Dmitry Peskov, First Deputy Press Attaché to the Russian President
First Deputy Press Attaché to the Russian President
1967 - Born in Moscow
1989 - Graduates, Institute of Asia and Africa, Moscow State University
1989 - Joins Soviet Foreign Ministry
1990 - Duty Assistant, Attaché, Third Secretary, Russian Embassy, Ankara, Turkey
1994 - Returns to Russian Foreign Ministry
1996 - Second Secretary, then First Secretary, Russian Embassy, Ankara, Turkey
2000 - Section Head, media relations at the Presidential Press Office, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Press Office and Deputy Press Attache to the President, Russia
2000 - First Deputy Press Attache to the Russian President
RT: First of all, have you thought of what you are planning to do after Mr Putin leaves office and the Kremlin?
Dmitry Peskov: Well, not yet. This is actually what the President keeps telling us. That it’s not time for predictive moods, but it is time to continue working very intensively, as always. So, I think we have other 10-11 months of a hard job. And after that we will all have to think and re-think our future plans.
RT: Let’s get back to politics. This week you published an article in the Guardian where you comment on the recent announcement of Boris Berezovsky that he is plotting a violent overthrow of President Putin. Why do the claims of a fugitive billionaire cause such an outrage in Moscow?
D.P.: Well, actually we have heard from Mr Berezovsky these kinds of calls for using violence in order to change the existing regime in Russia a number of times previously. We all remember his interview to the Ukrainian media and his other statements. But this is for the first time when we have heard these statements in this obvious way pronounced on British territory in an interview with the British press, with the Guardian. Of course, the criminal aspect of his claims and statements is extremely obvious. And, of course, it brought the necessity for us to react. I wouldn’t demonise his statements. I wouldn’t overestimate the importance of his threats. But the fact that we heard threats from British soil, of course, makes our reaction inevitable and necessary.
RT: But what does it matter at all for you, for the Russian President? I have a quote: “Who cares about the fantasies of a man in self-imposed exile, speaking from the luxury of his London home?” That is your question from your article. Is the Kremlin really so afraid of Berezovsky’s threats?
D.P.: No, definitely not. He really is too far from reality. And he is enjoying his life too much, his luxury life in London.
RT: Are you sure he is enjoying it?
D.P.: Well, right now his situation is quite uncomfortable. I can bet it’s uncomfortable. The importance of his threats is not so valid for Russia. Russia has changed dramatically after that gentleman left our country. Now it’s a completely different country. I think it’s not so vulnerable to external threats. This is a country where you simply cannot think about any revolutions, actually. It is a country that is fed up with revolutions. And the people of this country would not support the idea of a revolution, because they now feel the positive impact of evolution and development.
RT: This is time when one generation can compare living through a revolution to living in a time of stability. They can compare their own lives and say what is better.
D.P.: Exactly. And I belong to that generation. I remember I graduated from the university when there was Soviet Union. And my career started when it was a transition period – so I saw the transition of this country. And I think I have a right to make this judgment. Life is getting better.
RT: Mr Berezovsky claims that he is “bankrolling certain groups including people close to President Putin who are conspiring to mount a palace coup”. Can you name those groups and, maybe, those people who Berezovsky is recruiting and bankrolling?
D.P.: I am sure this statement of Mr Berezovsky is nothing but bluff. Of course, he is doing whatever is possible, let’s say, make his importance as pumped-up as possible. And this is one of the examples. I don’t think that he is in contact with anyone from the presidential administration and people close to President Putin. But I have no doubts that he is in contact with some think-tanks or some political movements, of course, closer to oppositional circles.
RT: So, this declaration by Mr Berezovsky didn’t make Vladimir Putin look with suspicion at people in his inner circle thinking “maybe this is the guy”?
D.P.: I don’t think so. Frankly speaking, I exclude such a possibility, because the whole team – the government, the presidential administration – is a team of people devoted to ideas shared by President Putin.
RT: In your article you call upon the British government, I quote, “To keep its action against those who incite violence a high priority”. But, why isn’t Boris Berezovsky still extradited to Russia?
D.P.: Our prosecutors have demanded his handover numerous times, and they have got refusals from the British side up to this moment. We don’t know the reason why the British side found our proofs insufficient, that he may have something in common with fraud allegations in the Aeroflot case, and other cases. But this time it is obvious, his statements are considered a crime not only in accordance with Russian law, but also in accordance with British law and that makes the story different.
RT: So it’s making it harder for the British?
D.P.: Of course, it makes the story different. We all understand that the British Court is independent, and that a possible decision to extradite Mr Berezovsky that could be taken by the government could be brought to the court. But if this statement is not sufficient for this kind of decision, then we will doubt the quality of that court.
RT: Do you really believe that Mr Berezovsky will be handed over to Moscow and put on trial in this country, or, your intensions are just to put him away further from civilisation and out of Britain?
D.P.: Of course, if one country’s Prosecutor General’s Office has got questions to a certain man; they would do whatever is possible to get that man to ask the questions. It means that our efforts will continue to meet him in Moscow for further procedures. We have to show that punishment and investigation is inevitable.
RT: This weekend the world press was covering the Marches of Disagreement in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhniy Novgorod. Was the scale of the protests in Russia exaggerated by the media? Don’t you think that the government’s reaction was actually an over-reaction to what actually happened?
D.P.: In domestic media, the scale of those actions was not exaggerated. Everybody accepts that the actions were quite limited by the number of participants. But of course the very fact of these actions draws extreme attention by the foreign media. And when it comes to foreign media, I think that a certain exaggeration took place. Whether police and law enforcement overreacted or not during these actions, I think that some overreaction really took place, but the main goal was to ensure law and order during those actions.
RT: We heard a lot of hard talk towards Russia recently. Yulia Timoshenko’s statements about fighting Russia’s imperial ambition, the State Department’s report concerning human rights in Russia, Mr Berezovsky interview, the Marches of Disagreement in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhniy Novgorod, so, do you think that President Vladimir Putin had a certain personal reaction, emotional reaction to these events? Do you know of such a reaction by the President?
D.P.: Of course, the President will never approve attempts to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs. He would also, as he stated numerous times, welcome objective criticism about Russia and about his personal steps, but he would never let any country interfere in Russia’s affairs. I wouldn’t put all these events in one line.
RT: That was my next question. Do you think they are not linked, or do you think that they are masterminded from one centre somewhere?
D.P.: If we speak about these actions of protest, let us not forget that they are marginal, and sometimes the attempts by police to ensure law and order in the streets brings the image of something bigger than it is in reality. And when we speak about the reports that were issued in the U.S. about the claims of Yulia Timoshenko and some other statements, well, these are some kind of reports, it is a traditional practice. Maybe, the degree of criticism is getting harsher and it is quite understandable. Russia is getting closer to the elections and, of course, certain countries are doing their best to get involved in the process and to enjoy, as they hope, their influence over the process that is going on in this country. Yulia Timoshenko is actually making a replica of a famous telegram of one of the U.S. ambassadors. It is a very well-known story. So, these are not the unique ideas of Yulia Timoshenko. And we know about these ideas. Of course, it is the arena of politics, the arena of international politics, which is full of rivals and full of competition. Sometimes it is fair competition and sometimes it is unfair competition. And when Russia is getting back on its feet, when Russia is performing some unbelievable development tempos, of course, there is someone who is not satisfied with it.
RT: Do you think it is rather a reaction to Russia getting stronger than a plot?
D.P.: Yes, I think so. I think it is a reaction to Russia getting stronger.
RT: Some people say that what is going on today, especially in the rhetoric between Russia and the West, resembles the times of the Cold War. And this is actually what Yulia Timoshenko is calling for – for a new Cold War. She even calls Ukraine “the new border of the Cold War between Russia and the West”. Do you believe that the Cold War is coming back?
D.P.: I wouldn’t share this idea. And in his Munich speech, President Putin insisted that the main idea of that speech was not about confrontation, it was about just taking into account each other interests; it’s about avoiding unilateral decisions that potentially could harm the interests of the your neighbours, of another country. Yes, we have sometimes very big disagreements with Europeans and with the U.S., but it doesn’t mean that we are on a brink of a Cold War. On the contrary, the more intense relations we have the bigger problems we get. And these problems are inevitable. But, thanks to the atmosphere of co-operation, and to the developed level of this co-operation, including political and economic co-operation, we have the potential for solving these problems.
RT: Many experts are still examining the Munich speech, which was pretty hard. The speech doesn’t seem to have been provoked by some statements or actions of other governments, so, can’t we say that the Kremlin actually started this hard debate?
D.P.: This speech was actually provoked in the long run. It was a good opportunity and informal atmosphere to say for the first time openly what was said previously during one-on-one negotiations.
RT: So, was it a good chance for Mr Putin to show his emotional attitude to what’s going on in the world?
D.P.: I would disagree that it was emotional. It was not emotional at all, it was calculated well, believe me.
RT: Well, but it sounded emotional, didn’t it?
D.P.: Yes, of course, because the public opinion had a chance to hear what was said during one-on-one negotiations for the first time.
RT: Here is another quotation from the article of Mr Berezovsky. “There is no chance of regime change through democratic elections,” he says. What makes him say so, after Mr Putin won two consecutive elections when he has 70% support by the end of his second term?
D.P.: He is trying to show the existing Russia, personally President Putin, the Kremlin and the Russian government as evils that have to be eliminated before Russia becomes really “free and democratic” in his understanding. But in his understanding a free and democratic Russia categorically doesn’t correspond with reality. Of course, he has got used to a different Russia, to a Russia which provides the opportunity for such people as himself to make illegal business, to enjoy some illegal situations, to enjoy the power of oligarchs. Of course, he misses those times and he would want to bring that Russia back.
RT: Does that mean that Mr Berezovsky doesn’t believe the Russian President when he says that he will not stay for the third term?
D.P.: Frankly speaking, I don’t want to be an advocate for Mr Berezovsky, and to guess what he meant by saying this or that.
RT: Can you explain, why is Mr Putin completely ruling out the possibility of a third term? Because, everybody wants stability and 70% of Russians are in favour of Mr Putin as a President. The majority of the foreign businessmen who work with this country to whom I personally talked said that if Putin would run for the third term would all be in the streets saying “good move”. Why is he ruling it out? Don't we all want stability in this country?
D.P.: We all want stability in this country. And we have no doubt that the succession during the transition from the existing President to the future one will ensure the continuation of this stability. But stability to a great extent means an untouchable Constitution, and this is the main idea of the President. He said that he could not permit any changes in our Constitution just for the sake of prolonging one more term. It is definite that Mr Putin will leave his office nearly within a year. And there will be a new President and there will be democratic elections. There will not be any successor, and the main idea is not the question who is going to be the successor, but that we have to ensure the succession of the main course.
RT: When you say that there is not going to be a successor you mean that there is not going to be a successor named by the President?
D.P.: Yes, of course. As he told us, he has the right to give advice to those who are going to vote. He is the most popular politician in this country and, of course, he has the right to give advice. And he will enjoy that right.
RT: It means to use his popularity to try to promote somebody who he would choose as a successor?
D.P.: Like every citizen in this country he will be listening to the electoral programmes and promises of the candidates. And he will have the right just to say that, in accordance with his personal view, this or that candidate would be the best.
RT: Is that what he told you?
D.P.: No, that was actually what was said publicly by the President at the last press-conference.