Yevgeny Poddubny: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Thank you very much for finding the time to meet with us.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I am very happy to see you all.
Yevgeny Poddubny: Our previous meetings have all taken place in an atmosphere of trust. Our conversations have always been sharp and frank, and we are very grateful to you for this.
Vladimir Putin: I feel you won’t be able to do that if the cameras are on; everyone wants to fire up the audience when the TV cameras are on.
Yevgeny Poddubny: No, we will keep things in hand.
We are hoping this talk will also be honest and open, and we are all counting on this.
Vladimir Putin: It will be on my part, I promise.
Yevgeny Poddubny: On our part – as well.
Vladimir Putin: Excellent, this is what it will be.
Yevgeny Poddubny: You have said more than once that all the goals that you set personally for the special military operation will be achieved. The special military operation has lasted a fairly long time. The situation is changing, the position is changing, and probably the goals and tasks of the special military operation are changing as well. Can you tell us how they have changed if at all?
Vladimir Putin: No, they are changing in accordance with the current situation but of course overall we are not changing anything. Our goals are fundamental for us.
All of you here are very seasoned professionals, especially people like you who have been under fire for more than a year. Your mentality changes. I know this from my own experience even though I haven’t crawled under flying bullets like you have, I have known this since the time I flew in a helicopter with tracer fire around us. You know, all this changes your mentality. So, what is the point of our actions? We will have to take two steps from the centre of the field. After all, we wanted and still want to have the best possible relations with all our neighbours after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is what we are doing. We have accepted that what happened, happened, and now we must live with it.
And you know, I’ve already said that, no secret here, we did offer every option to our Western partners, as I used to call them, we thought we were one of them, we wanted to be in the family of so-called civilised nations. I reached out to NATO suggesting that we look into that possibility, but we were quickly shown the door; they didn’t even bother to consider it. I also suggested creating a shared missile defence system.
We are aware that the events of the 1990s – early 2000s stem from a bitter historical legacy in the Caucasus, for instance. Who were we fighting there? Mostly, Al-Qaeda. And what did our “partners” do? They supported them by providing financial, information, political and even military support. They did not give a damn about the fact that they were helping Al-Qaeda as long as they were able to rock our boat. Everything they did fit the paradigm of rocking Russia. We left no stone unturned in our efforts and finally agreed that NATO would not be expanded. We came up with every option we could. Still no. Why? It is just because the country is too big: no one needs a country that big and with such great potential in Europe. Everyone tries their hand at gradually breaking Russia into pieces.
Ukraine is part of the effort to destabilise Russia. By and large, this should have been kept in mind when decisions were made on breaking the Soviet Union up. But then, apparently, it was expected that our profound relations would be decisive. But due to a number of historical, economic and political circumstances the situation took a different path. We tried everything on this path as well. In fact, we have, for decades, if not fed, but sustained their economy – you are aware of this, since I have written and talked about it – with cheap energy, other things, loans and so on. To no avail. How did it end eventually? They started killing our supporters in the streets and eventually staged a coup d’etat.
Look, this is not the first coup. How did Yushchenko come to power in Ukraine? Was it as a result of a legitimate procedure? Do you want me to show you how he came to power? We are aware of it. They came up with a third round of elections. What was that about? This was not enshrined in the Constitution. It was a coup, but at least a relatively peaceful one. And we did communicate with them. I went there and they came to us, no problem. But eventually, they pushed it to a bloody coup. That is, it became obvious that we were not given any chance to build normal relations with our neighbours and the fraternal Ukrainian people. Not a single chance.
Then they pulled themselves together, and events immediately started unfolding in the southeast, in Donbass – after the coup d’état, they realised that we would not be able to just leave Crimea – we simply could not leave it, this was impossible, it would have been a betrayal on our part. But we didn’t touch Donbass. Yes, our volunteers were there, but the Russian state had nothing to do with it at all – I assure you of this – none at all. I’m perfectly open and honest – we had nothing to do with it, our involvement was zero. Yes, there were people from Russia there. They tried to support the local population and so on.
Eventually, we were compelled to act in defence of these people. We were simply compelled to do this. Nine years! We genuinely tried to agree – difficult as it was – on somehow keeping Ukraine’s southeast as part of the country, we were sincerely working for this. Now we know that our so called partners simply cheated us – they swindled us, as people say. They never planned to fulfil any of the agreements, as it turned out, and so it all came to the current situation.
Moreover, they put bastards like Bandera on a pedestal. They don’t want communism. Fine, who wants that today? They are throwing the founder of Ukraine – Lenin – off his pedestal. Okay, this is up to them, but they are putting Bandera up there instead, and he is a fascist. I am totally surprised at how a person with Jewish blood, the head of the state of Ukraine, can support neo-Nazis. It simply beats me. After they basically annihilated the civilian Jewish population, Bandera and his supporters have been elevated to the rank of national heroes. Now they are marching with those posters. So, we will never accept historically what is happening there.
We continuously raised this issue during our negotiations, including in Istanbul. And in response, we were asked, “We don’t have anything to do with neo-Nazis, what do you want from us?” We at least want certain restrictions to be introduced into the law. Incidentally, on the whole, we also agreed on this during that round of talks – before our troops moved away from Kiev because afterwards they threw all our agreements away.
Demilitarisation. We are dealing with this gradually, methodically. What are the Armed Forces of Ukraine fighting with? Do they produce Leopards or Bradleys or the F-16s they haven’t received yet? They don’t produce a thing. The Ukrainian defence industry will soon cease to exist altogether. What do they produce? Ammunition is delivered, equipment is delivered and weapons are delivered – everything is delivered. You won’t live long like that, you won’t last. So, the issue of demilitarisation is raised in very practical terms.
The same applies to protecting people in Donbass. Yes, unfortunately, the shelling continues, and everything else too. But overall we will be working towards this methodically and we will resolve this. I am sure we will resolve it.
So, by and large, our principles and thus, our goals have not changed since the beginning of the operation. There has been no change.
Dmitry Kulko: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Dmitry Kulko, Channel One.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive is underway. You provided your comment on the situation five days into the counteroffensive. Some time has passed since then. You receive operational updates every day and, as we can see, not only from the special military operation command, but you make direct phone calls to the front line as well.
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
Dmitry Kulko: Is there anything you can add to your previous assessments?
Vladimir Putin: Yes. This is a large-scale counteroffensive, which uses, as I recently said publicly, reserves that had been stockpiled to this end. It started on June 4. It continues to this day and right now as we speak.
I listened to the most recent report about the latest developments. There was an attack in the Shakhtersky direction this morning. Up to 100 troops, four tanks and two armoured vehicles [from the Ukrainian side]. In the Vremevsky direction, there are several tanks and armoured vehicles as well. The attack is proceeding in several directions. Several tanks and armoured vehicles have been destroyed, and Ukraine suffered military personnel losses. They failed to reach the front line.
Overall, though, this is a large-scale offensive: they started out on the Vremevsky ledge, in the Shakhtersky and Zaporozhye directions. It began precisely with the use of strategic reserves and continues as we speak: right now, with us gathered here and discussing it, there is a battle going on in several combat areas.
What can I say? The enemy was not successful in any sector. They suffered big losses. Good thing for us. I will not give the number of personnel losses. I will let the Defence Ministry do it after it runs the numbers, but the structure of losses is unfavourable for them as well. What I mean to say is that of all personnel losses – and they are approaching a number that can be called catastrophic – the structure of these losses is unfavourable for them. Because as we know, losses can be sanitary or irretrievable. Usually, I am afraid I may be off a little, but irretrievable losses are around 25 percent, maximum 30 percent while their losses are almost 50/50. This is my first point.
Second, if we look at irretrievable losses, clearly, the defending side suffers fewer losses, but this ratio of 1 to 10 is in our favour. Our losses are one-tenth of the losses of the Ukrainian forces.
The situation is even more serious with armour. During this period, they lost over 160 tanks and more than 360 armoured vehicles of different types. This is only what we are seeing. There are also losses that we don’t see. They are inflicted by long-range precision weapons at masses of personnel and equipment. So, in reality Ukraine has sustained heavier losses. By my calculations, these losses are about 25 or maybe 30 percent of the equipment supplied from abroad. It seems to me they would agree with this if they count objectively. But, as far as I know from open Western sources, it seems that this is what they say.
So, the offensive is on, and I have described the latest results.
As for our losses – let the Defence Ministry talk about other indicators and personnel – I said they lost over 160 tanks and we lost 54 tanks, some of which can be restored and repaired.
Dmitry Kulko: Thank you.
Yekaterina Agranovich: Good afternoon,
Agranovich Yekaterina, blogger.
I have a question about the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. A tragedy has occurred and we still have to evaluate the environmental and social consequences. But here’s my question: who is to blame for this in your opinion? Will they be punished? And a third question: what assistance can people from the affected territories expect?
Vladimir Putin: It is clear who is to blame – Ukraine was working at this.
You know, I am not going to say things that I am not one hundred percent sure of, but by and large, we did not record any big explosion just before the destruction. At any rate, this is what was reported to me. But they had targeted the Kakhovka HPP with HIMARS many times. That’s the whole point. Maybe, they placed munitions there – I don’t know right now, or maybe they undermined the structure with something minor and it triggered the break.
But as far as we are concerned, we are not interested in this now because there are arduous consequences for the territories that we control and that belong to Russia. This is the first point.
Now the second point. Unfortunately, I will say a strange thing now but nevertheless, this unfortunately ruined their counteroffensive in this direction. Why unfortunately? Because it would have been better for us if they had launched their offensive there – better for us because it would have been a bad offensive position for them. But that didn’t happen because of the flooding.
The Emergencies Ministry is working very actively there; the military is working actively, and the local authorities are working. I recently talked with Acting Head of the Kherson Region [Vladimir] Saldo, and he says, “I will tell you honestly, we are surprised. We have never seen such well-coordinated work.” Let this be true, although there are certainly problems.
There are people who refuse to leave, to be evacuated. To be honest, this happens here too. I remember a flood on the Lena when people were sitting on their roofs and refused to leave because they were afraid to leave the house, they were afraid that it would be plundered, etc. This is how things go. There may be other considerations of a different nature. In any case, everything that can be done is being done: the Emergencies Ministry is working very actively, and again, the local authorities, the Healthcare Ministry and the Federal Medical-Biological Agency have also joined the effort.
Now we must approach the issue of environmental safety and sanitary safety very seriously, because cattle burial sites and cemeteries are underwater. This is a serious problem, but it is solvable. We will need to use the chemical protection troops: the Minister has already reported to me, he gave the command. Together, by joining forces, I think we will be able to solve all the problems, including with water supply.
Today I spoke with Marat Khusnullin. He says we will have to deal with water availability there, build new wells, etc. But the work is already underway. As the water levels decline, and it is already gradually dropping, everything will be resolved as the problems appear. Of course, much livestock and wild animals died, unfortunately. We will need to organise all this, to clean up the area.
As for the people, everyone will receive assistance in accordance with Russian law and standards. All these conditions are known, they are envisaged in our laws. Everything will be done in the same way as for any other citizen of the Russian Federation, for every household. I have already told Minister [of Emergencies] Alexander Kurenkov to take an active role in assessing property damage, both movable and immovable. So, we are doing everything we can.
Yekaterina Agranovich: Thank you.
Alexander Kots: Mr President, my name is Alexander Kots, Komsomolskaya Pravda.
The question may be unpleasant, but people often ask us about it.
Vladimir Putin: There are no unpleasant questions here.
Alexander Kots: Our readers and viewers often ask us the same question – about the enemy’s activity in our rear.
Hardly a week passes without news of drones either trying to hit or hitting infrastructure facilities. Surely, there is an acute issue regarding our border area, especially the Belgorod Region.
My question literally goes like this: how does it happen that enemy drones reach the Kremlin? And, having started to liberate Donbass, why are we now forced to evacuate our population from the border areas, which are already being entered by Polish mercenaries, and the Polish language is heard on our territory?
Vladimir Putin: Polish mercenaries are indeed fighting there – you are absolutely right, I agree with you – and they are suffering more loss. In fact, they are trying to hide them, but their losses are serious. It is a pity that they hide this from their population too. Mercenaries are being recruited – right in Poland, and in other countries, by the way. They are sustaining losses. That’s first.
Second, concerning drones. You probably know, and your colleagues also know, at one time we had a situation at Khmeimim when drones flew in and, unfortunately, dropped several grenades, and we lost personnel there. But we rather quickly learned to deal with this, in various ways, with various means. It is sometimes difficult, but it is a solvable task.
Apparently, the same is true here: our relevant agencies need to make the necessary decisions, because the traditional air defence system, as you surely know, is calibrated for missiles, for large aircraft. As a rule, the drones you are talking about, and you are also aware of this, they are made of modern lightweight materials, made of wood, and it is quite difficult to detect them. But they are being detected. Although, it is necessary to carry out corresponding work, detect them in time, and so on. And this, of course, is being done, and will be done for sure, as far as Moscow and other major centres are concerned, I have no doubts about it whatsoever.
And yes, we must properly organise this work. And of course, it would be better if this had been done in a timely manner and at the proper level. Nevertheless, this work is being carried out, and, I repeat once again, I am sure that these tasks will be solved.
As for border areas, there is a problem, and it is connected – and I think you understand this too – mainly with a desire to divert our forces and resources to this side, to withdraw part of the units from those areas that are considered the most important and critical from the point of view of possible offensive by the armed forces of Ukraine. We do not need to do this, but of course we must protect our citizens.
What can be said here? Of course, we need to strengthen the border, and if any of you work there, you surely can see that this process is moving quite quickly, and this task of strengthening the borders will also be solved. But the possibility of shelling our territory from the territory of Ukraine certainly remains. And there are several solutions here.
First, increasing effectiveness and counter-battery combat; but this does not mean that there will be no missiles flying at our territory. And if this continues, then we will apparently have to consider the issue – and I say this very carefully – in order to create some kind of buffer zone on the territory of Ukraine at such a distance from which it would be impossible to reach our territory. But this is a separate issue, I am not saying that we will start this work tomorrow. We have to see how the situation develops.
But in general, nothing like that is happening in the Belgorod Region or anywhere else; both border guards and the Armed Forces are now working there. Of course, there is nothing good in this: in fact, it was possible to assume that the enemy would behave this way and, probably, to prepare better. I agree. But the problem will be solved, either this way or the way I mentioned.
Yevgeny Poddubny: Mr President, I am Yevgeny Poddubny, VGTRK (All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company). In continuation of Alexander’s topic.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, Yevgeny, please.
Yevgeny Poddubny: The enemy’s special services agents are openly working on our territory, openly in the sense of not even denying that they are hunting leaders of public opinion in Russia: the murder of Daria Dugina, the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky, the assassination attempt on Zakhar Prilepin. As a matter of fact, it is clear that the Ukrainian special services are conducting terrorist, sabotage activities in Russia.
How will the Russian state fight the enemy’s agents and the enemy’s special services operating on the territory of Russia?
Vladimir Putin: Your question is very similar to what Alexander has asked, because these activities are essentially equivalent. We must fight, and we are fighting, we are, and some results of this work are becoming public, and the public is familiar with it: the detention of agents and special services officers of a neighbouring state. The work is ongoing.
But I want to point out that we, unlike Ukraine’s current authorities, cannot employ terrorist methods: we still have a state, a country, while it is a regime there. They operate, in fact, as a regime based on terror: they have a very tough counterintelligence regime, martial law. I don’t think we need to do that now. We just need to improve and expand the work of law enforcement agencies and special services. And in general, it seems to me that the tasks in this regard are also solvable.
You have analysed the tragedies you have mentioned and you see what has happened. Someone brought something in, the car was not looked at, there was no inspection.
Dasha, a good person, was killed, and it is an enormous tragedy. Was she a militant or something like that, did she fight with a weapon in hand? She was just an intellectual who expressed her point of view, her position. But, unfortunately, no one thought about security, and they just planted an explosive device under the bottom of the car, and that was it. By the way, this once again reaffirms the terrorist nature of the current regime in Kiev. We need to think about that. With regard to those people who might be the targets of these terrorists, of course, both law enforcement agencies and these people themselves must think about this and ensure security.
But in general, introducing some kind of special regime or martial law across the country does not make any sense; there is no such need today. We need to work more carefully on some issues. On this, I agree with you.
Maxim Dolgov: Mr President, I am Maxim Dolgov, Readovka.
During the shelling, people can lose all their belongings: houses, property and so on. It is very important that our border regions, such as Kursk, Bryansk and Belgorod, help our people promptly and quickly. But the question is, will the regions have enough of this assistance?
Vladimir Putin: And we keep count: we are in almost constant contact with the leaders of these regions, and I talk to them. They formulate their needs, put them on paper and send them back to us.
Just this morning I spoke with Mr Mishustin; we discussed a number of issues for quite some time, including, by the way, this issue, and with Marat Khusnullin, too. We are sending the Belgorod Region – I may be a little off – but basically, I believe, 3.8 billion rubles have been sent to assist people. And some of these funds, I believe, 1.3 billion or so, or 1.8 billion, have already been sent to the Belgorod Region. So this is a fact.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Of course, people need help, and we will provide targeted assistance: for each family, for each household; we will definitely do this. This also applies to new housing, rebuilding lost buildings, and of course we have enough funds for this. The funding will come; it is already coming from the Government Reserve Fund. It has been set aside.
Mikhail Dolgov: Thank you.
Andrei Rudenko: Mr President, Andrei Rudenko, Rossiya TV channel.
Today, the medical sector of Donbass is under a lot of pressure. Hospitals are accepting not only civilians, but also military personnel. But at the same time, there is a huge shortage of both personnel and medical equipment; there are not enough MRI or CT machines. Today, appointments for these diagnostic procedures can only be made four months in advance, that is, if a person needs this scan today, they have to wait four months. Can this be solved in these territories?
Vladimir Putin: Of course, it is possible and necessary.
After all, these CT scanners and MRI machines are missing not because of our operation, but because they were never available there in the first place. Do you understand? It had just never happened. In the Donetsk Republic, as far as I remember, when we discussed this with the Healthcare Ministry, with Tatyana Golikova, there were two MRI machines in total.
Andrei Rudenko: Two MRI machines, 1.5 Tesla.
Vladimir Putin: You see, I remember this. And one scanner is being assembled. In the Kherson Region, there are no scanners at all. If they need to scan a patient, they have to go to Crimea. Well, in Crimea there were none for a long time too. Now everything is better, more equipment is appearing there. There is still too little and not enough, but, nonetheless.
We have adopted a programme, I believe until 2030, with considerable funds set aside under it. This is on record; we will not cut anything. Some Russian regions, that have taken the new territories under their patronage, are helping in many ways. And this help is sizeable, I think the regions are donating over 17 billion. There are also other funds from federal sources. So, we will be doing everything we can.
This includes a programme for restoring preschool facilities. I think, 1,300 buildings must be restored. About 1,400 schools are to be restored or built. Medical facilities too. All that has been included in the respective development programmes for these regions. We will certainly bring them up to the average level in Russia. This also includes wages; we have already introduced higher pay for some job categories, and this will be carried on.
Of course, I know that you are definitely right when you point this out. One of the most pressing issues is lack of capacity at [medical] facilities. This is exacerbated because they are admitting those who have been wounded in the course of combat action – both civilians and service personnel. At some point certain healthcare facilities were absolutely overcrowded.
Let me reiterate: we will be stepping up efforts within this programme until 2030, including healthcare. Again, this includes wages. In this area we will need – no, we will definitely do it – raise them to the Russian average and to the country’s standards. For example, some employees, including in healthcare, must be paid the average wage like the rest of Russia. We will be moving towards this step by step.
Andrei Rudenko: Mr President, hospitals have become targets for Ukraine’s armed forces, the strikes don’t stop. Doctors constantly risk their lives. It would be good to grant them the status of SMO participants as well as other categories of people who are working towards this, I mean towards victory.
Vladimir Putin: We have to carefully look into this. Those who have been fighting since 2014… We need balanced social justice; it is one thing when a person is on the frontline, and it is a different matter when they runs these risks but are not on the frontline.
But you are certainly right that this aspect of risk must be taken into account in terms of salary. We will think about this by all means.
Andrei Rudenko: Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you for the question – it’s a very sensitive matter. I understand.
Yekaterina Agranovich: I have one more question.
Vladimir Putin: Please go ahead.
Yekaterina Agranovich: The West constantly accuses us of destroying and stealing everything, from monuments to children, in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin: Monuments? What monuments? They are the ones who tear down monuments. We could build a park of the monuments that were destroyed in Ukraine.
Do many people subscribe to your blog?
Yekaterina Agranovich: Relatively speaking, yes, but fewer than to Rudenko’s blog.
Vladimir Putin: All right, it does not really matter. Suggest sending all the monuments to Russia. In Odessa, they demolished a monument to Catherine the Great, the founder of the city. We would gladly take it.
Yekaterina Agranovich: My question is about something a bit different. The bottom line is that they themselves engage in kidnapping and annihilation all over the world. However, the export-oriented Western picture of what life is like there and how things work there, is idealised. People in Russia and Ukraine fall for this propaganda. This issue is particularly acute in the new territories, because for eight years, since 2014, people there have been constantly surrounded by Ukrainian flags and things looked nice and good, and they constantly exerted influence on them. So, when we liberate these territories, many people disagree, and everyone has the opportunity to express their disagreement. If you go online you will see them freely uploading videos from, for example, cities in the Zaporozhye Region showing how they are longing for Ukraine now that they have to live under occupation.
Here is my question. How do we plan to influence the minds of children, teenagers and adults? Clearly, Russia is a free country where we all freely express our opinions. But in combat conditions, this becomes, first and foremost, a matter of security.
Vladimir Putin: You are right. Of course, with hostilities ongoing, we should put limits on certain things. However, we must not forget that what you just said is, of course, to a large extent, the work of the opposite side, the opposing side. The information space is a battlefield, a crucial battlefield.
So, if someone uploads or writes something and provides an address, this is one thing. However, if there is no address and it is not clear who is writing or speaking, this is a completely different story. You and I are well aware that you can post things online using well-known technical means, and you can make it look like millions of people have seen these videos and commented on them when in fact there is just one person behind it who simply uses modern technology to replicate it endlessly. But, of course, there certainly are people who have a certain frame of mind, and they can express their point of view.
What can we do to oppose this? I think this audience will know what I mean. This can and should be countered not so much by restrictions or administrative or law enforcement constraints, but by effective work in the information environment on our part. And I am really counting on your help.
Alexander Sladkov: Mr President, Alexander Sladkov, VGTRK TV company.
I have four questions for you. The first one is about rotation.
Vladimir Putin: Who is the moderator?
Alexander Sladkov: Mr President, I am the moderator.
Vladimir Putin: You are too close – on the line of contact.
Alexander Sladkov: I am close to the decision-making centre.
Vladimir Putin: No, you are close to the line of contact, and it looks like what was coming from Ukrainian territory got into your system.
Alexander Sladkov: We got drunk on it.
Vladimir Putin: Oh, yes. That spirit of the lack of freedom. And you are abusing your position as moderator.
Alexander Sladkov: I confess, I am.
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.
Alexander Sladkov: First, the painful question about rotation.
We have sent our mobilised troops to the front. We trained them and sent them there. They are fighting now with dignity and giving all they have to this fighting. Their wives, mothers and families are wondering how long they will be away. Until victory? When is victory? A difficult path lies ahead of us. Do you not think the time will come when they will have to be rotated and replaced? And by the way, many are sure these people will mostly return to the SMO zone, because they are committed to fighting to the end. But when there is no limit in sight, it is very hard to maintain psychological stability. I am talking about families now.
My second question is about contract soldiers that we are recruiting now. General Yevgeny Burdinsky is doing an excellent job. He is a true professional, deputy chief of the General Staff. But we are living in the 21st century. Is it not time for us to change the system or make it an integrated one? We are waiting for the people to respond to the offer. We invite them but is it not time for us to go to the people who can help us and make a plan based on military specialties where we know the number of machine gunners, grenade launcher operators, drivers, signallers or intelligence officers, so that we stop taking people in en masse under a contract but take only the ones we need.
My third question is about conscripts. In connection with the events where conscripts acted as dignified members of the Armed Forces in the Belgorod Region and repelled enemy attacks, their families are wondering what their status is. I am aware that a certain federal law is planned to be adopted, but will conscripts continue to participate in hostilities?
And the fourth question is about mobilisation. Will there be another round of mobilisation?
That concludes my questions.
Vladimir Putin: These are indeed very serious questions, therefore we must talk about them, of course. First of all, the mobilised soldiers, the rotation, when they should be replaced, when it will end.
You know, I will just turn to the law: the law does not specify the duration. We have to proceed from the availability of personnel, from the situation on the frontline, from the progress of the special military operation itself.
You know that in fact, and also at my suggestion, we took a decision on regular leaves.
Alexander Sladkov: Yes, twice a year. You announced that in your Address to the Federal Assembly.
Vladimir Putin: The service members took the leave. Amusingly, some people doubted whether they would return: practically everyone returns with very few exceptions, due to illness or unexpected family circumstances. But overall, over 90 percent, 99 percent go back.
Alexander Sladkov: Yes, that’s true.
Vladimir Putin: This is the first part of the answer to this question.
The second one – and I started with it: of course, we will have to gradually bring people back home, and the Defence Ministry is certainly discussing this relevant issue. It will depend on how the fourth question you asked will be decided, whether new waves of mobilisation are needed and so on. I am getting to it.
Contract soldiers. I talked to Mr Burdinsky recently, the work is generally moving forward, it is really going very well. He is in charge of recruiting contract soldiers. One of the deputy defence ministers is in charge of training.
Alexander Sladkov: Yevkurov.
Vladimir Putin: Yes. He is in charge of training, which is all set. I don’t know if you have been there. If not, you can go.
Alexander Sladkov: Of course, we have.
Vladimir Putin: Things are getting better and better there now. There are probably still some problems, but the equipment is coming to them, they are working. There is no limit to perfection. Naturally, there are always problems wherever one looks, but overall, the situation is changing for the better. Do technologies need replacing? Perhaps, this must be considered. What is the point? The point is that – you are right, you are absolutely right – we must have targeted recruitment.
Now, regarding conscripts. As before, we will not send them to the special military operation zone that passes through Novorossiya and Donbass. The same is true now. Although, of course, these territories belong to the Russian Federation, the special military operation is ongoing there, and, as the Defence Ministry reports to me, there is no need to send them there. That said, they are traditionally deployed in the Belgorod and Kursk regions. They are ensuring security there, they are present in these locations, and in case of a threat, they must fulfil their sacred duty to the homeland and defend the Fatherland.
I must say that I talked to a battalion commander that fought in the Belgorod area. I asked him how many of his soldiers were mobilised and how many were conscripted. He said they were all conscripts and he had no mobilised soldiers at all. He is a battalion commander. I asked him how they acted. He said they were brilliant – nobody flinched, not even one. That said, there was a brief moment when Lieutenant-General Lapin was fighting with his service weapon together with his soldiers.
Alexander Sladkov: We watched this scene with alarm.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, yes but these guys were doing the best they could.
So, I think I answered your question. Of course, they will stay there as well as on other territories of the Russian Federation. The Defence Ministry is not planning to send them into the zone of hostilities, and there is no need for that now.
Indicatively, this battalion commander – I was very pleased to talk with him, I think his name is Nikitin – spoke so confidently and warmly about his soldiers. He spoke very well about them. He said: “Nobody flinched at all. They were very focused and did a good job.”
Now about the need for additional mobilisation. I am not following this closely but some of our public figures claim that there is an urgent need to mobilise a million or even 2 million. This depends on what we want. But at the end of the Great patriotic War, how many…
Alexander Sladkov: Ten.
Vladimir Putin: No, maybe there were ten million during the war overall but I think at the end of the war we had 5 million in our Armed Forces. I may be wrong – I don’t remember how many exactly.
I remember some things precisely – sorry to get side-tracked – but the RSFSR accounted for about 70 percent, or 69 percent of all losses during the Great Patriotic War – this is close enough, but I digress. The number does not matter but they were many. It depends on the goal.
Look, our troops were outside Kiev. First, we reached an agreement, which turned out to be a good agreement about how to resolve the current situation peacefully. Even though they tossed it, nevertheless, we used this time to get where we are now which is practically all of Novorossiya and a significant portion of the Donetsk People’s Republic with access to the Sea of Azov and Mariupol. And almost all of the Lugansk People’s Republic, with a few exceptions.
Do we need to go back there or not? Why am I asking this rhetorical question? Clearly, you do not have an answer to it, only I can answer that. But depending on our goals, we must decide on mobilisation, but there is no need for that today. This is my first point.
Second, the thing that I will say at the end as part of my answer to your question, I am not sure I mentioned it before. Since January, when we began concluding contracts with contract soldiers, we have recruited over 150,000 of them and, together with volunteers, this number adds up to 156,000. The mobilisation gave us 300,000 recruits as we know. Now, people are coming voluntarily of their own free will. In fact, work began in February with 156,000 people and continues to this day with 9,500 contracts signed over the past week alone.
Alexander Sladkov: Half a corps.
Vladimir Putin: 9,500 people. Given this, the Defence Ministry says there is no need for mobilisation.
Things that are happening took even me by surprise: after all, 156,000 people volunteered. You know, as we say, Russians saddle slow, but ride fast. People are volunteering to defend the Fatherland.
Alexander Sladkov: Thank you.
Anatoly Borodkin: Mr President, Anatoly Borodkin, Zvezda TV channel.
You said earlier that Western countries are flooding the Kiev regime with the most advanced weapons systems.
Vladimir Putin: They are.
Anatoly Borodkin: In this regard, I have a question: what are we going to do to expand our defence industry in order to prevent, first, a lag in terms of quantity and, above all, to overtake the enemy substantially and to provide our Armed Forces with sufficient numbers of modern weapons systems. We are aware that a Coordinating Council has been created. By the way, what do you think about its performance?
Frankly, so far, it appears that we have problems. The supply chain that goes from the defence order, manufacturing application and mass industrial production to shipping products to the frontline is sagging. What needs to be done to make it work as quickly as possible?
Vladimir Putin: You know, this is a fundamental question, absolutely fundamental. When we say – I said it, and you repeated it – that the West is flooding Ukraine with weapons, this is a fact, nobody is hiding this; on the contrary, they are proud of it.