“The truth is that the current problems faced by millions of people in the West are the result of years of action, error, short-sightedness, and ambition on the part of the ruling elites of their states. These elites are not thinking about how to improve the lives of their citizens in Western countries. They are obsessed with their own self-interest and super-profits,” says the Russian president.” There are hostile geopolitical goals behind the hypocritical talks and current actions of the so-called collective West. They do not need, simply do not need, a strong and sovereign Russia; they will not forgive us for our independent course or for defending our national interests.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the world in a lengthy speech last Wednesday outlining steps the Russian Federation will take in response to harsh economic sanctions levied by the West.
Though the corporate media reported on snippets of Putin’s speech, they also distorted the substance of his remarks and failed to provide the full context, which is presented here.
He also explained how the clandestine Biolabs in Ukraine, the West’s dismissal of Russia’s concerns about NATO expansion, and war crimes against the people of the Donbas region compelled Russia to act militarily.
Transcript of Putin’s full speech:
We are meeting at a difficult time when our Armed Forces are conducting a special military operation in Ukraine and Donbass. Let me remind you that at its very beginning, in the early morning of February 24, I publicly and openly stated the reasons and the main goal of Russia’s actions.
It is to help our people in the Donbas, who for almost eight years have been subjected to the most barbaric methods – blockade, large-scale punitive actions, terrorist attacks, and constant artillery shelling – a real genocide. And for what? Only because they sought elementary human rights – to live by the laws and traditions of their ancestors, to speak their native language, to raise their children the way they wanted.
At the same time, the authorities in Kyiv have not only ignored and sabotaged the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures to peacefully resolve the crisis over all these years, but at the end of last year they refused to implement it in public.
They have also begun the practical implementation of plans to join NATO. Moreover, the Kyiv authorities also announced their intention to build their own nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery. This 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 its target would, of course, be Russia.
There was also a network of dozens of laboratories in Ukraine where military biological programs, including experiments with samples of coronavirus, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever, and other deadly diseases were conducted under the direction and financial support of the Pentagon. Traces of these secret programs are now being strenuously covered up. But we have every reason to believe that components of biological weapons were in fact created in the immediate vicinity of Russia, on Ukrainian territory.
Our repeated warnings that this development posed a direct threat to Russia’s security were rejected by Ukraine and its US and NATO patrons with ostentatious and cynical disregard.
Thus, all diplomatic options have been completely exhausted. We were simply left with no options to resolve peacefully the problems that arose through no fault of our own. And so we were simply forced to launch a special military operation.
The appearance of Russian troops near Kiev and other cities in 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 combat tactics that have been developed by the Russian Ministry of Defence and our General Staff, they have fully justified themselves. And our guys – soldiers and officers – are showing courage and heroism, doing everything in their power to avoid casualties among the civilian population of Ukrainian cities.
I want to say this for the first time: at the very beginning of the operation in Donbas, the Kiev authorities were asked through various channels, in order to avoid senseless bloodshed, not to engage in combat operations, but simply to withdraw their troops from Donbas. They did not want to. Well, that is their decision. The realization of what is happening in the real situation, on the ground, will come inevitably.
The operation is progressing 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, was purposefully preparing for a violent scenario, a bloodbath and ethnic cleansing in Donbass. A massive offensive on the Donbass and then on Crimea was only a matter of time. And our Armed Forces thwarted these plans.
Kiev was not only preparing for war, for aggression against Russia, against Donbass – they were waging it. Attempts to organize sabotage and a terrorist underground in Crimea did not stop. In recent years, fighting continued in Donbas, shelling of peaceful settlements. During this time almost 14 thousand civilians have been killed, including children.
On March 14, as you know, there was a rocket attack on the centre of Donetsk. It was an outright bloody attack that killed more than 20 people. And this kind of shelling has been going on for the last few days. They hit indiscriminately, in squares, with the fanaticism and frenzy of the doomed – like the Nazis, who in the last days of the Third Reich tried to take as many innocent victims with them to the grave as possible.
But what is striking in its extreme cynicism is not only Kiev’s unapologetic lies and claims that it was Russia (they thought of that too!) that allegedly launched a missile at Donetsk, but also that the so-called civilized Western world, the European and American press did not even notice the Donetsk tragedy, as if it never happened.
In the same hypocritical way, they turned a blind eye during the last eight years, when mothers in Donbass buried their children. When old people were killed. This is just some kind of moral degradation, a complete dehumanization.
The many years of mockery of the people of Donbass could no longer be tolerated. And to put an end to the genocide, Russia recognized the people’s republics of Donbass and concluded treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with them. On the basis of these agreements, the republics turned to our country for military assistance in repelling the aggression. And we provided this assistance – we simply could not, had no right to do otherwise.
But what I want to emphasize and ask you to pay attention to: if our troops had acted only on the territory of the people’s republics, helped them liberate their land, this would not have been the final solution, would not have led to peace and would not have eliminated the threat fundamentally – to our country, already to Russia. On the contrary, there would have been a new front line around Donbass and along its borders, and shelling and provocations would have continued. In other words, the armed conflict would drag on endlessly, fuelled by the revanchist hysteria of the Kiev regime, and NATO’s military infrastructure in Ukraine would deploy even faster and more aggressively: we would be faced with the fact that the Alliance’s offensive weapons are already at our borders.
I repeat – we would have had no other option for self-defence, for Russia’s security, except a special military operation. And all the tasks we have set ourselves will certainly be accomplished. We will reliably ensure the security of Russia and our people and we will never allow Ukraine to serve as a springboard for aggressive actions against our country.
These are issues that are fundamental for Russia and our future – the neutral status of Ukraine, demilitarization and denationalization – we were ready and willing to discuss during the negotiations. Our country has done everything to organize and conduct these negotiations, understanding that every opportunity must be used to save people and their lives.
But again and again we are convinced that the Kiev regime, which has been tasked by its Western masters to create an aggressive anti-Russia, is indifferent to the fate of the people of Ukraine. The fact that people are dying, the fact that hundreds of thousands, millions have become refugees, the fact that there is a real humanitarian disaster in the cities held by neo-Nazis and their armed criminals released from prisons – everything is indifferent.
It is also obvious to us that Western patrons are simply pushing the Kiev authorities to continue the bloodshed. They are being supplied with more and more weapons, intelligence, and other assistance, including military advisers and mercenaries.
They have also chosen as a weapon economic, financial, trade and other sanctions against Russia, which are now hitting the Europeans and Americans themselves, by the way, through rising prices of gasoline, energy, food, through the loss of jobs associated with the Russian market. And you must not, as they say, put the blame on our country.
I want the ordinary citizens of Western countries to hear me as well: they are now trying to persuade you that all your difficulties are the result of some hostile actions of Russia, that your own purse should be used to pay for the fight against the mythical Russian threat. All of this is a lie.
The truth is that the current problems faced by millions of people in the West are the result of years of action, error, short-sightedness, and ambition on the part of the ruling elites of their states. These elites are not thinking about how to improve the lives of their citizens in Western countries. They are obsessed with their own self-interest and super-profits.
This is evidenced by data from international organizations, which clearly show that social problems, even in the leading Western countries, have only worsened in recent years, that inequality, the gap between rich and poor, and racial and national conflicts are on the rise. The myth of a Western welfare society, of the so-called golden billion, is crumbling.
I repeat, today the entire planet has to pay the price for the West’s ambitions, for its attempts to maintain its elusive dominance by any means.
The imposition of sanctions is a logical continuation, a concentrated expression of the irresponsible, short-sighted policy of the governments and central banks of the United States and EU countries. It is they who in recent years have with their own hands unleashed a spiral of global inflation, their actions have led to an increase in global poverty and in inequality, to new flows of refugees around the world. And the question arises: Who will now be responsible for the millions of starving deaths in the world’s poorest countries due to growing food shortages?
Again, this is a serious blow to the entire global economy and trade, to the credibility of the U.S. dollar as the main reserve currency.
Thus, illegitimate actions to freeze part of the currency reserves of the Bank of Russia draw a line under the reliability of the so-called first-class assets. In fact, both the U.S. and the EU have declared a real default on their obligations to Russia. Now everyone knows that financial reserves can be simply stolen. And, seeing this, many countries may begin in the near future – I am sure this will happen – to convert their paper and digital savings into real reserves in the form of commodities, land, food, gold, other real assets, which will only increase the deficit in these markets.
I would add that the seizure of foreign assets and accounts of Russian companies and individuals is also a lesson for national business, that there is nothing more reliable than investing in one’s own country. I told this myself more than once.
We appreciate the position of those foreign companies that, despite the unscrupulous pressure from the United States and their vassals, continue to work in our country. In the future, they will surely get additional opportunities for development.
We also know those who cowardly betrayed their partners, forgot about their responsibility to their employees and clients in Russia, and rushed to earn illusory dividends on their participation in the anti-Russian campaign. At the same time, unlike Western countries, we will respect property rights.
What do I want to emphasize? We need to clearly understand that a new package of sanctions and restrictions against us would have followed in any scenario. I want to stress this. Our military operation in Ukraine is just a pretext for the West to impose new sanctions. Yes, of course, they are concentrated now. But the referendum in Crimea, which took place, incidentally, on March 16, 2014, exactly eight years ago, in the course of which the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol made their free choice to join their historic homeland, was the same [reason] for them, for Westerners.
Let me repeat: we are only talking about occasions. But the policy of containing and weakening Russia, including through economic isolation and blockade, is a conscious, long-term strategy. Western leaders themselves are no longer hiding the fact that sanctions are not aimed at individuals or companies; their goal is to hit our entire domestic economy, our social and humanitarian sphere, every family, every citizen of Russia.
In fact, such steps aimed at worsening the lives of millions of people have all the hallmarks of aggression, a war by economic, political and informational means. It is total and unconcealed, and, I repeat, the so-called Western political elite are not even shy about speaking about it in plain words.
All the verbal tinsel about political correctness, inviolability of private property, freedom of speech – all of this disappeared overnight. Even the Olympic principles were trampled. They were not shy about settling scores with the Paralympians either – that’s how “sports outside politics” is.
In many Western countries, people just for the fact that they come from Russia are being persecuted today: they refuse medical care, expel children from schools, put their parents out of work, ban Russian music, culture and literature. In attempting to “abolish” Russia, the West stripped itself of all masks of decency, began to act in a boorish manner, and demonstrated its true nature. Direct analogies are just begging to be drawn with the anti-Semitic pogroms carried out by the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and later by their henchmen from many European countries who joined Hitler’s aggression against our country during the Great Patriotic War.
Against Russia deployed a massive attack in cyberspace. The unprecedented information campaign in which the global social networks and all western mass media which objectivity and independence have appeared simply a myth is unleashed. Access to information is restricted, people are flooded with a huge number of fakes, propaganda fakes, in other words, fakes. It has gone so far that one of the American social networks has directly stated that publications calling for the murder of Russian citizens are possible.
We understand what resources this empire of lies has, but it is still powerless against truth and justice. Russia will consistently make its position known to the world. Our position is honest and open, and more and more people hear it, understand it and share it.
I want to say very frankly: there are hostile geopolitical goals behind the hypocritical talks and current actions of the so-called collective West. They do not need, simply do not need, a strong and sovereign Russia; they will not forgive us 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 they did in the 1990s and early 2000s, they want to repeat their attempt to crush us, to crush us again, to drive us beyond Mozhai, to turn us into a weak, dependent country, to break our territorial integrity, to dismember Russia in the best way for them. It didn’t work then, it won’t work now.
Yes, of course, they will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on the national traitors, on those who make money here, in our country, and live there, and “live” not even in the geographical sense of the word, but according to their thoughts, their slave consciousness.
I don’t condemn those who have a villa in Miami or on the French Riviera, who can’t do without foie gras, oysters or so-called gender freedoms. That is absolutely not the problem, but, I repeat, the problem is that many of these people are mentally there, not here, not with our people, not with Russia. This is, in their opinion – in their opinion! – a sign of belonging to a higher caste, to a higher race. Such people are ready to sell their mother, just to be allowed to sit in the hallway of 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 higher caste even needs them, but as expendable material to use them to cause maximum damage to our people.
The collective West is trying to split our society by speculating on combat losses, on the socio-economic consequences of sanctions, to provoke civil confrontation in Russia, and, using its fifth column, is striving to achieve its goal. And the goal is the same, I have already said about it – the destruction of Russia.
But any nation, and especially the Russian people, can always distinguish the true patriots from the scum and traitors, and simply spit them out, like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths, spit them out on the panel. I am convinced that this natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, unity, and readiness to meet any challenge.
The so-called collective West and its fifth column are used to measure everything and every one by themselves. They think that everything can be bought and sold, so they think that we will break down and retreat. But they do not know our history and our people well.
Yes, many countries in the world have long ago reconciled themselves to living with their backs bowed and subserviently accepting all the decisions of their sovereign, looking at him subserviently in the eye. Many countries live this way. Unfortunately, in Europe as well.
But Russia will never be in such a pathetic and humiliated state, and the fight we are waging is a fight for our sovereignty, for the future of our country and our children. We will fight for the right to be and remain Russia. Our example is the courage and steadfastness of our soldiers and officers, the faithful defenders of the Fatherland.
It is obvious that the current events draw a line under the global domination of Western countries both in politics and economy. Moreover, they call into question the economic model that in recent decades has been imposed on developing countries and the whole world in general.
Let me stress: the sanctions obsession of the U.S. and its supporters is not shared by the countries where more than half of the world’s population lives. It is these states that represent the fastest growing, most promising part of the global economy. Russia is one of them.
Yes, it is not easy for us right 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 the sanctions, but Russian banks have managed to cope with this challenge. Working literally around the clock, they continue to make payments and settlements for citizens and ensure the activities of businesses.
The second wave of sanctions was designed to provoke panic in the trade sector. According to estimates, over the past three weeks additional demand for goods exceeded one trillion Rubles. But domestic producers, suppliers, transport and logistics companies have done everything to avoid a large-scale shortage in retail networks.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Russian business community, the labour collectives of companies, banks and organizations that not only provide an effective response to the sanctions challenges, but also lay the foundation for further sustainable development of our economy. And separately, I would like to acknowledge the Government, the Bank of Russia, the heads of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, and regional and municipal teams. In the current challenging environment, you are responsibly addressing the challenges you face
Obviously, they have not succeeded in organizing an economic blitzkrieg against Russia, demoralizing our society, and taking us by force, so we are likely to see attempts to increase the pressure on our country. But we will overcome these difficulties too. The Russian economy will definitely adapt to the new realities. We will strengthen our technological and scientific sovereignty, we will direct additional resources towards supporting agriculture, the manufacturing industry, infrastructure, and housing construction, and we will continue to develop foreign trade relations, counting on fast-growing, dynamic international markets.
Undoubtedly, the new realities will require deep structural changes in our economy, and I will not hide it, they will not be easy, they will lead to a temporary increase in inflation and unemployment.
Our task in this situation is to minimize such risks. Not only to strictly fulfil all social obligations of the state, but also to launch new, more effective mechanisms to support citizens and their incomes.
The focus of attention is protection of maternity, childhood, and support of families with children. From April 1, it has already been decided – as you know – to introduce payments for children aged 8 to 16, inclusive, who are brought up in families with low incomes. The amount will be half to one subsistence minimum for each child of that age. Now it is on average up to 12,300 Rubles across the country. Thus, we will have a unified system of support from the moment when the expectant mother is still expecting a child, and until the child reaches the age of 17.
I charge the government to ensure that this system works in such a way that it promptly takes into account changes in the financial situation of families. That is, if parents have experienced job loss or other difficult life circumstances, the family should begin to receive help from the state as quickly as possible.
I also ask the Government to quickly analyse the effectiveness of support measures for people who have lost their jobs. It is clear that these measures must be expanded, including through the mechanism of the social contract.
I understand that people’s incomes are seriously affected by rising prices, so we will soon take a decision to increase all social payments, including allowances and pensions, raise the minimum wage and the subsistence level, and increase wages in the public sector. I ask the Government to calculate the exact parameters of such an increase.
And I emphasize: even in the current difficult situation at the end of the year, we need to achieve a reduction in the level of poverty and inequality. This is a quite feasible task even today. I ask the Government and the regions to focus on achieving this task. And I would like to add that it is not only of an economic nature, as we all understand, but is also a matter of social justice.
Right now, a great deal depends on the initiative of the heads of the regions, on their willingness to take responsibility. Today, I signed a decree giving additional powers to regional heads – they will be able to make flexible and prompt decisions to support our citizens, our economy, and the social sphere based on the real situation on the ground. I would like to remind you that this is the logic that allows us to take into account the situation in every region, every town, every village – and this is not the same everywhere – and this is how we have built our counter-coronavirus measures.
I am instructing all branches of the federal government in the regions to coordinate their work with the regional authorities in the next six months, and for governors to create operational headquarters to ensure economic development, and to personally lead this work.
What should be the priority here?
The key role in overcoming the current problems must be played by private business, which is able in a short time to restructure logistics, find new suppliers, and increase production of products that are in demand. On how quickly the private business will find the necessary solutions and make them, depends on the preservation of employment, income, and wages of citizens, and generally ensuring the stable, rhythmic operation of the economy. Therefore, we must respond to external pressure with maximum entrepreneurial freedom and support for business initiatives.
I ask the Government, law enforcement agencies, and supervisory authorities to continue their work to remove unjustified administrative and regulatory barriers. All the more so, we cannot distract business and regional authorities from solving the most pressing, urgent problems by burdening them with all kinds of inspections and control measures.
One of the key problems for businesses now is the shortage of working capital, the inaccessibility, and the high cost of credit, but the Central Bank was forced to take appropriate measures. In this regard, I instruct you to implement the following steps.
First. Enterprises that fulfil the orders of the authorities and companies with state participation should receive money for delivered goods and services as quickly as possible and put them back into the business. In this regard, I propose to increase the number of advance payments under government contracts. The advance should be not less than half of the total amount of the contract, and the term of payment for goods and services supplied should be reduced to seven working days. A similar decision must also be taken at the level of federal subjects, municipalities, and companies with state participation.
Second. We must expand the opportunities for entrepreneurs to raise additional resources from development institutes. We are talking about expanding the work of the Project Finance Factory (it works here, and works well; the practice has shown it to be in demand), about providing resources for business investment plans through the Industrial Development Fund (one of the really good tools), the Bank for Small and Medium Business, and, in addition, through regional support institutions, including guarantee funds. I instruct the Government to allocate additional funds to the constituent entities of the Federation for such regional instruments.
I would like to draw the attention of the Government and our colleagues in the regions to the following: the most important task is to ensure the availability of goods on the consumer market, first and foremost, I mean essential goods, medicines, and medical products. It is necessary to promptly solve logistics and other objective problems that lead to price spikes. At the same time we must eliminate manual intervention in the regulation of prices. It is an increase in supply that should lead to a reduction and stabilization of prices.
Separately, I want to address our exporters. In a situation when there are difficulties with supplies to foreign markets, we must not cut production, but, on the contrary, send additional volumes of goods to the domestic market. This should objectively lead to lower prices inside the country, including prices for gasoline, diesel, bitumen, metals, and other export goods. I ask the Government and the Federal Antimonopoly Service, as well as the regional authorities, to constantly monitor the situation on these markets.
Next. Given the new challenges Russia is facing, we must maintain and expand our long-term development agenda, including the continuation of all planned projects at both the federal and regional levels. We must make full use of our budget system’s potential as an incentive tool.
Federal financing for projects and construction projects will be provided in full, as agreed. Moreover, even back in December, we decided to provide additional funding if the cost of construction has increased objectively.
I think it is important to note that in the current situation, there will be no problems with funding from the federal budget. Our economy today generates a sufficient and good amount of revenue, and this means that we will not need to resort to emission. Simply put, the Central Bank will not need to print money. We have revenues – market-based, healthy revenues. The problem now is not money. We have the resources, I’ll say it again. The key difficulties are related to the supply of components, equipment, construction materials, and the organization of the contractors’ work. Therefore, the timing and methods of implementation of specific projects and their stages may change, and this will require coordinated work between the authorities and business representatives, and the forced implementation of import substitution projects – this is what is important.
It is important to simplify the order of interaction between the regions and federal authorities, to give the subjects of the Federation more freedom in manoeuvring with resources, as well as opportunities to launch new constructions and programs.
For example, the regions have already been allocated additional funds for road construction. I am asking the Government to work on the issue of increasing funding for other infrastructure facilities that can already be put to work this year, as well as on increasing purchases from Russian companies, including for the renovation of public transport, for example.
It is clear that the budgets of Russia’s regions are now under a serious additional burden, so, as we agreed, we are additionally indexing fiscal capacity equalization subsidies. We will also be using other measures to support regional finances, namely, all budgetary loan repayments scheduled for this year will be deferred and shifted to the right, so to speak, while commercial loan repayments, where necessary, will be replaced with budgetary loans. I ask the Government to study this issue in detail and to delve into each specific case. Only this individual work will lead to the desired result.
In addition, the Ministry of Finance will provide an unconditional credit line to each region of the Russian Federation. It will amount to ten percent of the total volume of revenues with a maturity date not earlier than the end of this year.
We will maintain the volume of infrastructure budget loans. I am instructing the Government to organize flexible management of this program, taking into account all the difficulties associated with the implementation of projects – I have already talked about them above. Regions must be able to quickly make decisions on changing the portfolio and content of projects and focus on those that can be implemented with maximum efficiency under current conditions. If necessary, we will consider a possible increase in the volume of infrastructure loans. It is possible, it can be done. On the whole, we will closely monitor the situation with regional finances and take additional decisions to support them, if necessary.
I want to stress that direct communication between all levels of power and a clear-cut algorithm is crucial now. The State Council and its specialist commissions have already proven their effectiveness. I ask the State Governance Committee headed by Sergei Sobyanin to work together with our Government colleagues to identify problematic issues on the regional agenda, develop the best solutions and apply them to all of Russia’s regions. We have had a good experience in dealing with the epidemic.
Our economy, the state budget, and private business have all the resources we need to tackle long-term challenges. All the strategic, national goals we have set for the period until 2030 must be achieved. The current challenges and the opportunities they present should only mobilize us, and that is what we should set ourselves up for, aiming to achieve tangible results in the interests of our citizens.
It is clear that our programs will need to be fine-tuned, and the initiatives of the business community, scientists, and public associations are needed here. In this regard, I ask the regions to get actively involved in organizing the Agency for Strategic Initiatives’ Strong Ideas for New Times forum, where every citizen of Russia will be able to present their proposals and concrete projects aimed at developing their city, region, and the country as a whole.
I will repeat: the current situation is certainly a test for all of us. I’m sure we will pass it with dignity; with hard work, joint work, and mutual support we will overcome all the difficulties and become even stronger, as we have always been in the history of millennial Russia. This is the kind of work I want to set you up for.