The focus of this year’s citizen consultation of Russian President Vladimir Putin was on social issues, the threat of a new lockdown, low wages and rising prices in the wake of the pandemic, air pollution, garbage problems, structural defects in schools, kindergartens and roads. Putin promised that he would personally engage with governors to solve concrete problems. The president demonstratively put himself in front of the ruling party United Russia, whose prestige has declined, but which is likely to defend its majority in the Duma elections in September. The President also referred to the voyage of the British warship in Russian territorial waters off the Crimea on June 23. This was a British-American provocation. The de facto domination of Ukraine by NATO is a danger to the “vital interests of Russia”.
In a Moscow call center on Wednesday, the wires ran hot. More than two million questions were asked to the Russian president during the Kremlin leader’s annual citizens consultation. Within three hours and 42 minutes, Vladimir Putin answered 68 questions, mainly questions about social problems. The consultation hour was broadcast by major television and radio stations. The event, led by two moderators, started with questions about the corona crisis. The third corona wave with the Indian variant has led to the highest numbers of infections and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in Russia-especially in Moscow.
The president seemed tense at first. The situation for the Kremlin in the corona crisis is not easy. Actually, the government wanted to get 60 percent of citizens vaccinated by autumn. But now Mikhail Murashko, the Minister of Health, has declared that 30 percent of citizens are to be vaccinated by autumn. 60 Percent could not be reached.
“No compulsory vaccination”, but " special measures"
Whether there would be a compulsory vaccination in Russia, a citizen wanted to know. Putin replied that in Russia " everything goes according to the law." Vaccination is voluntary. But in some regions with a high risk of infection, governors would have the right to introduce special rules “for at-risk groups.” The aim of the special measures is to prevent a lockdown. Protection against Covid 19 would only exist" through vaccinations, " the president explained.
The fact that the football matches are being held within the framework of the European Football Championship in Russia, despite the increased risk of infection, is related “to the commitments made by the state in organizing these major sporting events.”
Over two million questions
2.2 Million questions to the president were received in the Moscow call center. Main topics were social problems. Some citizens performed live via mobile phone and video circuit. The moderators coordinated the topics. Citizens ' questions came in writing or by video. Yefgeni was brought in from Moscow. He complained that he wanted to terminate his wife, a teacher who cannot tolerate vaccination. Putin stated that citizens who can prove that they do not tolerate vaccinations could not be obliged to do so. But whether these words of the president have weight in practice remains to be seen.
Only 14 percent vaccinated
That it was about the corona topic at the beginning of the event was no coincidence. In several regions of Russia, including Moscow, stricter hygiene rules apply. In Moscow, restaurants can only be entered by people with a QR code or a negative PCR test result. 60 Percent of employees in the service sector must be vaccinated. Anyone who does not get vaccinated must expect termination.
Putin did not mention that there is a crisis of confidence between the government and the people in the corona question. With 23 million people vaccinated – 15 percent of the population – Russia is at the bottom of the international scale. If you listen to why people do not go to vaccinate, you will hear different explanations from people. Some say they do not trust the “quickly mixed vaccine”. Others have heard of an elderly woman " who died after vaccination." The Kremlin leader urged the population not to believe the " vaccination dissidents “who” do not understand anything “about Covid 19 and claim that there are"no infections.”
Why are citizens so suspicious?
There is a lack of trustworthy people in Russia who are actively promoting the four vaccines approved in Russia. If the government advertises vaccination on television, it does not have the desired effect. This is due to the fact that Russian officials are not considered particularly trustworthy. They had also promised prosperity and a social market economy in the early 1990s. Instead, factory closures and the loss of all savings came. Today, many officials drive thick cars. In addition, they have a nice house. In a country with many poor people, distrust is fuelling.
Putin announced publicly for the first time during the citizens ' consultation that he had been vaccinated with Sputnik V in February. There were no unpleasant after-effects. He had dispensed with a video of the vaccination process. You just have to believe him. The Kremlin boss explained that some of his employees were sick with Corona despite vaccination. However, these diseases of employees had been mild" because of the vaccination". This was an indirect confirmation of a request by the Russian Minister of Health to the citizens of Russia to get vaccinated every six months now if there is an increased risk of infection.
Bananas from Ecuador cheaper than carrots from Russia
For citizens in Russia, the pandemic has primarily resulted in job losses and price increases, not only for food, but also for building materials and land. Valentina asked how it happened that Russian carrots cost 1.20 euros a kilo and bananas from Ecuador only 80 cents a kilo. “Who controls prices in Russia?asked the citizen. Putin stated that prices would rise on an international scale, but admitted that the government “does not always respond in time"with control measures. An increase in export duties was necessary to slow down price increases.
Putin also admitted that, despite very good results in grain harvests, the production capacity for vegetables in Russia “is not enough”, which is why it is necessary to import potatoes from Belarus and Turkey.
Cleaning lady gets no credit
Svetlana from Yaroslavl asked Putin for advice. The single mother, who works as a cleaner, does not know how to make ends meet. She didn’t have enough money for the groceries. Banks refused her a loan. The head of the Kremlin said that after all, now there is special assistance for families with children and a legislative project of the ruling party United Russia, which prohibits banks from collecting loan installments from citizens living below the subsistence level.
Local administrations subvert citizen input
At Wednesday’s event, there were also active attempts by local administrations to block the appearance of citizens in the live consultation with the president. Yelena Vladimirovna from Novokuznetsk, Siberia, said that she wanted to ask a question about water damage in a special kindergarten for her granddaughter. Photos she had sent to the Moscow call center.
When the call center wanted to check the information in the kindergarten by phone, this had consequences. The local administration threatened to deprive Jelena of custody of the granddaughter. Putin reassured the caller:“This will not happen.” He would talk to the governor of the area about the case and demand consequences. For Vladimir Putin, this brazen interference by a local administration against the exposure of grievances was an occasion to show backbone. He made Jelena call several times during the live broadcast, because the line repeatedly broke down for mysterious reasons.
In Ural-megacity, metro construction is not progressing
How much the pace of development between Moscow and the province diverges became clear when the president came to a question about the construction of the metro in Chelyabinsk, an industrial city in the Urals with a population of 1.1 million, planned since Soviet times. Putin stated that 459 million euros had been allocated for the construction of the metro, it was “just necessary to start construction.” It was not clear what the problem was. By comparison, Moscow has built a whopping 179 kilometres of metro lines and 59 new metro stations and 31 new suburban stations since 2011.
This mismatch in the development of the metropolis and the province also has to do with the different tax revenues. Most large companies have their headquarters in Moscow, where they also pay taxes. Thus, Moscow blooms, dazzles the visitor with its splendor and makes you forget that in other large cities it does not always look so blooming.
The Duma elections approaching
Numerous videos of abuses in the Russian province, which were sent in or broadcast live, were also shown at the citizens ' consultation hour. Apparently, the presidential administration had decided to keep up with the Russian YouTube sector, where such videos can be seen in great abundance. One saw completely polluted water filters in an apartment building in Pskov, a newly built street, which is completely under water due to construction errors in the rain.
Putin stood demonstratively behind the ruling party United Russia, which has the absolute majority in the Duma. The party had done a lot. She not only distributes money to the right and left, does not make promises that she cannot keep, and is also ready to take unpopular steps. This apparently meant the increase in the retirement age, which Putin had categorically rejected before 2018. The president stated that United Russia is a system-stabilizing party and therefore indispensable. The head of the Kremlin also pointed out that he co-initiated this party in 1999.
British-American provocation in front of Crimea
One of the moderators asked Vladimir Putin whether the world was on the brink of World War III when a British warship sailed into Russian territorial waters off Crimea on June 23. The Russian president stated, " even if we had sunk this ship ,it is difficult to imagine that the world was on the verge of World War III, because those who do this know that they will not be the victors.”
Putin stated that Russia " would not be happy about such a development (to the Third World War, UH), but at least we know what we are fighting for. We fight on our territory for ourselves, for our future. We can’t get over thousands of miles. They come to our borders and violate our territorial waters.”
The Russian president stated that the US was involved in the provocation with the British warship. “Their reconnaissance aircraft tried to fix the reaction of the Russian military. But the Russian military had given the Americans what they thought was necessary. “Russia is very concerned about the fact that NATO actually controls Ukrainian territory.“Because this mastery touches “real life interests” of Russia.
The Russian president also expressed concern that NATO did not honor the fact that Russia withdrew its troops from the Ukrainian border in the spring after a maneuver. “Instead, they are now coming to our border”.
It was a citizens consultation with difficult topics in an extremely tense time. In his closing speech, the president encouraged the people. Russia is still the largest country on earth with the largest amount of mineral resources and a people with strong spiritual roots. Many parents would have realized that science and education ensure Russia’s future, which is why they advise their children to get a good education.