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Meeting with President of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin

May 23, 2023, The Kremlin, Moscow

The President had a working meeting with President of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin at the Kremlin.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Zorkin.

President of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: I am very happy to see you, Mr Zorkin. The Constitutional Court is a key element in the country’s legal and judicial system.

Vladimir Zorkin: One of the keys.

Vladimir Putin: I am very glad to see you today and would like to congratulate you once again on your state decoration. Thank you very much.

Vladimir Zorkin: Thank you, Mr President.

First of all, we have summed up some results for 2022 (unfortunately, the book of selected rulings that I present to you every year has not yet been put together) and some results through May 2023.

Here is what I would like to say briefly in this regard.

The number of applications and corresponding rulings by the Constitutional Court remained approximately the same with 12,000, give or take, since 2019. Of these, Constitutional Court rulings account for approximately 3,700. Why this difference? Because the others are items not within the purview of the Constitutional Court. There were suits filed by people who were not given apartments, etc.

Why am I drawing your attention to this commendable stability regarding rulings and appeals? You may remember that when Russia withdrew from the Strasbourg Court [European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR], and even before that, we adopted amendments to the Constitution that complicated the procedure for appealing to the Constitutional Court. This only became possible after all the other procedures had been used, including appeals to the Supreme Court, while before that people could appeal to the Constitutional Court right from Magadan.

That decision was criticised for curtailing access [to the court], complicating things, and so on. Here is the statistics: the number of appeals was comparable in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, and we expect it to be approximately the same in 2023. In this sense, access to the Constitutional Court has not been curtailed.

The difference in the number of rulings and appeals has not changed either. Why is that? Because our citizens, a certain group of citizens, have learned to use these instruments properly. They used the correct procedure, ultimately reaching the Constitutional Court, and their problems were settled without appeals to the Strasbourg Court. I would like to say in this connection that the success of our work depends not only on the Constitutional Court but also on the Supreme Court. I believe that we are interacting appropriately in terms of the delimitation of authority, coordination and the like.

Here is what I would like to say. Back then and now, it was proposed even at the high-level conferences of constitutional lawyers that a certain constitutional presence should be created at the Supreme Court, in addition to the Constitutional Court, so that it would monitor whether constitutional rights were violated during investigations.

Our people tend to forget that our judicial system differs from that of Germany, for example, where the supreme court has the authority of the constitutional court.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, the last resort.

Valery Zorkin: Exactly. But in Russia, the Supreme Court is not only the court of cassation but also of supervision. In this sense, it is the last resort for general jurisdiction courts. Therefore, the Constitutional Court did not protest the multiplication of essences and division of authority because it feared that it would have fewer cases, but rather…

Vladimir Putin: This issue has not been raised in practical terms.

Valery Zorkin: No, it has not, and I think that this is understandable.

Here is another aspect regarding our performance: the breakdown by the type of law remains just about the same. Civil law and civil litigation come first, along with business-related disputes. Criminal proceedings and criminal law place second. Labour and social issues are next in line, but they are not the first on the list. This also highlights a certain stability in this sphere.

Vladimir Putin: Of course. Economic relations come first.

Valery Zorkin: Complaints dealing with political rights, etc. are the last in line. Apparently, it was predicted that all this would amount to a nationwide groundswell, in connection with this or that situation. However, our objective survey shows that people are more concerned about the rights that I have mentioned. By the way, the latter category features ten times fewer complaints.

Certainly, there are some exotic aspects. For example, we have recently adopted a decision linked with artificial …

Vladimir Putin: Intelligence?

Valery Zorkin: Artificial fatherhood.

Vladimir Putin: In vitro fertilisation.

Valery Zorkin: The issue of transness has come into the spotlight. I believe that lawmakers will probably address this issue somehow. As far as we are concerned, one way or another, things will work out, so to speak.

On the whole, as I have said, one should keep in mind that the number of the Constitutional Court’s justices was changed in 2020. We had 19 justices, and now we have 11; however, their workload remains the same. However, I do not think that the workload has increased to the degree that it has become unbearable. The Constitutional Court is coping because it has a rather efficient auxiliary staff, among other things. As I see it, everything is all right from this standpoint. As justices, we wanted to inform you about this circumstance.

Perhaps you would like to ask some questions?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for sharing this with me.

Valery Zorkin: I would like to use this occasion to say that we have found a copy of a 17th-century map at the Constitutional Court. It was made by the French during the reign of Louis XIV, and dated back to the middle or the beginning of the second half of the 17th century. Why have I brought it? Mr President, there is no Ukraine on that map.

Vladimir Putin: No, of course not.

Valery Zorkin: No Ukraine. There are two other territories, Rzeczpospolita and Cossackia, as well as the large Tsardom of Russia.

Why have I risked showing you this map? Because of the numerous speculations about the origins and appearance [of states].

Vladimir Putin: Well, we know that these territories were part of Rzeczpospolita but later they asked to be incorporated into the Tsardom of Muscovy, and that is how they became part of the Tsardom of Muscovy. It was only after the October Revolution that various quasi-states appeared and the Soviet government created Soviet Ukraine. It is a well-known fact. Before that, there was no Ukraine in the history of humankind.

Valery Zorkin: I did not tell you this because criminal proceedings have been instituted in Ukraine against all judges of the Constitutional Court…

Vladimir Putin: Really?

Valery Zorkin: …for the rulings we made in 2014 and in connection with the special military operation. I just wanted to speak the truth.

Vladimir Putin: This is clear. It is just one of the documents. Where was the map made? Is it a French map. Is it in the archives?

Valery Zorkin: Yes, we have a copy, and the original document is in the Louvre in France.

Here is a short description of the map. There are several mistakes in it.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, not all regions of Soviet Ukraine but only its north-western part was incorporated in Rzeczpospolita.

Valery Zorkin: Exactly, which is why I said that there are minor mistakes in the description, the translation errors.

The important thing is that it was not we but the French who made it.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, they put on the map what they saw in real life, on the ground.

Valery Zorkin: It was done during the reign of the Romanov dynasty.

Vladimir Putin: I see. Thank you very much.

May 23, 2023, The Kremlin, Moscow