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Answers to Russian media questions

July 4, 2024, Astana

In conclusion of his working visit to Astana, Vladimir Putin answered questions from representatives of Russian media.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. Go ahead, please.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, my name is Anton Vernitsky, Channel One. Are you satisfied with the SCO’s effectiveness in this turbulent global envoronment? Does the Organisation manage to respond to all the challenges? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The SCO is a useful organisation. Let me remind you that it was created to finally settle all the issues that arose after the USSR collapsed, border issues with China that remained unresolved backing the Soviet times between China and the newly established states. Gradually, the organisation started to gain steam and definitely became more necessary in today’s world, because it is clearly an independent centre of the new multipolar world. This is the feature that attracted the organisation members and those who wanted to maintain close contacts with it at various levels, as guests or as observers. As you can see, the will to join the SCO is growing. It has definitely become a powerful and global organisation: its member countries represent almost half of the Earth’s population. This is the firs point.

Second, it is a platform to agree positions among the member countries: China, Russia, India and Pakistan. As you understand, contacts never go amiss. In addition to this, once the organisation has grown to be so powerful and large, then the principles it declares are also significant, when they are known all over the world. For example, all the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have agreed that they stand against the deployment of any weapons in outer space, which is reflected in the declaration and other documents as well. This is a signal for the rest of the world on how we feel about the militarisation of outer space.

There are also other serious and important things, as I have said. First, a trillion-worth mutual trade matters. Discussing issues related to economic cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally, is crucial. As I have said, the GDP grew by 5.4 or 5.3 percent, and the industrial production grew 4.5 percent at the inflation rate of 2.4 percent. This is a good growth rate and good quality of the economy. I mean the low level of inflation.

Finally, cultural and humanitarian issues in various fields are agreed on, including youth, culture, education, and sports cooperation, all of which are very important and have good prospects.

Alexander Gamov: I am Alexander Gamov, Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Mr President, statements are already made that we consider Verkhovna Rada the only legitimate authority in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin: It is not we who say this but the constitution of Ukraine.

Alexander Gamov: Yes, this is according to the constitution. Perhaps Russia could address Verkhovna Rada directly, so that everyone in Ukraine and the West knows it.

A question arises related to Ukraine, which was spoken about a lot today. Back in December 1999, it was decided to create the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and we were dreaming about a common constitution, common currency etc. Today, integration processes have reached an unprecedented level, even considering our defence ties. Isn’t it time to return to creating the union we dreamed about in 1999? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: First, as for Ukraine, we could address Verkhovna Rada but this makes no sense while the power is usurped by the ruling elite, because the majority at the Verkhovna Rada is under its command. It holds the power illegally and does not even appeal to the constitutional court to confirm its powers. As I said, back in 2015, the Supreme Court of Ukraine ruled that a presidential term was limited to five years, and there were no reasons to extend powers in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine. All powers should go to the Rada, but it does not take these powers upon itself. Therefore, of course, we can address it, but it is pointless considering the real-life situation.

The Union State is developing, and we remember all the goals and tasks set in the original documents. This is the path we are going along.

The President of Belarus believes, and I support him, that not political but economic issues must be addressed at the first stage. A foundation for further rapprochement on the political track must be created, though everything works smoothly in the political sphere: there are both interparliamentary and intergovernmental associations. It is a question of time whether it would be necessary to establish a single parliament. I agree with Mr Lukashenko that we have to properly strengthen our economic relations first.

The same goes for our finances and a single currency. Nobody is saying that this is impossible or that we cannot do this. We have to get ready for this economically, because, as you know, when a single currency was introduced in the European Union, many countries with weak economies suffered from this, because nothing could be regulated using inflation since everything was pegged to euro. For example, there was no drachma, so Greece could not regulate its domestic economic processes using its national currency. Therefore, it is important that we have a relevant level of economic cooperation. We have taken very serious steps in this direction.

This concerns tax and customs regulations. You know, this is very significant, if not revolutionary. We move forward while relying on international experience, too. I believe we are correct in doing so.

Donald Courter: Donald Courter, Russia today.

Mr President, terrorist organisations on Afghan territory pose a serious threat to security of the SCO space, including Central Asian countries and Russia. The Islamic State is the most dangerous of them, and Russia has already had to face it this year.

My question is, should the Taliban join the dialogue on terrorist threats? Do you think they are allies or enemies here?

Vladimir Putin: The Taliban movement has taken on certain obligations, and in general there are issues that require constant attention both within the country and from the international community. In fact, we should keep in mind that the Taliban controls the country. In this sense, the Taliban are, of course, our allies in countering terrorism, because any authority in power is interested in its own stability and the stability of the country it leads.

I believe that the Taliban are also interested in Afghanistan being stable, calm, and subject to certain rules. We have received repeated signals from the Taliban that they are ready to work with us on the anti-terrorism track.

Dmitry Laru: My name is Dmitry Laru, Izvestia newspaper.

Afghanistan remains a SCO observer state, but the Kabul authorities have said many times that they are interested in fully joining the Organisation. Has this topic been discussed at the SCO, considering that the [SCO – Afghanistan] Contact Group has resumed its work?

Is Russia planning to remove the Taliban from the list of banned organisations? If so, when might this happen?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I have already said that we maintain contact with the Taliban. We have received repeated signals that the Taliban movement is ready to cooperate with Russia in various areas, including on the anti-terrorism track, and we welcome it.

As for full membership in the SCO, it is not for Russia alone to decide. This is always decided by a consensus. There are issues with several SCO member states which concern the inclusiveness of power in Afghanistan.

I believe all these issues can be resolved. We must maintain relations with Afghanistan and the real political forces that control the country. We will do this. I do not see why we should turn away from this now.

The timing will depend on how the situation will develop.

Pavel Zarubin: Good evening. Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV Channel.

Several months ago, I was lucky to ask you: who is better for us, Biden or Trump? And then you said that Biden. But now it turns out that that “bet” has become questionable because after the recent debates in the United States everyone is terrified of Biden, and, in general, his participation in the election race is in question.

Maybe you managed to see some pieces of these debates. What are your impressions? And, let us put it as follows, have your political preferences changed?

Vladimir Putin: You said: “That “bet” has become questionable.” Nothing has become questionable. Then I said … What has changed? Nothing has changed. Do you think we didn't know what would happen? We did. Nothing has changed in that sense.

As for watching or not watching it – I watched some pieces. I have enough to do, so I don't particularly follow what's going on there, especially in the media comments. They always have certain preferences: someone is in favour, someone is against. On the whole, of course, I have seen it, it is impossible to turn away from this, especially since the United States remains a great power with certain economic, security, and military capabilities, and the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, certainly has such an influence on the situation in Ukraine. Of course, we are not indifferent to what is happening there. Still, this is their own internal affair.

Please, go ahead.

Aisel Gereikhanova: Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Aisel Gereikhanova.

And yet, regarding the debates and specifically Donald Trump’s statements. He has already said on many occasions during the debates that he is ready to finish the conflict in Ukraine literally overnight. There are also some reports that Trump may stop NATO expansion to the East. How seriously do you take such promises yourself?

Vladimir Putin: You know, we take seriously enough the things that Mr Trump is saying as a presidential candidate about his readiness and wish to stop the war in Ukraine. Naturally, I do not know his possible proposals as to how he is going to do it – and this is, of course, the key question. However, I have no doubt that he is saying it sincerely, and we support it.

Andrei Kolesnikov: My name is Andrei Kolesnkov, Kommersant newspaper.

Mr President, do you believe a ceasefire along the contact line with Ukraine is possible before peace negotiations begin, without any preconditions, in order to have a better chance of success? Or is it also subject to negotiation?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Let me remind you some things. When our troops were near Kiev, we received a proposal and even a plea from our Western partners to cease fire and stop hostilities in order for certain things to be done on the Ukrainian side. We did it. There was a moment when we did it. The Ukrainian side did not cease hostilities. Later we were told that the official Ukrainian authorities could not control all their military units, because there were allegedly those that were not subordinate to the central authorities. This is what we were told, no more and no less. This is first.

Second, we were asked to move our troops away from Kiev in order to create conditions to finally sign a peace treaty. We did this and faced deception once again: all the agreements reached in Istanbul were thrown in the trash. Such things happened repeatedly.

Therefore, we cannot just declare a ceasefire hoping that the opposing side will take some positive steps. This is first.

Second, we cannot allow the adversary to take advantage of this ceasefire to improve its positions, rearm itself, fill up its army through forced mobilization, and get prepared to continue the armed conflict.We must ensure that the opposing side agrees to take steps that would be irreversible and acceptable to the Russian Federation.

Therefore, a ceasefire is impossible without reaching this agreement.

Yelena Mukhametshina: Vedomosti newspaper.

Several days ago, Vladimir Zelensky said that he considered negotiations with Russia possible through mediators, the way it was with the grain deal. What do you think about this idea, and who could serve as mediator in this case?

Vladimir Putin: We have always been in favour of negotiations, as you know. We never rejected them. The problem is that I consider it improbable that the conflict can be settled through mediators alone, above all because a mediator will not be authorised to sign any final documents, and moreover, even bring them for signing. The competencies of these mediators are not the only crucial issue, but their authority, too. Who can vest the authority to any mediator to put this conflict to an end? I find this improbable.

However, we welcome mediation, for example, like that of Mr Erdogan during our negotiation process in Istanbul.

Rossina Bodrova: Rossina Bodrova, Zvezda TV channel.

What do we know about Washington’s plans to deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles? What territories might be used to deploy them, and what kind of threat will this pose for our security?

You recently spoke about the need to begin the production of intermediate- and shorter-range missile strike systems. Are we talking about a new weapon? Is it just production, or does that include deployment as well?

Vladimir Putin: As you may remember, I said that in connection with the United States withdrawing from this treaty and announcing that it would begin the production, we, too, believe we can begin the R&D work, and production in the future. We are carrying out the R&D work. We are ready to start the production. In principle, we have already instructed the industry accordingly.

As far as deployment is concerned, as you may remember, and if you do not, I will remind you, I said we were declaring a moratorium on the possible deployment of our respective systems in the future until the time these missile systems are deployed in another region of the world. If US-made medium-range and shorter-range missiles appear in some place, we reserve the right to respond tit-for-tat. Everything that we said remains valid.

Alexander Yunashev: Alexander Yunashev, Life.

Mr President, yesterday you had several bilateral meetings, and the spotlight was on your talks with President Erdogan, whom you saw in person a long time ago, even though trade between our countries is declining.

Vladimir Putin: It is growing now.

Alexander Yunashev: Still not as much we would like.

If it is not a secret, what did you discuss when the reporters left? What is the most important issue in Russia-Turkiye relations? What, or who, is standing in our way?

Vladimir Putin: It is well known who is standing in our way. What helps us is President Erdogan’s political will. Technically, it is about calculations, and everyone is well aware of it. Even though our Turkish partners mentioned yesterday that, in value terms, our trade had fallen from US$63 billion to US$55 billion. These figures need to be checked, of course. According to them, this is primarily cost-related, because they used to purchase our energy carriers at higher prices, and prices have fallen in recent months, at least compared to 2022. So we are witnessing a decline in value terms as well.

According to them, not much has changed in absolute terms and in terms of volume. I will run a check on it. The point is not to check things, though, but to step up our work, and both sides are interested in doing so.

There are also objective considerations that have nothing to do with someone being in our way, but have more to do with what things actually are. For example, the harvest in Turkiye was good, and their storage facilities are full of grain. They buy less grain. Or, take their tax restrictions related to our metallurgical industry. This has nothing to do with restrictions from outside. It is simply the dynamics of domestic production and our bilateral relations. All these issues can be dealt with.

Please go ahead.

Anna Derkach: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Anna Derkach, MIR.

As of today, Belarus is officially a SCO member. What prospects does this bring to the organisation, and what opportunities does it open up for cooperation between the SCO and the Eurasian Economic Union?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Belarus’s size, territory, economy, or population cannot be compared with China or India with over 1.5 billion people each, probably, even more now. However, it is still an important element of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, because Belarus is Eastern Europe, so the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has officially entered the European continent. I also believe that this is a great advantage for Belarus, because, for example, it now has a way to the Caspian Sea via Russia, and then, say, via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, further to Iran. It is important for Belarus, because it remains a large exporter of mineral fertiliser. It is important for Belarus to have routes and countries where it can export its agricultural equipment or import something from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries.

Therefore, I believe that this is a mutually beneficial decision, and, to a certain degree, Mr Lukashenko and his Foreign Ministry’s success.

Ksenia Chernyayeva: My name is Ksenia Chernyayeva, Interfax agency.

At the moment, in fact, the entire previous system of strategic stability has been cancelled: START-3, the INF Treaty and the CTBT are not in effect. Is it possible to renew these agreements in the future, or will they never be relevant again? Should we come up with something new, such as a unified concept, convention, or some other framework document? With whom and on what platform should this topic be discussed and such agreements recorded?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The first thing I would like to point out is that indeed the United States has destroyed the fundamental documents that underpinned international stability and security. We did not withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was a cornerstone, or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the CTBT.

Many elements in the foundation of international stability have been destroyed in recent years. Nothing if this was done by us. All of this was done by the US. What were we supposed to do? Only to take note and respond to those actions. And so we did. For example, what have we done in the military sphere to overcome the missile defence system being created by the United States? We successfully invented systems to overcome antimissile defences, such as intercontinental Avandards, hypersonic gliding blocks, or intercontinental-range ballistic missile technology to break through missile defence systems, and some other things, too. We were forced to do this.

However, the issue of creating a legal framework for international security and strategic stability is still on our to-do list. Should these be new agreements or should we return to the old ones? This is up to the experts to decide. You know, even when I was studying at the university, I did not study public international law, I studied private international law and my thesis was about it. Then, I did economics.

But it is not even about that, not about the formal, or the legal aspect, but about the root of the matters that we should address as a team.

We have articulated our proposals. I mentioned when I spoke before the Foreign Ministry’s senior officials. As a matter of fact, it was put on paper. But there must be goodwill on the part of those who are interested in seeing this happen. We sometimes hear from the United States that they are willing to resume talks on this subject. But they appear to be undecided. At some point they seem to want it, next thing you know they do not. During the latter stint of President Obama’s administration, they let us know that they wanted to, but then all of a sudden they changed their mind.

I believe everyone here, and in general, people who follow the developments, realise that establishing any kind of a constructive dialogue with the United States at this point, amid the presidential campaign marked by acute domestic political strife – we should discuss this matter primarily with the United States – is impossible. We should wait for the elections in the United States to take place and see the future administration’s disposition and preferences. We are ready for that.

Yulia Bubnova: Speaking at the Foreign Ministry, you outlined your vision of the future security system, and now you mentioned that these ideas would be put on paper. What will it be, if it is not a secret? Will it be new treaties, our written proposals to the West, or something else? More broadly, are there any contacts underway to follow up on your proposals regarding Ukraine and the global security system in general, or do they remain unanswered by the West?

Vladimir Putin: As far as global security is concerned, I have just covered it. We need to wait for the new [US] administration to be formed, to understand their preferences, views, and plans, and whether they are willing to discuss this matter. To reiterate, they are letting us know from time to time that they are willing to resume this dialogue with us. However, shortly after, they vanish and then come up with abstract topics that are not directly related to matters of strategic stability. To reiterate, let us wait until the new administration is formed and see what its plans and preferences are. Once again, we are ready for that.

Thank you very much. All the best.

July 4, 2024, Astana