Russia ‘borrowed NGOs law from foreign legal practices’
Below is the full text of Medvedev's interview with France Presse and Le Figaro (as translated by government.ru).
Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon.
Q: Good afternoon. Mr Prime Minister, you plan to visit France soon, next week. We know that you had good relations with Nicolas Sarkozy. How would you assess your cooperation with the new President of France, Francois Hollande? Do you expect any changes?
A: I believe that our relations with France have reached a level where they should not depend on who stands at the helm of our countries, although everything is much more complicated in politics. However, I honestly believe that over the past few years our relations have reached a very high level; they can be described as robust, strategic and mutually beneficial. I had a good relationship with the previous President of France, indeed, but I am sure that it is possible to develop equally good relations with the current French President and Government, and I do not doubt that we can do it. My certainty rests not on ideological reasons but on absolutely pragmatic considerations, because maintaining good relations is important for both Russia and France, and on a broader scope, for the whole of the European Union.
Q: Mr Medvedev, the French Government has expressed regret that bilateral economic relations do not correspond to the quality of political relations between France and Russia. Do you share this view? Is France sufficiently open to Russian investors?
A: I would say that there is no clear-cut answer to this question. On the one hand, we can be satisfied with the development of our trade and economic relations over the past few years. Compared to, say, 2005, trade between Russia and France has grown from approximately 10 billion dollars, not even euros, to $30 billion last year. It is true that our trade and economic cooperation has slackened this year, possibly due to price differences or some other reason. I hope that we will discuss these issues during my talks with my French colleague and the French President. But still, our cooperation has grown threefold. This may seem good, but on the other hand, our investment dynamics are not all that impressive, although there are many large projects underway with great potential, and the overall level of direct French investment accumulated in the Russian economy exceeds $10 billion.
By the way, the volume of Russian investment in France is considerably smaller. I believe there is an element of mistrust, or possibly administrative obstacles, hindering Russian investment in the French economy. I would like this to become a thing of the past and for us to invest in each other’s economies, because mutual investment in the strongest bond between countries and peoples. Hence, the situation is not bad, but it can be better still. As I see it, Russian investment in France, for example, would be beneficial, given the current economic situation and economic problems in the European Union and France – and the situation is far from simple in Russia as well. This is why talks on our economic relations are so multifaceted. We can be satisfied with what we were doing, but this does not mean that we should not strive for more.
Q: If I may – why is there this mistrust towards Russia?
A: I don’t know, you have to ask our French colleagues. But I think there are several aspects. It’s difficult for me to find arguments on behalf of French officials, but I think that, first, Russia has begun investing abroad relatively recently. Consequently, other countries are still cautious of Russian investors, Russian capital as a whole and Russian business – they want to see whether the capital is good or murky, and to determine the origin of that money. In general, these are logical questions at the first stage, but I’d say that Russia has progressed from the first level of the development of capitalism. It’s time to relax and understand that the overwhelming majority of Russian businessmen are law-abiding people who have earned their money honestly, and hence that this money can be invested in any assets, including French assets. So I believe that this is a history of growth. Of course, Russian businessmen should probably be more active, because I can count on the fingers of one hand the cases in which Russians have invested substantial sums in the French economy. This is not good.
Q: Your talks will probably focus on the crisis in the eurozone. Do you see it as a danger for Russia, since Russia always depends on the economic situation in the EU?
A: We believe this danger is rather serious. Otherwise, frankly, we would have planned Russia’s budget differently. As it is, we have adopted a very tight budget, given the strong interdependence between our economies. Let me remind you that the European Union accounts for 50% of Russia’s foreign trade, or 300 billion euros. Therefore, Russia’s situation depends to a large extent on that in the EU economies. We have to adjust our development scenario for the possible unfavorable developments in the EU and eurozone economies – hence our most recent budget rule, although it was not introduced just for this. It is necessary to count and spend our money wisely. But we could have planned a more relaxed budget anyway. Yet, we did what we think is right for the moment so as not to exceed certain limits. Russia has 41% of its international reserves in euros, so I have repeatedly assured my colleagues, the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany, that we strongly count on the euro to continue as a stable reserve currency. We have not taken any decision to withdraw from the euro, but we naturally feel some concern over what is happening in the EU and eurozone economies in general, and in those economies referred to as the “weak links” in Europe, such as Greece, Spain, in part, and some others. So this is not an idle discussion for us.
Q: Are you satisfied with the steps the European Union is taking to resolve its economic problems?
A: I would say that being “satisfied” or “dissatisfied’ is not a matter of choice for us. It is the French people who should say, “We like what they are doing,” or “we aren’t satisfied.” We are watching this with concern, because at times it seems that our European partners lack energy or political will in their decision-making. Then there’s this protracted debate about what's known as fiscal consolidation versus development (I still remember this discussion at the most recent G8 meeting) − a focus on the national economy or European solidarity.
This also largely depends on who is in power in specific countries, including France. In this respect, I would say I feel there has been a certain change from the policy pursued by Nikolas Sarkozy to that of President Francois Hollande. It seems to me that our EU partners are finally reaching some framework agreements. I only hope that they won’t be too late.
Allow me to stress that we are absolutely interested in the euro being used as a reserve currency, because it is not a matter of ideology for us, but a matter of pragmatism. We believe that the euro’s potential has not been exhausted. Although I know that there are many Euro-skeptics, we still insist that there should be as many reserve currencies as possible. This would make the global economy far more stable. The dollar, the euro, the Swiss franc, the British pound, and potentially, the yuan and the Russian rouble. The more stable this structure, the better. The rest is up to the EU citizens.
Q: France is debating a plan to raise taxes for the wealthy…
A: We are aware of this debate. I would like to emphasize that this is certainly up to the French Government and the French people. I think that, when it comes to tax policy, one should always stick to reasonable conservatism so as not to weaken the system, especially in times of crises. I could cite an example from the Russian tax system – we introduced a so-called flat rate a decade ago. Therefore, every Russian citizen, from low-income Russians to the super-rich, pays a tax of 13%. This idea has been much criticized. “Rich people and oligarchs should pay more,” we were told. This is fair. On the other hand, we do not want capital to flow out of the country or into the shadows. I am referring to the so-called grey wages, which are also quite common in Europe. We know that in Greece, for example, a considerable part of wages and salaries are distributed under the table, “in envelopes” – that is, they are not accounted for. Russia used to have this problem as well. However, after we changed the tax rate, most of the wages were legalised. Isn’t this a good thing? When reforming the tax system, one should consider such consequences as the outflow of capital. At the same time, one should not think that the Russian tax system is something that will exist forever and will never change, like a dogma. It can certainly be changed if needed. We are also continuously thinking about our tax system and its future. Between these two poles, as between Scylla and Charybdis, is where the truth lies. In any case I think that interfering with the tax system during a crisis is not a good idea. But that’s my personal opinion.
Q: France was the first major world power to recognize the new opposition coalition in Syria as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people and spoke in favor of arms supplies to the coalition. What is your estimate of this position?
A: It’s a very controversial one. This is France's own affair: France is a large, strong sovereign state, a nuclear power, and a member of the UN Security Council. Nevertheless, let me remind you that in keeping with the principles of international law, which the United Nations approved in 1970, not a single country, not a single state, not a single government should undertake any action directed at the forcible replacement of an acting government in any other country. This is a principle of international law. Therefore, when any state sides with a force that is not formally in power, this decision, at a minimum, is directed at tipping the balance of power in another country. I won’t speculate now, who should be blamed and who shouldn’t. In spite of existing perceptions, Russia supports neither the Assad regime, nor the opposition. We are neutral. As is only natural, we had and still have ties with the existing leadership. But, in fact, that’s not the point. The point is how correct it is at some moment in time to decide in favour of supporting another political force, if this political force is in direct opposition to the existing and officially recognised government of another country. From the point of view of international law, this seems to me absolutely unacceptable. What will be the fate of the Assad regime and Mr Assad’s personal fate? It’s up to the Syrian people to decide. Let this be decided, among others, by the opposition forces as well. It’s advisable that they should come to power via a legal procedure, not as a result of being supplied with arms by some other country. Therefore, the desire to influence another county’s government by recognizing some political force as the sole bearer of its sovereignty doesn’t seem to me entirely civilized.
We, at any rate, didn’t and won’t act in this way, even though we condemn what’s being done in connection with, let’s be frank, a very difficult situation in Syria. We also condemn the government’s actions because of the level of violence that has been allowed in the country. But we equally condemn the actions perpetrated by the opposition because they are also engaging in bloody confrontation. As a result, there has begun what, in effect, is a civil war. Therefore, the key to the problem is in talks at the negotiating table, elections, and the coming to power of the popularly supported political forces. And finally, the last thing we want to see is Syria falling apart, something that will lead to yet another source of tension in the Middle East. The religious extremists are certain to take advantage of this, which is not good for any country, be it Syria, France or Russia.
Q: But why is Russia, which has repeatedly emphasized its neutrality in this conflict, so actively cooperating with the Syrian government militarily?
A: I will answer this question because, first, I was the Commander-in-Chief not so long ago and all military decisions were my responsibility. But you know what job I have now. The thing is that military cooperation is a long-lasting affair, and this particular military cooperation has always been absolutely legal and open. We have never supplied anything to the current government that doesn’t conform to international conventions. What we have supplied are weapons intended for defense against an outside aggression. Second, we have contracts that must be honored. We don’t know how long a given political regime will exist; it’s up to the country itself and its people to decide. We would cease any supplies only in the event of international sanctions. I remember having to accept a decision in keeping – let me stress this point – with a UN Security Council resolution (there is nothing related to Syria in this respect) banning the delivery of certain types of armaments to Iran. This was done entirely under international law. So what now? Iran has sued for damages and now we have to deal with this problem. Yes, we did honour the Security Council resolution, but simultaneously we have fallen into a legal dispute with Iran. We knew what was going to happen, but nevertheless made our choice in favor of the international community. It’s a very fine point. It is for this reason that we still maintain a very limited scope of cooperation with the Syrian government in this area.
Q: I would like to touch on the issue of modernization. We currently see structural economic problems, continued dependence on energy resources, lack of progress towards a rule-of-law state and other problems which were not addressed during your presidential term. Many analysts believe that a kind of moratorium has been introduced … Hasn’t the policy of modernization, which you proclaimed, come to a halt?
A: I find it hard to argue with you. Indeed, modernization has not yet become a national precept, and we have failed to achieve any real progress. But, most importantly, we have started this work. All of us admit that Russia’s economy is not ideally balanced, that there is a disproportion, and that we rely too much on hydrocarbons, on crude oil and natural gas. We must modernize the economy, we must create an innovation economy, and we must introduce state-of-the-art technologies. Can this be accomplished in two or three years? Of course not; that’s impossible. But we have begun this work, and we continue to do it. The Government prioritizes this issue. Incidentally, the President also focuses on this issue. An ad hoc Presidential Commission, which I established, and which was retained by President Vladimir Putin as the Council for Economic Modernization and Innovative Development, continues to function. However, we are not moving ahead as quickly as we would like. Some organizational projects can be implemented more quickly, and some projects are more difficult. We have established special development institutions, including the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which should accomplish many of these objectives. We are establishing new innovation clusters, including a technology park and a largely new centre at Skolkovo. By the way, I have repeatedly discussed this issue with my French colleagues. I have discussed this with the President and the former Prime Minister during a previous visit. We are interested in the experience of your technology parks, which are also quite modern and interesting. I hope that we will be able to continue our cooperation in this area.
So we are moving ahead, although not as quickly as we would like. Most importantly we should not feel upset. On the contrary, we should continue to move ahead in the directions we’ve charted. We have identified some very important directions for the Russian economy, including the development of the nuclear power industry. And by the way, Russia and France compete with each other in this area. But there is nothing terrible about this; it's normal. Other efforts include bioengineering, the creation of a modern pharmaceutical industry, aerospace technology and many others. We consider these directions to be quite promising, and we have positive experience in these areas from the past. We will address all these issues, as well as new technologies.
Q: Your Government has actively advocated privatization in Russia and has launched a major program to privatize state assets. Does the purchase of TNK-BP by state-owned Rosneft run counter to this policy?
A: The Government is still advocating privatization. We continue to believe that privatization is an important economic process for Russia. On the other hand, this is not a straightforward process, and we don’t need privatization for the sake of privatization, although this is important symbolically. In what context? I have repeatedly discussed this. Privatization is an economic development tool. We don’t need a state-owned economy, we don’t need the majority of companies to be state-owned. However, the state has the right to maintain its presence in key and important sectors, including the nuclear power industry and the defense sector. This is standard international practice.
The deal you mentioned is something exceptional. In my opinion, it was motivated by trivial reasons. The shareholders should not have quarreled among themselves. One day, TNK-BP, which is an absolutely private company, became engaged in a deadly battle. They probably made a mistake by establishing a company on a fifty-fifty basis. When I was a lawyer, I always told my clients that they should never create anything on a fifty-fifty basis because it inevitably ends in a quarrel, and because they would be unable to agree on a director. Well, they created this successful and large company. But they decided to sell their shares within the context of these developments. And who will buy these assets? This is a good question. To be honest, we are not indifferent as to who will buy one of the largest oil companies in the Russian Federation. We were content when this company belonged to Russian and British business leaders. But we are paying attention to any possible suitors. So when Rosneft showed an interest in this asset, it seemed a better fit than the arrival of some hard-to-understand investor. I won’t name names, but you can guess.
And one more thing. Rosneft is a state-owned company, but this doesn’t mean that this will last forever. A substantial percentage of Rosneft shares are being floated freely. And this trend will continue. Rosneft will continue to sell shares. To be more exact, the Government will continue to sell Rosneft shares. Incidentally, a directive on selling a certain amount of Rosneft shares is sitting on my desk.
Q: When will you sign this document? Will you sign it next week, or next year?
A: Yes, perhaps I will go back and sign the document, after speaking with you.
Q: Does this mean privatisation?
A: Yes, this means privatization. In reality, this is part of the proposed deal. But, anyway, it implies privatization. And this does not mean that this will be the last transaction. Consequently, the Government should decide what is profitable, and to what level its involvement should be reduced. First, this might imply a level that’s more than a controlling interest. In the future, this could amount to any level, depending on various factors, including the priorities of any specific company and its economic state, as well as the state of the global economy.
Q: The detention of the Bolotnaya riot protesters on May 6 was strongly criticized in the West. Now the detainees are facing long prison terms. Don’t you think this response was too severe?
A: Whether it was severe or not is a matter of opinion. You know I’m not going to give examples of how European officials respond to violations of the law, what sanctions they impose, who is punished and how. It is absolutely useless to say “but look how you do things” and very unproductive in any relations. But I don’t think officials responded too harshly to this blatant violation of the law. You know, in foreign countries any protester who assaults a police officer would go to prison, no matter what their claims are and which side they are on, the opposition or the ruling party. In any country, if someone hits a police officer, he or she will be regarded as a criminal and will go to prison. I think all protest organisers should be well aware of this fact, regardless of whether they belong to the ruling party or the opposition. It is common practice.
Q: Is it true that after the new Russian president is sworn in, a major clamp down followed? There have been many new laws recently e.g. on foreign agents, protests. How do you see this?
A: I don’t know how you see it. If you feel that we are clamping down on the mass media to restrict its freedom then maybe it is true. But I disagree.
You know, priorities are always a political choice. Of course, everyone is free to analyse what is happening. But you should remember that our political situation is completely different from the political situation in 2008. The current system is different. Now we elect governors by a direct vote. Now we have many parties and 25 parties were represented in the last October’s local elections. We have received tens – no, hundreds of party registration applications. They will all be registered. The political landscape has changed and it will be followed by changes to the law.
You mentioned some specific acts and I can explain them. With regard to protests, it is the responsibility of the Government to regulate protests. I have to admit our society is not the best developed in this respect. We are only starting to understand the idea of an orderly protest. The purpose of protests is not to end up in a mass fight, but to express one’s view of the ruling power or something else. Therefore, the law must be observed. Changes to the law are totally natural, I think. I think you also mentioned…
Q: Foreign agents…
A: Foreign agents. As far as treason is concerned, I think we are talking only about formalities with regard to the changes to qualifying certain circumstances in a criminal case. This is nothing out of the ordinary. It is a pure formality.
As for foreign agents, our legislators actually borrowed it from foreign legal practices. The most important aspect is not the concept, but how it affects the spirit of the civil society. If I found out that a number of NGOs had to close or faced problems it would be a strong argument for both the legislators and me. But I haven’t heard of such cases so far. So this is a concept that has proved neither wrong nor right yet. The law is a living organism and it will continue to develop.
Q: So you mean freedom is not being restricted?
A: I think not. Although you know, everyone has their own idea of freedom. I remember talking about this in a speech – maybe in my annual address as a president if I recall it right. Who is a free person? It is not someone that the state defines as free by saying, “Of course you are free.” No, it is someone who can call themselves a free person whether they live in Russia, in Europe or in Africa. If one has internal freedom, one is a free person. If not, no liberal laws will make one free. It seems to me this is a very important idea for any regime and any rule of law, any democracy, including our young democracy, which still has many flaws and needs to be worked on.
Q: You have called for the release of Pussy Riot but the girls are still sitting in prison. What is preventing their release?
A: I didn’t call for their release, I simply stated my view. I am always precise in my judgments, being a lawyer by training and mentality. Actually what I said was the following: I detest what they have done and I detest their public image. From the moral point of view, it’s a very, very bad thing. But considering the fact that they spent quite a long time in custody during the pre-trial detention, I think they know the taste of prison full well. In this sense, the state has demonstrated to them its punitive capabilities and has explained to them that they should behave properly, from both the criminal-legal and moral points of view. Therefore, I don’t think that they need to serve a prison sentence any longer. But this is my personal view. The position of the court differs. There is a division of power in Russia: there is the judicial authority, there is the executive branch (including the Government), there is the President and there is Parliament.
Q: And the authorities cannot influence the courts?
A: Can they in France?
Q: In principle, no.
A: Nor can they in my country, in principle. It’s a very good answer. In principle, they can’t. Of course, we have the right to state our views, but, you know, I think the further the authorities (let me stress this – any authority, be it the executive branch, the legislature or even the President) are from the judiciary, the stronger the judiciary will be.
Q: I’d like to ask you about Mr Khodorkovsky…
A: Do I have to answer?
Q: Yes. Do you think that Khodorkovsky has been in prison for too long?
A: You know, any imprisoned person deserves pity because imprisonment is a very harsh punishment. On the other hand, there is the liability that the court determines. Where the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev case is concerned, the court has administered a lawful punishment. Whether the term is long or short is a very complicated matter because, as is obvious, any day spent in places of confinement is a long and difficult day. On the other hand, there is the court ruling. I, at any rate, while serving as President, said repeatedly that there was the court ruling, which everyone must respect. There is an opportunity to appeal. As far as I know, the second sentence is still in the process of being appealed. Finally, a convict has the right to a pardon. The said convicts have abstained from this right. I am not interested in analysing their reasons for doing so at this moment. The fact is, they didn’t use this right. If they had appealed to the President, the President would have decided whether to pardon them or not. But they didn’t appeal to me.
Q: Do you mean that the ball is still in their court?
A: Absolutely, as in the case of any person convicted by a court. If recognised as guilty, a person can apply for a pardon. People did so time and again when I was President. I rejected some lawsuits and accepted others. I think it’s absolutely normal.
Q: Nearly a year haspassed since the December 4 parliamentary elections and the first big protest rallies in Russia. How did you feel when these rallies began?
A: Well, to be honest, I felt many different emotions, but they were all centred around one thought: Our civil society has changed. It has become more active and the authorities must take this into consideration and react to this change. Everyone must respect the law, including those who do not like the current authorities or the policy of a given government, president, prime minister or party. But the authorities should change too, because a reasonable government that wants to maintain the ability to influence the situation should adjust to the level of development of civil society. I believe that I found the correct answer to that challenge: I proposed changing some very important foundations of our political system, which I have mentioned here, including the election of governors, new election legislation, and some other institutions, and these changes are being implemented now, including simplified rules for creating a party. As I see it, this reassured those who were dissatisfied with the political structure, because they saw that they could influence the political situation. They can create a party. When it is difficult to create a new party, you have to choose between four, five or seven parties, as it happened in the past. Today it is very simple to create a party. You want to start a party and promote it? Go ahead! There are many examples of this kind in history. I don’t think we will have a bipartisan system any time soon. Anyway, our political and party system is much closer to the European system, including the French system, where the number of parties is much larger. There will be political alliances, which is normal, which actually is the authorities’ answer to changes in civil society, the answer to public demand and the stance of the people.
Q: As President and as Prime Minister, you have censored Stalin’s actions more than once. But if Stalin is a criminal, why is he still buried by the Kremlin Wall?
A: You know, I am not only a man in the government and a former president, I am also a citizen of the Russian Federation. I have a personal stance on some issues, including Stalin and a number of his colleagues, his comrades. I have a strong negative opinion on this. But by no means does everyone support me on this issue, and there are some people who find [Stalin’s] methods of ruling the country very attractive. We had another discussion on this quite recently and I even had to post on social networks that these ideas can only be advocated by those who are sure that they will not be whisked away in a Black Maria and sentenced to 10 years in prison without the right of correspondence. You know what this phrase means, right?
Q: It means execution.
A: Yes, execution. So it’s easy to advocate tyranny when you live in an open country and know that you will not be arrested at night. However, some people believe that this is an effective method of governance. In general, nostalgia, or even yearning for the deceased dictators, is a widespread aberration. I believe there are people in France who yearn for some past regime or an authoritarian ruler. But this is my personal belief. I’d like to say again that a large number of people, a substantial number of people in Russia think differently. But this is what democracy is all about.
As for Stalin’s grave, this is a very delicate issue. No matter how negative my attitude to Stalin, I cannot close my eyes to what happened in the country during certain periods of its history and to the obvious achievements of the country’s political leadership, for example during the Great Patriotic War. Victory in this war was secured not only by the people, but also by the country’s leadership – these are inseparable elements. However, this is not the key issue: A huge number of very delicate aspects should be considered before a decision to rebury a major historical figure is taken, and this should be done with due consideration for the law and the basic need for tact and morals. This also concerns the graves of other Russian and Soviet leaders, from Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin to those who are buried along the Kremlin Wall.
Q: Can this issue be resolved quickly?
A: Again, I think that these decisions must be considered thoroughly so as to avoid clashes arising between different groups of people. In general, all aspects must be considered very carefully before disturbing graves. I see this as a major imperative. The rest is the issue of the authorities’ competence. We’ll see what eventually comes of it.
Q: You must understand that it is very strange when the leadership, when Mr Medvedev says that Stalin is a criminal, yet his grave is in the most prestigious place in Moscow. And this is alarming…
A: I have just said that, firstly, only a court can declare a person a criminal. But it is absolutely clear to me that the persecution campaigns carried out during Stalin’s rule claimed the lives of a huge number of people, no matter what our political opponents and the supporters of that Communist idea may say or write. This is one moment. Secondly, any grave is protected by law. It so happened that this particular grave is located in the centre of the country. But if we take the decision to rebury Stalin, it could raise questions about other graves. We cannot say that some of the people who were buried were bad and hence should be reburied, while others were apparently nice guys and so should be allowed to lie peacefully in their graves. There is a very difficult ethical question involved: Is it really right to have a cemetery in Red Square at all? On the one hand, all these decisions were taken before our time. But on the other hand, it is a question of symbols. What I definitely don’t want to happen is for political decisions to pit one group of people against another. I’d like to remind you that little over 20 years ago the country was ruled by the Soviet Communist Party, the overwhelming majority of the Soviet elite were Communist card-holders. A considerable part of modern society still believes in the victorious socialist idea of the old model. Any government must take this into consideration, because these are our citizens, these are our people.
Q: And our final questions, Mr Medvedev. Do you feel comfortable working as Prime Minister under President Vladimir Putin?
A: You know, I could hardly imagine myself serving as Prime Minister under any other President. Vladimir Putin is probably the only person with whom I would feel comfortable working after serving as President. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would have never agreed to serve as Prime Minister under any other President. Having been President, it is rather difficult to work as Prime Minister, even though it is a very challenging, ambitious, and interesting job. So, I am quite comfortable in this position.
Q: Do you miss the Kremlin?
A: The Kremlin is not an easy place to be. It is the heart of Russia and a very beautiful place, but to be honest with you, I don’t think of it as an architectural monument. It was my workplace for four long years. I believe that I did my job fairly and openly. I have long since decided for myself that you should not get attached to any specific job, since if this is the case you would never be able to work elsewhere. People, who think otherwise often have problems when they need to change jobs. And you should never think that you have been elected to any job indefinitely, whether it is as a village head or a President. Therefore, for me the Kremlin is a beautiful place and the heart of our country, but I also feel quite comfortable working at the Government House or the residence, where we are meeting today.
Q: A question about your political ambitions. Would you be interested in returning to the Kremlin in the future?
A: I certainly am not ruling out this possibility, provided I am in sufficient health and strength, and that people want to see me in this position in the future. But this will depend on many factors. I have said this before that you should never rule out anything. As the saying goes, never say never – especially since I have already stepped into this river once, and this is one of those rivers in which you can step twice.
Q: And in that event, your Prime Minister would be …?
A: This is a good ending. We’ll have a completely different political situation then, because nothing like this is happening yet. Today, we are working in specific political conditions, and we need to repay the trust that the people have given us. I am referring to the mandate that was given to President Putin and, accordingly, the trust and powers that were transferred to me as Prime Minister.
Q: Will Russia be different then?
A: Russia is different every day and every year. Everything is changing. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.