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Speech at expanded Security Council meeting on fire safety measures for strategic facilities

August 4, 2010, The Kremlin, Moscow

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: This is a meeting of the Security Council, but given that we are still battling wild fires I think that our meeting will be devoted primarily to this issue today.

Of course, we will start by looking at the current developments in the situation. We are not the first country to be hit by this kind of disaster. This is something we should remember, and something we need to learn from. But it must be said nevertheless that our country has not experienced such a heat wave in the last 50 or even 100 years. 

All of the necessary orders have been issued and decisions taken. On July 30, I instructed the Government to take urgent measures to help people hit by the fires, and to rebuild social infrastructure facilities. In total the federal budget will allocate 6.5 billion rubles for this work. If more funds are required we will allocate more.

On August 2, I signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in seven regions. This is being handled by the relevant key agencies under the Interior Ministry’s coordination. A federal fire fighting headquarters has been set up and is hard at work now.

At today’s meeting I want to discuss the issue of strategic facilities. We already have everything organised as far as compensation for damage and aid for the affected people are concerned. This work is underway and the Government is overseeing this effort. I hope that no problems will arise.

But strategic facilities are a matter of concern. I will give the floor to everyone responsible for the operation of strategic energy and defence facilities to say at least a few words, but I would like to start with a few remarks of my own. 

Some facilities pose an exceptionally high safety risk, especially Defence Ministry facilities such as depots for arms and ammunition. Last year, last November, we had to investigate the incident in Ulyanovsk, when an explosion took place [at an ammunition depot]. A number of measures were taken in response, but unfortunately, today’s situation shows that this is still not enough. 

I instructed the Defence Ministry to take part in the fire fighting effort and help to protect the civilian population, but sadly, in a number of cases, the ministry has proved unable to protect itself. A fire took place in Moscow Region that has caused very serious damage. The ministry has already carried out a preliminary internal investigation, and the investigation will continue of course. The evidence so far indicates that this is quite simply a case of neglect of duty and criminal negligence, when personnel failed to bring under control a fire that was not spreading particularly fast, and no one even knew where the base’s commanders had got to. I have therefore taken the following decision.

Regarding the Navy’s senior command: Navy Commander in Chief Admiral [Vladimir] Vysotsky is reprimanded for incompetence; Naval Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander in Chief [Alexander] Tatarinov is reprimanded for incompetence; Deputy Chief of Naval Logistics and Support [Sergei] Sergeyev is dismissed; Chief of Naval Aviation [Nikolai] Kuklev is dismissed; Deputy Chief of Naval Aviation Colonel [Sergei] Rasskazov is dismissed; Acting Deputy Chief of Naval Aviation Logistics and Support [Mikhail] Monakov is dismissed; the commander of base 2512 is dismissed. 

I am also instructing the Defence Ministry to dismiss a number of other officers and personnel for disciplinary violations. If anything similar happens in other places and other agencies I will do exactly the same again, and without the slightest regret.

Now, regarding the overall situation, we need to draw a number of conclusions, but before this is done, I will meet again with the regional governors and the Government Cabinet, of course. We will make a thorough examination of the work carried out and the way our different services have performed. We have to first bring the situation itself firmly under control. The Emergency Situations Ministry is already putting its utmost into the fire fighting effort (I met with the minister yesterday. Our fire fighters really are working extremely hard, and I just want to say that they are all heroes and are doing a good job). But at the same time, we also need to take action to protect our strategic facilities. And so I want to hear from all of you responsible for the different sectors involved.

We have a considerable number of strategic energy facilities, so let’s begin with the energy sector. But first of all, I ask the Emergency Situations Minister to update the Security Council on the latest developments in the situation.

* * *

Concluding the first part of this discussion, I want to say that this is, of course, a severe trial for our country, a great trial indeed. But at the same time, we are not alone in facing these hardships, for other countries too have gone through such trials and, despite all the difficulties, have managed to cope with the situation. 

I am sure that we will do the same. Although the possibility of developments taking a negative turn in some places remains, we have already got the situation under control. Overall, we need to learn our lessons from what has happened, and from the unprecedented heat wave that we have faced this summer.

None of us can say what the next summer will be like. The forecasts vary greatly. Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past. This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.

I spoke yesterday with the Emergency Situations Minister about the need to draft a separate programme on this matter. We are already working on re-equipping Emergency Situations Ministry units and fire fighting units. But we are going to have to speed up this work, make more funds available, and make a real effort to ensure that all units are properly funded and equipped, because they are not all in an equal situation at the moment: some fire engines simply do not run as they should. We know that there are very different situations out there.

Once the autumn and winter period come we therefore need to really get through this work in order to be much better prepared for the next summer than we were for this one, even though we realise that emergency situations can arise even with the best funding in the world. We are dealing with the forces of nature, after all, not with someone’s deliberate ill intent, but with the forces of nature. 

The last thing I want to say is that the Prosecutor General’s Office will have to conduct investigations into all of the incidents that have taken place with regard to individual citizens and to the problems that have arisen at particular strategic facilities.

It is possible that those responsible will have to face liability for their actions, and this will mean initiating the relevant procedures, issuing reprimands and using measures that the prosecutors have among their powers.

Although in some situations opening criminal cases would probably do no harm, we really need to simply make a swift response to the situation. Criminal charges are perhaps needed in some cases, but not all. More important is that people use their brains, get working properly and do their jobs as they should.


August 4, 2010, The Kremlin, Moscow