Vladimir Putin met with students from the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children in Sochi.Vladimir Putin answered the students’ questions and reviewed some of their projects.

The President was shown, among other things, a device for laboratory blood testing, the so-called Lab of the Future, which, according to its inventors, can replace a number of tests with just one. Vladimir Putin also saw a wireless charging device for drones used to inspect power lines. Also, young scientists showed the President a technology they are proposing for computer processing of x-ray images, and the Moon Greenhouse project which studied possibilities for growing plants in the moon’s gravity.

The Sirius Educational Centre was established on the basis of the Olympic infrastructure at the President’s initiative in December 2014. The aim of the centre was to reveal talent early, and develop and support gifted children from all Russian regions. These are children who display exceptional abilities in the arts, sports, the natural sciences or who have achieved success in technical creativity.

Every month 600 children aged from 10 to 17 receive tuition-free education at the centre. They are guided by over 100 teachers and coaches. The 24-day programme includes studies on a specialty, intellectual games, workshops, meetings with recognised professionals in their area of knowledge, sets of health-building programmes, and general education classes during the school year.

Beginning of the conversation with the Sirius Centre students

President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon friends,

Your session and the academic year are coming to a close. So let’s say our meeting is timed to these.

But for the beginning of our meeting, and I hope it will be interesting to everyone, I would like to return to where we started and say how this project – Sirius – came about.

You know that all countries that host major international competitions like the Olympic Games, always face a challenging question – what to do with the buildings and facilities, all that infrastructure that was built for these major international competitions. We, Russia and the city of Sochi, also faced this question. We had various plans for them; and we built a lot. In fact, Sochi has changed its image a lot and become a major international resort destination.

But I really wanted that project to be expanded with something that would truly be worthy of the Olympic legacy. This is how the initial idea came to create sport centres here – but for popular sports for which we, as they say today, have the greatest aptitude. These are primarily winter sports because we hosted the Winter Games and there were plenty of artificial ice arenas. First of all, I thought about ice hockey and figure skating.

Then it occurred to me: Why just sports? Why just sports for which we have developed an aptitude over decades? We have other abilities – for example, in science, education and the arts. We have always been proud of our musicians and our ballet, and the world admires them. Then I remembered that we also have specialised educational institutions that were established back in the Soviet times and still exist. These are not only ten-year schools for future conservatory students but also physics and mathematics schools, chemistry schools, and biology courses that opened later.

All these things I just mentioned are what we need now and what will be in great demand in the short and long term. This is how I eventually arrived at the conclusion that we need to create a multidisciplinary centre. I shared this idea with some of my colleagues in Moscow. They all are very intelligent, progressive people and competent professionals. They told me, although not directly but through our common connections: “This will not work.” I said: “Why not?” “Because if you bring all your big hockey players together, and they are strong boys, they will start by beating up those mathematicians in their nerdy glasses.” (Laughter.)

Frankly speaking, I had certain concerns but then I talked to the outstanding hockey players, our national pride by right. And they said, “Do not worry about it!” I asked why. “Because our guys who achieved real success in sports, they know the true cost of victory and they know it requires talent and hard work. They will absolutely value that in others.”

The director of the centre told me that she believes this is how it is going now. And this means that the project was necessary and it is successful. I want to congratulate you because it is your achievement above all.

Television anchor Irada Zeinalova: Now we will watch this unchildish conversation that is very important not only for children who will ask you questions but also for us. We will find out what they think and what they really want because adults often do not understand this. We will try to minimise our participation and will not be acting as moderators – we will just be here with the children. So let us get right to the questions.

Guys, raise your hands, stand up and introduce yourselves. All of you have an opportunity to ask the President a question.

Remark: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Artyom. First of all, I would like to thank you for this place. Thank you for Sirius. I think the whole of Sirius joins me in that.

Vladimir Putin: By the way, Artyom, I can also boast that I invented the name. I was thinking for a long time of a name that would combine everything in your future educational centre, so that the name would make it clear that this centre is for talented, bright young people that look to the future. When I said “bright” to myself, I recalled that Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. This is how the name emerged, by the way. I think it fits well, how about you?

Remark: I totally agree.

In general, my specialty is science but my question is not about science. I am an active user of the internet and as such I would like to ask you: Do you use social media or are you perhaps planning to use it? Say, when you come home after a hard day of work, do you look at Instagram or watch YouTube?

Vladimir Putin: A hard day of work ends so late for me that I have no time for Instagram. I think about how to get to my bed as fast as possible. (Laughter.)My staff in the Executive Office use the internet very actively, but, to be honest, I practically never use it myself.

Irada Zeinalova: By the way, they use a language of their own, such as “tags” or “nicks”, and if you were a user, what nickname would you choose for yourself, as there are already one million accounts named “Vladimir Putin” or “Real Vladimir Putin” out there?

Vladimir Putin: I am aware that there is a bunch of all sorts of accounts, somewhere around 5,000, I believe. I have nothing to do with any of them, so that you and other users know. What is being written there on my behalf, is not written by me. I hope they do not write anything bad there, but, again, it is not me. This is my first point.

Second, with regard to nicknames. It is a pseudonym. As you may be aware, I started my career in the foreign intelligence service, and I sometimes used cover names out of technical necessity, but using a nickname now would be plainly ridiculous, I certainly would not choose any, and would use my own name. By the way, I think it is the right thing to do for everyone. Why hide behind pseudonyms? When I studied at the intelligence school, my pseudonym was “Platov.” Everyone had pseudonyms, because that line of work involves a certain degree of conspiracy. Why do so here? Why hide? I believe that it should be the other way round: If a person does something worthy and interesting, something he or she can be proud of, one should take credit for it. Why hide behind a pseudonym? I am not sure about this. Anyway, I think I answered your question.

Irada Zeinalova: We are not hiding, either. This is being broadcast not only on the NTV Channel, but also on ntv.ru website, and (I learned a lot of new words while preparing this programme) on our Vkontakte account and on YouTube video hosting. So everyone can watch us now.

Television host Sergei Malozyomov: And I would like to draw your attention to the fact that online broadcasting offers us some technical opportunities that, unfortunately, television is unable to provide so far. For instance, in our studio there are two boxes on stands – these are 360-degree cameras. They provide a complete view, showing everything that is happening around them in the studio. And the most important thing is that you can choose, on your mobile device or computer, a segment of the studio that you want to peruse and zoom in on it. And, for example, your parents or your friends, all who have gathered there, they will be able to watch you, what you are doing during this unchildish discussion.

Television host Yegor Kolyvanov: Well, it is a secret agent’s dream. Anyway, let us take questions from the children. OK?

Question: Good morning, Mr President.

My name is Ivan.

We are aware that being a President is a very hard job, great responsibility lies on your shoulders. And I have a purely human question. Would you like to relieve yourself of this burden at least for a day, during which you would not be a President? What would you do on such a day?

Vladimir Putin: You know, I regard myself as an ordinary person. True, my job cannot be called ordinary due to its specific characteristics. Even so, I live a normal, ordinary life. There is just certain degree of stress, of course – moral, psychological and physical. And yet, I live a normal, ordinary life, that is, not when there is spare time, but I plan my work schedule in such a way as to afford myself spare time for some creative development, to listen to music, to play sports, to spend time with my friends. I set aside special time for that. But then, I was used to living like that long before I became President. Little has changed for me, except certain specific features related to carrying out my presidential duties.

So, I see nothing special here. And there is nothing special that I would like to do if I relieved myself of this burden, as you said. But still, I will have to do it some day as there are term limits for the President, which are set by the Constitution.

You are all young people, but you probably know, should know, that I had a possibility, and they even begged me at the time to amend the Constitution. I refused to do it, nor do I intend to do it in the future. All is written in the Constitution. As for whether I should continue to carry on in this capacity, I have not made a decision yet, I will think about it. In 2018, as you know, an election will be held. There is still time before the election campaign, so we will see. But, on the whole, I believe that I live a normal life, though with certain specific characteristics, which, to my mind, exist in every occupation.

Look, you have guys in creative occupations here – musicians and future ballet dancers. We know what it takes to be an amazing musician or ballet dancer. It is gruelling work, day and night. Sometimes I look at some of my friends – musicians at a high international level – they are working 12 to 15 hours a day. Those who play string instruments develop callouses, almost to the point that their fingers bleed. This is what it means to devote oneself to something. Or take ballet where guys and girls have to work so hard. Their training is mind bogging. Or take the career of a scientist – they are peculiar people altogether. They are so engrossed in what they do that sometimes they do not notice anything around them.

But I still think that a person must be well-rounded. This is why, to be honest, I thought up this structure for Sirius – for you and your peers to come here, focus seriously on certain specialties and have an opportunity to interact with other students that are engaged in other types of activities. Athletes can see how science lovers – for instance, maths, biology or chemistry – live, work and think, and budding scientists can see what future musicians or ballet dancers do and how they live and set their minds on work. Such interaction is designed to help you develop, and develop in a well-rounded way. I think this is exactly what is taking place here, in Sirius.

I am trying to organise my life in the same way, too. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes not, but this is what I set my mind on.

Question: And what would you choose yourself – science, art, or, for instance, sports, if you has such an opportunity?

Vladimir Putin: I think I have already made my choice(Laughter.)

Remark: Politics.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Remark: Thank you very much.

Sergei Malozyomov: Question from behind your left shoulder. Please, do not forget to introduce yourself.

Question: Good afternoon, my name is Maria. When you have spare time, what do you like doing the most? Do you do something creative? What is it?

Vladimir Putin: Look Masha, I have just said that I have very little spare time but I try to do things. It is just that I have a schedule, let us put it that way. At certain times I try to do certain things. I allot certain time – and quite some time – for sports, listening to music and spending time with friends. I allot time for all this purposefully, I schedule it. If I do not do that I will not have time for anything. But there is one more secret – the more you do, the more you are able to do. You should not be idle, should not spare yourself, that is for sure. And I have already said what I do. I like reading, especially historical literature. I like listening to music and playing sports, and socialising with friends – just like everyone else, just like you.

Irada Zeinalova: And now a question from our rostrum.

Question: Mr Putin,good afternoon. I would like to ask you what you are going to do after you leave the post of President.

Vladimir Putin: I have not yet decided yet whether I will leave the post of the President or not. Only after I answer this question for myself will I think about my next step.

There are a lot of interesting things to do in the world. This is not to say that I should sit and only write memoirs. After all, you can engage in political activity outside your presidential duties, really. There are public organisations and there are other areas that are very interesting to me, for example, ecology. I like this area very much and I consider it promising for the present and the future. You may have noticed that for several years in a row I participated with scientists in various activities related to the protection of rare species: tigers, polar bears, white whales, and so on. I enjoy this greatly. It fascinates me, so I will definitely find what to do. First, the main question should be answered.

Question: Good afternoon, I am Darya Ilyina from Veliky Novgorod. My specialty is painting.

My question is this. You support many Russian artists who have graduated from Russia’s leading higher education institutions. How can young people from the regions get into these institutions considering the problem that many regional schools – not in Moscow or St Petersburg – are simply not supported and not given consideration to ensure that there is a single programme to enter these institutions? In other words, sometimes talented artists have no chance of getting there because they do not paint within a certain school.

Vladimir Putin: You know, this is a difficult question for me, and I do not really understand what it means to paint within a certain school. However, I believe that if a person wants to achieve a goal and knows that a given institution of higher learning has certain requirements then he or she should try to meet these requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to know exactly what there requirements are and do your best, especially with modern methods of distance learning. Perhaps this is not the simplest choice, not the easiest way of solving the problem but when a person decides what to do, he or she should look for ways of doing it, showing talent and perseverance.

Regarding administrative authorities, here of course we will try to do all we can, especially at the regional level, to support art schools. They were traditionally established here in previous decades. And by the way, many of them are quite successful. However, they are focused on ensuring that their students enter two or three higher education institutions in Moscow and St Petersburg, I do not know exactly. If you think this is something that needs to be addressed, we will do so.

And then, you know, when a person is really talented, he or she will be noticed anyway. He will go the Ilya Repin Institute in St Petersburg or Moscow institutes and I am sure professors will not ignore such a person.

Irada Zeinalova: Mr President, you will agree that there is no precise instrument for measuring talent. It is a very subjective matter. The questions that you are being asked now about something human cannot be measures by an instrument, either. It is only possible to create some categories, to decide what is important to you.

Could you please name three main values in your life? Three main things in your life?

Vladimir Putin: In my life or in general?

Irada Zeinalova: In yours. In your life.

Vladimir Putin: In life?

Irada Zeinalova: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Why three? Why not five?

Irada Zeinalova: Because preparing for this conversation we conducted a poll of Vkontakte users. We asked them what is important to them. In other words, these unmeasurable things can only be compared. It is important for us adults to see how well we understand those who will supersede us.

Vladimir Putin: All right, I gained some time to think about it while you answered. What could I say? If I had to name three values in life they would be: first, life itself, it is the greatest value, then love, and freedom. It is possible to write treatises on each of these values. They have already been written and can be written without end. Speaking about life, which is so valuable, is it possible to define it – is it a purely biological condition or is it intellectual? It is possible to talk at length about the nature of love. There are relations between a man and a woman, but there is also love for parents, and love for the Motherland. But, let me repeat that these are all separate things. What is freedom? Where is it? How far does it go? And where does it end? It ends where we start transgressing on the freedom of other people. How to compare one’s own freedom with the freedom of another person?

It is possible to think endlessly on each of these positions but in my mind, these are the most important values – life itself, love and freedom.

Irada Zeinalova: Thank you very much. We are now launching a poll on Vkontakte: What is important to its users, that is, the younger audience? At the end of our meeting, we will tally the results and analyse them.

And now a few more questions.

Head of the Talent and Success Foundation Yelena Shmelyova: Mr President, let me introduce one of the youngest students of our session, Kirill Shapovalov. Kirill is a figure skater from Moscow and he is 10 years old. Let me pass him the microphone.

Kirill Shapovalov: Good afternoon, Mr President. My question is, what is your most vivid memory from childhood?

Vladimir Putin: Well, I am a big kid now, some of my vivid memories have faded.

You know, probably, speaking of the most vivid ones… As a child, I spent most of my time playing in the street, in the courtyard in the centre of Leningrad, a large city. Boys my age spent most of their time there. This was a sort of “university” and a school of life. I will not go into details, but one such vivid memory I have is – let me put it this way – my incorrect behaviour towards a person and his abrupt response. This happened several times; but it is a thing you can learn from, and you learn not just to be polite to other people but to have respect for them. This is relevant, but it does not mean one should spend most of their time in the street as I did. Such experience can be gained at Sirius as well.

Later, in my adolescent years, when I began to play sports, the most vivid memories are from competitions. I began with sambo, then all of us in our group switched to judo, and even at local competitions there were some highlights I still remember to this day. One such moment was when my opponent and I really pushed ourselves to the limit. I can still remember him clearly. I could barely breathe, and I only won by a hair’s breadth. I am still proud that I was able to win and that I gave it my all.

So these are some memories, vivid memories, that I can still recall. By the way, the ability to go all the way to achieve your goal is a very good quality.

Question: Good evening, Mr President, my name is Artyom. I am on the Russian national ice hockey team.

As you are aware, hockey is an aggressive sport. My question for you is how do you handle aggression directed towards you? Do you allow yourself to be aggressive towards other people?

Vladimir Putin: Aggression has been part of our make-up since prehistoric times, when our ancestors were in an animal or semi-animal state. However, the more intelligent and the more educated people are, the less aggressive they are. In any case, they are much better at controlling it.

Of course, I constantly run into stressful or semi-stressful situations, I do not like many things, but I learned to restrain myself. I am not sure how it looks from the outside, but I think that I am good at it. Moreover, I believe that this is a great advantage in dealing with people, especially ones who cannot control these emotions. I may fly off the handle occasionally, which is extremely rare, and, frankly, I get very angry with myself when it happens, because I believe that the manifestation of aggression in today’s world, in today’s society, in relations between people is a manifestation of weakness. I do not like this. When there are no arguments left to make, a person begins to behave aggressively. Overall, I manage to cope with it, which is what I wish for you, too.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Oksana Pshenichko. I’m from Mezhdurechensk, the Kemerovo Region.

I have a serious question related to education. In addition to my studies, I participate in projects and take part in young physicist contests at school. We study physical phenomena from all angles, which includes theory and, importantly, practice. However, physics at school is taught differently, and, unfortunately, the focus is on the Unified State Exam.

Vladimir Putin: Differently as compared to what?

Oksana Pshenichko: Different from our contests and research activities. The focus is on the exam, and almost all the time is spent on learning definitions and solving standard tasks simply because they are part of the test. However, the students no longer understand why the world looks the way it does, and what is going on around us. Importantly, interest in physics is declining. How should the education system and the teaching of physics in general be improved, so that interest in the natural sciences in children stays alive? This also affects the state of affairs in our country, does it not? Anyway, is it realistic to make any major changes in our time?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Global changes occur at all times – simply at different rates. In the Middle Ages, there was one rate of change and in our days it is significantly higher, which has to do with the accumulation of knowledge. The more knowledge mankind has, the faster the changes. In addition, of course, there is the accumulation factor. First, there is accumulation and then there is a leap. So it seems that we are now on the threshold of a leap and of course physics is very important, which means that changes should also be introduced to the teaching system. I will not tell you now exactly what needs to be done or how the teaching of certain subjects should be changed, for example, physics or mathematics. This is up to specialists. I cannot speak for experts and it would be wrong – as they say, counterproductive – and even harmful to do so because this is of course primarily something for specialists to decide.

Nevertheless, we have very good examples of modern methods of teaching natural sciences. For example, Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alferov has wonderfully combined a secondary school and higher education institution. I have been there and was greatly impressed. Young people there earn advanced degrees – Candidates of Science and Doctors of Science. All of this is done in a single complex. So there are good examples, of course, and not only here but also, for instance, at Moscow University. I am a member of its Board of Trustees. Therefore, we do have good examples.

Regarding the Unified State Exam you have mentioned and the associated dogmatism, this is bad, because the USE was not originally conceived as a dogmatic system. And if this is the way it works, of course, something must be changed. However, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that after all is said and done, the USE is not directly related to a pro forma approach toward teaching.

For example, a lot of national academic contests are held in our country and their winners enter higher education institutions directly, without any USE. It is noteworthy that this year, 21 people have scored 300 on the USE. Experts previously said that it was impossible. However, this proved possible – moreover, 21 people have done it. Some of them were allowed to waive the USE but they went and passed it anyway. This goes to show that in and of itself, the USE does not carry any negative elements, but problems do exist and it is important that efforts are taken to address them, as you yourself have said.

On the positive side, as you know, before the USE was introduced on a full scale, only a small proportion of young people from the periphery got into the country’s leading higher education institutions – just 10–15 percent. Today, over 60 percent of young people from the periphery – not Moscow or St Petersburg – enter the country’s top education institutions. This has significantly expanded the geographical scope and opportunities for talented, gifted young people from all over Russia and there are no preferences only for those who live in Moscow or St Petersburg. This is definitely on the plus side but of course the USE needs to be improved.

Yelena Shmelyova: Mr President, let me introduce colleagues who are not currently here. We have been operating for two years exactly, and over 100 Sirius graduates are winners of international and very significant contests and Olympiads. During this July session, we sent the Russian national mathematics team to the International Mathematics Olympiad in Rio. And we decided that it would be unfair if they cannot ask you a question, which is why we recorded one question from them. Can we show it now?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Question: Mr President, will the work of tutors and teachers be rewarded, those who trained a medalist for an International Mathematics Olympiad? For example, will they be awarded the Merited Teacher of the Russian Federation title?

Vladimir Putin: We have a whole reward system for both coaches and teachers. And tutors who train you for such large events – and they obviously do good, excellent work, our children keep on winning, taking first place (first and second place) at such internationals contests – so if those rewards do not reach them, it is clearly an oversight on the part of respective administrative bodies. We will correct that oversight.

Yegor Kolyvanov: By the way, I would like to remind you that a few days ago equally talented children came back from the International Chemistry Olympiad in Thailand, and they did not come back empty-handed. They had won two gold and two silver medals at the international competitions. I think this deserves a round of applause. It is really cool for me as someone who was always just average in chemistry.

Here on the same stand with me are world football champions. See, we do have them. No matter what, we have world football champions. They are Pasha and Sasha, winners of the international competition among children’s homes. Is that right? They would like to talk to you.

Question: Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Are you Sasha or Pasha?

Question: I am Sasha.

Mr President, thank you very much for the gift, all the children are happy, for the football facility. It will open in September. All the children from the Totem football club, from the home, will be expecting you at the opening of the facility.

Vladimir Putin: I think we met, yes, we did.

Remark: Yes, at the Confederations Cup.

Vladimir Putin: Is this an invitation? Or is there a question to follow?

Remark: An invitation.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Remark: My name is Pasha.

Vladimir Putin: Yes Pasha, go ahead, I am listening to you.

Question: Mr President, will our national team win the World Cup?

Vladimir Putin: Pasha, which of us is the world champion? Answer, please.

Remark: I am. (Laughter.)

Vladimir Putin: Please, tell me, as an expert, will our national team win the World Cup? (Laughter.)

Sit down. (Applause.)

Yegor Kolyvanov: Anything could happen.

Question: Good afternoon, my name is Alla.

Meeting with students from Sirius Educational Centre

Mr President, there was a torrential downpour on June 22, the Day of Memory and Sorrow, during the wreath-laying ceremony. You stood in the rain without an umbrella. Does this gesture have anything to do with paying tribute to the memory of fallen soldiers?

Vladimir Putin: First, the rain started unexpectedly, which it does now and then.

Second. I do not think that those who used their umbrellas broke any rule, especially women, since they do … Here, the artists know what women do. (Laughter) Therefore, they must take precautions and look good.

As for me, it never occurred to me. You know, war is not just about blood and death, no matter how sad it may sound. Of course, there is both blood and death, and they are part of the horrors of war. But, among other things, war is also about hard work. The troops either advance or retreat, and they are in the field all the time, during the day, at night, in the summer, in the winter, in the snow, and in the rain. They never catch a break. They do not go home when their fighting day is over. They live and die in the field. This is a terrible situation. So, it did not even occur to me that I could grab an umbrella at the very moment when the wreath was laid. Indeed, it was raining heavily, but I did not think about it. I did not make a decision to do something in particular. It simply did not occur to me that I could do something differently. I believe that this is normal. We are not made of sugar, we will not melt.

Question: Mr President,

My name is Eva. I am a pianist, in the art department.

I have a question that, I think, concerns many young musicians. Currently ninth-graders take four exams under the Main State Exam: Russian language, math, and two subjects of their choice. Is it possible for the students of specialised music schools to take the musical exam under the Main State Exam, such as specialty, musical literature, or solfeggio? After all, we devote most of our time to musical subjects.

Vladimir Putin: You know, this question should also be answered by experts. There is an Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, a corresponding ministry, and you also have mentors. I believe, but I am not well-versed in this subject, that it is possible. However, I am sure that there will be objections regarding the fact that if someone receives a certificate of education at a certain level, he or she must necessarily have a certain set of knowledge, and an all-round education. So, they will tell you, it is necessary that our students know this and that. However, in my opinion, I would listen to what you are saying, and I will talk with my colleagues about this.

Remark: Thank you.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Hello.

Question: It is good to see you in good form.

My question is this. Recently, Oliver Stone made a documentary film about you. Tell me, what do you think about the filming process as a whole? What about the film director? Did he take any liberty with the truth? And what did you like more – your interview with Vladimir Solovyov or this documentary?

Vladimir Putin: What I like the most about this film is Oliver Stone himself. He is a remarkable man, a profound, well balanced and pleasant interlocutor.

How was the process organised? I am a little hard put to say because it was so unexpected for me. Of course, I knew that a film crew would come but with the pressure of work – my press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, would come to me for the umpteenth time and say: “Mr President, it is time to go. They are waiting for you.” I would go and we would talk and then I would forget about them. However, they would not forget about me. They would return again and again. In other words, this happened several times – two, three, five – I do not even remember how many times we met.

Regarding how objectively they got everything across. From what I saw, and I did not see everything – as I said earlier, they gave me a cassette with all the episodes. I was flying home from abroad and I put it on to watch but fell asleep because I was tired, so I did not see it to the end but will definitely do so. Still, I believe – actually, I am sure that Oliver Stone is a very decent person and that he did not distort anything. From what I saw – to repeat, I saw one and a half instalments – everything is correct.

Question: Good afternoon, my name is Svetlana. I am at the Russian Ballet Academy in St Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: So I see. I could tell right away.

Question: I have a specific question. In May 2013, we had a grand event – the opening of the Mariinsky Theatre 2. After that, the Mariisky Theatre 1, the historical stage, was to have been renovated. However, time is going by and nothing is happening. What could – let me put it this way – help expedite this process?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know. This needs to be taken up with Valery Gergiev. I do not think there are any financial problems behind this process and I do not think that there are any difficulties with architectural or other agencies. When the new buildings were built – you are a young girl, but surely you know that there was a lot of controversy in St Petersburg about whether such a modern building as the second stage should be introduced into the city’s architectural ambience. However, finally, a decision was made to build it and it was built. In my opinion, it is one of the best theatres in the world in terms of technical equipment, acoustics and convenience for both the performers and the audience.

Regarding the old stage, everything should be simply renovated – there are no difficulties or disputes there. I will look into this, I promise you, but I do not know what has caused the delay. Maybe someone is not ready for this. I do not know, maybe Mr Gergiev’s repertoire is so arranged that at this point he wants both stages to be in operation. I will find out, but there will be no problems. We will renovate the old building as well.

There is another, more pressing problem there: Troupe members need housing. We are currently working on this and Mr Gergiev is thinking about it, too. He is working on it but I will help him.

Yes, please.

Question: My name is Alisa. I study science. Here is my question. What event in your life influenced you most?

Vladimir Putin: An event in my life?

Remark: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: You have put me in a somewhat difficult spot. There were probably no such events that caused a sudden change, or rather there were, but as for the influence… I will try to talk seriously. Perhaps it was the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is an adult answer, sorry, but you asked me an adult question.

Yegor Kolyvanov: Tell us, please, what year you were born.

Remark: 2000.

Yegor Kolyvanov: The girl was not even there to see it.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Maria. Here is my question. How did you do at school? What do you remember from the school curricula?

Vladimir Putin: I did fine at school, but nothing outstanding. What I found curious and what, I believe, is important for you as well, is that I studied at one school up to eighth grade, including the eighth grade, and then moved to another school. It was a school affiliated with a technological university and it specialised in natural sciences: chemistry, physics.

I went there, but something occurred to me, and I decided to enter the law department at university. But when I saw what entrance exams had to be passed in the law department, I realised that I might have made the wrong choice. In order to pass the exams, I needed to improve my foreign language skills, which were very poor, and to focus on history and literature. My teachers immediately noticed that.

But what is important and what I would like to say now is that I am very grateful to my teachers. They noticed me, summoned me and asked me: “Will you study?” I told them honestly that I made up my mind to go to university. They asked me just one question: “Are you being serious? Is that true?” I said: “Yes.” “In that case,” they said, “you should do this, this and this.” I said: “Yes, I know it.” And they deserve credit, they helped me, took care of me. I am still grateful to them for their help. I got into university and graduated. And so on and so forth.

So, first, it is important to decide as soon as possible, make this choice and, second, it is important to understand how to attain your goal, what is necessary for it. And, of course, it is very important to meet understanding people who would support you. I was lucky to have such people.

Sergei Malozyomov: Mr President, many have the same goal you were talking about, I think actually everyone who has come to Sirius.

I wanted to note that the talk we are having today is serious, unchildish – by the way, this is our event’s official hashtag that girls and boys use when posting their pictures on social media. Is it also unchildish because many of those present here are engaged into activities that many adults would find complicated.

As one of the people behind the popular science programme Chudo Tekhniki (Technological Marvels) on NTV, I have found here many potential themes and characters, and they are absolutely grown-up.

For instance, the Aircraft of the Future is a device designed after a living organism – its creators will now speak about it in detail. Please, go ahead, this is very interesting.

Remark: Good afternoon, I am Sasha.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Sasha!

Remark: I am from Moscow.

While developing this aircraft, we used optimisation technologies which replicate the evolutionary process – that is, we used the latest programmes to develop the fuselage virtually.

Vladimir Putin: Naturalistic technologies are the most promising area.

Remark: Biological design. And we checked which zones of the material were used the least in analysing the stress, and we got rid of them. So we made a fuselage with a shape similar to an animal skeleton, and this shape is the most optimal one.

Vladimir Putin: What animal?

Remark: We will see how it will come out.

Sergei Malozyomov: They removed everything unnecessary, with only bones and ligaments left.

Vladimir Putin: Can I see it?

Remark: Sure.

Sergei Malozyomov: The result was a very light structure to save fuel and material.

Remark: I also have to say that one rather important point of our project is that we are the first to have used the optimisation technology for developing not separate parts but the whole of the aircraft fuselage.

Sergei Malozyomov: Guys, have you got a question to ask the President?

Remark: Yes, our team would like to ask a question on behalf of the Future of Aviation section that built that drone. I’ll pass the microphone to my colleague.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President, My name is Alexei, I am from St Petersburg.

As is known, the main sources of energy in Russia are non-renewable resources such as oil, natural gas and coal.

Vladimir Putin: Well, actually, that is debatable, they are said to be renewable to a certain degree, but it does not matter.

Remark: But the resources may one day run out. And what will happen when that happens? How do you see the energy future of our country?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, it is not going to happen any time soon. We keep on discovering more and more new deposits, confirmed ones at that. This concerns all the hydrocarbon raw materials: oil, gas and coal. As for what will happen, you and I know perfectly well: I think you are quite aware that the whole world is working on hydrogen energy, on renewable sources of energy, on bio fuels. Humankind has a wide variety of choices. The challenge is that it should be more efficient and cheaper than hydrocarbons. But this issue must be addressed today, and we must think about it today.

I have already quoted one of Saudi Arabia’s energy ministers, I like that quote very much: he said the Stone Age ended not because people ran out of stones but because new technologies appeared. It is the same here, new technologies keep springing up, and we must be on top of this progress, we have to think about it now and get ready for it. And we do, we do so fairly actively in various fields. And I hope we will be fully plugged in when it becomes necessary.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Daniil, I am from Dolgoprudny in the Moscow Region. I would like to ask you whether there will be further material support for the projects that we are doing here in Sirius and the many projects by budding inventors throughout Russia? Or will they never see the light of day?

Vladimir Putin: As for whether they will see the light of day or not, I would like all of them to. Of course, this largely depends on how interesting they are, how much demand there is for them and what prospects they have. We have a whole system of grant support for young researchers in different areas. You have probably heard that in 2010 we launched mega grant support. But this is for outstanding scientists who have worked both in our country and abroad. Many of them came to Russia and established, if I remember well, 200 large labs since 2010. I met with them several months ago. They asked me to extend this programme and we have done so.

We have established several options of grant support for young researchers. One is individual support for, I think, a year or a year and a half. A small sum is allotted for it but it is still 1.5 million roubles. There is also support for research groups. Three million roubles are earmarked for it, and it may be extended. I think its term is two years plus another three.

And there is also support for labs. This is for a fairly large team of researchers and the grant is already 30 million roubles.

This year we allocated an additional three billion roubles. In all, we will earmark 50 billion roubles for the grant support system in the next few years. Let me repeat that this is an additional sum. Apart from funding science, academic science in general, all this is aimed at supporting young researchers.

By the way, those colleagues whom I met in Moscow, in the Kremlin, who asked me to extend grant support, spoke about the need to attract young scientists in many areas, such as environmental protection, agricultural sciences, physics and artificial intelligence. Work is being conducted in all of these areas. In the framework of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, we have several options for supporting young specialists in various areas, for instance, Rusnano and Skolkovo that is building technology parks now. Technology parks for children are being established in 24 regions; 24 technology parks have been set up for young people, and another 17 technology parks will be established in 17 regions before the end of this year. So in general, there are places for you to go. I wish you good luck.

Sergei Malozyomov: Mr President, when we spoke here with young inventors, scientists and innovators another problem came up. They want not only financial but also legislative support. For instance, there is Sasha Kesarin, a molecular biologist from Pskov. Were you 14 when you illegally went to a university and a lab? Formally his documents did not allow him to go there but he made a deal and went there all the same. Tell us about it.

Alexander Kesarin: I was working on ecology when I went into a university because our labs did not have the necessary equipment and there were no specialised labs for research in biochemistry and molecular biology. But I have a different question: How can young researchers get a license for a patent? Under the legislation, this is not quite legal because such permits are issued to people 18 and older, if I am not mistaken. Or am I wrong? What about children who managed to create something when they are 14 or 15, before coming of age? They simply cannot act as entrepreneurs or engage in such activities.

Vladimir Putin: Look, as for entrepreneurship and the age when it becomes legal and full-fledged, our current legislation, our law allows a person upon reaching 14 years to be employed but it is necessary to observe many labour rules and restrictions. They apply to the number of hours of work per day and per week, and also other aspects. For instance, if a young man studies, he must be granted opportunities to continue his education and so on. There is a whole package of requirements.

Next stage is 16 years – 16-year-olds are allowed.

As for entrepreneurship, there really are certain restrictions. What do they involve? Say, a 14-year-old man is not quite legally competent. Suppose, a person involved in business at this age wants to take out a loan. Who will be responsible to the creditor? There are also a number of other consequences. But I still think that considering how this area of activity is developing and that many young people starting at age 14 can do it, it is necessary to make this legal. It is simply essential to think over an arrangement that would guarantee human rights without creating additional complications from the standpoint of exploitation of child labour, responsibility and the like. This can be done in principle. I have already thought about this. I will instruct the Executive Office and we will give it a try.

As for patent protection, to be honest, I do not see any problems or restrictions here. If someone invents something it does not matter what his age is. His invention must be protected. At that point, without attracting any financing, it is possible to receive an income and this income must be fully legalised. I agree with you completely.