13 april, 2012 15:00  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a video conference on the completion of the bridge across the Eastern Bosporus Strait as part of preparations for APEC-2012 Leaders Week, and on wildfires in the Trans-Baikal Territory


During the video conference, the prime minister gave the order to weld the connecting piece of the bridge across the Eastern Bosporus Strait in Vladivostok.


Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. Let’s start with the Trans-Baikal Territory. Mr Geniatulin (Ravil Geniatulin, governor of the Trans-Baikal Territory), what is happening in the Aginsk Region? What are the causes [of the wildfires]? What have you done to resolve the problem and help people? Please, tell us about this in brief.

Ravil Geniatulin: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. Here’s my report. We have had a storm warning in the Trans-Baikal Territory for three days running; wind speeds are 18-20 metres with gusts up to 30-35 metres. Some buildings and electricity grids have been damaged but we can deal with this. A steppe fire has reached Onon-Baza, a village in the south of our territory, near the border with Mongolia. Twenty private houses have been burnt, but 15 houses, a local school and a community centre have been saved. We have evacuated 65 people; there are no victims. We have extinguished this fire together with units of the Emergencies Ministry. We have also saved another major village from fire but the conditions remain difficult. We are continuing to work with the Emergencies Ministry. At present 178 people and 33 pieces of equipment are at the site, including 86 people from the ministry. Regrettably, we cannot use aviation because of the strong winds. The wind is horrible and our lakes are still covered with ice and we cannot get water out of them. We have evacuated 65 people, including 26 children. Nobody needed psychological assistance. At present there are just 12 people at the evacuation centre – the rest are staying with relatives.

We have already resolved a number of issues. We have opened a bank account for relief; the social protection ministry has organised a clothing drive for the victims. I have made a decision to allocate 10,000 roubles per capita from the emergency fund for basic needs. Together with the administration of the Aginsk Region we have decided to help people restore the damaged houses. These small houses were made of wood. We will allocate the timber and money and will start restoring them very soon, probably in early May. Next to me is the head of the Siberian Regional Directorate of the Emergency Ministry Vladimir Svitelsky. We are working together. He flew to Ulan-Ude, and then had to travel here by car, because our airport was closed due to inclement weather and other reasons. We don’t have any major problems with equipment or people. I believe that we will be able to straighten the situation out, but the weather forecast is unfavourable for the next 72 hours: high winds and, possibly, wind storms will continue, and there will be no precipitation until at least April 18. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Who is in charge of monitoring the spread of the fire? Why did they let the fire come close to the village and allow the damage to occur? Who is in charge? What services should monitor the fire’s spread?

Ravil Geniatulin: Mr Putin, I issued an executive order banning any and all agriculture-related burning. Unfortunately, it wasn’t followed, and together with the Interior Ministry and the Investigative Committee we are trying to identify the culprits. We already have a number of suspects, including in the Alek-Zavodsky District. Of course, we will take tough measures with regard to those people if we determine that they started the fire despite the ban and caused suffering to so many people. We are on top of it. We have the head of the Interior Ministry department and the head of the Investigative Committee here. We are ready to answer all your questions.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Geniatulin, that’s not what I was asking about. The fact that someone started the fire is just one side of the problem. Of course, this needs to be investigated, and I expect the law enforcement authorities to be able to do this quickly and in a professional way. However, my question was: what services are in charge of monitoring the fire’s spread? Obviously, it took the fire a while to get close to the village. I would like to know what the Emergency Ministry thinks about this. Please go ahead, Mr Svitelsky.

Vladimir Svitelsky: Mr Prime Minister, Major General Svitelsky, head of the Siberian Regional Centre of the Emergency Ministry. Good afternoon.

The regional Emergency Ministry centre and the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Trans-Baikal Territory monitor military personnel and civilian access to forested areas. Unfortunately, this fire started after dark at 9:35 p.m. and quickly spread due to wind gusts. The wind was very strong, and it was difficult to locate the fire. In general, the Emergency Ministry and the Trans-Baikal Territory fire fighting services have joint watchtowers to monitor fires that may threaten households. We have identified six villages that may be affected by the fire. We have the Emergency Ministry forces and local fire fighters on duty in each such village. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Svitelsky, I’m not aware of your organisational arrangements. Let’s hope that they will work in other places. But this village burned down! How do your arrangements work? I just don’t get it. Is there anybody from the Interior Ministry or the Investigative Committee here?

Yury Larionov: Mr Prime Minister, head of the Interior Ministry Directorate for the Trans-Baikal Territory, police Major General Yury Larionov.

Vladimir Putin: What’s your take? What’s going on there?

Yury Larionov: We opened a criminal case under Article 168 on April 13. During the course of the preliminary investigation, we found out that careless handling of fire by an unidentified person caused dry grass catch fire near Bayan-Bulak area outside of the Urda-Aga village, Aginsky District, Trans-Baikal Territory. The fire destroyed 20 residential houses and contiguous facilities. We have set up four investigative groups that are inspecting the scene, locating witnesses and identifying affected households. We are conducting investigations. We haven’t identified the incendiary yet, but we continue to work on this.   

Ravil Geniatulin: Mr Putin, Mr Larionov and I are just back from the trip to the site.

Vladimir Putin: All right. I expect the law enforcement agencies to continue their work in a calm and professional manner. Just let the administration and the rescue workers do their part of work, do not interfere with what they are doing. I hope that the territorial and federal rescue services will work as a team and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

With regard to the people affected by the fire, I know that the damage is not substantial, but there’s a young girl who has a leg injury. We need doctors to see her and make sure she is taken care of. Let me know if you need any help from the federal authorities, and I’ll ask the governor to assist you. If you need anything else from our federal departments, I will instruct them accordingly without delay.

Lastly, the most important thing is to help people cope with the situation and do so quickly. You said that some people moved in with their relatives. First thing you need to do is to make sure that they have all basic supplies, such as water, food, proper sanitary conditions and proper guarding. I want the Interior Ministry to take care of this. We will also need to rebuild the houses, and all homeless fire victims should be issued appropriate funds.

One other aspect that is very important in such situations: people should have their ID’s promptly re-issued. Let me repeat: let me know if you need any help from federal authorities: the governor should be able to do all the paperwork promptly and make these requests available in the proper legal form. How long do you think it will take to rebuild the houses?

Ravil Geniatulin: These are small wooden houses traditionally built in this area. I’m confident that everyone will be back to their homes by October, that is, before winter.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Please get in touch with the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development without delay and come up with a joint proposal regarding all areas of work that we discussed now. All the best.

Ravil Geniatulin: Good.

Vladimir Putin: All the best.

Ravil Geniatulin: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s bring in Vladivostok.

Good afternoon, colleagues. Unlike the Trans-Baikal Territory, we have good news coming from Vladivostok today. A major and very important phase in the construction of the bridge to Russky Island is nearing completion. I would like to congratulate all the designers, engineers and builders on the completion of construction.

I’m aware that the construction was performed in very complicated conditions. There were about 300 storm warnings during construction, which resulted in about 25% of downtime. Nevertheless, the work is being performed on schedule and, most importantly, without compromising the construction quality. The first plan to build a bridge connecting Vladivostok to Russky Island dates back to 1939. This idea was brought back to the table in the 1960s. Finally, we made it happen. The bridge has set many international records, such as 300-plus metre bridge towers, large spans and high clearance above the sea level. Sea-going ships of all classes will be able to clear it without a problem. Of course, the bridge will boost growth in Vladivostok and promote the activities of the Far Eastern University, which will open on Russky Island in the near future. Clearly, this bridge will become a landmark facility in the Far East. Let me congratulate you once again on this accomplishment. Now I’m ready to hear reports by the first deputy prime minister and builders. Mr Shuvalov, please go ahead.

Igor Shuvalov: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. We are now on the Nazimov Peninsula together with representatives of the Most and Mostovik companies, which have been building this bridge. Mr Putin, we are ready to complete this work and are asking for your authorisation to perform a butt weld to connect the two parts of the bridge over the Eastern Bosporus Strait.

Vladimir Putin: You know what I want you to do? Please step aside so that we can see people who actually worked on this bridge. I would like them to step up to the microphone and introduce themselves. Someone, please. Don’t be shy, step up and introduce yourself.

Vladimir Kotov: My name is Vladimir Kotov.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Kotov, how long have you been on this project?

Vladimir Kotov: More than three years.

Vladimir Putin: In other words, almost from the beginning?

Vladimir Kotov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: What is your previous experience with similar projects?

Vladimir Kotov: I built one in the Urals, the Sverdlovsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: What kind of project was that?

Vladimir Kotov: A railway bridge.

Vladimir Putin: What do you think about this project as compared with the railway bridge in the Urals?

Vladimir Kotov: It’s much more complicated here. Weather conditions are different, and the bridge is unlike any other that I’ve built before.

Vladimir Putin: Speaking about the weather, obviously the bridge will come under significant wind loads. As someone who has been engaged in this kind of work for many years, what do you think about the safety of the structures that you’ve built in Vladivostok?

Vladimir Kotov: I believe that this is a safe bridge.

Vladimir Putin: You know what? I would like to cordially congratulate you – as the dry bureaucratic expression goes –  and all your colleagues, friends, construction workers and engineers, on the completion of your work. I hope that this project will be seen to completion. It’s something that the region and all of Russia need, and it will serve people for many years. My congratulations and all the best to you.

Vladimir Kotov: Thank you.

Igor Shuvalov: We are waiting for your go-ahead signal, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Yes please go ahead.

(Welding begins)

Well, I’d like to congratulate you again. As I’ve already said, such facilities are becoming regional and national symbols. I hope this will be so in this case. At any rate, this bridge will be very important in the country, the region, and the city. Honestly, I can’t wait to drive on it. We will do this soon. But the heads of this construction project, engineers and builders that are still working should bring this bridge to completion. They will have to spend a lot of time adjusting and verifying everything – the project must be done at top technical level.

Igor Shuvalov: Mr Putin, let me tell you about the biggest concern of people in the Primorye Territory and specialists involved in such complicated projects. First, when you conducted one of your question-and-answer sessions, in 2007, residents of the Primorye Territory asked you whether the bridge would be built at all. Even after the funds had been allocated and the federal targeted programme was drafted, there were many doubts about our ability to complete this project. Today we have watched the final panel being installed onto the bridge across the Eastern Bosporus Strait. Few people remember that we are building three bridge crossings here. In two days the last panel will be put into the bridge across the Golden Horn Bay, and practically everything is ready there. We were at the site today – people are getting ready, and the final piece will be installed on the bridge on Sunday. The low-water bridge is also about to be completed. Mr Putin, in all, about 8,000 people are involved in these three projects. They are unique teams and, as we heard today, they may be the best teams in the world. Top-notch specialists – from designers to builders – have been gathered together in one place.

We have also visited other facilities that are part of our programme of preparations for APEC Leaders Week next September. The university is almost ready. There are about 5,000 people working on its facilities. All these organisations are asking us the same question – will there be new jobs? They would like to work here, in the Far East, and contribute to its development. Of course, we explain that this depends to some extent on the budget, and there are some restrictions, but Mr Putin, you should know that there exists a vast engineering potential and a desire to work. People are eager to work on new projects here, in the Far East.   

Vladimir Putin: You know well that we have ambitious plans on the development of the Far East. We dealt with one of these projects just recently. This is one of our biggest national projects – the construction of the new Vostochny national space centre. I think part of the teams may be involved in this project, but there is more to it. Come back to Moscow, talk with your colleagues and make proposals. We will work together on all aspects of the programme for the development of Eastern Siberia and the Far East.

Igor Shuvalov: All right, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I wish you all the best.