He also gave us an opportunity to have a further conversation after the interview when he invited us in for appetizers which turned into dinner. And there was a further consideration of all the topics we've been talking about. But now the conversation followed by an analysis of his visit to the United States. Are people in Russia fearful of you?
And the interesting thing is they see these images of you bare-chested on a horse.And they say, there is a man who carefully cultivates his image of strength. I'm asking --
And I think that a healthy lifestyle is extremely important. And it's the foundation of the resolution of many crucial problems including the health of the nation. It's impossible to solve the healthcare problems of millions of people only by using pills. People need to have the habits or passion or there even has to be a fashion of healthy lifestyle, sports.
So I believe that this is the right thing when, not only I but other colleagues like heads of government, ministries and legislators of the state Duma when, as today, for example, they participate in the two distance marathon races, when they attend soccer matches, when they participate in sports competitions themselves. So this is, well, including from -- this is where the love of millions of people of sports comes from. I think it's extremely important.
That altogether, Russia, both the country itself and these institutions, its leaders are healthy people, competent people who are ready to cooperate with our partners wherever they are, whether in the field of sports, politics or cooperation in the fight against these threats. I think that there is only positive in this.
Are you curious about America? More than simply another nation that you have to deal with? Because they're curious about you as I suggested. Are you curious? Are you watching the Republican political debates?
It's a major world power, an economic and military leader, so, of course, America exerts great influence on the situation in the world in general. And, of course, we're interested in what's going on.
And we keep a close watch. But I don't watch the internal political saga on an everyday basis. I would say, more likely, no.
He said that you were like a gangster. He was attacking you because he wanted to have -- and attacking Russia.
That simply has no basis in reality.
I mean do you hope that what you can do is restore that leadership and create the same kind of innovation that you just admired America for? And how will you do that?
You've just mentioned our achievements in science and many other areas. We must support that. We must create conditions for people to develop freely, for them to feel confident that they're able to realize their potential.
And I'm confident that we will have an effect on the consistent development of science, of high-technologies and of the economy and the country overall.
Do you applaud America and the Supreme Court for doing that? Do you think that's a good idea to make it a constitutional right for same-sex marriage?
So do you think these people are less democratic than other representatives of this community, this gay community who support child adoption by gay couples? Most likely not but that's simply their take on the issue.
The problem of sexual minorities in Russia has been deliberately exaggerated from the outside for political reasons.I believe without any good reason. We don't have any such problem.
We know there is a ruling of the Supreme Court, but this problem did not disappear. It's not completely removed from American legislation. But we don't have that.
If my memory doesn't fail me, we had Article 120 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR which had prosecutions on the basis of homosexuality. We've abolished all of that. We have no persecution at all.
People of non-traditional sexual orientation live in peace. They work, they get promoted, they get state awards for their achievements in science and the arts and other areas. They receive medals. I personally have awarded them medals. But this is what the question was, a ban on propaganda of homosexuality among minors.
I don't see anything undemocratic in this legal act. I only perceive from the fact that we should leave children in peace. We should give them a chance to grow, to realize who they are and to decide for themselves who is this person, what does he consider himself to be, a man or woman? Do they want to live in a normal, natural marriage or a non- traditional one? That's all.
We simply don't observe here any infringement of the rights of people of non-traditional sexual orientation. I believe this has been a deliberate exaggeration with the purpose of making a group of people from Russia for the purpose of making an enemy of Russia, for political consideration. I believe this is one of the lines of attack against Russia.
And that you believe by reemerging and in trying to be a positive force around the world and in Syria, that it might somehow lessen the focus on Ukraine.
When it comes to Ukraine, that's a separate issue; it's our closest neighbor. We've always said it's our brother country. It's not only the Slavs -- our languages are similar.
We have common history, common culture, common religion and many things in common. What I believe is absolutely inadmissible is the resolution of internal political issues in the former USSR republics through color revolutions, through coup d'etat, through unconstitutional removal of power. That is totally unacceptable. Our partners in the United States supported those who ousted Yanukovych.
We know where and when and who met with someone and who worked with those who ousted Yanukovych. How they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries and who those instructors were.
We know everything, and our American partners don't try to conceal that anyway. They said, yes, well, we did. We did train them, and we spent that much money, and now it amounts to $5 billion. So --
What I'm saying is that somebody does that, the result is very difficult to deal with. In Libya, we've seen the disintegration of the state. In Iraq we've seen the territory has been filled with terrorists. In Syria the situation is unfolding the same way. In Afghanistan, you very well know what the situation looks like. What happened in Ukraine?
The coup d'etat led to a civil war. Many citizens of Ukraine did not have trust in Yanukovych, that's true. But they should have gone to the elections and elected a new leader not commit the removal of power.
But after the coup d'etat somebody supported that,somebody liked it but somebody did not and those who did not like it were treated with (INAUDIBLE) force.
And in that direction we have intensified our dialogue in this sphere.We all should strive for full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements. The Minsk Agreements must be fulfilled.
You agree -- implement the Minsk Agreements.
Do you have enough power to do this, to present it without cuts?
There should be political reform. That's first. There should be constitutional changes. That's what's set forth in the Minsk Agreements.
Then most important, the Minsk Agreements states this should be done in coordination with Donetsk and Luhansk. And that is a matter of principle. Ukraine -- there are reforms introduced in the constitution in the first lead (ph). But there's been no coordination with Luhansk and Donetsk at all.And no one even intends to coordinate anything with them.That's point one.
Point two: it stated in the Minsk Agreements that there should be the implementation of the law. The law was already passed in Ukraine of the special self-governing status of those territories. They've adopted this law; its implementation has been postponed. That means that the Minsk Agreements are not fulfilled on this point.
And third, there should have been the amnesty law. How can one engage in a dialogue with people from Donbass and Luhansk and Donetsk if they're all being prosecuted, they're all being brought legal charges against them?
That's why the Minsk Agreements say that a law on amnesty must be adopted, but it has not been adopted. And there are other points as well. For example, conducting local elections.
It's been written in the Minsk Agreements to adopt a law on local elections upon coordination with Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine has adopted the law on local elections. The representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk sent their proposals on this law three times but nobody will even talk to them. The Minsk Agreements say with coordination with Donetsk and Luhansk.
That's why I respect and love Mr. Kerry. He is an extremely experienced diplomat, very experienced diplomat. He told me that he was against Star Wars back in the past and it was the right thing to do because maybe if he was the one who adopted decisions on ABM he probably wouldn't have any conflicts on ABM right now.
But if one side says we've done this, that and that; we've complied with the Minsk Agreements -- that's not true because all these points must be implemented in coordination with Donetsk and Luhansk. There has been no coordination so far.
As for the implementation of the already adopted law on the special self-governance of these territories, the Minsk Agreements say within 30 days nothing has been done yet. It's been postponed.
The entering into the force of this law has been postponed. That's why we advocate the full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements by both sides, not as interpreted by one of the sides but as it's written down in the Minsk Agreements.
It's written in coordination with Donetsk and Luhansk. Read the document for yourself and I'm telling you there has been no coordination at all. It was written to adopt the law on the special status within 30 days but the law has not been enforced. So who's not implementing the Minsk Agreements?
The Minsk Agreements say that a law on local elections must be passed in coordination with do Donetsk and Luhansk.
So what happens in reality? The Kiev authorities did adopt the law on their own without any coordination or negotiations with Donetsk and Luhansk in spite of the fact that Donetsk and Luhansk sent their draft three times. There was no dialogue at all.
They've adopted this on their own without any consultation. Moreover, the law that was adopted by Kiev says that in these territories there will not be elections at all. How are we to understand this? In fact, they themselves have provoked the representative of Donetsk and Luhansk to schedule their own elections. That's all there is to it.
There are those who look at Ukraine, especially Ukraine and Georgia, and they believe that you do not want to recreate the Soviet Empire, but you do want to recreate a sphere of influence which you think Russia deserves because of the relationship that has existed.
Why are you smiling? Why?
I indeed said that I believe that the collapse of the USSR was a huge tragedy of the 20th century. You know why?
Here they have been living within the borders of a unified state and always, traditionally, the Soviet Union had been called Russia, Soviet Russia. Well, this was Greater Russia.
Then all of a sudden the USSR collapsed, just overnight, in fact -- right? And it's turned out that, in former Soviet republics, there were people, Russian people numbering 25 million. They had been living in a single country and, all of a sudden, we turned out to be abroad. You can imagine how many problems arose.
First of all, there were everyday problems, economic problems, social problems, the separation of families -- you can't list them all. Do you think it's normal that 25 million people, Russian people wound up abroad all of a sudden?
Russia has turned out to be the largest divided nation in the world today. Is that not a problem? Well, not for you, but it's a problem for me.
We want to take advantage of those benefits of the former USSR that we've inherited. What are these benefits?
Joint infrastructure, a unified railroad system, a unified highway system, a unified energy system and, finally, if I dare say it, the great Russian language which unites all former republics of the Soviet Union and which gives us evidence (INAUDIBLE) advantages when promoting integration projects in the territory of the post-Soviet space.
You've probably heard that we first established the Customs Union and then we've transformed it into the Eurasian Economic Union. So when people can communicate freely and move freely, when work forces, goods, services and capital move freely, there are no state lines when we have our common rules and legal regulation in the social sphere, for example.
Then this is quite enough. People must feel free.
Does it mean that you've occupied Germany or that you renounced the occupation of Germany after World War II and then you have only transformed the occupation forces into NATO forces?
One could put it that way, but we're not putting it that way. And if we have our military forces on our border, on our territory, on the border with some state, you believe this is a crime?
This is a complicated process -- a difficult, long-standing process through negotiations and through the search for a compromise on mutually beneficial and acceptable conditions, with the exception that we would create for our people and for our economies more effective advantages in world markets and in the international arena in general.
You know that in many Baltic States, they have invented some new thing, an international law. This has been the case up until now regarding citizenship. A citizen, foreigner, person without citizenship and dual nationals -- that is people with dual citizenship.
The Baltic States have invented something totally new. Do you know what they call them? They call them non-citizens. They call people who have been living for decades in the territory of the Baltic States and who have been deprived of a whole number of political rights -- they cannot take part in elections.
Their political and social rights are restricted, and everyone keeps silent about this as if this is the way it's supposed to be. And of course, this cannot help but provoke an appropriate response.
But I perceive from the fact that our colleagues both in the U.S. and the European Union will base on today's principles of humanitarian law and will proceed from modern principles of humanitarian law and will ensure the political liberties and rights for all people, including for those people who are living in the territory of Baltic States after the collapse of the USSR.
But when it comes to economic ties, we have stable, very developed contracts with these countries, you know. But there are some things -- how can I put this more delicately -- that bother me and make me sad.
We're all talking about the need to have a rapprochement, to bring our positions closer, about the need to integrate economically, politically. So as for the Baltic States, we had a single energy system. The Baltic States were naturally part of this common power system of the Soviet Union. Now what are they doing?
Everyone's talking about rapprochement, Russia and the European Union. What actually happens in practice now is that they plan to remove the Baltic States from this unified energy system of the former Soviet Union and hook them up to the European system. So what does that mean for us in practice?
It means that among some of our regions in the Russian Federation, there will be some zones where there will be no electric power line because before, it went through the Baltic countries.
And so it means that, once again, spending billions of U.S. dollars, this system must be built from scratch just as our European partners will have to spend billions of dollars to hook up the Baltic States to their energy grid.
Why? Why when we're striving for some sort of joint work and integration, not in words but in practice, why do this? And this is what's happening along many lines.
They say one thing, but they do something quite different.
I think that this all comes from growing pains, and I believe that common sense will finally prevail, if not here, on other issues.We're all interested in developing openly without any prejudice.
The Baltic states above all and, for them, this is more important for them than Russia itself. Take one of the countries, Lithuania, for instance, in the Soviet era. Do you know what the population was? 3.4 million people; and now, I checked the latest references, 1.4 million. Where did the people go?
In that country, yes, over half the citizens left the country. Can you imagine what would happen if half the American population left the U.S.? It would be a disaster. What does that tell us?
Secondly, tell me where the policy of imposing sanctions has been effective? Nowhere -- especially with regard to a country like Russia.
Is that a huge challenge for you? Is that a troubling, global economic reality?
Well, let's leave it aside. Of course, sanctions are harmful.But they're not the main reason for the slump in the growth of the Russian economy or other problems related to inflation.
The main reason for us, really, is the drop in prices on the world market for our traditional export commodities such as oil and gas and some other goods. When it comes to sanctions, they add to the negative side.
They do have an influence one way or another although they don't have a capital fundamental importance for our economy.
But now, since these sanctions are imposed, we either can't buy these technologies or we fear that something may be closed off to us and now we're forced to introduce entire programs for developing our own high-tech economy in industry,manufacturing and science.
And that's, in fact, something we would have to do, anyway, but it was difficult for us before because our own domestic markets were flooded with foreign goods. So in the WTO, it was difficult to support our local manufacturers.
But now that the sanctions have been imposed, our partners have voluntarily left our market. Now we have a chance for developments.
That depends on two things: First of all, unquestionably, there are regulations provided for by the constitution, and they will never be violated by me for certain. But I'm not sure I should fully exercise all these constitutional rights.
That will depend on the specific situation in the country and the world -- well, on my own sentiments about it.
Tell America, tell the world what Vladimir Putin wants.