Can Putin answer more than 1 million questions? Russia Insider is reporting live!
12:00 - The first question is about the economy. Is Russia still in a recession? The short answer is "no", but the longer question is: There are areas of growth, and areas that need work.
12:15 - Real wages are down. What is being done about it? Putin says that reforms regarding minimum wage are being worked on.
12:17 - How can you live on a low salary? Nurses, teachers and professors have extremely low salaries. Teacher from Irkutsk says she only gets 16,000 rubles/month. Putin: We have a goal to have an average salary for teachers. I don't remember what the average salary in the Irkutsk region is -- somewhere around 30,000 rubles. Putin says that her low salary should not be tolerated -- and that the government should set a threshold to ensure that there isn't such a big wage gap.
12:21 - This seems to be a big issue for many Russians. Salaries are low. Putin is really being pressed on this issue. The solution is probably greater federal control of minimum salaries to ensure that these big wage gaps are dealt with in remote regions.
12:23 - Sanctions. Russia has always lived under a certain level of sanctions. There have always been excuses to sanction and exclude Russia. Was there an impact from the western sanctions? Yes. A drastic impact? Putin says no. Putin also says that Crimea is just an excuse -- the west would find a way to sanctions Russia regardless.
12:25 - Countries that introduced sanctions against Russia lost $150 billion from their own sanctions. It's a double-edged sword. Sanctions have been a mixed blessing. They've forced us to "turn on our brains" and develop our own industries.
12:27 - Agriculture is booming. We're actually looking for more countries to export to.
12:27 - Social issues. Paving roads and improving healthcare.
12:30 - Another sanctions question. Agriculture representative says that sanctions are a blessing. Fruits and vegetable growth is up. A 50% increase since period before sanctions. More than 100 billion rubles invested. 10,000 jobs created. They are worried though -- are the sanctions going to stay?
12: 32 - Putin: 2 years ago, production of vegetables were a big issues. Prices were up. Imports shrank but we didn't have enough produce to satisfy the needs of our consumers. So we took a number of issues. Our producers increased production. Inflation was 12.9% two years ago -- but our idea was our meat and vegetable and fruit producers need to gain momentum to capture the domestic market. Take a look at our inflation now. 4.8%. And the quality of our produce is better. Sanctions have been extended until December 31, 2017. So we will see what happens. We need to ensure competition in the domestic market, that will benefit consumers. We hope that Russian producers will continue to increase quality and quantity to remain competitive.
12:35 - Q: My village burned down. We were given a house. But it's impossible to live there. I have a baby. The authorities are not helping me. We live in an abandoned. Putin, please help us if you can.
12: 36 - Transbaikal region? We've provided enough federal funds to provide housing to the people affected by those fires. Around 1.5 billion rubles was allocated for helping those affected by the fire. We have a new governor in place. So she's been there for some time. Where is the money? How was the money spent? It's the duty of the state to provide housing for all those hurt by this fire.
12:39 - Q: The program to receive land in the Far East is totally broken. Help.
12: 39 - 27,000 applications have been processed, but there are problems with this program.
12: 43 - Another question about the hectare program.
12: 46 - Q: Huge garbage dump site is in a suburb of Moscow. Huge environment problems -- fires, gas, etc. It's unbearable. We've reached out to the authorities but they haven't helped. Please help us. [RI note: This garbage dump is HUGE]
12: 47 - Putin: This is a very sensitive and painful issue. I don't know why developers built so close to this dump. What can be done? We are developing proper waste disposal plants. We should also have some public oversight on these issues.
12: 53 - Question from Baikal. Environmental problems. Corruption.
13:02: Question from Ufa maternity hospital. We see an increase in birth rates. But maternity leave needs more financial support from the state.
13:07: More than seven million mothers have used the maternity leave allowance -- we need to spend more money on this program. We need diverse measures -- increase the allowance and encourage more young mothers to have children. 98% of Russian children have access to preschool facilities, but we still have issues.
13:11: Putin says he has grandchildren, and that his daughter lives in Moscow (despite rumors to the contrary).
13: 13: Q: Child benefits are very, very low.
13: 13: Putin: We need to increase these benefits. They are too small.
13: 14: Business representative. Q: Business faces a major problem: 12% interest rate makes it difficult to improve the economy. Business is not as profitable as it should be. We would like to know if ministers tell you the truth about funding of small and medium-sized businesses? Can we make funding more accessible?
13:15: The interest rate is the reflection of the level of the development of the country. It defines macroeconomic stability of the country. We had to cut inflation. The Central Bank had to hike the rate to stop inflation. The Central Bank promised us that financing will be more available.
13: 20: Question from Ukraine? "Why did you abandon us? We participated in the Immortal Regiment march. But we received no support.
13:21: Putin -- We don't want to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine. We have a lot of friends in Ukraine.
13:24: Putin -- Ukraine needs to be independent, but it needs to be a federation.
13: 26: Regarding Ukraine receiving visa-free tourist travel to the EU: Putin basically just called Poroshenko an idiot for reciting Lermontov without understanding the meaning of the text, or its context.
We're taking a quick lunch break. We'll be back soon. Watch live below:
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