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Meeting with candidates for President of Russia

March 18, 2024, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin with candidates for President of Russia.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, member of the State Duma Committee on Budget and Taxes, First Deputy Head of the New People party faction in the State Duma (nominated by the New People party) Vladislav Davankov; Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Head of the LDPR party faction in the State Duma, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs (nominated by the LDPR party) Leonid Slutsky; and Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, member of the Presidium of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Central Committee (nominated by the CPRF Party) Nikolai Kharitonov.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

I suggested holding this meeting because we all have travelled our own path during this election campaign.

But I am aware, and I always operate on the premise that each person, especially a representative of a parliamentary party, has their own view of what we should do and how we should do it in order to achieve our common national development goals. We share our goals, which is absolutely obvious. I know this from my long and close communication with your parties and you personally.

In this regard, I would like to discuss certain things. During the election campaign, you met with a large number of people, your voters. At the same time we understand, and I believe that the electoral base of each party has not really changed. The current times has its peculiarities, which reflected on the election of the President as head of state and Supreme Commander-in-Chief. However, I believe that the electoral base has remained unchanged.

That mean that we need to continue working actively together in the country’s parliament, working together to advance the kinds of ideas that will help us solve the challenges the country is facing.

You have met with a large number of people and heard what people had to say. They told you what they expect from the Government. And it does not really matter now what the level of this authority is, what party it is, or what ideas it promotes. What matters is our ability to achieve the goals that we set.

We share the understanding of certain things, such as the security of the Russian state, foreign policy issues, the importance of achieving sovereignty in defence, technology, monetary policy, and so on. We have discussed this many times, and I know that our positions overlap here as well.

I would certainly like to hear what the people told you and what they expected from you in order to use this feedback for joint work and to achieve our common goals. As a matter of fact, that’s all I wanted to hear from you, there are no super-objectives here.

I would like to thank everyone for the civilised election campaign that was held in full compliance with the law. I hope we will be able to keep this constructive approach in the parliament and on the interaction platform in the Federation Council where representatives of the Russian regions work in the future in order to achieve the development goals I mentioned earlier.

Please go ahead.

Nikolai Kharitonov: First, Mr President, allow me to congratulate you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Nikolai Kharitonov: We recognise your victory.

We are well aware, as I have already said, that today you have received not a laurel wreath from voters but accepted again a tremendous burden and tremendous responsibility. We understand this very well.

We understand the time in which the election took place. We understand how many human eyes, lives and feelings are directed at you because for many years, you have been the leader and much has been done. I remember the 2004 election – exactly 20 years later I happened to be running again. Of course, there have been tremendous strides.

Surely it is no accident that today practically the entire sensible international community understands full well that today Russia is headed by a reliable man, a man trusted by the majority of people in Russia. And the most recent election has confirmed this.

We, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and I as its candidate, understood it full well and did everything we could to consolidate the people as much as possible.

(Further Nikolai Kharitonov spoke about his trips to different regions, primarily, in the Far East, his meetings with people and problems that worry students, farmers and young families buying homes.)

There is a question you have mentioned and people always ask about – salaries of teachers and medical workers that depend on the average salary of a particular region. It is still necessary to make salaries equal across the Russian Federation.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed.

Nikolai Kharitonov: I am referring to doctors and medical workers – all the more so as we are short of them. I won’t cite figures on the shortage of medical professionals but they are significant. It is necessary to increase salaries for teachers and healthcare workers to prevent them from going to Moscow and St Petersburg [seeking higher salaries] – they should stay where they are.

I already told you at the Council of Lawmakers in 2019… Incidentally, some people also said, albeit rarely, that the decision on retirement age was rushed. I am referring to the Far East. Maybe we should look at this again (they do go now and will continue to go to work on the construction of the Baikal Amur Railway) to offer young people an option – to go there with the understanding that they are going there to earn their pensions. Let them work for 20–22 years to get their pensions. If we want to encourage people to go there.

Vladimir Putin: It is an option worth considering.

As for salaries in the social sector, the Government is going to deal with them right away. I have also mentioned this in my Address. Disparities must be evened out. You are absolutely right. People are doing the same jobs for different money. This will be a subject for discussion, in the Duma as well.

Nikolai Kharitonov: In some places, they are inventing per capita funding in education. Meanwhile, there may be only three or four houses in rural areas but maybe a future Lomonosov is studying there. We have already made a mess of things by streamlining everything in this area.

Rural areas are an issue of particular concern; I also have proposals for the development of rural areas. The rural population is aging.

Vladimir Putin: True.

Nikolai Kharitonov: The lack of infrastructure results in a lack of work. Collective farms and state farms… We lost 23,000 such farms. Any investor normally seeks grain deals.

Vladimir Putin: Grain exports.

Nikolai Kharitonov: This is all good and profitable. But we talk about how people need calcium, and its source is milk. Today we have 7.8 million cows left. In the Soviet era, we used to produce 50 million tonnes of milk, while today it is 28–31. I saw that [Minister of Agriculture Dmitry] Patrushev reported to you an additional 700,000.

I travelled to the Trans-Baikal Territory to chair a meeting of the committee and toured the region for three days. The last two livestock farms are shut down. I requested an appointment with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, which he agreed to. I told him: “There are 11 Far Eastern regions, the Arctic, and the North – the conditions there is tougher; let us launch a special programme to develop the local agro-industrial complex to produce fish, caviar, meat and dairy products.”

Mr Mishustin signed an instruction tasking three ministries to develop a target programme for the development of the agro-industrial complex, particularly as we have a neighbour [China] with its population of 1.5 billion. We have the necessary environmental conditions for feeding people, producing food and earning money – we just need to provide opportunities.


There are several proposals; I will pass them on.

(Nikolai Kharitonov also mentioned benefits for “Children of the War,” a population group of those born between June 22, 1928, and September 3, 1945, that includes nine million people. Mr Kharitonov said that certain regional laws have been adopted, yet a federal law is required as a sign of gratitude to the generation who often grew up without a father or mother but were involved in the work to restore the country.)

We are already receiving your feedback on numerous issues. Hopefully, as soon as we meet in the Duma, we will work together to implement everything that we have prepared. And primarily, this is about social justice measures such as salaries and pensions. These are the issues that people are concerned about.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

As for mortgage loans for young people, including in the Far East…

Nikolai Kharitonov: There are several options.

Vladimir Putin: True, but we can and should discuss this issue at great length; I will not do it now on camera.

We have a lot to address in this regard. And basically, we can find the resources for this. You just need to be very careful here because our services, including the Central Bank, those that are working to maintain macroeconomic indicators at the required level, are now fearing that this vast mortgage programme – the one we are promoting, and we are right in doing so – is putting a bit of pressure on inflation.

But we will talk about this separately.

Nikolai Kharitonov: Everyone was awaiting and was scared to see the Central Bank’s key interest rate at 16 percent. My grandson got married in Novosibirsk last September; he married an Altai-born young lady, and they took out a mortgage. Today, everyone was expecting the rate to be maybe less than 16 percent. Young people have purchased apartments, and the rate went up to 16 percent. There is going to be another meeting and looks like they will keep it at 16. We need to address this; maybe we can influence it.

Vladimir Putin: There is a different rate for young families and those with children, less than 16 percent.

Nikolai Kharitonov: These are young people without children.

Vladimir Putin: They have motivation to have their first child.

We will discuss it; this is a highly important question, I agree completely.

Go ahead.

Leonid Slutsky: Mr President, first of all, allow me to extend my congratulations on your historic victory.

The percentages we have gained are of no importance. The difference between us is less than one percentage point. It is a detail I had not intended to address just yet, but you disclosed this fact during your address to your election team tonight: indeed, we have contributed a large number of the LDPR members’ votes to the main candidate. We have given away a lot, leaving less for ourselves. Let me stress it once again: this plays no role at all, nor is it of any importance.

What truly matters is that we have reaffirmed the high prestige of our national leader, especially during a pivotal juncture in our country’s recent history, at a time of the scared and noble special military operation, an operation aimed at eradicating Nazism. This is probably – let us hope and trust that this is true – the last battle against Nazism in human history. Naturally, it will culminate in the victory of Russian arms.

Undoubtedly, these elections and this campaign hold significance not only for Russia, the Russian world, and the Russian civilisation, but also extend far beyond the borders of our country. Today, they resonate with a new Global Majority that aligns with your ideas and approaches. This is not the Anglo-Saxon world. This is the Global South: Africa, Latin America, and most of Eurasia.

These nations did not want to cede control over their destinies and development to Washington. Neither did they want to perpetuate a unipolar world, a world based on blood, as we saw in Yugoslavia in 1999, in Iraq in 2003, and later in Libya. In Syria, Russia’s involvement prevented the developments from following the same blood-drenched scenario, where the “unwanted” regimes and their leaders faced obliteration.

Today, a new Global Majority is undeniably emerging, with Russia as the focal point within this evolving global political landscape and system of international relations. This heralds the establishment of a stable, secure and well-balanced architecture for the new century. All of this is taking shape around your ideas and approaches. This is why I want to say that this is indeed a historic campaign. It is for this reason that national leaders are extending warm congratulations, a gesture likely to continue for quite some time.

As for our party’s campaign, I said at the outset that I was not going to say anything about the provisions contained in its programme in advance. We outlined these provisions after visiting many regions, based on what we heard from people there. I think that with your high-level involvement in coordinating our efforts, we will work together and seek each other’s advice on these matters. This way, we can find solutions and overcome challenges without waiting for the special military operation to come to an end. No doubt, these are very, or should I say extremely, sensitive matters for our people.

It so happens that, in itself, the Address to the Federal Assembly is not an address. I tend to refer to it as a national and social development programme, for the next six-year cycle, and even longer. It presents a policy-setting vision, which explains why it is so long. This is how we view it. In fact, the key reference points, and the basic points you made in this Address coincided with what we have been saying during the campaign, me included, starting with the Shoulder to Shoulder concept. This was the message I sent to the people of Russia last year – everyone regardless of their party affiliation, age, where they live or what religion they follow. Russians have always closed ranks and stood shoulder to shoulder when facing hardship and when the moment of truth was upon us.

All our parliamentary political parties, and not only them, answered this call – everyone who cares about Russia’s future. At the end of the day, this is what matters to us, rather than all these rubles, tonnes and kilometres – the people. We care for the people, and live and work for them. In fact, serving people is the reason for the existence of any political party. Vladimir Zhirinovsky kept teaching us to make sure that no family and not a single person was left behind. We remain true to his teachings. It is for this reason that our party enjoys upward momentum, even if we have a lot of work ahead of us.

As for the reference points, there are a lot of questions in this regard. Of course, we need to rely on those who went through the special military operation and to whom we can entrust our lives when staffing government and public institutions. This is a very important point. These are great people, and many of those who have already returned from the special military operation are now enrolling at universities or plan to do so. We have a permanent presence on the frontlines.

The new regions are another major topic. We must understand that everything important taking place in our country in the years to come will happen in these regions. Today, we not only need to work on rebuilding infrastructure, but also to reach out to people in order to fulfil their aspirations in terms of making life better in these regions, considering their immense potential, and we must restore manufacturing and address many other issues.

(Leonid Slutsky went on to talk about increasing the minimum wage, supporting families with many children, problems in the utilities sector, supporting small businesses, the lack of medical workers in the regions, ensuring equal pay for public sector employees across Russia, and food prices.)

Young people are leaving rural areas. They graduate from school and leave for big cities to study at universities. We have tried different approaches to overcome this challenge (it has so far remained unresolved). The goal is to achieve a sizable mortgage rate cut for rural youth. I declared 2024 the Year of Rural Youth for the LDPR. In that case, indeed, after finishing school, young people will be able to build a house of their own on entirely different terms and stay in the places where they were born. And that will later lead to agricultural companies, jobs, and space for creative activity.

Otherwise, it will be just like you warned in your 2012 pre-election article “Building Justice: A Social Policy for Russia.” It has a section titled “Conservation of Russia” that I like a lot. I can say it is my go-to article.

If we continue down that road, we may end up with empty spaces between metropolitan areas. In general, we need to focus on the compatriots who are willing to return, among other things. Sergei Kiriyenko has authored a brilliant programme “Russia – Land of Opportunity.” However, only 70 people from the international bloc receive Russian passports annually.

We need to return those who have been registered with our consular offices for many years now and to address these issues in order not to turn into a “barren space” (verbatim quote), “whose fate will be decided by someone else, not us,” as you wrote in this article.

Certainly, we will not go along with this apocalyptic scenario, but we need to work on this matter. Among other things, importantly, rural youth should stop leaving rural areas which is something we can make happen in a matter of few years, if we are being realistic.

The same holds true for the Far East. As chairman of the corresponding State Duma Committee, Mr Kharitonov will support me if I say that we need to gradually increase wages. Young people should aspire to make it through this tough but important professional school, aspire to work in the Far East, rather than leave it because of low wages.

All of these issues can be resolved within several years as part of a phased approach if we go industry by industry and by important infrastructure companies as key points. The point is to do it gradually. We have a separate vision for that as well. I have shared with you only a portion of our programme. We will certainly implement it. The country needs it, and the people need it.

The programme is absolutely clear and outlines a clear vision of what exactly should be done in cooperation with the Government. We will report to you on the most important issues in order to achieve step-by-step implementation as soon as possible. It is possible to do a lot already this year.

A few words about the coincidence of these reference points with the Address. We did not exchange views on the goals until today. We are just now synchronising our approaches on this. So, the conclusion is very simple – this shows that we are on the right track.

And, indeed, these are anchor points, underlying problems that must be resolved immediately and that are of prime concern to our people, our population – those for whom we work as political parties. This is why we must deal with them immediately.

The LDPR is continuing to work hard now. I will repeat – as Vladimir Zhirinovsky taught us, we are in touch with everyone. We never opt for formal replies. In 48 hours, I respond to everyone despite the enormous increase in messages, working for the party to be a reliable political force today. And this is how we are going to continue working, getting in touch with every person and every family with a view to resolving these problems.

Briefly, I guess that’s all.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Slutsky, you have raised a number of issues. All of them are important, but I will draw your attention to two of them.

Mr Kharitonov mentioned this earlier – the need to even out the incomes in the social sector in different regions of the Russian Federation. But this goal is also linked with another issue – the source of funding. I spoke about this in the Address as well. I am referring to the proposals on amending the tax system. It is necessary to be very careful in this respect. We must create a system that we will not change. It must remain stable for at least six years.

This point was made today. The CPRF has always said that the tax system must be fair. We have had many disputes in this respect. But, as you can see, we have approached this very carefully.

This issue will give rise to serious debate in parliament. The Government will come up with its own solutions – how, from whom and how much.

We must be very careful in doing this, but our decisions must be coordinated.

I am hoping that all political parties represented in parliament will deal with these problems very seriously, that you will involve analysts and other specialists – we have plenty of them in this country. I am hoping that all of us will find a middle ground and will find these coordinated solutions.

Thank you very much.

Mr Davankov, go ahead, please.

Vladislav Davankov: Mr President,

Congratulations on your landslide victory.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Vladislav Davankov: I will try to be brief.

This week, the Kiev regime has again been cowardly attacking the Belgorod Region. My team and I happened to be in Belgorod on December 31, 2023. Following another night-time attack, our volunteers were helping clear the debris, and we met with the families of the civilians who died in the attack. These were truly despicable strikes. I am here to tell you that these actions by the Kiev regime had absolutely no justification.

I travelled through 29 regions during this campaign, and in all regions people are working for our common victory. Everyone is doing their best. As a parliamentary party, we are also trying hard to do as much as we can. I oversee the Lugansk People's Republic as part of my party work, and I go there occasionally. There are several projects, such as People's First Aid Kits, which help our servicemen. Under these challenging circumstances, we are constantly sending them humanitarian supplies.

You were absolutely right when you said that our common goal is to come out victorious in the special military operation and to achieve lasting peace. I also mentioned this during the campaign. I said it was crucial not to pass this confrontation on to the next generation, but to resolve it ourselves.

Frankly, the people I met with sincerely said and believed that you are the only person who can win this confrontation as the leader of the country. Actually, the elections have clearly shown it. I have held more than a hundred meetings, and many people said they would vote for Vladimir Putin, and asked me to help them solve some issues in return. I have more than a thousand such questions now.

We took care of some of them on the spot, such as helping a woman register as a mother with many children, and some remained unresolved. My team and I will continue to address them.

Immediately after the Address to the Federal Assembly, I went to Rostov to meet with entrepreneurs. First, they shared stories of support that they provide to our military. They applauded when you mentioned amnesty for business fragmentation. This is the first feedback.

With regard to other areas, you may be aware that the New People Party works extensively with young people, and we have quite a few young activists. Of course, they were excited to learn that there would be a national youth project. They are primarily talking about fulfilling their professional potential. We have good young people who want to grow professionally and work in Russia, in their respective cities. The things we discussed, matters of personal fulfilment are very important, of course.

They say they want families of their own. Mr Kharitonov spoke about mortgages today. Of course, having a home of their own is a top question. They want to leave their parents’ home and build their own nest. This is one of the questions. I have them all there, I have drawn up a list. I think we will team up with the Government to work them through in order to identify solutions, because no solution is easy and each one comes at a cost. But Russia knows examples where the demographic issue was properly addressed. For example, on Sakhalin in the early 2010s, when such support led to a sharp surge in the birth rate, and our people started families.

I would like to congratulate you once again on your victory, a landslide victory. My team and I will continue to work on the issues that were designated during these meetings.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.


March 18, 2024, The Kremlin, Moscow