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TRANSCRIPT [excerpt]: Meeting of Commission for Modernisation and Technological Development of Russia's Economy [Medvedev and Kudrin]

Kremlin and Saint Basil'sPRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Before we start work today, I would first like to say a few words about a matter not directly related to today's meeting. I am referring to the situation in the global economy, above all in Europe, and how it could affect our economy and financial system.

Quite simply, I want to say that what is happening is obviously worrying, but at the same time, we do have successful experience in handling serious crises. At any rate, we have reached the point today where we do not need to spend time developing new crisis management instruments. I am not suggesting that we need these instruments right now, for the situation is still developing, but whatever the case, I draw the Government's attention to the need to follow events as closely as possible, analyse development on the European and other markets, and make decisions accordingly.

As before, our priorities are still to keep unemployment in check, ensure the financial system's stable operation, and fulfil our social commitments. These are things we will discuss further with the Government and Central Bank.

I remind you that we began our modernisation work back when the crisis was in full swing, and in order to avoid the negative impact of a possible second wave of the crisis, we had to strengthen our response models for such situations. I hope we have succeeded in these efforts. I looked over the work underway here at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors just before. It was a major nuclear energy innovation cluster that was developed here in Dimitrovgrad back in the Soviet period. Indeed, it is probably one of the biggest in the world, at least in terms of reactor density and personnel numbers. It is good that new orders have started coming in again, and that work is underway on the projects selected and approved by the Commission for Modernisation [and Technological Development of Russia's Economy]. I want to say too that this work really is of a very high standard. What I saw just now looks impressive indeed. What's more, this cluster's future development is directly related to the subject on our agenda today....

We're basically ready to move on to discussing these problems, but I will take a couple more minutes of your time. I would like to say a few words on discipline within the Government Cabinet. Everyone knows that we have entered election season ­ this is a difficult ordeal for the government system and for certain individuals. I guess that it might also affect some people's nerves; perhaps that is the reason behind several announcements we have heard recently in our nation and abroad ­ for example, in the United States of America. Indeed, we have a whole category of citizens who, for some reason, have to cross an ocean to make important announcements.

Well, Mr Kudrin [Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin], who is present here, has made the joyful announcement that he does not plan to work in the new Cabinet and that he has some serious differences in opinion with the current President, in particular with regard to expenditures, including defence expenditures. In this regard, I would like to note several things. First of all, we do not have any new Cabinet, and nobody has sent anyone any invitations. But we do have the existing Cabinet, which I formed as President, which is accountable to me and which will work in accordance with my constitutional authority. This Cabinet pursues the President's policies, and all key decisions are signed by Cabinet members, including the Finance Minister, as regards matters of fiscal policy and a broad range of other issues, including defence spending.

And as far as I understand, Mr Kudrin had the opportunity to state his position earlier, and make a personal decision concerning his political future ­ and, incidentally, a chance to align with the right-wing parties. They invited him to join, but he declined, apparently, due to some other considerations. Nevertheless, I would like to say that statements of this kind, made in the United States of America, look indecent and cannot be justified in any way.

Second, nobody has cancelled discipline and subordination in the Cabinet. If, Mr Kudrin, you do not agree with the President's policies (and the Cabinet implements the President's policies), you have only one way out, and you know what that is: to submit your resignation.

Thus, I will address you directly with the following suggestion. If you feel that your views on the economic agenda differ from the President ­ that is, myself ­ then you can write a corresponding letter of resignation. Naturally, you must reply right here and now. Will you be writing a letter of resignation?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND FINANCE MINISTER ALEXEI KUDRIN: Mr President, it is true that you and I have differences in opinion, but I will make my decision concerning your suggestion after consulting with the Prime Minister.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You know, you can consult with whomever you want, including the Prime Minister, but as long as I am President, I make these decisions myself.

ALEXEI KUDRIN: You have just asked me to make a decision. I have explained what my decision is.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Let me repeat, you must make a decision very quickly.


DMITRY MEDVEDEV: And you must give me an answer today: either you feel that these differences in opinion, as you call them, do not exist, in which case you must comment on this matter; or, if there are indeed differences in opinion, as you just said, I do not see any other way out, although it will of course be unpleasant for me.

And the last thing I would like to say in this context: anybody who has doubts concerning the policies of the President and the Cabinet, or any individual who has his or her own plans in life, has the right to submit to me a letter of resignation. But they should do so openly. Meanwhile, I will have to cut short any irresponsible chatter. And I will make all the necessary decisions, all the way through May 7 of next year. I hope this is clear to everyone.

Now, on that positive note, we can begin working on today's main agenda.



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