Medvedev Addresses Duma at Noon (Live Blog)

April 17, 2013

 

Moscow Times reporter Anatoly Medetsky is providing a live blog of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit at noon to the State Duma, where he will recap the Cabinet’s activities for the past year and offer an account of his upcoming plans.

1:10 p.m.: The Cabinet approved a program for the development of the Far East after having to cut the amount of funding the program originally sought, Medvedev said. “A penny saved is a penny earned,” he said.

The plan, which got the green light on Tuesday, gives priority to such sectors as transport and energy, he said, adding that he was ready to consider a special law on the development of the vast area.

1:03 p.m.: The government is drafting legislation to give tax breaks for the development of oil and gas fields in East Siberia and pump high-viscosity oil, Medvedev said. The parliament will hopefully pass these laws during the spring session, he said.

1:01 p.m.: Trains carried 6.6 percent more passengers last year than the previous year, Medvedev said. Such traffic growth spurs the development of railway-related industry. The Tikhvinsky Railcar Plant, one of the biggest in Europe, started operation last year.

12:55 p.m.: Medvedev said the country made big strides in building roads in the Far East for the APEC forum last September. He said Moscow and its surroundings remain an area clogged with traffic, and the government is taking steps to rectify the situation.

Moscow traffic jams are notoriously bad. In fact,a study released earlier this month found that Moscow’s traffic is the worst in the world, with a trip that should take one hour during peak periods actually taking 2 hours and 14 minutes on average.

12:47 p.m.: The crop harvest last year was 25 percent less than in 2011, Medvedev said. “The weather doesn’t treat us well,” he said, adding that the government is allocating an additional 42 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) this year to support farmers.

12:41 p.m.: Russia’s 27 special economic zones are a “good mechanism” for developing the economy, Medvedev said.

12:37 p.m.: Russia needs to improve the environment in higher education, Medvedev said. The Soviet Union had half as many higher learning institutions as Russia has now, but its population was double the size of Russia’s.

Observers have been waiting for Medvedev to mention education as calls mount for the dismissal of Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov.

12:29 p.m.: As Medvedev continues talking about the economy, he said no other country in the world has raised salaries for public sector workers lately, as many leading economic powers are struggling with economic woes. He also said more Russians are receiving high-tech medical assistance now.

12:23 p.m.: Building kindergartens is important, Medvedev said, adding that waiting lists have shortened lately.

12:22 p.m.: Medvedev pointed out that the country’s birth rate grew last year. There was applause as he trotted out the numbers, saying women gave birth to almost 2 million babies last year, or 102,000 more babies than in the previous year.

12:20 p.m.: Medvedev said the Russian financial system is stable and inflation relatively low.

12:14 p.m.: Medvedev has opened his speech with a review of the Russian economy.

Interestingly, the Duma hall was silent when he walked onto the podium. Medvedev started to speak after being given a short introduction by Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin.

12:05 p.m.: Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has lashed out at the leak of a closed-door government meeting as “unethical.”

“Putin asked for the camera to be turned off,” Peskov said, according to Interfax. “It’s unethical to publish the closed portion of the meeting.”

He added that the Kremlin intended to investigate the leak and might ban LifeNews journalists from covering Kremlin events.

12 p.m.: Medvedev has begun speaking in the Duma.

11:53 a.m.: Just minutes before Medvedev enters the Duma, a video has been leaked to LifeNews showing President Vladimir Putin scolding senior government officials for their poor performances during a closed-door meeting that he chaired in Kalmykia on Tuesday.

The video and the timing of its release raises the specter that Cabinet ministers and governors might be fired.

“How are we working?” Putin rants in the video after asking journalists to turn off the cameras. “The quality of the work is contemptible.”

The meeting was dedicated to a nationwide effort of resettling people living in dilapidated homes. The effort is the focus of one of Putin’s key policy decrees, which he issued right after his inauguration in May.

Putin said in the video footage that if the Cabinet and governors don’t comply with his decrees, the logical conclusion will be that either Putin or they are not doing their jobs well and someone will have to step down. “I am leaning toward the latter option,” he said, referring to the possible dismissals.

Among the Cabinet ministers who attended the meeting were Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov and Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyayev.

10 a.m.: The annual speech, which prime ministers have given since 2009, comes as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, and the price of oil – a key export commodity – has taken a dip.

Medvedev, who is scheduled to speak for 1 1/2 hours, will also field questions and then listen to comments from Duma faction leaders. The entire Cabinet will attend the event as well, with the exception of some ministers who are away on trips.

President Vladimir Putin gave rather neutral-sounding approval to Medvedev’s performance earlier this week, saying his record for that past year “generally wasn’t bad.”

Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalia Timakova said the prime minister was “ready for criticism” at the Duma.

Medvedev is set to face calls to fire Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov from the Communist and A Just Russia factions.

Several topless young women rallied in front of the Education and Science Ministry on Tuesday demanding Livanov’s ouster in a protest resembling those by Femen, the Ukrainian feminist movement. Femen said they had nothing to do with the rally, Gazeta.ru reported.

In the Duma, United Russia, which is led by Medvedev, is expected to ask the prime minister questions about battling poverty, developing pre-school education and supporting cattle farming and bakeries, among other things.

The Communists will want Medvedev to expand on issues like pension reform and the development of Siberia and the Far East.

A Just Russia will press him on the future of residential construction, education and the consequences of the country’s entry into the World Trade Organization last August.