President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Pushilin, I have just spoken to your colleague from the Lugansk People’s Republic [Leonid Pasechnik]. We know that the security situation in Donetsk is equally or perhaps even more critical, considering the frequent shelling of residential areas in Donetsk by the Ukrainian army. It is a separate topic that we will certainly discuss.
But, as with Mr Pasechnik, I suggest we start with the issues that concern each resident of the Donetsk People’s Republic – that is, housing, water and heating supply, and healthcare. Let us cover these vital topics first and then, of course, talk about security.
Please, go ahead.
Acting Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin: Mr President,
Actually, the situation is developing in different ways. Indeed, the restoration of housing and the issues concerning every person such as water supply are of great importance to us.
We have put in great effort, in cooperation with the competent agencies and ministries of the Russian Federation. Several water pipelines have been built to supply water from reserve reservoirs. However, we have been able to cover the demand only in part. In the major cities of Donetsk, Makeyevka and Horlivka, water is available for two hours once every three days.
Thank you very much for supporting the decision to build a new pipeline connected to the Don River. Considering all the factors, it is extremely important. Again, considering that the network repair programme has been approved and considering the enormous water losses, which are just horrifying in percentage terms, we need both the water pipeline and maintenance.
Heating has been affected as a result. Preparation for the heating season was the most difficult period due to water shortages. Of course, we have taken additional measures, in cooperation with supervising regions.
Moscow is helping Donetsk with drilling wells and delivering water in tank cars on a daily basis because the problem of water loss persists. The system may be filled up and the boiler station may operate but water leaks cause the system to shut down automatically and water does not reach consumers.
Therefore, this matter is not resolved everywhere yet. But, even despite the shelling and loss of power at boiler stations, we still try to make sure that all people have warm homes. We have not been able to provide heating everywhere though because of the boiler station shutdowns.
Mariupol is a special case. The heating situation there is slightly more challenging but also slightly easier. The city is no longer being shelled but the scope of destruction is extensive. We have tried to cover the demand by using modular boilers. Overall, the problem may not be fully resolved but we are dealing with it as best as we can.
There are temporary accommodation facilities where we place people, so they do not have to stay in the destroyed housing without heating.
The region has been stabilised – again, mostly due to the patronage of Russian regions. In total, there are 17 such regions, but the greatest assistance has been provided by St Petersburg, the Moscow Region, and the Tula Region, and I would like to thank them sincerely.
I will tell you that the new facilities built by now – we have never seen anything like this, these new schools and kindergartens. This really gives great hope for the future that we can see. As soon as the special military operation is over, we will be able to fully stabilise the situation, and we are indeed very optimistic in this regard.
As for the next concern that people have, naturally, it is about the checkpoints. I have a request for you, and it actually includes several parts. As regards the personnel, and the increase, we discussed this with Mr Bortnikov who said that there are reserves. The problem is that this requires the Government's instruction to comprehensively work on this and expand it.
Here is the problem. Since the Crimean Bridge has been repaired, we have additional flows from the Rostov Region, of course, a lot of repair work is underway, plus our people who want to get all the public services that are not yet fully available to them at home.
There is something else: we need to speed up the opening of integrated government service centres. With more local centres, people will not have to go to Rostov to register their cars, or to get other services. This system is well developed in Rostov, but here, the process is ongoing, so there will be a request in this regard.
And taking into account these steps, with an increase in checkpoints, we can stabilise the situation here, in fact, from Rostov, taking into account the road repairs…
Vladimir Putin: Are you talking about the checkpoints on the border between the Rostov Region and the Donetsk Republic?
Denis Pushilin: On the administrative border, yes. We have three checkpoints that we would like…
Vladimir Putin: All right, we will do this.
Denis Pushilin: With the roads, it will take no more than seven hours to get from the Rostov Region to Crimea via the Donetsk People's Republic.
Vladimir Putin: The part of the road there that goes to Crimea has been repaired.
Denis Pushilin: Yes, a lot of roads have been repaired, that is, more than 400 kilometres. We have never seen roadwork on this scale – all cutting-edge and up to Russian standards. Indeed, where we see the standards of the Russian Federation applied, whether it is roads, or schools, or kindergartens, it evokes sincere wonder and admiration in us. Over the past eight years – and we had lagged behind even before that – we have fallen behind, but we will catch up.
Vladimir Putin: I have no doubt that this will be the case, given the people who work there.
Denis Pushilin: The next question I wanted to raise with you and submit for your consideration is that we lack utility workers. There are several reasons for that. Apart from the mobilisation, there is also the fact that the relevant colleges and schools did not receive the attention they needed. Our utilities are understaffed by up to 70 percent, while those who are still working are true heroes. You may have noticed that whenever there is an incoming strike, they arrive at the scene immediately.
Here is what I wanted to ask you. I think it would be fair to offer them a mark-up on their salaries in the areas that are now literally on the frontline, including in some of the regions in Donetsk.
Vladimir Putin: Have you put these ideas on paper?
Denis Pushilin: I have.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Denis Pushilin: People will definitely support this.
I would also like to thank you for the perinatal centre, which is now under construction in the Kirovsky District of Donetsk. The construction workers are at work.
Vladimir Putin: How many beds will it have?
Denis Pushilin: 130 beds. This new, state-of-the-art centre will help us a lot, especially considering the destruction we now have. The workers have been doing a fine job. They are heroes who find themselves in harm’s way all the time. Construction carries on regardless, and this new perinatal centre is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
Turning back to Mariupol, a lot of housing has been built – brand new neighbourhoods, including the Nevsky neighbourhood built by the Defence Ministry’s military construction company. The Ministry of Construction of the Russian Federation also did its job by building four apartment blocks, and it will complete six more by the end of the year. This will be new, modern and comfortable housing.
Looking at Mariupol, where there is no firing anymore, we know that we will rebuild the republic. Thank you for your support and for paying attention to all the details.
Our people will not forgive me if I fail to express our special gratitude for ensuring that students do not get drafted into the army during mobilisation. There was a lot of concern about that. This was a big sigh of relief for us, because we were forced to mobilise people into the army. There was no other way.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Denis Pushilin: Students must be able to study. They are our future, our children.
Vladimir Putin: But many of them refused to leave the army and stayed in the Armed Forces as volunteers.
Denis Pushilin: When someone wants to serve, that is a different story…
Vladimir Putin: Of course.
Denis Pushilin: Thank you for this decision.
Frankly, I am most grateful to you for the Saur-Mogila, our place of power, our symbol. It was not simply renovated but essentially restored, revived, in view of the current circumstances.
Vladimir Putin: The result is beautiful.
Denis Pushilin: Very beautiful. I hope that later – not right now, of course – but later we will have an opportunity and you will see what I mean with your own eyes.
Vladimir Putin: All right. What about healthcare?
Denis Pushilin: As concerns healthcare, I can tell you that the situation with Covid-19 is under control. The seasonal flu outbreak is slightly worse but our medical workers are doing what they can. We can see that Kalinin Hospital, the largest hospital in Donetsk, has been almost completely destroyed after two days of shelling by those scoundrels.
However, even in view of all the factors, I believe there are no serious problems in healthcare. At the federal level, there is close cooperation with the Russian Healthcare Ministry. All issues are resolved promptly. The difficulties we had in the past in a number of areas are now essentially resolved, so I do not see any extra issues that cannot be handled in the normal course of business.
Vladimir Putin: I have already spoken with the healthcare minister. If necessary, we can arrange to transfer all the patients who require special treatment, to federal medical facilities.
Denis Pushilin: Thank you very much. We will try to manage everything we can. Our medical workers are excellent professionals. Our local medical university trains highly qualified doctors. Considering the difference in wages that was particularly noticeable before, many doctors have left though, as they were highly sought after in other regions of Russia.
Vladimir Putin: But they still need support with professional development. They must be included in the Healthcare Ministry’s professional development system.
Denis Pushilin: Absolutely. On our part, we do our best but there is also a response from the federal government and the regions also get involved.
Vladimir Putin: The resources of the healthcare system must be improved, along with building new facilities, maintaining existing clinics and upgrading them with modern equipment.
Denis Pushilin: The medical multi-purpose centre in Mariupol, built by a military construction company, by the way, was built in 84 days as on a turn-key basis, fully equipped with everything from the building itself and modern medical equipment to kitchen utensils. It was ready to operate.
Of course, for us a project like this is still far amazing because our healthcare facilities are seriously lagging behind when it comes to resources and technology. Many of these facilities have not been renovated since the Soviet times.
Vladimir Putin: Of course. We know this from Crimea.
With regard to shelling, as far as I understand, the Ukrainian forces are targeting residential areas of Donetsk.
Denis Pushilin: Yes, what we see is targeted firing of shells into large areas in Donetsk, Makeyevka, and Horlivka. In Donetsk alone, 21 people died and 94 were wounded, and 460 buildings were damaged from December 2 to December18.
Vladimir Putin: Are these people civilians?
Denis Pushilin: Yes, civilians all of them. This, of course, has prompted a very serious response on our part, and the Russian Armed Forces are doing their best.
In this regard, I would like to ask you to increase the supply of the latest air defence systems. This and a strengthening the counter-battery efforts would help us to put an end to the shelling of our large urban areas and to push the enemy back. Whenever they have a chance, they use it. They stop at nothing.
Vladimir Putin: Let me bring it to everyone’s attention that not a single foreign media outlet or human rights organisation has uttered a word about these developments.
Denis Pushilin: Alas, this is true, and we have to live with that. Double standards prevailed throughout the negotiating process in 2014.
Vladimir Putin: That is the way it was, indeed.
Denis Pushilin: It is as if we do not exist and the developments are unfolding in a completely different way.
Let us face it: Donbass was for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and, without a doubt, Russia, as a guarantor country, was too and did everything possible and then some.
We had apprehensions seeing how the talks unfolded, but, unfortunately, Europe, and the West in general, has made it blatantly clear that we cannot trust them, because quite recently the former Federal Chancellor of Germany… I can imagine your emotions, because even for us, who did not really trust them, it was a shock.
Vladimir Putin: They said they never planned to act on anything and that they signed the document only to buy some time to obtain weapons and to carry out, in fact, military operations.
All right, we will talk about this in more detail right now.