On Wednesday, April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his Address to the Federal Assembly. In the speech, Putin annually expresses his assessment of the state of affairs in the country and his vision of the main tasks for the future.
Today's speech became Putin's 17th Address to the Federal Assembly. Putin, who was vaccinated against the coronavirus, appeared for the speech in person, but there were restrictions imposed at Moscow's Manezh, where the event was held.
Usually, about 1,000 guests are invited to the ceremony - deputies, senators, members of the cabinet, representatives of the presidential administration, heads of the Prosecutor General's Office, Constitutional and Supreme Courts, heads of regions, etc. This year the number of guests has been reduced, and the venue has been sanitized. To take part in the event, one had to take three coronavirus tests on April 16, 19 and 20. All guests were seated in accordance with health safety requirements.
The topics of the 2021 Address to the Federal Assembly were not announced in advance. It was believed that Putin's speech would be especially important not only in view of the economic consequences of the pandemic, but also because of the ongoing escalation on the border with Ukraine and the crisis in Russia's relations with the West.
Starting his speech, the President of Russia said that this year's Address would be devoted primarily to internal problems based on the epidemiological situation in Russia.
“We are dealing with absolute uncertainty,” the president said, referring to events of last year when the world faced the coronavirus pandemic.
"The number of patients who required urgent hospitalization was constantly growing. Many hospitals were overcrowded, there was a real threat of the shortage of oxygen, including in intensive care units. Ventilators, respirators, and personal protective equipment were distributed piece by piece. The stocks of most essential items were decreasing in the commodity network: cereals, butter, sugar," Putin said.
However, Russia managed to reach a five-fold increase in the number of hospital beds for admitting patients with coronavirus within a very short period of time. Putin praised medical workers who risked their lives to fight the pandemic and thanked the scientists who contributed to the fight against the infection.
The coronavirus pandemic has struck a serious blow on the demographic situation in Russia, Putin said.
“Our strategy is to re-enter sustainable population growth, to ensure that in 2030 the average life expectancy in Russia amounts to 78 years. Statistics give us, unfortunately, disappointing and upsetting numbers. We see a certain decline. But we are not canceling our strategic goals in this direction," Putin said.
The coronavirus has not yet been defeated, the president stressed and urged everyone to keep the situation under control to curb the spread of the virus. He asked governors to monitor the situation, pointed to the importance of vaccination and called on all Russians to get vaccinated.
The heart is one of the targets of the coronavirus infection, and the president suggested that the government implements a program to combat heart disease and other causes of premature death.
The pandemic has shown that there are many unresolved issues in Russia's health care system. Nevertheless, health care systems in any other countries of the world could not handle the attack of the coronavirus pandemic properly, Putin said.
In the near future, according to the president, the park of ambulance vehicles will be renewed in Russia. Russians should have access to latest medical technologies, the president said.
The coronavirus pandemic has struck a blow to the well-being of not only Russians, but all people - it became a challenge for all countries of the world.
Russia faced rising prices. Yet, one should not rely on targeted measures here, Putin stressed. This may lead to empty shelves in stores, as was the case in the Soviet Union. Market regulation mechanisms are needed here to stabilize food prices in the long term. Therefore, the president stressed, the authorities will not set food prices by directive.
Putin promised a one-time payment of 10,000 rubles ($134) for families with children of school age. The payment will be made for each child of school age in every Russian family in mid-August of 2021, including the children who will start going to school in September of this year, President Putin said, noting that helping families with children was a very important area of work.
In addition, this year, children between 8 and 16 years of age living in single-parent families will be eligible to a payment of 5,650 rubles. Putin also suggested supporting pregnant women in need with a monthly allowance of 6,350 rubles.
The President drew attention to the importance of scientific projects. He reminded that 2021 is the Year of Science, and this year Russia will allocate more than a trillion rubles for scientific purposes.
First and foremost, the country needs a powerful sanitary shield. Russia must have a full cycle of the production of vaccines and drugs. Russia should be prepared to develop test systems against new dangerous diseases that threaten the population within four days.
He expressed confidence that the young generation of Russian scientists will make a name for themselves in new projects. For this purpose, the government will allocate grants to 100 universities in Russia to open student technology parks. Universities will create additional 45,000 state-funded openings.
It is necessary to improve business climate in the country, and Putin asked the government to submit additional measures to support small and medium-sized businesses, including credit, tax and sales expansion measures, within a month.
Russia is a welcoming country, open to true friends, Putin said. Therefore, as soon as the situation improves, Russia will start letting tourists in again. A simplified procedure will be used to issue electronic visas for foreign tourists in only four days.
"The task is simple: people from most countries should have an opportunity to issue an electronic visa to travel to Russia remotely, without unnecessary formalities and in just four days," Putin said.
He recalled the 2018 FIFA World Cup experience and said that in the future, when coronavirus restrictions are lifted, millions of tourists from all over the world will be able to come to Russia again.
Speaking about foreign policy issues, the president said that Russia will always find a way to defend its position in front of those countries that talk to Russia arrogantly.
Vladimir Putin warned that those who stage any provocations against fundamental interests of Russia's security "will regret their deeds to the extent that they have never experienced in a long time."
“Yet, I hope that it will not occur to anyone to cross the so-called red line in their relations with Russia, and it will up to us to determine where this line will go in every specific case,” the president stressed.
"If other countries do not want to conduct a dialogue and choose an arrogant tone, then Russia will find a way to protect its interests," Putin said.
Speaking about the increasing pressure on Russia from the West that regularly imposes sanctions against the Russian Federation, Putin said that this "practice of unfair sanctions is developing into something more dangerous."
Putin proceeded to talking about the attempted coup in Belarus. He recalled that they wanted to take Minsk into a blockade and cut electric power supplies in the city.
“One may have different opinions about Lukashenko, but the practice of organizing assassinations is over the top,” Putin said.
"In some countries, a nasty custom has taken roots - to 'cling' to Russia on any pretext. It is some kind of sport...We truly do not want to burn bridges, and want to have good relations with all members of the international community. But if someone perceives our goodwill as indifference or weakness, and is prepared to completely burn, or even blow up, those bridges, Russia's response will be asymmetrical, speedy and tough," Putin warned.
Russia is acting with restraint and modesty while watching "the rudeness of other countries," Putin said. But she "has the patience and professionalism for any retaliatory measures."
He reminded that Russia constantly upgrades army equipment, including nuclear weapons. Russian troops receive Kinzhal (Dagger), Caliber and Zircon missiles. The russian army already has Avangard and Peresvet systems, and Sarmat missiles are coming into service soon. The work on Burevesnik and Poseidon systems continues," said Putin.
"Being the leader in the creation of new generation of combat systems, in the development of modern nuclear forces, Russia once again urges its partners to discuss issues related to strategic weapons and ensuring global stability," the president said.
"The subject, the goal of such negotiations could be the idea to create the environment of conflict-free coexistence based on security equation that would embrace not only traditional strategic weapons - intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines - but also, let me stress this out, all offensive and defensive systems capable of solving strategic tasks regardless of their equipment," Putin said.
"We consistently advocate the preservation and strengthening of the key role in world affairs of the United Nations. We strive to assist in the settlement of regional conflicts and have already done a lot to stabilize the crisis in Syria, to establish a political dialogue in Libya," the head of state said.
“It is on the basis of mutual respect that we are building ties with the absolute majority of countries in the world,” the Russian president stressed.
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