Zelenskyy to Congress: 'We need you right now'
Putin Speaks: The Crisis in Ukraine
(This is a transcript from his 03/15/22 speech, video of which can be found here in Russian)
Colleagues, good afternoon.
Our meeting is attended by government leaders, presidential plenipotentiary representatives in the federal districts, and heads of Russian regions.
We are meeting at a difficult time, when our Armed Forces are conducting a special military operation in Ukraine and Donbas. Let me remind you that at the very beginning of it, in the early morning of February 24, I publicly and openly named the reasons and the main goal of Russia's actions. This is assistance to our people in the Donbas, who for almost eight years were subjected to real genocide by the most barbaric methods – blockade, large-scale punitive actions, terrorist attacks and constant artillery shelling. And for what? Only for the fact that they sought basic human rights – to live according to the laws and traditions of their ancestors, to speak their native language, to raise their children the way they want.
At the same time, the Kiev authorities not only ignored and sabotaged the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures for the Peaceful Settlement of the Crisis throughout all these years, but at the end of last year they publicly refused to implement it altogether.
They have also begun to put into practice plans to join NATO. Moreover, there were also statements by the Kiev authorities about their intention to create their own nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. It was a real threat. Already in the foreseeable future, with foreign technical assistance, the pro-Nazi regime in Kiev could get its hands on weapons of mass destruction, and the target for it, of course, would be Russia.
In Ukraine, there was also a network of dozens of laboratories where military biological programs were conducted under the leadership and with the financial support of the Pentagon, including experiments with samples of coronavirus, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever and other deadly diseases. Traces of these secret programs are now being intensively tried to cover up. But we have every reason to believe that in the immediate vicinity of Russia, on the territory of Ukraine, in fact, biological weapons components were created.
Our repeated warnings that such a development poses a direct threat to Russia's security have been rejected by Ukraine and its patrons in the United States and NATO, with ostentatious and cynical disdain.
Thus, all diplomatic options were completely exhausted. We were simply left with no options to peacefully solve problems that arise through no fault of our own. And in this regard, we were simply forced to launch a special military operation.
The appearance of Russian troops near Kiev and other cities of Ukraine is not connected with the intention to occupy this country. We do not have such a goal, and I also explicitly stated this in my address on February 24.
As for the tactics of combat operations, which were developed by the Ministry of Defense of Russia and our General Staff, they have fully justified themselves. And our guys – soldiers and officers – show courage and heroism, do everything that depends on them to avoid losses among the civilian population of Ukrainian cities.
I want to say this for the first time: at the very beginning of the operation in the Donbas, the Kiev authorities were asked through various channels, in order to avoid senseless bloodshed, not to enter into hostilities, but simply to withdraw their troops from the Donbass. They didn't want to. Well, that's their decision. Awareness of what is happening in the real world, on the ground, will inevitably come.
The operation is developing successfully, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans.
I would like to note that Ukraine, encouraged by the United States and a number of Western countries, purposefully prepared for a scenario of force, carnage and ethnic cleansing in Donbass. A massive offensive into the Donbas and then crimea was only a matter of time. And our Armed Forces foiled these plans.
Kiev was not only preparing for war, for aggression against Russia, against Donbass– they were fighting it. Attempts to organize sabotage and terrorist underground in Crimea did not stop. In recent years, hostilities have continued in the Donbas, shelling of peaceful settlements. During this time, almost 14,000 civilians were killed, among them children.
On March 14, as you know, a missile strike was launched on the center of Donetsk. It was an outright bloody terrorist attack that claimed the lives of more than 20 people. And such shelling has been going on in recent days. They beat indiscriminately, in squares, with fanaticism and frenzy of the doomed, like fascists who in the last days of the Third Reich tried to drag with them to the grave as many innocent victims as possible.
But what is striking in its exorbitant cynicism is not only Kiev's shameless lies, statements that it was Russia (they thought of this!) that allegedly launched a missile at Donetsk, but also the fact that the so-called civilized Western world, the European and American press did not even notice the tragedy of Donetsk, as if nothing had happened.
Just as hypocritically, they have averted their eyes for the past eight years, when mothers in the Donbas buried their children. When old people were killed. It's just some kind of moral, moral degradation, complete dehumanization.
The long-term mockery of the residents of Donbass could no longer be tolerated. And in order to put an end to the genocide, Russia recognized the people's republics of Donbass, concluded treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with them. On the basis of these agreements, the republics appealed to our country for military assistance in repelling aggression. And we provided this assistance – we simply could not, we had no right to do otherwise.
But what I want to stress and ask you to pay attention to this is that if our troops had acted only on the territory of the people's republics, helped them to liberate their land, this would not have become a final decision, would not have led to peace and would not have eliminated the threat to our country, already to Russia. On the contrary, a new front line would lie around Donbass and along its borders, shelling and provocations would continue. That is, the armed conflict would drag on indefinitely, be fueled by the revanchist hysteria of the Kiev regime, and NATO's military infrastructure in Ukraine would unfold even faster and more aggressively: we would be confronted with the fact that the shock and offensive weapons of the Alliance are already at our borders.
Let me repeat that we had no other option for self-defense, for ensuring Russia's security, except for conducting a special military operation. And all the tasks set, of course, will be solved. We will reliably ensure the security of Russia and our people and will never allow Ukraine to serve as a springboard for aggressive actions against our country.
It was the fundamental issues for Russia, for our future – the neutral status of Ukraine, demilitarization and denazification – that we were ready and are now ready to discuss during the talks. Our country has done everything to organize and conduct these negotiations, realizing that it is necessary to use every opportunity to save people and their lives.
But we are convinced again and again that the Kiev regime, to which its Western masters have set the task of creating an aggressive "anti-Russia", does not care about the fate of the people of Ukraine itself. The fact that people are dying, the fact that hundreds of thousands, millions have become refugees, the fact that in the cities held by neo-Nazis and their armed criminals released from prisons, there is a real humanitarian catastrophe – everything does not matter.
It is also obvious to us that Western patrons are simply pushing the Kiev authorities to continue the bloodshed. They are being supplied with new shipments of weapons, intelligence, and other assistance, including the dispatch of military advisers and mercenaries.
As a weapon, they have chosen economic, financial, trade and other sanctions against Russia, which are now hitting the Europeans and Americans themselves, by the way, through the rising prices of gasoline, energy, food, through the loss of jobs associated with the Russian market. And there is no need here, as they say, to shift from a sick head to a healthy one, blaming our country for everything.
I want ordinary citizens of Western countries to hear me: they are now persistently trying to convince you that all your difficulties are the result of some hostile actions of Russia, that from your own wallet you need to pay for the fight against the mythical Russian threat. It's all a lie.
The truth is that the current problems faced by millions of people in the West are the result of years of actions by the ruling elites of their states, their mistakes, short-sightedness and ambition. These elites are not thinking about how to improve the lives of their citizens in countries. They are obsessed with their vested interests and super-profits.
Evidence of this is the data of international organizations that directly say that social problems, even in the leading Western countries, have only worsened in recent years, that inequality, the gap between the rich and poor are growing, racial and national conflicts are making themselves felt. The myth of a Western welfare society, of the so-called golden billion, is crumbling.
Let me repeat that today the entire planet has to pay precisely for the ambitions of the West, for its attempts by any means to maintain its elusive dominance.
The imposition of sanctions is a logical continuation, a concentrated expression of the irresponsible, short-sighted policies of the governments and central banks of the United States and the EU countries. In recent years, it has been they who have dispersed the spiral of global inflation with their own hands, led to the growth of global poverty and increased inequality, to new flows of refugees around the world. And this begs the question: Who will now be responsible for the millions of starvation deaths in the world's poorest countries due to growing food shortages?
I repeat, a serious blow has been dealt to the entire global economy and trade, to confidence in the US dollar as the main reserve currency.
Thus, illegitimate actions to freeze part of the Bank of Russia's foreign exchange reserves draw a line under the reliability of so-called first-class assets. In fact, both the United States and the EU have declared a real default on their obligations to Russia. Now everyone knows that financial reserves can simply be stolen. And seeing this, many countries in the near future can begin – I am sure that this will happen – to convert their paper and digital savings into real reserves in the form of commodities, land, food, gold, and other real assets, which will only increase the deficit in these markets.
I would like to add that the seizure of foreign assets, accounts of Russian companies and individuals is a lesson for national business, that there is nothing more reliable than investing in your own country. I've said this personally many times.
We appreciate the position of those foreign companies that, despite the shameless pressure from the United States and its vassals, continue to work in our country. In the future, they will certainly receive additional opportunities for development.
We also know those who cowardly betrayed their partners, forgot about their responsibility to employees and customers in Russia, hurried to earn ghostly dividends by participating in the anti-Russian campaign. At the same time, unlike Western countries, we will respect property rights.
What do I want to emphasize? We must clearly understand that a new package of sanctions and restrictions against us would have followed in any development of events. I want to emphasize this. Our military operation in Ukraine for the West is only a pretext for the next sanctions. Yes, of course, they are now concentrated. But in the same way, the referendum in Crimea, which took place on March 16, 2014, exactly eight years ago, during which Crimeans and Sevastopol residents made their free choice to be together with their historical Motherland, became the same [occasion] for them, for Westerners.
I repeat: we are talking only about the reasons. But the policy of containment, weakening of Russia, including through economic isolation, blockade, is a conscious, long-term strategy. The leaders of the West themselves no longer hide the fact that the sanctions are not directed against individuals or companies, their goal is to strike at our entire domestic economy, at our social and humanitarian sphere, at every family, every citizen of Russia.
In fact, such steps aimed at worsening the lives of millions of people have all the signs of aggression and war by economic, political and information means. It is total, undisguised, and, I repeat, the so-called Western political beau monde does not even hesitate to talk about it in direct text.
All the verbal tinsel about political correctness, the inviolability of private property, freedom of speech – all this flew away overnight. Even the Olympic principles were trampled upon. They did not hesitate to settle scores with the Paralympians – this is such a "sport beyond politics".
In many Western countries, people are subjected to real harassment today just because they come from Russia: they refuse medical care, expel children from schools, deprive their parents of their jobs, ban Russian music, culture, literature. Trying to "abolish" Russia, the West tore off all the masks of decency, began to act in a boorish way, demonstrated its true nature. There are just direct analogies with the anti-Semitic pogroms that the Nazis staged in Germany in the 30s of the last century, and then their henchmen from many European countries who joined Hitler's aggression against our country during the Great Patriotic War.
A massive attack has also been launched against Russia in cyberspace. An unprecedented information campaign has been unleashed, in which global social networks and all Western media are involved, the objectivity and independence of which turned out to be simply a myth. Access to information is limited, people are stuffed with a huge number of fakes, propaganda fakes, in other words, "fake". It came to the point that one of the American social networks directly stated the possibility of publications calling for the murder of Russian citizens.
We understand the resource of this empire of lies, but it is still powerless against truth and justice. Russia will consistently convey its position to the whole world. And our position is honest and open, and more and more people hear it, understand it and share it.
I want to say very frankly: behind the hypocritical conversations and today's actions of the so-called collective West there are hostile geopolitical goals. They do not need, they simply do not need a strong and sovereign Russia, they will not forgive us either for our independent course or for defending our national interests.
We remember how they supported separatism, terrorism, encouraging terrorists and bandits in the North Caucasus. As in the 1990s and early 2000s, they want to repeat the attempt to squeeze us, to put pressure, as they say, to drive after Mozhai, as they say, to turn us into a weak, dependent country, to violate territorial integrity, to dismember Russia in the best possible way for them. It didn't work out for them then, and it won't work out now.
Yes, of course, they will try to rely on the so-called fifth column, on national traitors, on those who earn money here, here, but live there, and "live" not even in the geographical sense of the word, but according to their thoughts, according to their slave consciousness.
I am not at all judging those who have a villa in Miami or on the French Riviera, who cannot do without foie gras, oysters or so-called gender freedoms. This is absolutely not the problem, but, I repeat, the fact that many of these people are inherently mentally located there, and not here, not with our people, not with Russia. That's what they think it is– in their opinion! - A sign of belonging to the upper caste, to the higher race. Such people are ready to sell their mother, if only they were allowed to sit in the hallway at this highest caste. They want to be like her, imitating her in every possible way. But they forget or do not understand at all that this so-called upper caste needs them, if at all, as expendable material to use them to inflict maximum damage on our people.
The collective West is trying to split our society, speculating on combat losses, on the socio-economic consequences of sanctions, to provoke a civil confrontation in Russia and, using its "fifth column", seeks to achieve its goal. And the only goal, as I have already said, is the destruction of Russia.
But any people, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out, like a midge accidentally flew into their mouths, spit them out on the panel. I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion and readiness to respond to any challenges.
The so-called collective West and its "fifth column" are accustomed to measuring everything and everyone by themselves. They believe that everything is sold and everything is bought, and therefore they think that we will break down, retreat. But they don't know our history and our people well.
Yes, many countries in the world have long resigned themselves to living with their backs bent and obsequiously accepting all the decisions of their sovereign, looking subserviently into his eyes. This is how many countries live. Unfortunately, in Europe as well.
But Russia will never be in such a miserable and humiliated state, and the struggle we are waging is a struggle for our sovereignty, for the future of our country and our children. We will fight for the right to be and remain Russia. An example to us is the courage and perseverance of our soldiers and officers, faithful defenders of the Fatherland.
It is obvious that the events taking place draw a line under the global dominance of Western countries both in politics and in the economy. Moreover, they question the economic model that has been imposed on developing countries and indeed on the world in recent decades.
I emphasize that the sanctions obsession of the United States and its supporters is not shared by countries where more than half of the world's population lives. It is these states that represent the rapidly growing, most promising part of the global economy. Among them is Russia.
Yes, it's not easy for us now. Russian financial companies, large enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses are facing unprecedented pressure.
The banking system was the first to be hit by sanctions, but Russian banks coped with this challenge. Working literally around the clock, they continue to make payments and settlements of citizens, to ensure the activities of enterprises.
The second wave of sanctions was designed to provoke panic in the trade sphere. It is estimated that over the past three weeks, the additional demand for goods has exceeded a trillion rubles. But domestic manufacturers, suppliers, transport and logistics companies have done everything to avoid a large-scale shortage in retail chains.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Russian business community, the labor collectives of companies, banks and organizations that not only provide an effective response to sanctions challenges, but also lay the foundation for the further sustainable development of our economy. I would like to note separately the Government, the Bank of Russia, the heads of the regions, and regional and municipal teams. In the current difficult conditions, you responsibly solve the tasks facing you.
Obviously, it was not possible to organize an economic blitzkrieg against Russia, to demoralize our society, to take us by snoring, so we will certainly see attempts to increase pressure on our country. But we will overcome these difficulties. The Russian economy is necessarily adapting to new realities. We will strengthen our technological and scientific sovereignty, allocate additional resources to support agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure and housing construction, and continue to develop foreign trade relations with the expectation of fast-growing, dynamic international markets.
Of course, the new realities will require profound structural changes in our economy, and I will not hide the fact that they will not be easy, will lead to a temporary increase in inflation and unemployment.
In this situation, our task is to minimize such risks. Not only to strictly fulfill all social obligations of the state, but also to launch new, more effective mechanisms to support citizens and their incomes.
The focus is on the protection of motherhood, childhood, support for families with children. A decision has already been made – as you know this – to introduce payments for children aged 8 to 16 inclusive, who grow up in families with low incomes, from April 1. The amount of payment will be from half to one subsistence minimum for each child of this age. Now the national average is up to 12300 rubles. Thus, we will build a single support system from the moment when the expectant mother is still waiting for the birth of a child, and until the child reaches the age of 17.
I instruct the Government to ensure the work of this system in such a way that it promptly takes into account changes in the financial situation of families. That is, if parents are faced with the loss of work, other difficult life circumstances, the family should begin to receive assistance from the state as quickly as possible.
I instruct the Government to ensure the work of this system in such a way that it promptly takes into account changes in the financial situation of families. That is, if parents are faced with the loss of work, other difficult life circumstances, the family should begin to receive assistance from the state as quickly as possible.
I also ask the Government to assess the effectiveness of measures to support people who have lost their jobs as soon as possible. Obviously, such measures should be expanded, including through the mechanism of the social contract.
I understand that rising prices are seriously hurting people's incomes, so in the near future we will make a decision to increase all social payments, including benefits and pensions, increase the minimum wage and the subsistence minimum, and increase salaries in the public sector. I ask the Government to calculate the exact parameters of such an increase.
I would like to emphasise that even in the current difficult situation, we need to reduce poverty and inequality by the end of the year. This is a feasible task even today. I ask the Government and the regions to focus on this task. And I will add that it is not only economic in nature, we all understand, but it is also a matter of social justice.
A lot now depends on the initiative of the heads of the regions of the Russian Federation, on their readiness to take responsibility. Today I have signed a decree on additional powers for the heads of the regions – they will be able to make flexible and prompt decisions to support our citizens, the economy and the social sphere based on the real situation on the ground. Let me remind you that it is in this logic, which allows us to take into account the situation in each region, in the city, in the village – and it is different everywhere – that is how we built measures to combat the coronavirus.
I instruct all units of federal authorities in the constituent entities of the Federation to coordinate their work with regional authorities in the next six months, and the governors to create operational headquarters to ensure economic development and personally lead this work.
What should be the priority here?
A key role in overcoming the current problems should be played by private business, which is able to rebuild logistics in a short time, find new suppliers, and increase the production of popular products. How quickly private business will find the necessary decisions, make them, depends on the preservation of employment, incomes and salaries of citizens, in general, ensuring the stable, rhythmic work of the economy. Therefore, we must respond to external pressure with maximum entrepreneurial freedom and support for business initiative.
I ask the Government, law enforcement agencies and supervisory bodies to continue working to remove unjustified administrative and regulatory barriers. Moreover, it is impossible to distract business and regional authorities from solving the most acute, urgent tasks, loading them with various kinds of inspections and control measures.
One of the key problems for enterprises now is the shortage of working capital, inaccessibility and high cost of loans, but the Central Bank was forced to take appropriate measures. In this regard, I instruct to implement the following steps.
First. Enterprises that fulfill the orders of government bodies and companies with state participation should receive money for the goods and services supplied as soon as possible, put them back into business. In this regard, I propose increasing the volume of advance payments for state contracts. The advance payment should be at least half of the total amount of the contract, and the payment period for the goods and services supplied should be reduced to seven working days. A similar decision should also be made at the level of the constituent entities of the Federation, municipalities and companies with state participation.
Second. It is necessary to expand the ability of entrepreneurs to attract additional resources from development institutions. We are talking about expanding the work of the Project Finance Factory (it works in our country, and it works well, practice has shown demand), the provision of resources for business investment plans through the Industrial Development Fund (one of the really well-working tools), the Bank of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses as well, and in addition, through regional support institutions, including guarantee funds. I instruct the Government to allocate additional funds to the regions for such regional instruments.
I would like to draw the attention of the Government and my colleagues in the regions to the fact that the most important task is to ensure the availability of goods on the consumer market, primarily essential goods, medicines and medical devices. It is necessary to promptly solve logistical and other objective problems that lead to price spikes. At the same time, it is necessary to exclude manual interference in price regulation. It is the increase in supply that should lead to a decrease and stabilization of prices.
Separately, I would like to address our exporters. In a situation where there are difficulties with supplies to foreign markets, it is necessary not to reduce production, but, on the contrary, to send additional volumes of goods to the domestic market. Objectively, this should lead to a decrease in prices within the country, including for gasoline, diesel, bitumen, metals, and other export goods. I ask the Government, the FAS and the regional authorities to constantly monitor the situation in these markets.
Further. Taking into account the new challenges facing Russia, we must preserve and expand our long-term development agenda, including continuing the implementation of all planned projects, both at the federal and regional levels. We must make full use of the potential of our budget system as a stimulus tool.
Federal financing of projects and construction projects will be carried out, as agreed, in full. Moreover, back in December, it was decided to allocate additional funds if the cost of construction objectively increased.
What I think is important to note: in the current situation, there will be no problems with financing from the federal budget. Our economy generates a sufficient, good amount of income today, which means that we will not need to resort to emission. Simply put, the central bank will not need to print money. We have revenues – marketable, healthy incomes. The problem now is not money. We have the resources, I repeat. Key difficulties are associated with the supply of components, equipment, building materials, with the organization of the work of contractors. Therefore, the timing and methods of implementing specific projects, their stages may change, and this will require coordinated work of authorities and business representatives, accelerated implementation of import substitution projects – this is what is important.
At the same time, it is important to simplify the procedure for interaction between the regions and federal authorities, to give the regions more freedom in maneuvering resources, as well as opportunities to launch new construction projects and programmes.
Thus, the regions have already been allocated additional funds for road construction. I would like to ask the Government to work on increasing funding for other infrastructure facilities that can be put into operation this year, as well as on increasing purchases from Russian enterprises, including the renewal of public transport, for example.
It is clear that the budgets of the regions of the Russian Federation now bear a serious additional burden, therefore, as agreed, we will additionally index subsidies to equalize budget capacity. We also use other measures to support regional finance, namely, all payments on budget loans planned for the current year will be deferred, transferred, as they say, to the right, and payments on commercial loans, where necessary, will be replaced by budget loans. I ask the Government to study this issue in detail and look into each specific case. Only such individual work will lead to the desired result.
In addition, the Ministry of Finance will additionally provide an unconditional credit line to each constituent entity of the Russian Federation. It will be ten percent of the total income with a maturity not earlier than the end of this year.
We will preserve the volume of infrastructure budget loans. I instruct the Government to organise flexible management of this programme and take into account all the difficulties associated with the implementation of projects – I have already mentioned them just above. The regions should be able to quickly make decisions on changing the portfolio and content of projects, to concentrate on those of them that in the current conditions can be implemented with maximum efficiency. If necessary, we will consider a possible increase in the volume of infrastructure loans. It's possible, it can be done. In general, we will closely monitor the situation with regional finances, make additional decisions to support them, if necessary.
I would like to emphasise that direct communications between all levels of government and a clear algorithm of actions are now fundamentally important. And here the State Council and its relevant commissions have already proved their effectiveness. I ask the State Administration Commission, which is headed by Sergei Sobyanin, together with his colleagues from the Government, to work out the problematic issues on the regional agenda, develop optimal solutions and scale them to all Russian regions. We had good experience in the fight against the epidemic.
Our economy, the state budget, and private business have all the necessary resources to solve long-term problems. All the strategic and national goals that we have set for the period up to 2030 must be achieved. The current challenges and the opportunities that they open up should only mobilize us – this is what we must set ourselves up for, aim at achieving tangible results in the interests of citizens.
Obviously, it will be necessary to fine-tune our programmes, and the initiatives of business circles, scientists and public associations are in demand here. In this regard, I ask the regions to actively join the organization of the Forum of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives "Strong Ideas for a New Time", within the framework of which every citizen of Russia will be able to submit their proposals, specific projects aimed at the development of their city, region and country as a whole.
Let me repeat once again: the current situation is certainly a test for all of us. I am sure that we will pass it with dignity, through hard work, joint work and mutual support, we will overcome all the difficulties and become even stronger, as it has always been in the history of thousand-year-old Russia. That's what I want to set you up for.
Let's move on to discussing the agenda.
I give the floor to Sergei Sobyanin.
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