Vladimir Putin: “We will continue to do as we see fit, regardless of who is on the territory of Ukraine”

13:17 29.05.2024 •

Photo: Kremlin.ru

Vladimir Putin answered questions from the Russian media following his state visit to the Republic of Uzbekistan. The press availability took place at Tashkent Airport. May 28, 2024.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. What will we discuss today? Please go ahead with your questions.

Yegor Piskunov: Hello, Mr President. Yegor Piskunov, Russia Today TV channel.

Your visit to Tashkent was absolutely unprecedented in terms of its packed agenda. You spent two nights here, and some of us thought you might stay for the third. You had a lengthy face-to-face conversation with the President of Uzbekistan. What are your impressions? What are your expectations for cooperation with Tashkent, especially in trade and economic matters? And what are Uzbekistan’s prospects for taking part in integration structures in the post-Soviet space? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: As you know, I arrived here on Sunday evening, so we did not have anything on our agenda for that day except for the official events – a flower-laying ceremony at the Independence Monument. That was it for the day. But the next day was packed with all kinds of formal contacts, meetings and talks. It all happened on Monday, and we worked late into the evening. This is true. The hosts scheduled our visit this way.

This was the first time we attended a meeting of the regions. Do you know why this visit was so effective? The composition of our delegation was impressive; it included nearly half of the Russian Government members, all the key ministers. Naturally, a meeting that involved heads of regions and Cabinet ministers from both sides featured a wide-ranging and fulfilling discussion. I am not even referring to the number of documents signed, but to the actual face-to-face contact between people who want to work together and know how to do it. Russia has a genuine interest in expanding our relations with Uzbekistan.

First, Uzbekistan is currently the second most populated country in the post-Soviet space, after Russia. Today, it is home to 37 million people, and it adds one million every year. That is how Uzbekistan’s population is growing.

It has a vibrant, fast-growing economy which has gathered substantial momentum. Last year, Uzbekistan’s GDP increased by six percent, which is a major achievement compared to other countries of the world. The President of Uzbekistan has implemented an effective governance framework and a growth-driven economic model.

We have a lot of joint plans in terms of industrial cooperation, energy, and infrastructure, as you have probably seen and heard.

Uzbekistan faces some problems because it is a landlocked country with no access to the sea or ocean. In this connection, we and other regional partners can take action to help our friends in Uzbekistan resolve this logistics task and create essential conditions for entering external markets. We have a lot to discuss here. So, there are very many issues, and there is a large volume of potential projects.

As you know, we have established a US$500 million fund for conducting joint work, and the Russian side has contributed US$400 million of this amount. This does not mean that we have more money, this is because we have major interests in this part of Asia, and we can see that it is possible to realise them, given the stability of the political system and specific terms for investing in Uzbekistan’s economy. I repeat, we are very much interested, and this explains such intensive contacts.

Speaking of integration processes, we never insist on anything. To be honest, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan, had initiated these integration processes, if you mean the EAEU (above all, we are talking about the economy, of course). This organisation has gained considerable momentum, and it is yielding real results for all participants. However, any sovereign state is free to decide whether to take part or not; this decision is motivated by specific interests, primarily economic interests, and economic expediency. We have different levels of economic development and financial system development. When any particular government makes a relevant decision on taking (or not taking) part in any specific integration association, it proceeds from these considerations, in the first place.

On the whole, if such an economy as that of Uzbekistan joins the association, then I believe the association would only benefit from this. However, Uzbekistan’s economy should also benefit. This amounts to a rather complicated negotiating process because while establishing the EAEU, we had debated for many days and nights on what specific mandatory terms and mutual obligations would arise. Consequently, this is a steady and smooth process.

Our economies are aligning and developing, and numerous joint projects are emerging. We will gradually chart our mutual interests in the sphere of subsequent cooperation and involvement in integration associations.

Pavel Zarubin: Good evening,

Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV Channel. I am sorry but I have two questions and both are extensive.

Here is the first one. You went to Tashkent and we arrived together with you, practically right from Minsk. Since then we have been interested in this issue: In Minsk you replied to a question about Zelensky’s legitimacy and with whom to hold talks if and when they become possible. You said it was necessary to look up in the Constitution of Ukraine what government authorities can operate without elections. But proceeding from the Constitution of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada is the only body that can work now. Not a word is said about extending the powers of the president. Zelensky seems to continue to stay in office exclusively on the basis of martial law. You said a legal analysis is needed. Are we conducting this analysis? Who are we going to talk to if we do?

Can I ask you a second question right away?

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, please. Whatever suits you best.

Pavel Zarubin: More and more bellicose statements are made from high Western rostrums. Now they are even saying that Kiev should be allowed to strike deep into Russian territory with Western weapons. The EU Defence Minister spoke about this issue today, and the NATO Secretary General said this: We are giving weapons to Kiev and consider them Ukrainian from this moment, so Ukraine can do whatever it wants with these arms, in part, strike at Russian territory where it deems necessary.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: The first question was about the legitimacy of the Ukrainian power. Indeed, it is necessary to conduct a serious, deep analysis of this.

The first point is on the surface and is mentioned by my colleagues. This is what it is about. The Constitution of Ukraine only extends the powers of the Rada. It says nothing about extending the powers of the president. This is the first point.

Second. Indeed, the law of Ukraine on the legal status, legal position and martial law reads that presidential elections are not held during martial law. However, this does not mean that they are extended. They are not held but who said that they must be extended? The Constitution says nothing about this. But Article 111 of the Constitution of Ukraine reads that in this case the powers of the supreme authority, actually the presidential powers are transferred to the Speaker of Parliament. All the more so since the powers of parliament are extended during martial law. This is a preliminary analysis. We should take a deeper look into this issue.

Some specialists say that there are contradictions between the Constitution that provides only for the extension of the Rada’s powers under martial law and the law I have just mentioned – I think it is the 2016 law that defines the legal status of martial law. As I already said and repeat, this law stipulates that the presidential elections are not held but nothing is said about the prolongation, and this is a problem.

What is the point? The point is that in essence, the Ukrainian statehood is based on the idea of the parliamentary-presidential republic rather than the presidential republic. The main levers of power are concentrated in the representative state body. Therefore, it is quite logical that the Constitution itself and other legal acts adopted on its basis are construed in such a way.

Therefore, speaking strictly, in a tentative estimate – I am just talking about a tentative estimate – the parliament and the Rada Speaker remain the only legitimate power. And so, basically, if they wanted to hold presidential elections, they should have simply repealed martial law at that time and held elections. But they did not want to do this for a number of reasons.

I think, and this is not linked with the Constitution in any way, that maybe the current bosses of Ukraine, who are overseas, would like to place the burden of making all unpopular decisions on the current executive branch. This includes the adoption of yet another decision to further lower the conscription age. It was 27 years, now it is 25 and next it may be 23 years or even 18 years.

I believe that after this and other unpopular decisions are made, those who are acting today as representatives of executive government would be replaced with people who would not be responsile for the unpopular decisions made. These representatives will be simply replaced in a snap. If this is the idea, the logic is understandable in principle. Let’s see what happens next.

But as I said in Minsk, the final say should be made by the political and legal system of Ukraine. It should formulate and explain what is happening in Ukraine. I believe, this is not too difficult, indeed. I will repeat for the third time that the 2016 law prohibits holding presidential elections under martial law but nothing is said about extension of these powers. So, what? See Article 111 of the Constitution – all power is transferred to the Speaker of Parliament.

With regard to the strikes, frankly, I am not sure what the NATO Secretary General is talking about. When he was the Prime Minister of Norway, we communicated and addressed challenging issues concerning the Barents Sea and other issues, and generally, we were able to come to terms, and I am positive he was not suffering from dementia back then. If he is talking about potentially attacking Russia’s territory with long-range precision weapons, he, as a person who heads a military-political organisation, even though he is a civilian like me, should be aware of the fact that long-range precision weapons cannot be used without space-based reconnaissance. This is my first point.

My second point is that the final target selection and what is known as launch mission can only be made by highly skilled specialists who rely on this reconnaissance data, technical reconnaissance data. For some attack systems, such as Storm Shadow, these launch missions can be put in automatically, without the need to use Ukrainian military. Who does it? Those who manufacture and those who allegedly supply these attack systems to Ukraine do. This can and does happen without the participation of the Ukrainian military. Launching other systems, such as ATACMS, for example, also relies on space reconnaissance data, targets are identified and automatically communicated to the relevant crews that may not even realise what exactly they are putting in. A crew, maybe even a Ukrainian crew, then puts in the corresponding launch mission. However, the mission is put together by representatives of NATO countries, not the Ukrainian military.

So, these officials from NATO countries, especially the ones based in Europe, particularly in small European countries, should be fully aware of what is at stake. They should keep in mind that theirs are small and densely populated countries, which is a factor to reckon with before they start talking about striking deep into the Russian territory. It is a serious matter and, without a doubt, we are watching this very carefully.

The focus is on the developments on the outskirts of Kharkov. But they were the ones to provoke those events. I made it clear publicly, I think it was six months ago, that if they continue to target residential neighbourhoods, we will have to create a security area. Not long ago, we started doing what I said back then.

First, they provoked us in Donbass. For eight long years they have been pulling the wool over our eyes and making us believe that they were going to resolve the issue peacefully and eventually made us try to restore peace by using the armed forces. Then, they deceived us during the negotiating process and decided that they would defeat us on the battlefield by inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia. We warned them against making incursions into our territory, shelling Belgorod and neighbouring areas, or else we will be forced to create a security area.

Look at what your Western colleagues are reporting. No one is talking about shelling Belgorod or other adjacent territories. The only thing they are talking about is Russia opening a new front and attacking Kharkov. Not a word. Why is that? They did it with their own hands. Well, let them reap the fruits of their ingenuity. The same thing can happen in case the long-range precision weapons which you asked about is used.

More broadly, this unending escalation can lead to serious consequences. If Europe were to face those serious consequences, what will the United States do, considering our strategic arms parity? It is hard to tell.

Are they looking for a global conflict? I think they wanted to agree upon strategic arms, but we do not really see them being really eager to do so. They are talking about it but are not doing much to make it happen. We will wait and see what happens next.

Viktor Sineok: Mr President, my name is Viktor Sineok, Izvestiya.

For several months before your visit, delegations from the US Treasury and other agencies implementing the sanctions regime were coming to Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan. Unprecedented pressure was put on the Central Asian capitals in order to exclude and strangle all the possibilities and prospects for cooperation with Russia. How do you find this behaviour? Can Russia redress this pressure for the Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan?

If I may, I would like to ask a second question very quickly. News came out that Russia was considering the possibility of removing the Taliban from the list of terrorist organisations. How has this decision been made and why? How will it affect our relations with Afghanistan, and when will it take effect?

Vladimir Putin: I will begin with the second part.

This is constantly being discussed, and I will not comment on it now, because relations with the Taliban and Afghanistan are constantly being discussed. It cannot be denied that there are problems in Afghanistan. Everyone known this very well.

How can we build our relations with the current regime? It is a different question altogether. However, we have to do it. These are the people controlling the country, its territory; they are the power in Afghanistan today. We must proceed from reality and build relations accordingly.

We stay in contact with many partners, including with many partners in the Central Asian region. We take into account each partner’s and friend’s opinion and will formulate this position together.

As for the first part of your question, there is nothing new about it. I mean the voyagers flying all around the world, be it Latin America, or Africa, or the East, threatening everybody. These are elements of imperial behaviour. American political observers and analysts say directly that the United States is an empire, and its imperial ambitions are connected with internal political events to a large extent. Presidential election is coming soon, and the current authorities want to confirm their status as an empire. Many in the United States do not like this, do not want to be an empire and bear the imperial burden. They do not want responsibility, and do not want to expose their country to any dangers or get it into a difficult position.

What about Central Asia? Uzbekistan is not only the biggest country in Central Asia. It is second after Russia in terms of population – 37 million. But voyageurs from the US are flying to all parts of the world. As you know, quite recently, the Secretary of the Treasury, I believe, also visited China. What did she talk about? I think I also recalled this in Minsk. She said the Chinese produce too many cars. They talked about overproduction of cars. I don’t think that the US Secretary of the Treasury is an illiterate person. This is simply juggling with facts.

What is overproduction? If we live in the market conditions, the market regulates whether this is overproduction or not. If people buy products and they are produced with a profit, there is no overproduction. And how else do you force another country to stop the production of different goods? By using force? Sanctions? And this is one of the variants of using force, and this is how they are trying to act all over the world.

Of course, countries that are weak, insecure, especially those with dozens of NGOs that feed off the American hand, are pecking at what they have been given, and, of course, it is easier to manipulate public consciousness in these countries, easier to pressure incumbent authorities. But the countries where the authorities feel confident, where they devote all their activities to strengthening sovereignty, the interests of their people and their country, do not respond to these peremptory orders from across the ocean. This is the case with large countries and small states if they are self-sufficient and dignified.

We know that pressure was exerted on Central Asia as well. So far I haven’t seen people kneeling ready to blindly obey any edicts from across the ocean.

They – the Americans and the Europeans – certainly take certain steps that deal damage to our partners but eventually this is also a sovereign choice of any country of how to create its policy, fight for its sovereignty or not, consider sovereignty a value or not and so on.

I think it represents a value. This is because if a country wants to be successful, it must be sovereign, even on the socioeconomic plane. If it wants to be successful, it must be sovereign. Otherwise, other states will always pressure it and subjugate it to foreign interests – like what they are now trying to do with China regarding cars.

They will do the same with fertiliser, chemicals, aircraft – you name it. We are facing this. Yes, we are seeing this and there is nothing good in it. This is damaging both international security and the global economy.

Konstantin Panyushkin: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Konstantin Panyushkin, Channel One.

Yesterday, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Alexander Syrsky was reported to have approved the deployment of French mercenary instructors, who can be called the military, on the territory of Ukraine. Now it is official and was finally made public. Moreover, Syrsky says he hopes that the Kiev regime’s other partners will also officially follow the French example. What do you think about this and how far can it go?

Please allow me to add a bit of clarification as a follow up on the question of legitimacy. It is clear from your answer that, until Western handlers replace Zelensky in Kiev, you have virtually no one to talk to in Ukraine. But I wanted to ask: did Alexander Lukashenko offer you the Ukrainian military as the ones to talk to?

Vladimir Putin: Who? The military?

Konstantin Panyushkin: Yes, the military.

Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, Mr Lukashenko does not command the military in Ukraine yet. If he did, we would have ended this conflict long ago, and to mutual satisfaction. We would have found a solution on Ukraine if Ukraine were now managed by people guided by national interests, and not by the interests of their masters in Europe or overseas.

As for the fact that there may be mercenaries in Ukraine, we are well aware of that, there is nothing new about it. The fact that the military in Ukraine are now saying that they [the French] may come is because they have been there for a long time. We hear English, French, or Polish on the radio. We know that these mercenaries are there. But there are specialists there under the guise of mercenaries.

There was a question about long-range precision weapons. And who controls and maintains these weapons? Of course, the same instructors who are disguised as mercenaries. They exist and they suffer losses. Perhaps this statement has been made because it is apparently increasingly hard for them to conceal these losses. Therefore, perhaps the time has come to show that they are officially there, so that these losses can be shown realistically, legally. I do not know. Maybe.

As for various contingents, I have already spoken about it. The Polish authorities say they are ready to send their contingents. We can hear Polish language, so there are many mercenaries from Poland. If some contingents from European countries enter [Ukraine] together with the Poles, others will later leave whereas the Poles will never do. This is obvious, at least for me. I might be wrong but I doubt that.

Therefore, this pretext of “freeing some Ukrainian units along the border, releasing them so as to send them to the battlefield, keeping them along the borders to ensure their safety” is nonsense. If they are there, then they will also be in the engagement area of our Armed Forces.

I do not think that this is the right decision or a good way out. This is escalation and yet another step towards a large conflict in Europe and globally. Do they need it? They are welcome. We will continue to do as we see fit, regardless of who is on the territory of Ukraine. And this is what they must remember.

Alexei Golovko: Alexei Golovko, Rossiya TV channel.

There have been reports in Western press that Western countries allegedly want to hold another conference in Saudi Arabia after the Swiss conference on Ukraine, and officially invite Russia there in order to show Moscow a purportedly consolidated position and begin some kind of talks.

Mr President, if we receive such a proposal, will Russia attend this conference? If yes, on what conditions?

Vladimir Putin: I do not have an answer now, because I do not know what you are talking about. They say that now they are not ready to invite Russia, and later they will be. We never refused them: not now, nor later, nor a year ago. We have said that we are ready.

It wasn’t us who stopped the talks. We were told: that’s it, we will no longer have talks with you. They could have said we are not satisfied with the agreements that were reached in Istanbul. The talks were launched in Minsk and were completed, brought to a certain stage in Istanbul. They could have said this this had it not been for the signature of the head of the Ukrainian negotiating team on the digest of the agreement that we had prepared as a draft.

He initialled this which means it suited Ukraine. They were ordered to throw it into a rubbish can and try to beat Russia on the battlefield, to inflict strategic defeat on it. But he said directly and publicly – had we not been ordered from abroad (from Britain in this case, that is, from the US – the same thing), the hostilities would have stopped a year and a half ago. He did say this.

We have never refused to talk on this basis and we are ready to continue the negotiating process. But we do not know what and who will offer us at some other stages, in view of the legitimacy of Ukrainian representatives. Therefore, I do not have an answer to this question.

I am always looking with surprise at some antics of our “friends” and partners that are saying that Russia is rejecting talks. I have said a thousand times but it seems they don’t have ears. No, we are not rejecting talks. Ukraine rejected them in public. They initialled the agreement and rejected it with a view to beating us on the battlefield. They are not succeeding in this. Now they are ready. Well, if you are ready, come back. What’s the problem?

They want to paint something, to create a semblance of global support for what they have painted on their own free will, proceeding from their own wants and wishes and present this as a consolidated position of the international community. They won’t succeed. This shows that they do not want to come to terms but are still wishing to get something and turn the tide on the battlefield but all in vain. The more attempts they will make, the more losses there will be, and these losses will by no means be in favour of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Why is this happening? The current rulers of Ukraine do not feel sorry for these people. They do not consider them their own people. This is the gist of Ukraine’s problem and tragedy today. They do not consider these people their own people. They do not protect the interests of the Ukrainian people today. I am hoping that people will still realise this eventually.


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