November 1, 2022

Puiin Pres conference, Sochi, Oct 31: Putin. ‘Everyone is blaming Russia for the suspension of grain shipments’

President Putin’s answers to media questions following talks with the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia.

📍 Sochi, October 31, 2022

❓Good evening, Mr. President. Lana Samsonia, Interfax.

I would like to ask about the results of the trilateral summit. You have already called it a useful meeting that laid the groundwork for further agreements. You have adopted a joint statement, but a part, as you said, was taken out of the statement. If possible, could you tell us which matters the sides failed to reach agreement on and to what extent the outcome of this meeting correlates with the results of the meeting in Prague without Russia’s participation.

💬 Vladimir #Putin: As for the Prague meeting without Russia’s participation – it is obvious to us and there is no need to explain why it took place without our participation: our European partners are pursuing their policy in such a way as to try to exclude Russia from all formats. It is clear that in some situations this is completely unrealistic, impossible, as in this case. But we always welcome any efforts towards a settlement. So as far as how it correlates – it correlates quite naturally and we support everything that is aimed at reducing confrontation and achieving a settlement, as I said.

As for the issues that could not be resolved, can we say anything about that? We can. But it is not necessary. Because if they remain unresolved, I think there is no need to draw the attention of the media and the public to them. It is better to simply seek agreement calmly and in private.

☝️ These are very delicate matters that are sensitive for both parties, and I do not think I have the right to highlight them without consulting my partners.

❓ Good afternoon. Konstantin Panyushkin, Channel One.

Could you please tell us about the Russian peacekeepers’ fate in the region? This is my first question.

The second, there was not much talk today about border delimitation. When and how will it be organised? The third, there are few statements about this matter, but still, what is the fate of a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

💬 Vladimir Putin: As far as the peacekeepers are concerned, this was spelled out in our joint statement of November 2020, when an end was put to the conflict. I have nothing to add.

As for a peace treaty, it does not exist thus far. It is still too early to talk about the main components of this document, because after all, it is certainly a matter of mediated compromise that should be reached on both sides with the help of Russia and others, if the negotiating parties so wish.

Border demarcation and delimitation is a crucial issue, you are absolutely right, and I agree with this. In fact, we discussed this at length today. There are certain indications that on the whole, the path has been found. If you read today’s statement closely, you will find preliminary evaluations, and if not understandings as such, there are preliminary indications that these understandings might be reached.

☝️ To reiterate, we discussed the matter at length: we are ready to provide the maps of the General Staff of the Soviet Army we have in our possession. These are the most accurate maps, as we understand. We are prepared to move forward on this basis, discussing the problem with both parties. We have arranged that these contacts, these talks, these consultations will continue.

Anything else?

❓ You said you had nothing to add concerning the peacekeepers. It is just that prior to his visit to Russia, Mr Pashinyan said that he would like to extend their mandate from five to maybe 20 years at once. Has he suggested that to you? How was this discussed?

💬 Vladimir Putin: We spoke about this. But our joint agreements are needed for this to take place.

You know, this will depend on other matters that you have also mentioned, from the possible signing of the peace treaty to border demarcation and delimitation.

If these issues are resolved, peacekeeping will take on a different aspect. If they are not resolved or resolved only to some extent, this will also affect the fate of our peacekeeping contingent. But in any case, both sides thanked Russia for the job we are doing there.

❓ Good evening. Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV channel.

💬 Vladimir Putin: Good evening.

❓ One of the biggest issues in the world today is Russia’s suspension of its participation in the grain deal. We are hearing a new choir of voices from Western leaders, accusing Russia of causing global famine. Biden even called Russia’s decision an outrage.

Yes, we have already heard the statement by the Russian Defence Ministry but may I ask you: why did Russia make this decision? What do you think about these accusations of sabotaging the agreements?

The UN and Turkiye did say that they would continue releasing ships, and then what? How do you see this whole process happening further?

💬 Vladimir Putin: This entire process of exporting grain from the territory of Ukraine was organised under the pretext of securing the interests of the poorest countries. We agreed to this exactly for the benefit of the poorest countries.

I do not remember the data of the latest hours or days, but the overall picture is as follows:

📌 about 34 percent of the grain ends up in Turkiye;

📌 a little more, or 35 percent, in the EU countries.

And only 3–4 percent, according to the Agriculture Ministry, sometimes a little more, up to 5 percent (this figure changes depending on the volume of grain transported), so only 3–4 or sometimes 5 percent goes to the poorest countries as the UN classifies them.

⁉️ Look, is this the outcome for which the deal was designed?

And there is more. The fact is that the attempted attack – the attack on the Black Sea Fleet that failed but was still committed (and we should give credit to our naval crews and thank them, of course, for rising to the occasion and repelling all the attacks), but those drones and unmanned vessels partially entered the corridor used for exporting grain from Ukraine, thus creating a threat to our civilian ships securing the grain exports. And it is our responsibility to ensure their security.

But what if, I apologise for my blunt words, Ukraine just whacks these ships? Russia will be to blame again, just like now everybody is blabbing about what Russia is doing, without thinking what caused it – and the cause was a threat to this humanitarian corridor.

I did not see the final statement by the Defence Ministry but I know the general stance. The Defence Minister had the opportunity to report his position to me today, and I agreed. What he said was fair: they create a threat to our naval and civilian vessels. We must protect our civilian vessels.

☝️ Therefore, we did not say we are withdrawing from this operation, no. We have suspended our participation.

The UN Secretary-General was one of the organisers of this effort. UN staff are actively involved, for which we are grateful, unquestionably. But they should probably also deal with Ukraine, and Ukraine must guarantee that civilian ships and Russia’s support vessels will not be threatened.

Listen, I do not know if the Defence Ministry explained this or not, but these unmanned vessels are no joke. They are six metres long, I believe, and carry 500 tonnes of explosives. If it hits its target, there will no grain, no ship, nothing. And we will be to blame.

This is why the Russian Defence Ministry is correct when it raises the issue of discussing the matter further with the United Nations, and in turn the United Nations is supposed to deal with Ukraine and make sure Ukraine guarantees the security of this corridor. I do not see anything unusual here. It is a matter of aligning positions, work, and obligations – in this case on behalf of our Ukrainian partners.

❓ Alexander Khristenko, Rossiya channel.

Mr.President, mobilisation in Russia was announced by your executive order. Defence Minister Shoigu announced its completion. Should we expect another executive order?

💬 Vladimir Putin: Well, from a legal standpoint, I do not think so. It was, of course, launched by my executive order because there was no other way to do this by law. But mobilisation was proposed by the Defence Ministry, naturally, and now the Defence Ministry has proposed that we draw it to a close.

I will speak to our lawyers. Honestly, I had not given this any thought. I will speak to our lawyers about whether an executive order is necessary to announce the completion of mobilisation. But it has been completed, period. The Defence Ministry initially suggested mobilising a far smaller number but eventually, we came to the conclusion that we needed 300,000. I would like to note what the Defence Minister said in his report: 41,000 people are involved in combat operations of the Armed Forces. This means that 260,000 or 259,000, to be precise, are currently serving but not involved in combat operations. They are undergoing joint training and coordination. Thus, almost 260,000 people are not even involved in combat operations but undergoing training. In one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent. At this point, mobilisation has been completed.

❓ Good afternoon. Ilona Rudneva, RIA Novosti.

You recently proposed creating a gas hub in Turkiye, and President Erdogan supported this idea. Is there any news about this? What stage is the process at? Are there potential gas buyers?

💬 Vladimir Putin: There are always gas buyers. This product is in demand in the world. It is the most environmentally clean hydrocarbon and an ideal prime source of energy for the transition period to green energy, absolutely ideal. It has the lowest emissions. Therefore, I think, no, I know that there are many consumers and those who would like to buy Russian gas.

As for choosing Turkiye 🇹🇷 for building a hub for deliveries to Europe, in this particular case, I believe it is clear why we are doing this, since the idea was put forth by us – because it is very difficult to deal directly with our European partners. And besides, we are aware of the tragic events connected with the explosion of gas pipelines.

As it often or rather almost always happens, Europeans have shut their mouths and are keeping silent, as if this is how it should be, even though this is really and profoundly contrary to their interests. Moreover, somebody had the brass to suggest that it was Russia that blew up its own facility. It is impossible to imagine how people come up with such nonsense, but nevertheless they do.

[Gazprom CEO Alexei] Miller told me this morning that they had inspected the site – incidentally, Gazprom has been allowed to examine the explosion site. There are two craters there, 3 and 5 metres deep; I do not know if Gazprom has published this information. The rupture in the pipes is 259 metres if I remember correctly, and 40 metres of pipe have been torn out. The torn-out part of the pipe was twisted at 90-degree angle and thrown 40 meters towards Nord Stream 2, which was damaged as well, probably by the same explosion and by the fragments of the pipe. Therefore, it was obviously a terrorist attack.

It is difficult for us to control the situation because the site is in the exclusive economic one of Denmark, Sweden and, farther, Germany.

In this sense, it is easier for us to work with Turkiye, first of all, because President Erdogan keeps his word. If we come to an agreement on something – this may be difficult to do, but if we come to an agreement, we try to implement it. It was the first point. And secondly, it is easier for us to control the Black Sea area.

Therefore, it is a perfectly realistic project, and we can accomplish it relatively quickly. And there will be enough of those wishing to sign contracts. I have no doubt about that.

We will see what happens this winter and next winter. But I am confident that contracts will be signed. There is no doubt about that. After all, we can also use European countries as transit routes for deliveries to other parts of the world. But I have no doubt that there will be enough takers who would want to buy our gas in Europe.

Next? Please, Andrei.

❓ Kommersant newspaper.

Mr. President, you are working towards achieving a peace treaty for Armenia and Azerbaijan, but I would like to ask, what about your own country?

You have repeatedly said that Russia is ready for talks with Ukraine, but Vladimir Zelensky, for one, has issued an executive order prohibiting him to talk with you. Besides, there are no points of intersection in view, as I see it, which would make it possible to come to terms.

What specifically, from your point of view, could Russia offer Ukraine at these talks, which would form the basis for an agreement?

💬 Vladimir Putin: To be able to put forth any proposals, it is necessary that these talks take place. Besides, it is not always expedient in terms of one’s national aims to put one’s negotiating position on the table in advance. Sometimes, this is the last thing you do. A better option is to put forward what diplomats call initial demands and then gradually advance towards a common denominator that would suit both sides.

But in order to reach agreements, you should sit down at the negotiating table and talk. We came to terms with them in Istanbul, but they later threw everything into the rubbish bin. And now, as you have rightly said, they have forbidden themselves from talking with us about anything. How can we now discuss possible agreements if the other party is not even willing to talk to us?

We will wait; perhaps some necessary conditions will develop eventually. Our goodwill is well known, it is not subject to any change or doubt.

❓ After the terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge, you said that any repeated attacks would invite Russia’s commensurate response. Are today’s concentrated strikes aimed at Ukrainian territory a response to the recent events in Sevastopol?

💬 Vladimir Putin: Yes, in part this is the case. But this is not the limit of what we could do.

❓ Good afternoon. Alexander Yunashev, Life.

Mr President, with reference to possible or impossible peace talks with Zelensky. You were asked several times whether or not you would go to the G20 summit, where Zelensky is likely to be present as well. You said several times that the decision was not yet taken. Has it perhaps been taken already?

And what about Thailand? Will you attend the APEC summit?

💬 Vladimir Putin: No, these decisions are still pending.

But since we are departing further and further from the topic of today’s talks and the subject of today’s talks, I think it is time we call it a day.

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