Full Text of Putin Interview: Missiles At Western Targets

On Wednesday June 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin met in person with international journalists for the first time since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The conference was moderated by Andrey Kondrashov, director general of Russia's TASS news agency.

Putin in a rare face-to-face meeting with international journalists

In the rare face-to-face meeting with international journalists on Wednesday,  Putin announced Russia, in response to NATO allies allowing Ukraine to use their arms to attack Russian territory, would think about supplying long-range weapons to certain countries which could strike Western "sensitive" facilities.

Note: This transcript presents what Putin said and as he said - it may contain a selective view of information to argue Russia’s case for its invasion of Ukraine. Russia refers to the Russia-Ukraine War as a special military operation. 

Here is the full text transcript of the interview in full independently translated from Russian:

Andrey Kondrashov:  Mr President, dear guests!

Before we begin our conversation, let me thank you, Mr President, for helping to maintain this wonderful tradition all these years. The tradition is that Russia's TASS news agency gathers its international colleagues for a meeting with you. And I don’t know how you manage to find time in your very busy schedule for meetings with foreign journalists every time.

Putin: Were you offered a tour of this building?

Andrey Kondrashov:  We were. After the conversation, we might go up to the roof.

Putin: Just don't agree to it.

Andrey Kondrashov:  Why not? Dangerous?

Putin: No. But once you fall into Mr. Miller's grasp, you won’t get out. He spends three hours detailing every element of this building. He’s in love with it. You won’t escape.

Andrey Kondrashov:  Did you like the building?

Putin: Yes, of course.

Andrey Kondrashov: How does St. Petersburg look from the 87th floor?

Putin: It’s beautiful. I hope you’ll like it too, if you go up.

Andrey Kondrashov: Mr President, today we have 16 countries here represented by their key leading news agencies. There should have been more of us.

However, our Indian and Brazilian colleagues couldn’t come because they are tallying the results of their recent elections. Our colleague from Egypt broke his leg just before the meeting, and we wish him a speedy recovery. Those who did come, we welcome to this wonderful city of St. Petersburg, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and to this new trendy place called Lakhta Center.

According to our estimates, the people you see here, Mr President, produce about 80 percent of the entire global news flow. Since the last time we met, many of the countries they represent have turned unfriendly towards Russia. But perhaps this makes it even more interesting to see what these countries are concerned with, what questions they consider most important.

Despite this being the eighth such meeting and our pleasure in noting that it’s held in a year when TASS celebrates its 120th anniversary, it is probably the first meeting in such an internationally tense environment. It feels as if the world has gone mad, as if someone is deliberately pushing it towards catastrophe.

We very much hope that after this meeting we will be at least one step closer to understanding how to lower the level of this tension, these double standards, this misunderstanding of each other, and simply this hostility.

Dear colleagues, as the moderator from TASS, I will give each of you the opportunity to ask your main question. Whether you get to ask second and subsequent questions depends only on the President of Russia.

We also have a wonderful tradition: the first word is given to the better half of humanity – women. Why? Because in Russia, women are traditionally treated not only with respect but also with love and reverence.

Therefore, the first question is asked by our wonderful Irina Akulovich, General Director of the BelTA agency – the Belarusian Telegraph Agency. Mr President, she also has a musical education, so we hope she will set the right tone for our entire conversation.

Ms Akulovich, your question, please.

Putin: If I may, I would like to welcome you all. They probably kept you in this tower for half a day – I apologize. Again, it’s very hard to escape from the tenacious grasp of the head of Gazprom, who talks about every element and infects you with his optimism.

There are very well-informed people here, and I just can’t imagine what I could tell you that you don’t already know. You know everything, and you probably know it better than I do. Whatever I say, you will still think you know better than I do. So I propose that we have not an evening of questions and answers but an exchange of opinions. That would be more interesting. And I would also be interested in hearing your opinions on the issues that concern you.

That’s probably all I wanted to say at the beginning.

Ms Akulovich, please, go ahead.

Irina Akulovich:  Thank you.

Good afternoon, Mr President.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, for the conversation with you. We understand perfectly well that your schedule is very busy. This meeting is awaited not only by us but also by the largest international agencies and the largest international media, of course, are also following it.

But I would like to say that it seems to me that the right to ask the first question was given to me not only because we are trying to regulate gender issues here but also because Belarus is the closest country to Russia. This is not a question; this is an exchange of opinions, a statement, of course.

You met Alexander Lukashenko somewhere in the mid-90s, so you have known our President for about 30 years. There have been very different times in the history of our countries, in the relationship, but nevertheless, you always managed to find solutions to any issues: security issues, economic problems. I want to ask how easy or difficult it is for you now? And are there leaders in the European Union with whom it would be possible to solve today’s complex issues? Thank you.

Putin: Yes, President Lukashenko and I have known each other for a long time. And indeed, at different times, our relationship developed differently. But since our relations are based on the fundamental interests of both peoples (Russian and Belarusian), it has always been possible to find solutions to even the most complex issues that seem to have no simple answers. That is why we have been building the Union State from the very beginning and continue to work on it now. We are doing this based on the mood of our peoples, and we are doing it very calmly and carefully.

When solving any issue and taking any step in this direction, we always look at our interests, primarily in the sphere of the economy, politics, including foreign policy. Strangely enough, even in the field of ecology and culture. This comprehensive approach, when we address everything that unites us, always allows us to solve even minor, possibly complex issues, if they arise.

You know, the scope is such that there is always something to do. Our trade turnover in dollar terms (this is no secret, everyone knows well) is 48 billion dollars, almost 50 billion dollars. That’s a decent amount.

These economic relations are very diversified. This applies to agriculture – almost 90 percent of all Belarusian exports in agriculture go to the Russian market, in the field of industrial production and cooperation. We only recently discussed this in Minsk. It seems like we are constantly meeting and discussing all the issues, and my trip after being re-elected as President of Russia seemed to be symbolic and ritualistic. But no. Key government officials gathered, and there were disputes. This concerned industrial cooperation, levels of localization of production, volumes of our goods, primarily oil, to Belarusian refineries, mutual supplies of petroleum products to the Russian market. All are very specific, tangible issues, on which the quality of life of our citizens depends.

And again: given such a friendly character and the mood of societies on both sides, it always allows finding solutions. You know, they are sometimes non-trivial, strange as it may seem, given our volume of relations and everything seems routine. No, constant efforts are needed to find answers to the questions that arise. It works out, and I am confident it will continue to do so.

Irina Akulovich: So there are no complex issues with Belarus.

Putin: No, there are complex issues.

Irina Akulovich: But solutions can be found.

Putin: But we always find solutions because the interests of both peoples are the foundation of these solutions.

Irina Akulovich: Can such solutions be found with the leaders of the European Union?

Putin: They can be found with the leaders if they felt more confident and had more courage to defend national interests. I think colleagues will probably talk about this.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Irina.

Andrey Kondrashov:  Thank you.

I invite Ms. Samia Nakhoul, from Reuters, to continue our conversation. By the way, Samia traveled through a huge number of hot spots and was very seriously wounded in Iraq. Please, your question,  Samia Nakhoul.

Putin:  When did this happen to you in Iraq?

Samia Nakhoul (as translated) :  During the 2003 invasion.

Putin:  I see.

Samia Nakhoul:  Thank you for hosting us.

Mr. President, given your recent interactions with President Trump and with President Biden, could you provide your perspective on who you would prefer as a candidate for relations between the United States and Russia, given the current war that is happening now in Ukraine?

Putin: I have already mentioned: everyone took my statement about Mr. Biden with smirks and saw it as some kind of hidden "attack" on President Biden. Indeed, he is an old-school politician, and when he didn't like something, he even began to attack me to some extent. I expected that, and it shows I was right; he is predictable. This only confirms what I have been saying.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter to us. Because Mr. Trump, who was accused of almost spying for Russia... We understand that this is complete nonsense, just some kind of absurdity, and it was simply an element of the internal political struggle between the Democrats and Republicans. Ridiculous accusations against Trump. We always saw it as an element of the internal political struggle within the United States. This was later confirmed by various investigations within the US. We never had any special ties with Mr. Trump.

But the fact remains that he, as president, started imposing massive sanctions against the Russian Federation. He withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This was done during his presidency.

I am speaking quite sincerely when I say that I do not believe anything will change in American policy towards Russia after the elections. We do not think that any serious changes will occur.

What is happening in the States is well known to everyone. You all know what is happening there amid their internal political struggle. They are burning themselves from the inside, their state, their political system.

I must say, whether it is pleasant or not, they are also destroying their supposed leadership in the field of democracy right at its roots. Because it is evident to the whole world that the prosecution of Trump, especially in a judicial manner, on charges based on events that happened years ago, without direct evidence, is simply the use of the judicial system in the course of internal political struggle. This is obvious to us in Russia. I am sure it is also obvious to people in the UK and the whole world. And most importantly, it is obvious within the United States itself. Because after the well-known court decision where the jury delivered a "guilty" verdict, as we all know, Mr. Trump's rating increased, I believe, immediately by 6 percent, and the donations to his campaign soared.

What does this indicate? It indicates that people in the US do not believe in the judicial system that makes such decisions but rather believe they are politically motivated.

Strangely enough, in international policy, domestic policy, and economic policy, I think the current administration is making one mistake after another. Sometimes you are even surprised when you look at what is happening. Therefore, we observe this from the sidelines, and we have never interfered and do not intend to interfere in the internal political processes of the United States, but we will see where this leads.

I want to conclude my answer to your question with what I started with. For us, the final result, as we believe, does not matter much. We will work with any president elected by the American people.

Samia Nakhoul:  Regarding Ukraine. Do you think anything will change in terms of support for Ukraine in the war if Trump returns? Don't you think there will be changes?

Putin:  It’s hard to say. I cannot draw a clear conclusion whether something will change or not. You understand, we need to look at the priorities of the future administration.

If the future administration is oriented towards national interests and if they believe that national interests lie in stabilizing the situation within the country, focusing on societal consolidation within the United States rather than on immigration, and if addressing the mistakes that led to high inflation and a significant national debt, then, of course based on these internal national interests, if they act accordingly --  or say if, they will pursue the goals towards global liberalism, which, in my opinion, is internally destroying the United States. This is the desire to be the leader of global liberalism.

If they are guided by national interests, then there could be some changes in foreign policy and in relations with Russia, as well as in the conflict in Ukraine. But, as you understand, I said "if," "if," "if." In the case of ifs, changes are possible.

But, I think you would agree with me that Ukraine doesn't really interest anyone in the United States. What interests them is the greatness of the United States, which is fighting not for Ukraine and not for the Ukrainian people, but for its own greatness and leadership in the world. They absolutely do not want to allow any success for Russia because they believe that this would harm US leadership. This is the whole point of what the US is doing.

However, if the future administration changes its goals and sees the purpose of itself and its efforts in strengthening the United States from within, in strengthening the economy and business, and in building normal, more respectful relations with the world, then something might change. This depends, in my opinion, on the mood of society. The mood of society is indeed shifting somewhat in this direction, and if the future administration catches this wind in its sails, then changes are possible.

Andrey Kondrashov:  Thank you, Ms Samia Nakhoul.

Now it's time for the men to ask questions. I would like to invite the Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijani State Information Agency, Vugar Aliyev, to ask his question to the President of Russia.

Vugar Aliyev, please, your question.

Vugar Aliyev: Mr President, thank you for taking the time for us.

Today, relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are developing dynamically. The recent visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Moscow provided an opportunity not only to celebrate the significant anniversary of BAM's 50th anniversary, which is memorable for both our countries but also to discuss bilateral relations.

How do you assess the future prospects of bilateral cooperation, particularly the development of the North-South transport corridor?

Putin: Our relations are developing successfully, reliably, and very pragmatically.

You know, we feel the Azerbaijani leadership's commitment to building interstate relations based on mutual interest, I would even say, to some extent, mutual sympathy. Otherwise, it is impossible to explain the presence of 300 schools operating in Azerbaijan where the Russian language is taught. I know that President Aliyev actively supports the study of the Russian language in the republic. This is evident in all aspects.

What does this indicate? It means that the Azerbaijani leadership believes that the Russian language will be needed by the citizens of Azerbaijan. Why? For the development of bilateral relations. And these relations are developing.

The total trade turnover between our countries, I will speak in dollars, is about $4.5-$4.6 billion. The growth rate is very good.

We are increasingly diversifying our relations. And I am confident that with such an attitude from both sides, and we in Russia are similarly inclined, the results will be good.

In this sense, there is a lot to be done, you are absolutely right, in terms of developing logistics. This concerns not only the North-South road but also other directions, including the construction of logistics centers, especially on the Russia-Azerbaijan border in the Dagestan section, where work is already underway. This also concerns other areas: many students from Azerbaijan study in Russia, including on a state-funded basis, and we see a great interest among young people in obtaining education in Russia.

As for the North-South road, it can become a very good and in-demand international corridor, allowing cargo to travel directly from here, from the port of St. Petersburg, through the entire European part, to Azerbaijan, then to Iran, and exit to the Persian Gulf coast. I believe this route is almost 10 days faster than the well-known Suez Canal route.

We don't want to say anything bad about the Suez Canal; it is very necessary for global trade. But this will be an additional and very efficient route for delivering goods to the north and south, and back. It is about 10 days faster, which is a significant saving and will be a very efficient and profitable route.

But there is still a lot to be done. We are working on both sides. I know that President Aliyev supports this project; we have discussed it many times. The Iranian leadership also supports it. And since it promises to be very profitable, there are foreign investors interested in this project, including neighboring countries and Arab sovereign wealth funds. It is clear why, because sovereign funds always look for reliable investments. This is one of the reliable investments because its profitability will be ensured and guaranteed.

There are issues that require additional study. Which sections, including those on Azerbaijani territory, will we finance? Will it be through a loan, or direct financing from Russia? How will this integrate with the branches that will go west through Azerbaijan?

Then we need to work out everything with our Iranian partners and friends: how we will build this track. Will it be a broad or narrow gauge, as laid out on Iranian territory?

But the most important thing is that everyone is committed to implementation. We have essentially created a directorate; VTB is actively involved, and I have no doubt that we will implement it. The question, of course, is in the timing and cost, but these are practically worked out. So, this is a very good, but not the only project we are jointly implementing. Additionally, Azerbaijan is a Caspian state, part of the "Caspian Five," and we have many common interests here, including environmental issues concerning the Caspian Sea.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Vugar Aliyev.

And now we turn to a country with which, Mr President, you will probably never be indifferent—Germany.

We have with us the head of the news service of the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Martin Romanczyk.

By the way, Martin knows our country firsthand because he worked as DPA’s correspondent in Moscow in the 1990s. Please, Mr. Romanczyk, your question.

Martin Romanczyk (translated): Good evening, Mr. President! Good evening, everyone!

Chancellor Scholz has agreed to supply weapons to Ukraine. I would like to ask how you see if Scholz changes his mind? And what do you think awaits Germany? Did you somehow warn, caution, or threaten the Chancellor when he decided to supply weapons to Ukraine?

Putin: Why do you think we are threatening anyone? We are not threatening anyone, especially the head of another state. That would be bad manners and poor form.

We have our own position on various issues. We are aware of the position of European states, including the Federal Republic, regarding the events happening in Ukraine.

Everyone thinks that Russia started the war in Ukraine. But no one in the West, in Europe, wants to recall how this tragedy began. It started with a coup in Ukraine, an unconstitutional coup. That’s the beginning of the war. But is Russia to blame for this coup? No. And have those who today try to accuse Russia forgotten that the foreign ministers of Poland, Germany, and France came to Kyiv and signed a document to resolve the internal political crisis as guarantors that the crisis should be settled peacefully and constitutionally? This is something Europe, including Germany, prefers not to remember. If they recall it, the question arises: why didn't the leadership of the Federal Republic, like the other signatories of this document, demand from those people in Ukraine who carried out the coup to return to the constitutional legal framework? Why did they neglect their obligations as guarantors of the agreements between the opposition and the then-acting authorities? They are equally responsible for what happened, along with those forces in the United States that provoked the unconstitutional seizure of power. Isn't it known what followed? It led to the decision of the residents of Crimea to leave Ukraine and the decision of the residents of Donbass not to submit to those who committed the coup in Kyiv. That's the start of this conflict.

Then Russia made every effort to find a peaceful resolution, and in 2015, the so-called Minsk agreements were signed, which were, by the way, constituted by a United Nations Security Council resolution. This is a document that should have been implemented. No, they decided to close this problem by military means. Artillery, tanks, and aviation were used against civilians in southeastern Ukraine. For some reason, no one in Germany, other European countries, or the USA – no one, I repeat, wants to remember this. Fine.

We facilitated the signing of the Minsk agreements, but it turned out no one intended to implement them. The former Chancellor of Germany and the former President of France publicly stated this.

Dear Mr. Romanczyk, how should we understand this? They said publicly that they did not intend to implement the Minsk agreements but signed them only to arm Ukraine and create conditions for continuing hostilities. They simply led us by the nose. Isn't that the case? How else can what happened be explained?

For eight years, we tried to solve this problem peacefully. Eight years!

The former Chancellor once told me: "You know, in Kosovo, yes, we acted back then, NATO acted without a UN Security Council resolution. But blood was shed in Kosovo for eight years." But when blood was shed in the Donbass, the blood of Russian people – was that not blood, but water? No one wanted to think about or notice this.

In the end, what were we forced to do when the authorities in Ukraine said that they didn't like any point of the Minsk agreements and the foreign minister said that they wouldn't implement them?

Do you understand that there was both economic and social degradation in those territories? Eight years. I'm not even talking about the constant killings of people: women, children, and so on.

What were we forced to do? We were forced to recognize their independence. We did not recognize it for almost eight years, waiting for a peaceful agreement to solve this issue. Eight years! When it was announced that no peaceful agreements would be implemented, what were we forced to do? We were forced to attempt to make them do so by military means.

But we didn't start this war. The war started in 2014 after the coup and the attempt to crush those who disagreed with the coup with guns.

And now, for those who follow international events and international law, what happened next, what did we do? We did not recognize for eight years. When we realized that the Minsk agreements would not be implemented, what did we do? I ask everyone to pay attention: we recognized the independence of these self-proclaimed republics. Could we do that from the perspective of international law? As the first article of the UN Charter says, we could. It’s the right of nations to self-determination. And the International Court of Justice ruled (it’s written on paper) that when deciding on independence and self-determination, if a territory of a country makes such a decision, it does not have to apply to the higher authorities of that state. All this was done concerning Kosovo. But there is a decision by the International Court of Justice, and it says: if a territory decides on independence, it does not have to seek permission from the central government. If this is so, as written in the UN Court's decision, then those unrecognized republics – Donetsk and Lugansk – had the right to do so. They did it, and we then had the right to recognize these republics? Of course, we had. And what did we do next? We concluded an agreement with them. Could we conclude an agreement with them or not? Yes, of course. The agreement provided for assistance to these states in the event of aggression. But Kyiv was waging war against these states, which we recognized after eight years. Eight years.

Could we recognize them? We could. And then, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, we provided them with assistance. You know, no matter what anyone says, I told Mr. Guterres the same thing, step by step. Where is the mistake here? Where are the violations of international law? There are none, if we speak from the perspective of international law.

Yes, we then hear the response: well, you still attacked. We did not attack; we defended ourselves to make it clear to everyone. The first step towards war was taken by those who encouraged the bloody unconstitutional coup.

Now regarding arms supplies. Supplying arms to a conflict zone is always bad. Especially when it is connected with those who supply it, not only supplying but also controlling this weaponry, which is a very serious and very dangerous step. We know, and it is not denied in the Federal Republic (I don't know how it got into the press), when a Bundeswehr general discusses where and how to strike: the Crimean Bridge or other targets in Russia, including those territories that no one doubts belong to Russia.

When the first German tanks appeared on Ukrainian soil, it caused a moral and ethical shock in Russia because the attitude towards the Federal Republic of Germany in Russian society has always been very good. Very good. Now, when they say that there will also be some rockets hitting targets in Russia, it certainly completely destroys Russian-German relations. But we understand that, as one of the well-known German politicians said, after World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany has never been fully sovereign. We were in contact with Mr. Scholz, we met with him several times, and I don’t want to evaluate the federal government’s work quality, but these evaluations are given by the German people, the German electorate. Soon there will be elections to the European Parliament, and we’ll see what happens.

As far as I know, – of course, I care about Germany, I have many friends there, whom I try not to contact to avoid subjecting them to some kind of internal obstruction, – but I know these people for many years, they are reliable friends, and I have quite a few of them in Germany. I know the balance of power on the political scene, and as far as I understand, if I am not mistaken, the CDU/CSU now has about 30 percent, the SPD has around 16 percent, and the AfD has 15 percent, while all others are lower. This is the response of the voter. This is the mood of the Germans, the mood of the German people.

I understand the Federal Republic's dependence in the field of defense and overall security. I understand the dependency in the field of politics and information policy, because wherever you look, in any major publication, I don't know where you work, the ultimate beneficiary is on the other side of the ocean – some American fund. Thank God, I applaud those American funds and those who carry out this policy – well done for holding the information influence on Europe so tightly in terms of their interests. And they even try not to show their ears (involvement).

All this is understandable. But the influence is colossal, and it is very difficult to resist it. Clear. But there are some basic things – about these basic things. It’s strange that no one in today’s German leadership is defending German interests. Understandable – Germany lacks full sovereignty, but there are Germans. Their interests should be considered at least a little.

Look, they blew up the unfortunate pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. No one is even outraged – as if that’s the way it should be. We continue to supply gas to Europe through Ukraine. We supply it. There were two pipeline systems; one of them was closed by the Ukrainian side, they just turned off the valve and closed it, although there were no grounds for it. Only one pipeline system was left – fine. But gas is still going to Europe through it, and European consumers are receiving this gas. It also goes through Turkey via the Turkish Stream, our gas also goes to Europe through the Turkish Stream, and European consumers receive it.

Fine, they blew up one pipe of the Nord Stream, but one pipe of the Nord Stream is still alive, thank God. Why doesn't Germany want to receive our gas through this pipe? Can anyone explain the logic? It can be received through Ukraine, through Turkey, but not through the Baltic Sea. What nonsense is this? There is no formal logic in this; I don't even understand it.

They could say Europe should not receive gas at all. Fine, we will survive, Gazprom will survive this. But you don't need it; you need to buy LNG at triple the price across the ocean. Don’t your environmentalists know how LNG is produced? By hydraulic fracturing. Ask those residents in the United States where this gas is produced; sometimes sludge flows from their taps instead of water. Do your environmentalists in government not know this? They probably do.

Poland took and closed its Yamal – Europe pipeline. Gas was going to Germany through Poland. We did not close it; the Poles closed it. The result of the impact on the German economy due to the cessation of our energy connections is better known to you than to me. It is a sad result. Many large industrial enterprises are looking for where to land, not only on German territory. They are opening in the USA, in Asia, but the conditions for doing business are such that they become uncompetitive. This, by the way, can have severe consequences for the European economy as a whole because the German economy (everyone knows this well, no offense to other Europeans) is the locomotive of the European economy. If it sneezes and coughs, everyone else will immediately catch the flu. The French economy is now also balancing on the brink of recession; this is well known. And if the German one goes lower, all of Europe will shake.

I'm not calling for the violation of any Euro-Atlantic ties, I don't want to, otherwise, you (or someone else) will hear what I say and say: here he is calling for the split of Euro-Atlantic solidarity. No, listen, you have there, I think, an erroneous policy, just a gross mistake at every step. I think that even for the United States itself, what is happening now is a big, major mistake. Due to the desire to maintain leadership, and by the means they are using, they are doing harm to themselves. But for Europe, it is even worse. Yes, you could say: "We support you here, here, and here, but this is ours. Listen, if we undermine our economy, it will be bad for everyone. We mustn’t do this; we are against it, this is taboo, do not touch it."

But today's federal government does not do this either. Honestly, sometimes I am at a loss to see the logic of such behavior. Well, they intended to undermine the Russian economy and believed it would happen within three, four, six months. But everyone sees this is not happening. Last year we had economic growth – 3.4 percent, this year in the first quarter, the growth of the Russian economy amounted to 5.4 percent. Moreover, the World Bank recalculated (we set ourselves the goal), according to international financial and economic structures, we were in fifth place in terms of purchasing power parity in the world and aimed to move up to fourth place. I think you follow how our colleagues in international financial institutions count. The World Bank recently, just recently, last week, I think, recalculated our GDP and concluded that we outstrip Japan. According to the World Bank, Russia is now the fourth economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. This goal has been achieved.

This is not what's important; it is not an end in itself. What's important is to maintain momentum, progress, and we are managing this so far because in the first quarter, the growth, as I said, was 5.4 percent of GDP. But why am I saying this? Not to brag but to show that those who try to hinder us, to harm and slow down our development, should understand that what they are doing harms them more than us. Understanding this, they should draw some conclusions and adjust their behavior somehow. For their own sake. No, this is not happening.

I don’t want to offend anyone, but the level of professional training of those making decisions, including in the Federal Republic, in my opinion, leaves much to be desired.

Andrey Kondrashov:  Thank you, Mr. Romanczyk.

I think it would be logical to continue with European themes and now give the floor to France—a country that is officially considering sending European military forces to Ukraine.

We have with us the chief editor of European information at Agence France-Presse, Karim Talbi. Mr. Talbi, by the way, speaks excellent Russian because, like Martin Romanczyk, he worked as a correspondent in Moscow for a long time.

Please, Mr. Talbi, your question.

Karim Talbi: Mr president, my question also concerns Ukraine.

Why have you not yet disclosed the number of Russian soldiers lost in Ukraine during the hostilities?

Putin: If this is your main concern, I can tell you that usually, no one ever talks about such figures, and if they do, they often distort the real numbers.

I can confidently say that our losses, especially irreparable ones, are significantly lower than those on the Ukrainian side.

I can give you exact figures of those held by both sides, meaning those in captivity. On the Ukrainian side, there are 1,348 of our soldiers and officers. I know these figures because we work with them every day. Recently, as you know, there was an exchange: 75 people for 75 people. On our side, we hold 6,465 Ukrainian soldiers.

If we talk about irreparable losses, the ratio is approximately the same: about one to five. This ratio also explains the attempts at total mobilization in Ukraine because of their significant battlefield losses.

According to our calculations, the Ukrainian army loses about 50,000 people a month—both sanitary and irreparable losses, approximately 50/50. The current total mobilization does not solve these problems. They mobilize about 30,000 people a month—mostly forcibly. There are few volunteers.

In the past two months, they have mobilized around 50-55,000 people, according to our data. But this does not solve their problems because this mobilization only covers their losses.

This problem leads to lowering the conscription age: from 27 to 25. We know from Ukrainian sources that the US administration insists on gradually lowering the threshold from 25 to 23, then to 20 years, and finally to 18 years. They already require 17-year-olds to register for the draft. This is a demand from the US administration to the Ukrainian leadership.

I recently mentioned this publicly after a visit to Uzbekistan. I think the US administration will force the current Ukrainian leadership to lower the conscription age to 18, and then they will simply get rid of Zelensky. But first, they need to pass the law and take certain steps.

Now it’s June 2024. I think they need about a year to do all this. By the beginning of next year, they will probably tolerate Zelensky, and then they will say goodbye and replace him. There are several candidates, as far as I understand.

This is all related to significant losses. I mentioned 50,000, but that is the most conservative estimate. The actual losses might be higher because there are also casualties we can’t account for in the rear areas.

Karim Talbi: May I ask a follow-up question about our loss at AFP?

Putin: About?

Karim Talbi: Our journalist, Arman Soldin, died in Ukraine on May 9, 2023. He was likely killed by drone strikes. The French Ministry is investigating. Since he was in the Chasiv Yar area, they suspect the drone came from Russia. The question is not about that.

The French Ministry wants to investigate. Is Russia ready to cooperate with France in this investigation to find out what really happened?

It was a great tragedy for us at AFP and for his family. He was 32 years old. We want a thorough investigation to know what happened and if Russia was involved.

Putin: You know, we have never refused any investigations. Do you know how many of our journalists have died in the combat zone? (Addressing Dmitry Peskov) How many, Dima, do you remember?

Dmitry Peskov: About 30.

Putin: At least 30 of our journalists have died, and no one has allowed us to investigate what happened to them. That’s the first point.

Secondly, regarding what happens in Ukraine, an American journalist was tortured in the dungeons of the Kyiv regime. Unlike you, the United States hasn’t even raised the issue of investigating what happened to him. An American citizen, a journalist, was captured at the border, taken to prison, and died there. No one cared to ask what really happened to him.

Despite this, we are ready to organize an investigation. I don’t know how practical it is, given that he died in a combat zone, but we will do everything in our power.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you very much, Mr. Talbi.

And now I invite our colleague from Iran, the General Director of the IRNA news agency, Mr. Ali Naderi, to join the conversation. We deeply appreciate that despite the recent tragedy of the plane crash and the loss of President Raisi, as well as the ongoing election campaign in your country, you still found time to come to St. Petersburg. Once again, please accept our deepest condolences to you, our Iranian colleagues, and the entire Iranian people.

Your question, Mr. Naderi, please.

Ali Naderi (translated): Thank you.

Indeed, we are now mourning the loss of our President, our Foreign Minister, and several administration staff. In your letter, you mentioned the development of relations under Mr. Raisi. This is one of the achievements of our President. You pointed out the role Mr. Raisi played in expanding bilateral and regional relations. The question I would like to ask is: what program does your government and your administration plan to continue the expansion of relations with Iran? Were any agreements reached with Mr. Raisi? And what are the prospects for Iran and Russia in the future?

Thank you.

Putin: Our relations between Russia and Iran are developing well across many areas. Both Russia and Iran are under various sanctions regimes.

When we recently reviewed the development level of some production sectors in Iran, I was amazed at how our Iranian friends managed to maintain such a high level of production in certain areas under these long-standing sanctions. Not in all areas, of course, but in some—it's simply remarkable. But the fact remains.

We have a whole plan for joint work. Our trade and economic ties are developing. Of course, we would very much like to make additional efforts in the direction of developing high-tech industries. Given these restrictions, it is not so easy to do, but it is possible. And we will certainly do it.

As for President Raisi, who passed away in this tragic event, I must say that we had very reliable, good, and business-like relations. He was a very interesting person, a serious politician, and a reliable partner. He had a bit of irony in his attitude towards everyday life and a well-developed sense of humor. It was interesting and useful to maintain relations with him. Once again, if we agreed on something, we could be sure that the topic we discussed would not be forgotten. This does not mean that everything would be resolved one hundred percent because not everything depends on the top officials, but the topic would not be forgotten, and we worked together to improve our relations.

Under President Raisi, Iran became a member of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS. This shows that we were moving together in a clear direction, primarily in terms of creating a multipolar world. Iran played and continues to play a very important role in this.

The only thing I would like to say in conclusion to my answer to your question is that we very much hope that everything laid down by President Raisi in Russian-Iranian relations will be continued. I have little doubt about this because everything we do meets mutual interests. We know about the stability of Iranian statehood, about the structure of supreme power in Iran, and we know that not only the President and those around him but also the Supreme Leader and the spiritual leader of Iran contribute greatly to the development of Iranian-Russian relations.

We are waiting for the Iranian presidential elections to be completed. I look forward to meeting the new President of Iran at international events—both in the SCO and BRICS. I am confident that we will find common ground and work on implementing all the plans outlined by the late President Raisi.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Mr. Naderi.

Next in our dialogue is a good friend of the TASS agency, the chief editor of the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Mr. Lu Yansong. Mr. Lu speaks excellent Russian, and we know well that he loves singing Russian songs and enjoys Soviet cinema.

Mr. Lu, the floor is yours.

Lu Yansong (translated): Mr. President, you recently made a state visit to China.

You have quite close relations with China, which can be called a model of relations between major powers. How do you evaluate your cooperation with China? How do you assess the influence this cooperation has on the regions?

Thank you.

Putin: Regarding bilateral relations, I want to emphasize that they are not situational; they are based on deep mutual interests. For the past 15 years, China has been our main trade and economic partner. We built our relations and brought them to their current level not due to some political events of the day, but based on mutual interests long before that. We acted very carefully, calmly, and step by step. I must say that almost everything is working out for us.

Currently, the volume of trade turnover exceeds our expectations. According to Chinese statistics, it is $240 billion; according to ours, it is slightly less, around $230 billion.

But the point is not just the volume of trade turnover. The point is that we are diversifying it, and quite successfully. This concerns not only hydrocarbons and energy. We supply oil, gas, coal, and electricity to China. We are building nuclear power plants in the People's Republic of China, and this is going quite successfully.

We also have good prospects in high-tech areas, such as aviation and artificial intelligence. We are very happy for China, for the successes demonstrated by the People's Republic of China in many areas, including, for example, space.

These are unique achievements, and the Communist Party of China is the leading political force in China. Naturally, everything that is done is under the leadership of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China.

I would like to draw attention to something: I may have said this somewhere before, but it might be interesting in this company. Some of our experts and good economists, who are quite young but experienced, say that the analysis of what is happening in the Chinese economy and other economies, including leading ones like the United States, shows that the Chinese have managed to create a unique but very effective model of economic development, more effective than in the United States. Judging by the results of the Chinese economy, it seems to be true. Yes, many can criticize and argue with the Chinese leadership, saying that something is not market-oriented, that the yuan exchange rate is set by Politburo decisions, and so on. But the result is known to everyone.

And the result is that this model is more effective. And who can blame China for this? Market-oriented or not... There are 1.5 billion people. The Chinese leadership is obligated to think about each one of them. Not all of these 1.5 billion live like the average European or American. Therefore, the Chinese leadership has the right to use such methods of managing the economy to meet the urgent needs of their people, which the Chinese leadership, led by Chairman Xi Jinping, my good friend, does very reliably. So, we can only be happy about this.

We know everything that happens in the leading economies of the world, including China's. But overall, it is very reliable and becoming increasingly high-tech. I think it is a big mistake for the United States or some European countries to try to hinder China's economy because, in my opinion, to be successful themselves, they should integrate into these processes, not try to interfere.

"They say the Chinese have overproduction of cars, including electric vehicles." Who says this? Those who consider themselves market-oriented? Don't they understand that the market determines whether there is overproduction? If China produces a certain number of cars and the market absorbs them, what overproduction are we talking about? This is nonsense, isn't it?

Can this be called overproduction? No, it is an attempt to limit growth by non-market means. And this is harmful, in this case, even to the American economy. Why? Because if they do not take goods from China, what will this lead to? They will either produce them themselves or buy them elsewhere, which is more expensive, leading to higher inflation in the United States, negatively impacting the entire economy of the country doing this. This is a mistake by the current administration.

As for China, under the skilled and very professional leadership of Chairman Xi Jinping, it is developing at the right pace for China.

Regarding other sectors and areas, I have always said, and I can repeat here, that our interaction on the international stage is a restraining factor and an element of stability.

But you know, beyond the economy and mutual security—where we conduct joint exercises and will continue to do so, including military exercises—we have cooperation in military-technical fields. We have much to offer our Chinese friends, and there is interest from our Chinese friends in joint work in this area.

But our interaction is not limited to the economy, military-technical cooperation, or international cooperation. This year, we announced mutual years of culture. And I think that what our host mentioned about you knowing Russian songs and speaking Russian is, in my opinion, at least as important as everything else I mentioned. Because this creates the foundation for relations between peoples, creating a favorable environment for developing relations in all other areas. We will adhere to this from both sides. And I hope to meet with the Chairman of the People's Republic of China at the venues I mentioned: SCO and BRICS, to discuss all these issues.

Lu Yansong (in Russian): Mr President, you know, I interviewed you. Of course, it was a long time ago, the first time in 2002. These interviews were in Moscow and twice in Beijing. Once in your hometown. I still feel very happy about this.

Thank you. I wish you all the best.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Mr. Lu.

And now we give the floor to Spain. Representing the Spanish news agency EFE, we have José Manuel Sanz Mingote, who is the director of international relations at his agency. In addition to being an experienced journalist, he is also an expert in history and philosophy, and an authority on European integration issues.

Please, Mr. Sanz Mingote, your question.

Jose Manuel Sanz Mingote (translated): Thank you very much, Mr. President, for the opportunity to speak with you.

I do not speak Russian, but I have read Russian authors. I know the immense contribution Russia has made to culture, science, and art. From a personal perspective, it seems such a shame that we are living through such a complex international situation.

My question will be delicate. You know that from tomorrow until Sunday, elections will be held in 25 European countries. Analysts, experts, and senior representatives and officials of European states say that Russia is guilty of spreading disinformation to destabilize the electoral process in Europe.

How can you comment on this? Do you think the Russian government is behind this disinformation campaign? Thank you very much.

Putin: Listen, we just talked with your colleague from Germany and discussed the situation in the economies of European countries as a whole.

A derivative of the state of the economy is the situation in social policy, in the area of citizens' incomes, in the preservation and creation of new jobs, in their consumption. European countries are generally prosperous states. What primarily concerns citizens is their material well-being. However, as a result of the policies of the vast majority of Western countries, including European ones, this well-being, which people have been accustomed to for decades, is either disappearing or at risk. People understand and feel this. In my opinion, this is the main reason why traditional political parties and parliamentary democracy as a whole are experiencing difficult times. If someone, including, first and foremost, in Europe, does not want to analyze the mistakes they make in their work and tries to blame external conditions, this is another mistake that will not allow them to draw the correct conclusions about what is actually happening. This is the first part.

The second part is that our media, in terms of volume and the ability to influence a particular audience, are not comparable to Western media, be it electronic or print media.

And if you ask your colleague (I am afraid of giving inaccurate numbers), everywhere our journalists try to work, they face obstacles—simply everywhere. Their employees are intimidated, bank accounts are closed, transportation is taken away—they do everything. Is this freedom of speech? Of course not. The only thing our media representatives and your Russian colleagues do is convey the Russian viewpoint on various processes happening in the world, in our country, and in Europe. We have different points of view, but isn’t the point of media work to provide diverse perspectives? Even if it is the Russian government's viewpoint, can we not share this perspective with listeners, viewers, and internet users in other countries? Isn’t this the free dissemination of information, whether one likes it or not?

What should be done when information is disliked or considered biased by someone? One should present another point of view and make it more convincing than the one that is disliked, rather than shutting down media outlets, in this case, Russian ones, which are constantly harassed in Europe, and practically the same in the US. There are only one or two of them, and they are constantly oppressed. And at the same time, they refer to us allegedly influencing public opinion in Western countries. If you look at the volume of what we can provide to the European information market, it seems laughable.

The issue is not that someone is conducting some malevolent policy towards the EU. The issue is how the ruling circles of the leading European countries have led their economies, social spheres, and how they conduct their policies on the international stage, whether people like it or not. I will repeat what I started with: do not look for the guilty outside, analyze your own actions. Only this will allow for the correct analysis, draw conclusions, and correct something. If, of course, someone thinks that something needs to be corrected.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Mr. Sanz Mingote. Thank you for your question.

And now we turn to Kazakhstan. The General Director of the Kazinform news agency, Askar Dzhaldinov.

Askar Dzhaldinov, please, your question.

Askar Dzhaldinov: Mr President, can you please tell us about the future relationship between Kazakhstan and Russia as neighboring countries?

Putin: I believe that the future is very bright; there's no other way to put it. We have not just very close, but allied and strategic relations. When it comes to Russia and Kazakhstan, we can say this in the full sense of the word.

This includes trade and economic ties, which are growing steadily every year. The increasing level of trade turnover is evidence of this.

We have many areas of interaction. I can't even list them all right now: energy, industrial cooperation, space, and much more.

We share a vast border. People communicate with each other; 76 regions of the Russian Federation have direct relations with corresponding regions in Kazakhstan. These direct connections are probably the most effective because people interact directly, know each other, and trust each other.

President Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev and I are constantly in contact. We have developed very good, trusting, and friendly relations.

In terms of energy, we are not only supplying gas to Uzbekistan but will do the same for Kazakhstan. Northern Kazakhstan needs our energy resources. Yes, Kazakhstan produces its own, but there are still large areas that require gas supplies. It is easier and cheaper to receive it from us than to build new routes, which would cost billions of dollars.

Frankly, I don't see a single contentious issue that complicates our relationship. We were talking about cooperation with China. Ninety percent of our trade turnover with China is in national currencies. The same is true for our relations with Kazakhstan. It's probably almost 100 percent in national currencies.

Speaking of the United States, as I mentioned before, one of the colossal mistakes of the US administration is that they prohibit the use of the dollar in international settlements and use it as a tool of some struggle. It's complete nonsense—undermining trust in the dollar. It's simply ridiculous. Here, one should do everything to protect the dollar, preserve it, enhance its value, and its authority. They are killing it with their own hands.

This pushes us to switch to national currencies in our settlements. But as it turns out, this does not hinder the development of our relations; on the contrary, it even helps and strengthens our national currencies. In the humanitarian field, in education, we have very active joint work in almost all areas, thanks in part to President Tokayev, who supports our interaction in all these areas.

We are soon planning a trip to Astana, where there will be the SCO and other events. I have an invitation, and I will certainly take advantage of it.

Andrey Kondrashov: And now we move on to the next participant, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Italian agency ANSA, Stefano Polli. Mr. Polli, like Samia Nakhoul from Reuters, has extensive experience working in hotspots. In fact, the Italian agency ANSA has never missed such a meeting with you, it is our regular guest.

Please, Mr. Polli, you have the floor.

Stefano Polli (translated): Thank you.

Good evening, Mr. President!

Thank you for organizing this meeting. I would like to ask about the recent events in Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg proposed allowing Ukraine to strike targets on Russian territory with weapons supplied from Europe. European countries and the United States have agreed with this idea. Not all, but the United States is among them. At the same time, there is a discussion in some countries about sending military advisers and instructors.

I would like to ask you to comment on these two decisions and what Russia's response will be. Thank you.

Putin: When it comes to the presence of advisors and instructors, there's nothing new here. They are present on the territory of Ukraine. Unfortunately for them, they are suffering losses. I know this for sure; it's not done intentionally, but losses occur during combat operations. European countries and the United States prefer to keep this quiet. That's the first point.

Secondly, regarding long-range precision weapons, we need to divide this topic into two parts.

The first part is conventional weapons, like multiple rocket launch systems with a range of 70 kilometers and similar. These have been in use for a long time. Indeed, Ukrainian servicemen can operate these independently. But as for modern high-tech, long-range precision strike weapons like the British Storm Shadow, the American ATACMS, or French missiles, what can I say? I already mentioned this when I was leaving Uzbekistan.

ATACMS have a range of 300 kilometers. How are they used, how are they transferred? The Pentagon provided the missile system, the Americans provided it. But how is it used? Ukrainian servicemen cannot fully operate and strike with this missile independently. They simply don't have the technological capability. For this, you need satellite reconnaissance, then based on this satellite reconnaissance, which is provided by the Americans, a flight mission is formed, which is then input into the missile system. And the serviceman next to it just pushes the buttons automatically. He might not even know what happens next.

What can Ukrainian servicemen participate in? Not those who push the buttons, but at a higher level? They can choose the target. They can say which target is a priority and necessary for them. But they don't decide whether to strike that target or not, because, I repeat, the flight mission is formed and practically input only by those who supply this weapon. If it's ATACMS, it's done by the Pentagon. If it's Storm Shadow, it's done by the British. Moreover, in the case of Storm Shadow, it's even simpler. The simplicity lies in the fact that the flight mission is input automatically, without the participation of ground servicemen. This is done by the British, and that's it.

And when Bundeswehr servicemen were considering striking the Crimean bridge or other targets, they were thinking for themselves. No one was thinking for them, right? They were planning to do it themselves. The same goes for French specialists. These actions are done by Western specialists. Therefore, we have no illusions about this.

What should we do in response?

First, we will certainly improve our air defense systems. We will destroy them [the launched missiles aimed at Russia].

Second, we are considering the idea that if someone deems it possible to supply such weapons to the conflict zone for strikes on our territory and to create problems for us, then why shouldn't we have the right to supply our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world where strikes will be carried out on sensitive targets in the countries that are doing this against Russia? In other words, the response could be symmetrical. We will think on this.

Third, of course, such actions will ultimately, and they have already reached the highest degree of degradation, but they will ultimately destroy international relations and undermine international security. Ultimately, if we see that these countries are being drawn into a war against us, and this is their direct participation in the war against the Russian Federation, then we reserve the right to act similarly. But generally, this is a path to very serious problems. That's all, I think. If you have any follow-up questions, please go ahead. But I think I've covered everything.

Andrey Kondrashov: Mr. Polli, do you have another question? Or did you hear everything you wanted?

Stefano Polli: I have another question, but I’m not sure if it’s the right moment to ask it.

Putin: There won’t be another moment; we will leave soon. So, this is the right time.

Stefano Polli: I wanted to ask about Italy, if I may.

Italy supports Ukraine politically and militarily but also states that Italy is not at war with Russia. I would like you to comment on the position of the Italian leadership.

Putin: We see that the position of the Italian government is more restrained than the policies of many other European countries, and we take note of this and evaluate it accordingly. We see that in Italy, there is no rampant Russophobia, and we also take this into account. We very much hope that in the end, maybe after the situation somehow improves in Ukraine, we will be able to restore relations with Italy, and perhaps even faster than with any other European country.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Mr. Polli.

And now, we turn to Korea. Vice President for Digital Development at the Yonhap News Agency, Mr. Park Sang-hyun. Please, your question.

Park Sang-hyun (translated): Russia cooperates with Korea in the development of the Far East.

When you attended the credential presentation ceremony for the South Korean Ambassador in Moscow, you said that Russia is ready to build relations with South Korea. What are the plans in this regard?

Putin: As with Italy, I can say that we see no signs of a Russophobic attitude in the work of the leadership of the Republic of Korea. There are also no direct supplies of weapons to the conflict zone, and we greatly appreciate that. However, we also observe instances where American companies purchase weapons for subsequent delivery to the combat zone in Ukraine. We are monitoring this closely, but we hope that Russian-Korean relations will not degrade, given our interest in developing bilateral relations concerning the Korean Peninsula as a whole.

Unfortunately, everything that happens negatively impacts trade and economic ties. We very much hope that the level of relations achieved in previous decades will at least partially be preserved so that we have the opportunity to restore them in the future.

Today, unfortunately, many aspects of our cooperation are facing issues created by Korea—this is very regrettable. We work with other countries but would continue to work with Korea; however, this is not our choice, but the choice of the Korean leadership. Our channels are open, and we are ready.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you very much, Mr. Park, for your question.

Mr President, let me ask you a question on behalf of TASS.

Putin: Yes, of course.

Andrey Kondrashov: I want us to return to the Russian economy. This is like the anecdote: "I could listen to this forever." You have already talked about the current state of the economy.

Do you remember those people who said that the Russian economy was torn to shreds? Later, and now, we are under thousands of sanctions, and we are in the third year of a special military operation. Are the future prospects of the economy as bright as its current state? What do you think?

Putin: Some of our adversaries believe that these numerous sanctions—there are about 16-17 thousand of them—affect us negatively, and this certainly has some basis. Those who think so have the right to do so, especially concerning high-tech and other modern sectors like artificial intelligence and microelectronics. Everyone knows the problematic areas.

But there are two "buts." First, "COCOM" lists against Russia were never canceled, even during the best years of our relations with the so-called collective West. So, there were always restrictions. I have every reason to believe that counting on close cooperation in the most sensitive high-tech areas would have been unrealistic. However, the problems do exist, and we see them. But strangely enough, perhaps even for ourselves, we are overcoming them.

When we faced the fact that we could no longer buy certain items, we had to use our brains and turn to our manufacturers and developers. They do not just replace Western companies that have left; they quickly develop and improve their products. I think our adversaries did not expect such an effect, and neither did we, to some extent.

A simple example: we used to buy a certain tank in France, a relatively simple product but with complex metals, etc. They stopped supplying it. So, we placed an order in Nizhny Novgorod. Did they make it? Yes, they did. It’s not worse but even better in quality and three times cheaper. This is just a simple example from real life.

The same applies to many other areas. That’s why we see such growth. I think this explains the 3.4 percent GDP growth. But this growth will have certain limitations. The niches our producers occupy and the next steps in developing these niches where Western producers have left still have some constraints. We understand this.

Therefore, one of our main goals for development and strategic objectives is technological independence. We intend to and are already investing considerable resources into catching up where needed or even leapfrogging certain stages. We understand and recognize this.

Will we succeed? I can’t say for sure in advance, but we are optimistic and think we will, especially since we are forced to do this. If suddenly everything changes and we are offered cheap high-tech goods... It’s not about the government but about the participants in economic activities. They might switch to Western producers who offer good quality products at reasonable prices. But if that doesn’t happen, we will be forced to do it ourselves. Yes, we might have to adjust some goals and timelines, but we will achieve it.

We are making the MC-21 aircraft, which has a wing made of modern materials. The American administration sanctioned it, claiming it was dual-use technology. That’s nonsense. They did this because it’s a competitor to Boeing 737. This halted our production a bit, but we managed to overcome it. We delayed by two years but did it. The plane is flying now.

I have no doubts that we will achieve everything. The question is the timing. Timing is important because while we are working on something, others are moving ahead. We understand this and will try to work ahead of the curve. There is nothing critical in overcoming these sanctions, thank God. I hope it remains this way.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you very much, Mr President.

It is now logical to turn to the country leading in the number of sanctions against Russia—the United States of America. 3,500 sanctions have been imposed against us.

And now we have with us the Editor-in-Chief for Europe and Africa at the American news agency Associated Press, Mr. James Jordan. Please, Mr. Jordan, your question for President Putin.

James Jordan (translated): Thank you very much! Thank you, President Putin, for the opportunity to speak with you directly.

More than two years ago, you sent Russian troops to Ukraine, as you say, to protect Russian citizens and Russian-speaking citizens in Donbas and to ensure the security of Russia's eastern border. Since then, thousands of people have died on both sides. Hostilities have even spread to some Russian regions.

In the last few hours, Western officials confirmed to our agency that Ukraine has used Western weapons on Russian territory in recent days. Do you consider this an additional provocation (in continuation of my colleague's question)? What do you think Moscow has achieved over the past two years? And how can the fighting be ended?

Putin: The first thing we did was fulfill our duty to the people who suffered from the coup and subsequent fighting in southeastern Ukraine. We recognized the rights of these people living in these territories to protect their interests, their lives, and the lives of their children. And this, in my opinion, is the main thing.

We also showed ourselves and the whole world that we not only talk about protecting our interests, but we do it and will continue to do it without any doubt. Everyone will have to take this into account.

Regarding the second part of your question—what needs to be done to end the fighting in Ukraine—as a representative of the United States, I can tell you what I once told Mr. Biden. He sent me a letter, and I replied in writing: if you want to end the fighting in Ukraine, stop supplying weapons, and the actions will cease within two, at most three months. That’s all. This is the first point.

Second, we urge no one to interfere with the possible peace process.

Dear Mr. Jordan, I feel obliged to remind you of what happened at the end of 2022. We agreed with Ukraine that we were ready to sign an agreement that addressed several key issues.

The first issue for Ukraine was its security system. Ukraine in the draft agreement stated that it was not a member of NATO, it adhered to neutrality, but security was ensured in a way very close to NATO’s Charter, Articles 4 and 5. There’s no need to go into details, but it meant that all signatories would provide military assistance to Ukraine if necessary. For us, this was a difficult issue, and I said that it needed to be thought over, but it was open to discussion.

The same applied to Russia’s interests. This included Ukraine’s neutral status, its non-alignment with any blocs, certain arms limitations, etc., which were in Russia's interest.

Additionally, we talked about the denazification of Ukraine. I was very surprised when people asked what denazification meant. It means the legislative prohibition of Nazi propaganda. As strange as it may seem, we found common ground on this and other key issues necessary for peacefully resolving the crisis. The head of Ukraine’s negotiation team signed this draft agreement, which indicates it was generally acceptable to the Ukrainian side. If we accepted it, it was generally acceptable to Russia too.

I don’t want to put you in a difficult position, but I will ask a rhetorical question: why did Mr. Johnson go to Kyiv and recommend throwing this agreement in the trash? Why did he set the goal for his Ukrainian colleagues to achieve victory on the battlefield and achieve a strategic defeat of Russia?

Ukrainian officials publicly stated that if they had signed this agreement, the war would have ended in late 2022. This was not said by us but by Ukrainian officials in Kyiv publicly.

I have a rhetorical question: why did they prevent us from signing this agreement with Ukraine? I can only assume that some wanted to achieve their goals in their foreign policy towards Russia, aiming to destroy Russia, achieve its strategic defeat, etc.

You asked what needs to be done. I hope I gave a comprehensive answer. When you have the opportunity to talk to your country's leadership, please ask them: why did you interfere with the peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine?

What I told you is just my assumption about why they did it. But maybe there is another, more comprehensive and official answer. But I can’t fully answer for my colleagues from the United States and the United Kingdom.

And there is no doubt that Mr. Johnson did this not only on his own initiative but also with the support of the US administration.

James Jordan: Thank you, Mr. President.

If I may, let me ask one more brief question not related to Ukraine? It concerns journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been in detention for over a year. So far, no evidence has been presented regarding the crimes he allegedly committed. Can you provide any updates on the negotiations with the US regarding his release? When will we see him free?

Putin: You know, you believe he is innocent, but Russian law enforcement and special services believe he committed illegal actions called espionage. I will not go into details. I know the US administration is indeed taking vigorous steps to secure his release. However, such issues are not resolved through the media; they require a quiet, calm, professional approach and dialogue between intelligence services. And of course, they should be resolved based on reciprocity. The relevant US and Russian services are in contact regarding this issue.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Mr. Jordan.

And now, Turkey (Turkiye). We have the Deputy Director General and Chief Editor of the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Mr. Yusuf Özhan.

Please, Mr. Özhan, your question.

Yusuf Özhan (translated): Thank you very much, Mr. President, for inviting us today.

I want to ask a question that builds on one I asked three years ago via Zoom, regarding Gaza and the war in the Gaza Strip. Millions of people around the world are opposing the attacks on the people of Gaza, which have now reached the level of genocide. How does Russia wish to play a role in finding a solution to what is happening in Gaza? Do you want to activate mechanisms within the Security Council? Because not only the people of Gaza, but also people of Palestine in general, and people from various backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and even those not connected to Palestine, people around the world and global powers, are calling to end what is happening in the Gaza Strip.

Putin: The first thing I want to say is that, of course, we are against terrorism in all its forms and against attacks on civilians anywhere and in any country.

But what is happening now in Gaza, in response to the well-known terrorist act in Israel, does not look much like a war. It seems like the total destruction of the civilian population.

I can only reiterate Russia's official position on this issue. We believe this is the result of US policy, which has monopolized the Israeli-Palestinian settlement process, sidelining all previously established instruments for collective efforts to resolve this complex issue.

Perhaps someone in the U.S. administration thought that fewer opinions would lead to quicker agreements, but practice has shown that this is not the case.

Secondly, trying to solve the issue through material handouts is also unpromising. We have discussed this before, saying that it is unlikely to replace the resolution of political issues related to the future of the Palestinian people with economic incentives. Yes, this is needed to create an atmosphere for solving certain problems, but the political issues must be addressed.

The main political issue is the creation of two states, as originally envisioned by the UN resolution: creating a Palestinian state and a Jewish state on this territory. Without resolving key issues, I believe it is unlikely that the issue can be fundamentally resolved.

I must say that Russia's position on this matter is principled and not influenced by any current trends. We recognized the Palestinian state as such a long time ago, even during Soviet times. Our position has not changed. We know that President Erdogan is making vigorous efforts to resolve this acute, long-standing problem. Given President Erdogan's authority in the region, in the world, and in the Islamic world, we very much hope that his contribution will be significant. We are ready to do everything in our power to help resolve the situation, considering our established relations with the state of Israel over the past decades.

Andrey Kondrashov: Mr. Ozhan, do you have a second question while you have the opportunity?

Yusuf Özhan: Yes, I have another question related to Turkish-Russian relations. You have been negotiating for the past ten years, and one of the mega-projects Turkey and Russia have built together is the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. Now, looking to the future, are there any changes on the Russian side regarding the construction of the gas hub that has been discussed in recent years? Are there any updates from the Russian side about this project, or are there other future projects being discussed between the two countries? Thank you.

Putin: Regarding Akkuyu, everything is going according to plan, everything is on schedule, absolutely on schedule, with no delays. A large number of people are working there, mainly builders, including many from Turkey. Our specialists are working in Turkey, and we are grateful to the Turkish leadership for the conditions created for this work. The first unit is nearing completion, and work is progressing normally on all units.

Regarding hydrocarbons, I have already mentioned that we are not just building a station; we are training personnel. We are ready to take back the spent fuel and so on. We are creating an industry. It is not just a station; it is a new sector of Turkey's economy and energy. President Erdogan made a strategic choice, which I believe is very correct. It also helps reduce dependency on hydrocarbons. Our partnership is very reliable.

Regarding the gas hub, we are thinking about it. Gazprom is in contact with BOTAS and other partners. To clarify, I always try to explain that it is not just a gas storage facility but an electronic trading platform, initially for trading gas, primarily to Europe.

I want to draw your attention to the fact that we protect both the Blue Stream, which runs along the bottom of the Black Sea to Turkey, and the Turkish Stream, from which gas flows to Europe. We have to protect these gas routes along the bottom of the Black Sea because the Ukrainian armed forces are trying to strike and destroy them. At any rate, the ships protecting these routes are constantly under attack.

Recently, about seven to ten days ago, Ukrainian drones tried to attack a gas pumping station on the Black Sea coast that supplies gas to Turkey. I want to draw your attention to the fact that Turkey cooperates with Ukraine on some fronts, but Ukraine tries to strike the gas pipelines supplying gas to Turkey. This is not a joke or an exaggeration. Two drones were suppressed by Russian army electronic warfare systems and fell near this gas pumping station on the Black Sea coast. I am not exaggerating; this is exactly what happened. Please inform our friend President Erdogan about the realities of what is happening. The ships protecting this gas transportation system in the Black Sea are constantly under attack from these drone boats (BEC), which are supplied to Ukraine by European countries. They are attacking our ships in the Black Sea, protecting these two pipeline systems.

This should probably be discussed more often and more clearly. Still, regarding bilateral relations, they are developing quite successfully, and trade turnover is growing.

I observe that the economic bloc of the Turkish government recently emphasizes obtaining loans, investments, and grants from Western financial institutions. That is probably not bad. But if this is linked to restrictions on trade and economic relations with Russia, the losses for the Turkish economy will be greater than the gains. This threat exists. This is a special consideration. We just look at the figures. Macroeconomic indicators require special attention from the Turkish government. I do not want to go into details, although I am well aware of them; I understand what is happening.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you for your question, Mr.Özhan.

Mr President, you recently paid a state visit to Uzbekistan, which you described as very fruitful and successful. And now we have a guest from Tashkent, Abdusaid Kuchimov, the General Director of the National Information Agency of Uzbekistan.

Abdusaid Kuchimovich, the floor is yours.

Abdusaid Kuchimov: Thank you.

Mr President, during the recent talks in Tashkent, you and President Shavkat Mirziyoyev exchanged views on current international issues.

For our Uzbekistan, peace and stability in neighboring Afghanistan are extremely important. Unfortunately, we see that events in Ukraine have completely pushed the equally acute Afghan problem off the global agenda. However, there is an objective need to engage with the new authorities in Afghanistan and help address the socio-economic problems of the long-suffering Afghan people. Moreover, we see the firm desire of the new Afghan government, the Taliban, to establish peace in the country and cooperate constructively with all states.

My question is: how important is it for the Russian Federation to maintain dialogue with Afghanistan? Does the Afghan direction occupy an important place in Russian policy today? And what is your view on the processes around this country? Thank you.

Putin: First, I want to confirm that the visit to Uzbekistan was very thorough, fruitful, and productive. We have not had such a format with anyone else yet. It was President Mirziyoyev’s initiative that we not only visited Uzbekistan with a large government delegation but also held a meeting of regional leaders. Half of the Russian government and many regional leaders of the Russian Federation went to Tashkent. Some regional leaders enjoyed communicating with the updated Russian government leadership in Tashkent, which was interesting, but they also actively interacted among themselves. This turned out to be very useful, even unexpectedly for me. This is the first point.

Secondly, we discussed the problem of Ukraine, and President Mirziyoyev, of course, actively advocates for a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis and has repeatedly expressed Uzbekistan’s concerns about what is happening in Ukraine. We are grateful to the president for the clearly neutral and very balanced policy of Uzbekistan in this regard.

Regarding Afghanistan, we discussed this extensively. Uzbekistan faces the problem of access to the World Ocean, to the seas, and various options exist, including developing logistics through Afghanistan's territory: pipeline transport, railway transport, automobile transport, energy supplies, electricity, and so on.

In this regard, stability in Afghanistan is very important for both Uzbekistan and us. We have always believed that we must deal with the realities: the Taliban control power in Afghanistan, and it is essential to ensure that all agreements at the UN level are fulfilled, including making the government inclusive with the participation of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan. This is a delicate, very important issue. But relations with the Taliban government must be built.

In general, we have contacts. I know that Afghanistan is developing this too. We will continue to work on this together, considering Uzbekistan's long borders and the need to ensure security and develop logistics.

We agreed to work on this together and study these possibilities.

Thank you very much.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Abdusaid Kuchimovich.

And now, our Far Eastern neighbor – the Executive Director of the Japanese news agency Kyodo News, Toshimitsu Sawai. Mr. Sawai is a highly experienced international journalist. Throughout his career, he has worked as a correspondent in various parts of the world, such as Kenya, Thailand, Pakistan, and the USA.

Mr. Sawai, please, your question.

Toshimitsu Sawai (translated): Thank you very much, Mr President, for giving me the valuable opportunity to ask you a question today.

Currently, there are many points of concern for Japan in the Far East region of the world. First, there are territorial issues with Russia. In addition, there is the deepening military cooperation between Russia and North Korea. These are the two problems Japan is currently facing.

Regarding the territorial issue, you mentioned in Khabarovsk this year that you would definitely visit the four disputed Kuril Islands. Do you already have concrete plans or a schedule for this visit? How do you think your visit will impact our bilateral relations, given that the negotiations are currently suspended? Will your visit further damage our bilateral relations?

Regarding the Japan-Russia negotiations and their resumption: during the ongoing special military operation in Ukraine, these negotiations were suspended. Can descendants of former residents of the islands expect to resume their visits to their ancestors' graves on the islands?

Putin: Our relations with Japan were developing quite steadily and progressively. There were many issues, especially concerning the main, key point in our relations—the peace treaty. It was difficult to solve the peace treaty without addressing the questions related to the Kuril Islands. We were well aware of this.

In the 1950s, as we both know well, the Soviet government made a decision, I think in 1956, to sign a declaration stating that the Soviet Union was ready to transfer two of these islands to Japan. However, it did not specify on what basis, under whose sovereignty the islands would be, or other possible conditions, including material ones. But the idea of transfer was mentioned in this declaration. Moreover, it was even ratified by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Then, for some reason, the Japanese side refused to fulfill these agreements. Consequently, the Soviet Union also declared that it was withdrawing this ratification.

At Japan's request, we returned to these discussions. The dialogue was difficult, but it still took place.

You mentioned several issues now. Regarding visiting the islands, the Russian Federation considers them part of its sovereign territory, so I do not see why I should be hesitant to visit one of the territories of the Russian Federation. This is the first point.

Why do we consider it so? Because relevant documents were signed, including in the United States, by delegations from both sides, and this is one of the results of World War II. We do not review the results of World War II.

This does not mean that there was no possibility of negotiating; it is a delicate issue that is not simply black and white, but we were not afraid to engage in dialogue in this direction.

Therefore, the first thing I want to say is that I see no reason why I should not visit these islands. To be honest, I have not planned it yet due to being busy with other matters.

But you mentioned that my visit would lead to problems in resolving issues related to the preparation of a peace treaty. Dear colleague, do you think Japan's announcement that it is joining the attempts to achieve a strategic defeat of Russia is not an obstacle to continuing the dialogue on a peace treaty? Japan has joined calls to achieve a strategic defeat of Russia, and you think this is conducive to negotiating a peace treaty? Do you think my hypothetical desire to visit the islands is more serious than the Japanese government's statement about achieving a strategic defeat of the Russian Federation? I understand this is not your personal question but one dictated by your editorial team. However, please ask this question to your leaders. That is the first point.

Secondly, we see Japan's involvement in this Ukrainian crisis today. There are currently no conditions for continuing the dialogue between Russia and Japan on a peace treaty. We are not refusing to resume it, but only if the necessary conditions are created, primarily by the Japanese side. We did nothing in our bilateral relations to complicate the Russia-Japan dialogue. Everything that was done was done by Japan.

Regarding relations between Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, one can have any opinion on what was and what is. Firstly, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has repeatedly shown a willingness to negotiate, including with the United States. I believe this willingness to negotiate prompted former US President Trump to meet with Kim Jong Un. The American side saw this readiness. Moreover, the North Koreans agreed with the Americans that they would not conduct tests and even dismantled a test site. They not only agreed but also acted in response to corresponding steps from the United States, including in the banking sector. They did this. What did they get in return? The United States unilaterally violated these agreements, openly and without any hesitation. Naturally, the North Koreans withdrew from these agreements. So what? What prevents us from developing relations with a country with which we share a common border?

There are some things that even make me question. Yes, we supported some steps towards North Korea at one time, for example, in the area of labor migration. Honestly, I am telling you all this because you are all working in the information field; you are all people involved in these processes, in the know. Why did we do this, to be honest? What harm do labor migrants pose and to whom? It seems strange. We care about the environment, about birds, about some sea animals, about this and that. But the fact that people will starve not because they are overly militant but because they, as individuals, are prohibited from working somewhere and are restricted from earning money to feed their families is strange.

You know, even now, speaking detachedly from all the arising problems, this is how it will always be in the world if threats are posed to someone. They respond when threatened. If there were no threats, I think the nuclear issue would gradually be resolved. But they are constantly threatened, so what should they do in response?

Regarding our relations with North Korea, with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea—they are our neighbors. We will develop relations, whether anyone likes it or not.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you very much for your question.

Mr President, Samia Nakhoul from Reuters would like to ask another question, if you don't mind. Please, Samia, go ahead.

Samia Nakhoul (translated): Yes, I have two questions.

First, regarding the situation in Gaza. The war has been ongoing for eight months. Prime Minister [of Israel] Netanyahu has stated that he will not stop until Hamas is defeated, which has not yet happened. What scenarios do you foresee for how this crisis will unfold?

Secondly, considering your diplomatic relations with the Palestinian authorities and Hamas, as well as your influence with the Gulf countries, do you think you can play a leading role in mediating to end this conflict based on the creation of two states, as envisioned by the Madrid Conference? Is there hope for a Palestinian state? This is my first question.

Putin: I believe there is hope. There is hope because there are people in the United States and in Israel who advocate for the creation of two states and believe that this path—towards the creation of two sovereign states—can lead to peace and a viable solution.

Is it important for Russia to play a leading role? I think not. There are many players involved in this conflict who have significant influence over the events. But we can certainly contribute to the effort to find a resolution, considering our long-standing relations with Israel and our traditional, very trusting relations with the Islamic and Arab world.

I believe that the decisive contribution should be made by the countries of the region and organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League; neighboring states like Egypt, of course, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, Turkey as one of the leading players in the Islamic world, and certainly the United States. We do not adhere to an extremist position that the United States should be excluded—on the contrary, God forbid, that is impossible. And of course, Israel.

We need to find a golden mean. Again, I think this can be done, considering the sentiments in American and Israeli societies, and even more so the sentiments in the Islamic and Arab world.

We are trying to exert our influence on the events to the best of our ability, including the humanitarian aspect. As you know, we played a certain role in the release of several hostages with Russian roots. We continue this work with our partners, with whom, you are right, we have stable, trusting relationships established over decades.

But we need to work together. We should not monopolize this work. It is harmful because monopolization, even if it were good, would only be so if the monopolist adhered to a neutral position. But a monopolist cannot maintain neutrality and inevitably takes one side, causing everything to fall apart and leading to the tragedies we are currently experiencing.

That's the general perspective.


Samia Nakhoul (translated): And regarding the scenarios. How do you see the conflict in Gaza developing?

And my final question after that.

Putin: We have made several initiatives to cease fire in the UN Security Council, but the United States blocks them, imposing vetoes. If we worked together and reached agreements, that would be the right scenario. But so far, it hasn’t worked.

We directly call for a ceasefire—veto; another initiative—veto. If we didn't engage in mutual vetoing but instead attempted to reach agreements based on mutual interest in solving the problem, that would likely be the path to a solution.

Did you have another question? Please go ahead.

Samia Nakhoul (translated): Yes. Returning to Ukraine: what could trigger a nuclear war? And how close are we to that risk?

Putin: You know, we are constantly accused of wielding some kind of "nuclear club." But did I bring up the possibility of using nuclear weapons? You did. You are bringing me to this topic, and then you will say that I waved a "nuclear club."

This is a very serious issue. The United States is the only country that has used nuclear weapons during World War II: Hiroshima and Nagasaki—20 kilotons. Our tactical nuclear weapons are 70–75 kilotons. Let’s not even get close to the use or threat of use.

For some reason, the West believes that Russia will never use this. We have a nuclear doctrine—look at what it says. If someone's actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible to use all means at our disposal.

This issue should not be taken lightly or superficially but should be approached professionally. I hope that everyone in the world will treat such matters with the seriousness they deserve.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you, Samia Nakhoul.

Now, Ali Naderi from IRNA, the Iranian news agency, has another question.

Please, Mr. Naderi.

Ali Naderi (translated): Thank you! We've been talking for three hours now. In your speeches, you mentioned sanctions and the accession of Iran to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, as well as cooperation within these organizations to create a multipolar world.

My question is: how do you see the world order in the future, considering the will of various independent countries? In your opinion, will monopolism and a unipolar world continue?

Putin: You know what happened. We've talked about this many times, and you know it better than anyone. The Soviet Union collapsed: it either fell apart or was dismantled—it doesn't matter; what matters is that it ceased to exist. Only one superpower remained, which thought it could command everyone. But the world is complex and diverse, and it evolves rapidly, with new centers of power emerging.

One Western, European politician said (not me, I want everyone to understand) that all European countries are small countries, but not all have realized it yet.

Look at how Asia is developing. The People's Republic of China—1.5 billion people, and India probably has even more now. Other Asian countries are developing rapidly—South Asia, Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia. Their growth rates are high, and their populations are growing. The trends show that development is gradually shifting in that direction.

Several processes in this region of the world are not only catching up in terms of growth rates but also in living standards. All this will inevitably lead to a change in the world's configuration. Already today, we cannot speak of any kind of monopolism—it no longer exists. The world can only exist as a diverse, multipolar entity. A world with complete monopoly would be terrible, just as it would be in nature and politics.

I'm not sure whether it was good for the United States that such a monopoly was established after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It required additional efforts from the United States itself.

Look, the United States spends more on defense than all other countries combined. If you add up the defense expenditures of all countries in the world, the US still spends more. Why? Huge amounts go into maintaining bases abroad.

I’m often asked how we manage to have such modern weapons, like the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, or others. Because we concentrate our efforts, finances, and administrative resources on solving key tasks. The US, on the other hand, is forced to spend money on maintaining armed forces with extensive bases worldwide, leading to enormous expenses and widespread corruption. I'm not accusing anyone specifically—there's corruption everywhere, in all countries, including ours, but it's greater in the US military. Why? Because there’s always more theft in maintenance—that's inevitable.

Enormous resources go into maintaining their imperial status. Does it benefit the citizens of the United States? I don't think so. This is what’s contributing to the gradual decline of the United States' dominance, and American researchers know this, speak openly about it, and write about it. I read their work. The question is how quickly this decline will happen.

If there were smart people, they would read what their researchers write and adapt, staying at the top longer. But the current leadership wants to maintain this imperial status at any cost, only harming itself. But changes are happening nonetheless—they are inevitable, and there is no longer a unipolar world.

I think our task is to ensure that in the US, Europe, Russia, and Asia, understanding this, we don't reach the extreme that our British colleague mentioned. And understanding this, we should temper our ambitions and be able to negotiate rather than argue against agreements. Then, the world will change without the cataclysms that everyone fears.

Ali Naderi (translated): I have another question. Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a document against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Considering that America withdrew from the nuclear agreement and did not participate in it, this agreement was adopted.

It seems to me that there needs to be some agency or body that is more professional, more competent—so that it cannot be used as a weapon.

What do you think about this situation?

Putin: I'm not sure I understood your question correctly. But Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the well-known agreement you mentioned—every single one. No claims can be made against Iran.

Then, the United States unilaterally decided to withdraw from this agreement, and the Europeans continued to demand that Iran fulfill its obligations. Forgive me, but that's nonsense. It wasn't Iran that withdrew from the agreement. The US withdrew; former President Trump decided to withdraw from the agreement. And the Europeans say: yes, it's not good that the Americans withdrew, but you Iranians should comply with everything. What does Iran have to do with it? Excuse my language, it sounds a bit harsh in Russian. But if the key player withdrew from the agreement, why should Iran bear the burden of compliance?

Nonetheless, you know, we even persuaded Iran not to take any drastic steps, not to withdraw.

Andrey Kondrashov: DPA agency, Germany.

Martin Romanczyk (translated): Mr. President, in the last few hours we discussed problems and what, in your opinion, needs to be done to solve them. During the last two meetings with Minister Lavrov, and during the G20 meeting, Brazil took over the presidency this year.

Have you decided whether you will attend the G20 summit?

Putin: I don't know yet, but I do not exclude the possibility. First and foremost, I must be guided by the demands of the day. As you understand, we have many issues in our country, but it is possible that I will attend, and it is also possible that I won't. You know, we understand the world we live in. To be straightforward: it will depend on the situation in the country, the situation on the Ukrainian front, and the overall global environment. To go there and listen to some dirt about Russia from those partners who consider us aggressors, although they themselves, in my opinion, are, is not very appealing, and it creates problems for our friends. We work within the G20 and will continue to do so. Whether it is necessary for me to appear in person, I don’t know yet. We'll see. As they say in Russia, we’ll live and see.

Andrey Kondrashov: Karim Talbi, France-Presse.

Karim Talbi: I have two short questions. The first one, of interest to the American people: Will Tucker Carlson be your moderator on Friday at the plenary session [of the SPIEF] here in St. Petersburg?

Putin: Carlson? I don't even know who the moderator will be, I have no idea. Mr. Peskov hasn’t reported this to me yet.

(Addressing Dmitry Peskov) Who will be the moderator?

Dmitry Peskov: I will report separately.

Putin: He will report to me separately. I don't know – we haven't agreed on this with Mr. Carlson.

Karim Talbi: And my second question. It’s already dark, but behind you, there are three flags visible: the flag of Russia, the flag of the Russian Empire, and the flag of the Soviet Union. The flag of the Russian Empire is the highest, let's say.

Putin: No, no – they are all equal.

Karim Talbi: Which one is closer to your heart?

Putin: The official flag of the Russian Federation, the tricolor, is the official flag of Russia. That's the first thing.

Secondly, I can tell you that it was not a political decision by the Government or the Presidential Administration. This was a decision by Gazprom, as strange as it may seem. Mr. Miller, of course, informed me about his intention to do this. I can reveal this discussion to you; there's nothing secret here. I said, "Why? We have a state flag." He replied, "This is all part of our history." I believe it was [Alexander II] who established the Imperial flag. He thought it should include black and yellow colors. Why? Because these are the colors of the Russian coat of arms. That's how it was presented in the 19th century. Peter I established the state flag, the tricolor. The flag of the Soviet Union, especially since it is associated with the victory over Nazism, also has the right to exist in our history and public consciousness. I didn't object, I said, "Okay, if you want to, go ahead."

Everything has its own basis, that's all. There’s no need to look for hidden meanings, no need to look for some subtext, and no need to invent any imperial ambitions – there are none. There are none because the world is changing quickly. For example, Uzbekistan. Do you know the population there? No. How many people are in France now?

Karim Talbi: Many.

Putin: Well, many. 60 million, yes? 65. In Uzbekistan, it's already 37. Now pay attention: a million more every year. A million – the population growth in Uzbekistan. At this rate, they will soon overtake France. If you exclude immigrants, soon there will be as many people in France as in Uzbekistan.

Let me explain why. If someone suspects us of imperial ambitions, consider this: if we were to restore the Soviet Union, we would predominantly have an Islamic population. Has that ever crossed your mind?

There’s no need to invent things that don't exist. We are not against the growth of the Islamic population – on the contrary, we are pleased with what is happening today in the Russian Federation. In some republics with predominantly Islamic populations, there is very high birth rate – we are very happy about that. But what was is over, the page has turned. We are looking to the future based on the realities of today. The flags you see are part of our history. There’s no need to invent anything and form an opinion about Russia based on these inventions, there’s no need to create an image of an enemy out of Russia – you’re only hurting yourselves by doing this, understand?

They’ve invented that Russia wants to attack NATO. Are you out of your minds? Completely stupid, like this table? Who came up with this? It's nonsense, utter nonsense! But it would be nonsense if it were not a ploy to fool their own population by saying, "Alert! Russia is about to attack us! We urgently need to arm ourselves, urgently send weapons to Ukraine!" But what is this actually for? To maintain their own imperial position and greatness – that's what it's for, these threats and scare tactics for the citizens in Germany, France, and other parts of Europe, that's why. This threat does not exist and cannot exist. We are defending ourselves in Ukraine.

Where are the United States – across the ocean – and where are we. Just imagine: if we were doing in Canada what the United States is doing at our doorstep here in Ukraine, or in Mexico. Or if we said that the United States annexed part of Mexico's territories at one time and encouraged Mexico to fight for the return of their territories. This is roughly the same as what Western countries are doing regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Have you ever thought about that?

Don’t focus on these flags – look at the essence of the events. We have no imperial ambitions, believe me, it's all nonsense – just like the threat from Russia to NATO countries or Europe. Do you understand? Look at NATO's potential and look at Russia's potential. Do you think we're insane or something?

Karim Talbi: In France, we don't simultaneously fly the flag of the last king of France, the flag of Napoleon, and the flag of the Republic. These flags – sorry, when I came here, I wasn't the only one who immediately noticed them. They are very visible.

Putin: Well, they are not anywhere else.

Mr. Miller, it was his private initiative, his company’s initiative; he is interested in Russian history, the history of Russia. Once again, I repeat to you: it is connected only with history and paying tribute to the generations that lived with these banners and flags and achieved significant success in the development of our state.

Andrey Kondrashov: Thank you.

Andrey Kondrashov: We have one more short question from the Spanish agency EFE.

Putin: We'll be sitting here until morning at this rate.

Shall we move it to tomorrow? We still have to go to Pushkin, to Tsarskoye Selo.

Andrey Kondrashov: Then let me ask you the final question.

Putin: Alright, let's go.

Jose Manuel Sanz Mingote (translated): Very briefly. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the landing of American and French soldiers. They fought alongside Russian soldiers. Do you exclude the possibility that Russians, French, and Americans can act together and be partners in the present time?

Putin: We do not exclude it – it is the Americans and Europeans who exclude it. We are in favor – we did not impose any sanctions on Europe, we did not cut off energy supplies to Germany and other countries. It is sanctions that are imposed on us.

You just mentioned that tomorrow will mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the opening of the second front. We have always had great respect for our allies – great respect: for the Americans, the English, the British, and the French.

By the way, do the French know that it was Stalin who insisted that France be present and, actually, not just present, but be a signatory to the surrender treaty, the German Instrument of Surrender 1945? Both the United States and Great Britain objected. Stalin insisted that France be present as a victor at the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender Act. The French do not remember this: they either do not want to or simply do not see it as important. But it is a historical fact, and it is all in our archives.

We have always had respect for the fighting, warring France. Despite the fact that Hitler's troops marched through Paris, we supported the Maquis and those who fought alongside us, including the pilots of the "Normandie – Niemen" squadron. We always remember this and do not forget it. Our doors are always open for negotiations, meetings, and discussions.

You just said that there will be a celebration, but it turns out that we are not invited to this celebration. How many American soldiers died during the war against Nazism? 500 thousand, 600 thousand? Somewhere around 500 thousand. The British lost even fewer, the British lost far fewer than in the First World War. As you know, the main sacrifices on the altar of the common victory were made by the Soviet Union. According to the latest data, about 27 million people, of which 70 percent were from the RSFSR, that is, from Russia. Yes, 70 percent accounted for the Russian Federation – these are official data. You ask me: are we ready or not ready? But we are not invited to this event.

The main contribution to the defeat of Nazism – of course, this is an obvious thing, you just need to read what Churchill said in his time or Roosevelt about the contribution of the Soviet Union, essentially Russia, to the common victory over Nazism. This is obvious, everyone knows it. Only completely dishonest people can distort these facts. Let them celebrate without us; it doesn't affect us. But this is the answer to your question: who wants this dialogue and who doesn't.

I think that today's Ukrainian leadership will be present there. Listen to me: how can one celebrate such a serious date in the fight against Nazism with those who exalt neo-Nazis and make them national heroes? Today's symbol of Ukrainian statehood is Bandera. He was one of Hitler's main accomplices in Eastern Europe. It was by the hands of Bandera's men that thousands of not only Russians and Poles but also Jews were shot. He was Hitler's closest accomplice. Yes, at the end of the war, he began to sniff out and understand that Hitler's victory was slipping away, he began to look for allies in the west, and the Germans noticed this. But he was the main collaborator. He walked with raised hands and greeted – they not only greeted but directly worked with the Nazis.

The then-legitimate head of the Ukrainian state in Canada, as you well know, applauded a former SS soldier standing. What, you don't know about this? Everyone knows. Only the media in Europe, the United States, and Canada remain silent about this fact, as if it didn't happen, but it did. He was told: "Here is a man who fought against the Russians during the Second World War." Everyone stood up, including the President of Ukraine, and began to applaud him. Who fought against the Russians during the Second World War? Hitler and those who collaborated with him. And the one they applauded was a former SS "Galicia" soldier, and everyone applauded him.

And tomorrow, these people will celebrate the landing of the allies in Normandy. How is that? And Russia, which is the successor to the Soviet Union and which suffered such huge losses, they are somehow embarrassed to invite. It doesn't affect us, but this is just the answer to your question: who is interested in normal relations and their restoration, and who is not. We are for it.

Well, shall we wrap it up?

Andrey Kondrashov: The final question – may I, Mr President ?

Putin: Yes, go ahead.

Andrey Kondrashov: It's very brief.

Putin: (Addressing Martin Romanczyk.) Did you want to say something?

Andrey Kondrashov: You go ahead, and I'll ask the final question afterward.

Putin: Please.

Martin Romanczyk (translated): You spoke about Nazism. You know that in Germany, there is a party that causes concern among the public and other parties due to its uncritical stance towards this period in our history – the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Many are under observation by constitutional oversight due to their statements and actions. Mr. Chrupalla, the co-chair of this party, was, if I remember correctly, in Moscow in 2020. He was invited to the Russian embassy in Berlin, as far as I know.

How do you view the Alternative for Germany? How do you see the relationship between this party and Russia, and Russia's relationship with this party?

Putin: You know, despite the fact that the gentleman you mentioned was in Moscow – I think I even met with one of the leaders, though I don't remember who – we do not have systematic relations with representatives of this party.

But what we understand about what is happening in the Federal Republic is that any alternative point of view there is perceived as anti-state, and everyone is immediately labeled as agents of the Kremlin. But, you know, if a political force criticizes the current government, then in a democracy, there are probably no grounds to immediately declare this political force's work anti-state and move towards shutting it down. When Hitler was imprisoned after an unsuccessful coup in Bavaria, as I recall, his rating immediately soared and he gained wings behind his back. Before that, he was not considered a national politician, but after his arrest, he became one.

But we do not see any signs of neo-Nazism in the activities of the Alternative for Germany. If someone expresses support for normal relations with our country, with Russia, we only support that. But we do not make decisions about whether this political force operates within the Constitution or not. I repeat once more: we do not see anything that would cause us concern. If the current government sees a threat to itself in the position of the Alternative for Germany, as they say, that's not our beer – that's a matter of political development within the Federal Republic itself.

You know, I want to return to what I just said. The Alternative for Germany is suspected of some neo-Nazi positions, but people who collaborated with the Nazi regime in the same Ukraine are somehow not noticed. This is what we call double standards both in domestic and foreign policy. We will cooperate with everyone who wants to work with Russia. And we do not give political assessments within Germany – that is the business of the political authorities themselves, the constitutional court, and so on.

But I have already said, using the example of Hitler. Those who use non-political means in political struggle do not achieve the results they strive for.

Andrey Kondrashov: Mr President, you surely know, but just in case you don't, that the Western press is very partial to you personally and very often depicts you either as a villain or as a monster...

Putin: That's right, they are correct in depicting me that way – let them be afraid, that's right.

Andrey Kondrashov: Does Dmitry Peskov show you these pictures or not? And how do you generally feel about it – is it important?

Putin: No, he doesn't show them to me. Probably to protect my mood.

I know that from time to time, when relations between countries become strained, they try to scare the public. There's nothing new here. Honestly, I don't have time to deal with this propaganda, to watch these propaganda materials. I prefer to deal with the substance of our relations with our current partners, with potential partners, with former partners with the goal of establishing normal relations that would help achieve our national development goals. That's all.

Andrey Kondrashov: Mr president, thank you very much for this candid conversation on behalf of TASS and our colleagues. Patience, health, and God's help in your endeavors.

Putin: Thank you.

I also want to thank you all for being here, whether you came on assignment or just without an assignment, but didn't fear to come. In any case, thank you for your interest in what is happening in Russia, in what is happening in our relations with other countries in these very challenging times. We won't go into detail about why and what is happening – we all understand what I'm talking about.

But for your presence here, for your interest, I want to express my gratitude and hope that you will report everything as objectively as possible and, while fulfilling your mission and assignments, still try to do it as correctly as possible.

I hope that our meeting today and your work in the future will be aimed at ensuring that the situation between our countries bilaterally and the situation in the world as a whole stabilizes and moves towards resolving crises rather than endless escalation and aggravation.

Thank you very much. All the best.