Official President of Russia Kremlin Moscow: Vladimir Putin answered journalists’ questions on the results of the two-day G20 Summit.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
Allow me to skip any statements and monologues. You have seen and heard everything, a great deal. Let us get straight to questions.
Go ahead, please.
Question: Mr President, both experts and ordinary people, some of whom are rampaging near this building now, are known to have different opinions on the usefulness of G20 summits. At this summit, for example, there was more talk about your meeting with Mr Trump. And yet which of the issues discussed by the G20 is most relevant for Russia? Thank you.
We agreed on determining global economy sustainability principles, and this is vitally important for working along the same standards.
Then we continued with the issue which in fact had been launched in St Petersburg: money laundering and everything connected with tax havens and tax evasion. It is a crucial matter with practical implications.
Next, no less important and also connected with the economy, a related but very important issue – the fight against terror, tracking money flows to prevent the funding of terrorism.
Finally, a very big and very sensitive issue is climate change. I think in this respect the Federal Republic of Germany chairing the G20 has managed to reach the best compromise in a difficult situation the chairing nation has found itself in, namely due to the US quitting the Paris Climate Agreement. An agreement was reached, a compromise, when all the countries have recorded that the United States pulled out of the agreement but they are ready to continue cooperating in certain areas and with certain countries on addressing climate change challenges. I think this is a positive result in itself, which can be credited to Chancellor Merkel.
There are other issues we looked into. For example, digital economy. Here we proposed adopting common rules in the area of digital economy, defining cybersecurity and designing a comprehensive system of behaviour rules in this sphere.
We said today – the President of the South African Republic spoke very convincingly about it; in fact, this issue was touched upon in practically everyone’s speech and in some way it is reflected in the final documents – that we must be ready for the release of the labour force, we must make joint efforts, we must figure out what should be done with the workers who have lost their jobs, how to arrange retraining, what the deadlines are and what rules should be put in place.
Among other things I drew attention to the fact that trade unions will have to be engaged because they will protect not only the workers but also the self-employed individuals operating in the digital economy, and the number of such jobs is increasing. This is connected in one way or another with women’s rights and education for girls. This is being discussed at many forums but we talked about it today in the context of digital economy.
Overall, this forum is definitely effective, and I believe it will play a role in stabilising the global economy in general.
Question: Mr President, I would like to follow-up on my colleague’s topic. Even though there were many political issues at the summit, they keep on surfacing at the G20 summits more and more often, yet you listed economic issues, which remain the priority anyway. Many speakers, ministers from different countries responsible for the economy, said that 2017 could become the year of global economic growth. How feasible is that and will this growth be seen in Russia in view of the current unfavourable trends – sanctions, restrictions and other factors?
Vladimir Putin: We have not seen any unfavourable trends so far, or they have almost disappeared at any rate. Certain factors are having a negative impact on economic development, including in the global economy, the economy in the Eurozone and in Russia, those same illegitimate restrictions you have mentioned. We call for lifting any restrictions, for free trade, for working within the World Trade Organisation, in line the WTO rules. By the way, one of the topics discussed here was free trade and countering protectionism. This is also one of the crucial areas that should be mentioned.
On the whole, there is some progress. However, the initial optimistic growth forecasts have been downgraded. Nevertheless, there is growth, and it is apparent, including in Russia.
I said recently and repeated it here that Russian economic growth is tangible, the Russian economy, and we can say this with certainty, has recovered from the recession. We have been growing for the third quarter in a row, and soon it will be the fourth quarter in a row. Growth exceeded 3 percent in May: it was 3.1 percent. I think we will have an average of 2 percent in 2017. This is also a significant contribution to the global economic growth.
Let me remind you that we also have low unemployment of 5.2 percent, our reserves are growing, including the reserves of the Central Bank and the Government. The Central Bank reserves have already reached $412 billion. The federal budget revenues grew by 40 percent, and all this is happening against the background of fairly low inflation of 4.4 percent. All this taken together certainly gives us optimism; however, one cannot say with certainty that this is a long-term trend. We must take care to sustain this growth trend. I have every reason to believe that we will manage to do it.
Question: Mr President, your meeting with President Trump was literally the focus of everyone’s attention at the summit. How do you access the results of this meeting? It is no secret that US President had voiced a rather tough rhetoric in Poland, and there had even been unfriendly statements from US media in the run-up to the summit. Did Mr Trump ask you directly about Russia’s interference in the US [presidential] election? Did you like him personally? Do you think you will get along?
Vladimir Putin: The US President asked me this question directly, and we discussed it. And this was not a single question, there were many, and he gave much attention to this issue. Russia’s stance is well-known and I reiterated it. There is no reason to believe that Russia interfered in the US election process.
But what is important is that we have agreed that there should not be any uncertainty in this sphere, especially in the future. By the way, I mentioned at the latest summit session that this directly concerns cyberspace, web resources and so on.
The US President and I have agreed to establish a working group and make joint efforts to monitor security in the cyberspace, ensure full compliance with international laws in this area, and to prevent interference in countries’ internal affairs. Primarily this concerns Russia and the United States. We believe that if we succeed in organising this work – and I have no doubt that we will – there will be no more speculation over this matter.
As regards personal relations, I believe that they have been established. This is how I see it: Mr Trump’s television image is very different from the real person; he is a very down to earth and direct person, and he has an absolutely adequate attitude towards the person he is talking with; he analyses things pretty fast and answers the questions he is asked or new ones that arise in the course of the discussion. So I think that if we build our relations in the vein of our yesterday’s meeting, there are good reasons to believe that we will be able to revive, at least partially, the level of interaction that we need.
Question: To follow up on of your answer, could you please say if President Trump has accepted your denial of Russia’s involvement, Russia’s interference in the US election?
Vladimir Putin: I repeat, he asked many question on this matter. I answered all of his questions as far as I could. I think he took note and agreed. But it would be better if you asked him about what he thinks about it.
Question: One more question about the domestic policy, if I may. Actually, it is unrelated to the G20 but the question is about Russia’s domestic policy. I would like to ask what you think of Alexei Navalny and his activities. And why you do not say his name and surname when you answer questions about him.
Vladimir Putin: I think we can engage in dialogue, especially at the level of the President or the Government, with the people who propose a constructive agenda, even if they voice criticism. But if the point is to attract publicity, this does not encourage dialogue.
Question: Earlier this morning you had a meeting with the French President and the German Chancellor. I assume you had an in-depth discussion on the situation in Ukraine. Did a new vision emerge, and is there any hope that Donbass will come out of the ordeal gripping it right now? Can the discussion of the issue launched with the US President play its role, or do the interests of Russia and the United States still diverge in Ukraine, or may be even oppose each other in some matters? Which, by the way, can be presumed from the background of the US diplomat who was appointed special envoy.
Vladimir Putin: The interests of Russia and Ukraine, the interests of the Russian and Ukraine people – and I am fully and profoundly confident of this – coincide. Our interests fully coincide. The only thing that does not coincide is the interests of the current Ukrainian authorities and some of Ukraine’s political circles. If we are to be objective, of course, both Ukraine and Russia are interested in cooperating with each other, joining their competitive advantages and developing their economies just because we have inherited much from the Soviet era – I am speaking about cooperation, the unified infrastructure and the energy industry, transport, and so on.
But regrettably, today our Ukrainian colleagues believe this can be neglected. They have only one ”product“ left – Russophobia, and they are selling it successfully. Another thing they are selling is the policy of dividing Russia and Ukraine and pulling the two peoples and two nations apart. Some in the West like this; they believe that Russia and Ukraine must not be allowed to get closer in any areas. That is why the current Ukrainian authorities are making active and successful efforts to sell this ”product.“
But I think this will eventually come to an end. Russia, at any rate, wants for this situation to be over as soon as possible.
As regards the United States’ involvement in settling the situation in Ukraine, President Trump and I have talked about this and we agreed – and actually, this has already been done – that a special representative of the administration would be appointed to handle this issue on a permanent basis and to be in constant contact both with Russia and Ukraine, with all the parties interested in settling this conflict.