considerably reduced foreign purchases, but this primarily concerns the paper used for printing newspapers and magazines. Your issue is a very specific one; we will see what can be done here. Okay?

Question: Hello, Mr President. My name is Margarita, and I represent the Sirius figure skating programme. International relations are a very important topic these days. Have you ever considered creating a centre that would bring together children from various countries so that Sirius students could interact with children from other countries? I think that this is an interesting idea that would be popular among children.

Vladimir Putin: We have a centre with a mission of this kind. I am referring to Artek. There is also the Orlyonok children’s centre, and the Okean children’s centre in Russia’s Far East. In fact, the idea behind Sirius was to bring together young talented children from Russia in the key areas of science, art, education and sport in order to create the necessary conditions and accompany them once they finish secondary school, specialised and higher educational institutions right until they are employed by institutes or companies, join research or artistic teams. This is about the Russian elite who will hopefully come not only from Sirius, but also from elsewhere. This effort is primarily aimed at shaping a national elite. We can and we will maintain contacts with similar centres in other countries, although there are no centres of this kind anywhere else, but we will still look for partners. Of course, inviting someone to Russia is always a possibility, but overall we will focus on Russian children, our young generation and teenagers.

Remark: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: I see that a girl has stood up over here. Since you are already standing, go ahead.

I wanted to give you the microphone, but the girl is already standing. What can I do? Go ahead, I am listening.

It is your birthday today? Then we will surely take your question. Who else has a birthday today?

Remark: Over here.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Question: My name is Yevgenia, and here is my question:

Mr President, what do you think about feminism?

Vladimir Putin: You see, feminism emerged quite a long time ago as a movement to promote women’s rights. Overall, there is nothing bad about it. On the contrary, I believe that defending women’s rights is the correct approach and the right thing to do.

You know, there is a question that we always discuss in various international formats. I am referring to education for girls. This is a major issue for many countries, where girls are unable to go to school due to religious or cultural traditions. For example, I spoke to one of my colleagues for whom I have great respect. He comes from a Muslim country and has already left office. He said, “What are we doing? By denying women and girls a decent education we are cutting off so many opportunities with our own hands.” That said, this is an issue for a number of countries, but not Russia.

We have issues of a different nature when it comes to women’s rights. This has to do with wage disparity. This is an issue not only for Russia, but also for a number of other economies. For example, the same happens in the European Union. Over there, women on average make less than men do. These are statistics, and nothing else. For this reason, there is no doubt that we have to work on this problem. However, just as with any other area, it should not be twisted or distorted in any way, so that no one loses his mind over it, as has sometimes been the case.

Let us do it this way. I will answer the questions of those who are celebrating a birthday today.

Irada Zeinalova: Mr President, I am all for equal rights, education and birthdays. Presents have already arrived, my arms are sore holding them; I will place them here now.

Vladimir Putin: So you knew there were birthdays!

Irada Zeinalova: Yes, I have a list of four people who are celebrating their birthdays.

Question: My name is Alexander. I am From St Petersburg and a student of the Presidential Physics and Mathematics Lyceum No 239.

Question number one. Is the President going to visit the presidential lyceum at least once?

A remark: Let us all ask one question.

Vladimir Putin: That is right, fight for your rights, hold that microphone.

Seems like everything that is happening has to do with the President, one way or another. I mean, everything good, of course. That is why this is not about the name but about how well your lyceum is run.

Unfortunately, I am unable to visit every place where events are held under the name of or on behalf of the President, or that has something to do with the name of the President. I wish you lots of success. This is a very good educational institution. If I have the opportunity, I will be happy to visit your lyceum. Fine?

A remark: And a related question.

As is known, our lyceum teaches future scientists. It is known that the most prominent scientists and athletes receive different pay and have a different quality of life. This is especially obvious in the Russian Federation. I personally know astronomers who work at the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory and they live on a very strict budget. How can we change this? Tell us, please.

Vladimir Putin: Wage levels should be increased in all sectors. But they cannot be the same for everyone. As for the fact that they barely make ends meet – this is bad; if this is so, the issue has to be examined. We have a programme for increasing wages in higher educational institutions and in the research sector. The task has been set to bring these wages to double the average wage in the country by 2018, if I remember correctly. We will continue to make efforts to achieve this, I hope, this will be the first step. But this is not all, wait, I will take my answer further, and this is serious. It is necessary that heads of research institutions and higher educational institutions become aware that their wages and wages of common staff members should not differ so greatly. Sadly, this is what we have in many cases today. Therefore, we have to introduce certain adjustments to avoid this.

Who else has a birthday today?

Go ahead, please.

Question: Good evening, I am Yury Safronov, and today is my birthday.

We know that you have a Volga car. Do you want to make it unmanned?

Vladimir Putin: Unmanned?

A remark: Yes, and our team is ready to handle this.

Vladimir Putin: Will my Volga remain intact?

A remark: It will.

Vladimir Putin: Good. It is a deal then.

A remark: This would be an excellent present for all of us.

Vladimir Putin: Good.

And what will we do with this unnamed vehicle? That is, with my Volga as an unmanned vehicle?

A remark: We will have it drive on its own.

Vladimir Putin: Where to?

A remark: Wherever you like.

Vladimir Putin: Will we put it to work as a taxi, make some money?

A remark: Yes, if that is what you wish.

Vladimir Putin: Good. But it will be a joint project then – my Volga and your unmanned device. We will think how it can be used. But fine, it is a deal.

A remark: Great. Looking forward to this.

Vladimir Putin: Who else has a birthday today? You? Fine. What is your name?

A remark: I am Roman.

Vladimir Putin: How old are you turning?

A remark: 16.

Vladimir Putin: Where are you from?

A remark: From Tula.

Vladimir Putin: And what is your question?

Question: Are there plans for launching a targeted nationwide programme for dealing with and recycling domestic glass waste with the use of automatised devices – and if this is planned, then when?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know. Now, that is quite a question. Recycling of glass, right?

A remark: Plastic and glass domestic waste, glass containers, and things like this.

Vladimir Putin: Look, we have a separate programme for municipal solid waster treatment. The program is operating, and, among other things, it provides for separating waste into different categories, including plastic. In this sense, yes, we have such a programme. It only has to be expanded and provided with additional financing. We have plans to build several plants, most of them in Moscow Region, because this is the region where the situation is especially serious. Nearby is the huge city of Moscow, with all the waste removed from there to Moscow Region. But we also have to plan the building of plants in Crimea and in a few other regions, and will definitely do this and take efforts in this regard.

Go ahead.

A remark: Let this be the final question.

Vladimir Putin: Our colleagues from NTV are having problems as this is broadcast live and they have scheduled programmes that need to go on the air.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Mr President, it is you who is having problems as you have four presents to give.

A remark: And tomorrow's birthdays are beginning already.

Vladimir Putin: I will have a problem in one hour. I have a meeting with President of Azerbaijan.

Remark: Good evening, Mr President!

Vladimir Putin: Is it your birthday today?

Remark: Tomorrow.

Vladimir Putin: Tomorrow? Return the microphone then. (Laughter).

Remark: He is a person of the future!

Vladimir Putin: But we have agreed to listen to those who are celebrating their birthdays today.

Good evening!

Remark: My name is Ashot Shidnyan, I am from the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

Vladimir Putin: Ashot from Sakha (Yakutia)?

Remark: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Are you freezing there?

Remark: No, it is fine there.

I would like to ask a question on the formation of a national sponsored team of young scientists and researchers who would represent our country at all international conferences and fairs. Is it possible to organise something like this? And how do you see the selection process for such a team? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Look, we have national teams in various fields. And they are very successful. I do not quite understand why we need a national team of this kind. If we create such a team, it would mean members would have to perform somewhere and compete with similar national teams – but are there any teams like this in the world? Have such national teams been created? National teams are created based on their main field of activity – mathematics, physics, artificial intellect, biology.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Mr President, they need funding, they want the state to finance the creation of this smart team.

Vladimir Putin: Everyone wants state financing.

Remark: For instance, I have an invitation for the Intel international fair. But the Step to the Future programme, which has issued the invitation, does not provide any financing, of course, and the cost is about 300,000 rubles.

Vladimir Putin: I will speak to Governor Yegorov. He will help you.

Irada Zeinalova: Mr President, it appears that all those celebrating birthdays today have asked their questions.

Vladimir Putin: Does no one else have a birthday today? Has everyone asked a question?

Irada Zeinalova: Everyone. Even a future birthday boy got his chance.

Vladimir Putin: Is it your birthday today?

Remark: Here is the boy.

Vladimir Putin: You call him a boy? Well, then he is quite a big lad, isn’t he.

What are you saying?

Remark: It is not my birthday today, but my father’s. Happy birthday dad!

Vladimir Putin: Your father’s? Pass him the microphone then, please. We have agreed, let us keep this fair.

So has everyone asked their question?

Irada Zeinalova: And a family discussion has already begun. All of today's and tomorrow's birthday people have already spoken.

Vladimir Putin: Guys, we cannot stay with you until morning just simply due to certain technological matters related to television programming and due to my schedule.

I am of course willing to speak to you some more and answer all your questions, but it is just not possible. All right? Do not be angry, please. We may have the opportunity to see each other at Surius, and not just once. I will try to visit Surius on a regular basis.

Irada Zeinalova: Mr President, I am positive that these children will have every reason to meet with you, as they are very success-oriented.

Thank you very much for this serious conversation, without making allowances for the fact that they are children. Thank you very much for these presents as well. Those who are celebrating your birthdays, feel free to come and collect them.

Vladimir Putin: I will sign them now.

Irada Zeinalova: Come here, all of you. These are real, big and good books.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Let us all congratulate them.

Irada Zeinalova: Give us your mobile phones. We will take pictures for each of you.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Do you need any help?

Irada Zeinalova: Frankly, not really, but it would not hurt. This will be quite a memorable birthday for them.

Mr President, these are cunning kids, and very ambitious at that, and they will definitely be successful in life. They received the books, and had their photos taken by a professional photographer, and will have their photo taken with you.

Vladimir Putin: I would say they are smart, rather than cunning, quite smart.

Irada Zeinalova: Yes, they grasped the situation fairly quickly.

Vladimir Putin: Now we will take some photos with the birthday people and wish them happy birthdays.

I want to thank you all for your professional attitude. You gained the right to arrive here in Sirius – and this means you are successful and talented, and you have a bright future. I want to thank you for this and for today's talks.

I would like to express my hope that many more children like you will arrive here. You come from all territories and regions of the Russian Federation. And I want to express hope that you will feel that you have gained another family here, a Sirius family, and that you will support each other after you leave this centre. I also want to wish all of you success in achieving your goals and implementing everything you want to devote your life to.

I wish you happiness and good luck! Thank you very much.

July 21, 2017, Sochi