In conclusion of his visit to Uzbekistan, Vladimir Putin answered journalists’ questions. Following excerpts adapted from the press release published by Kremlin
Question: Now that the SCO summit is over, summing it up, can you tell us how you regard the SCO’s development prospects and what the most important thing is for Russia in the SCO?
Vladimir Putin: The most important thing always and everywhere is economic development. And the SCO, cooperation with the SCO countries, creates conditions for the development of the Russian economy, and thus for the social sphere and for resolving the tasks related to improving the living standards of our citizens.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation includes countries whose population, as has been said many times, comprises almost or even slightly more than half of humanity. It is 25 percent of world GDP. And, most importantly, the national economies in the region, those of the SCO member states, are developing much faster than others in the world.
Now we had a separate meeting. I sat next to the Prime Minister of India at the working dinner. India’s GDP grew by 7 percent, China’s by more than 5 percent. China was in the lead for quite a time and its potential is tremendous. Our trade with these countries is growing fast. If these rates are preserved, and they are bound to be for many objective reasons, we will be one of these countries, next to them, ensuring our interests. This is what we are doing and this is the main point.
Question: This question is certainly worrying very many people in our country. People have already developed certain concerns over the course of the special military operation in Ukraine. We are increasingly seeing strikes, raids and acts of terror even on Russian territory. We are hearing all the time very aggressive statements that the final goal of Kiev and the West is Russia’s disintegration. Meanwhile, many think that Russia’s response to all of this is very restrained. Why is that?
Vladimir Putin: There is nothing new about this. Frankly, I find it even a bit strange to hear your question because Western countries have cultivated the idea of the collapse of the Soviet Union and historical Russia and Russia as such, its nucleus.
I have already cited these statements and studies by some figures in Great Britain during World War I and after it. I cited excerpts from Mr Brzezinski’s writings in which he divided the entire territory of our country into specific parts. True, later he changed his position a bit in the belief that it was better to keep Russia in opposition to China and use it as a tool to combat China. It will never happen. Let them address their own challenges as they see fit. But we are seeing how they are handling them and, most likely, they are doing harm to themselves in the process. Their tools are no good.
But they have always been seeking the dissolution of our country – this is very true. It is unfortunate that at some point they decided to use Ukraine for these purposes. In effect – I am answering your question now and the conclusion suggests itself – we launched our special military operation to prevent events from taking this turn. This is what some US-led Western countries have always been seeking – to create an anti-Russia enclave and rock the boat, threaten Russia from this direction. In essence, our main goal is to prevent such developments.
With regard to our restrained response, I would not say it was restrained, even though, after all, a special military operation is not just another warning, but a military operation. In the course of this, we are seeing attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks and damage our civilian infrastructure.
Indeed, we were quite restrained in our response, but that will not last forever. Recently, Russian Armed Forces delivered a couple of sensitive blows to that area. Let’s call them warning shots. If the situation continues like that, our response will be more impactful
Terrorist attacks are a serious matter. In fact, it is about using terrorist methods. We see this in the killing of officials in the liberated territories, we even see attempts at perpetrating terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation, including – I am not sure if this was made public – attempts to carry out terrorist attacks near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants in the Russian Federation. I am not even talking about the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.
We are monitoring the situation and will do our best to prevent a negative scenario from unfolding. We will respond if they fail to realise that these approaches are unacceptable. They are, in fact, no different than terrorist attacks.
Question: Kiev recently published draft security guarantees for Ukraine. What can you tell us about this, and what is your assessment of this project?
Vladimir Putin: Frankly, I am not familiar with what they have come up with this time. We, in fact, started with this when we were negotiating with the incumbent Kiev authorities and, in fact, completed this negotiating process in Istanbul with the well-known Istanbul agreement, after which we withdrew our troops from Kiev in order to create the proper conditions for concluding this agreement. Instead of concluding an agreement, Kiev immediately turned down all agreements, shoved them into a box and said they would not seek any agreement with Russia, but instead would pursue victory on the battlefield. Let them try. They are just now trying to do this with the counteroffensive. Let’s see how it ends.
As for security guarantees, and these were fairly tough security guarantees, they were required from our side, from the main NATO countries and regional states, including Turkiye. Overall, we agreed with this – to a large extent. There were some things that required minor adjustments but overall we agreed and these were quite serious requirements. However, the Kiev authorities shelved them.
What have they come up with? I don’t know because they change their position on every issue almost every day. I must have a look.
I would like to recall in this connection that before the start of the special military operation, we talked about security principles and measures on ensuring the security of Russia itself but nobody deemed it necessary to respond to this. Unfortunately.
Q: Could you please share your opinion on the course of the special military operation? Is it necessary to adjust the plan?
Vladimir Putin: No, the plan will not be adjusted. The General Staff takes real-time decisions in the course of the operation and some are considered a key, the main goal. The main goal is to liberate the entire territory of Donbass.
This work continues despite the attempts of the Ukrainian army to launch a counter-offensive. We are not stopping our offensive operations in Donbass itself. They continue. They continue at a slow pace but consistently and gradually, the Russian army is taking more and more new territory.
I must emphasise that we are fighting not with a full army but only with part, with contracted forces. But, of course, this is linked with certain personnel parameters and so on. This is why we are not in a rush in this respect. But essentially, there have been no changes. The General Staff considers some objectives important and others secondary but the main task remains the same and it is being carried out.
Question: Did President of Turkiye Erdogan make proposals on your meeting with Zelensky at this meeting?
Vladimir Putin: He always suggests meeting with Zelensky. He has been doing this for a long time and there is nothing bad about it. The President of Turkiye is making a substantial contribution to normalising the situation, including resolution of the food problem. The export of Ukrainian grain via Odessa is largely the result of his work. So, he is really making a tangible contribution to resolving a number of serious issues that are arising in connection with this crisis. And, of course, it is only natural that he also suggests meeting with President Zelensky, thinking that it may produce some positive result. He did not raise it at this meeting.
Question: On what conditions could there be dialogue with Ukraine now, if it is possible at all?
Vladimir Putin: But they refuse. The first condition is that they agree to it. But they do not want it. Mr Zelensky has publicly announced – I do not know where exactly, but he said it publicly – that he is not ready and does not want to talk to Russia. Well, if he is not ready, fine.