Rossiiskaya gazeta, Aug. 26, 2021, p. 1. Condensed text:

. . . On Tuesday [Aug. 24], [Russian President] Vladimir Putin participated in the second part of the United Russia convention, which was held at the Expocenter. The president suggested adding a number of initiatives to the party platform.

“As the current head of state and as a citizen of Russia, I deem it necessary to suggest a number of initiatives and say a few words about the matters that are crucial to the country’s stable development, its sovereignty and the security of our people,” Vladimir Putin said, speaking at the convention. He stressed that United Russia is now under moral obligation to deliver on the promises it has made. He also said that people from practically every part of the country contributed to the party platform, which “in a very real sense makes them co-authors” and makes the document itself the people’s platform.

“I am aware – as we all are – that the ruling political force is always responsible for everything, for all of the country’s problems. You always have to shoulder this burden. But you have always acted responsibly, and this new platform is no exception. It is realistic,” the president said.

Retired people to get a 10,000 ruble benefit quickly and without any bureaucratic delays.

Taking care of the older generation is a priority. “There are quite a few issues that need to be addressed in this regard, including health care and in-home care. United Russia should be working on these issues on the ground, in various parts of Russia, literally on a daily basis,” Putin said.

The president asked the government to make necessary arrangements as quickly as possible in order to support retired people with a one-time benefit of 10,000 rubles. “The most important point is, people should not be burdened with any bureaucratic procedures, like collecting paperwork,” he emphasized. Putin pointed out that retired people spent more time at home than anyone else during the pandemic and ran up more extra costs for drugs, protective equipment and other unforeseen expenses.

The president stressed that the 10,000 ruble benefit will cover all the people who have reached the minimum retirement age – even if they still work. It will also cover retired military officers. Next year, the government plans to index pensions above inflation. “This will be the same thing we do every year, like we agreed a few years ago,” the president added.

Military personnel will get 15,000 rubles each regardless of rank.

Putin said that military personnel will all get a one-time 15,000 ruble benefit regardless of rank and position. The president added that this benefit will also cover military academy cadets and law-enforcement officers.

“I think this benefit should be the same for everyone, regardless of the number of stars on their insignia. In this matter, I think everybody should be equal – kind of like when people go to a sauna, if you don’t mind me saying so,” the president said. Putin mentioned that he was aware of certain disproportions in income levels among the military and law-enforcement officers.

“We definitely need to take action to fix this. I have instructed the government to look into this. If some assistance is required from lawmakers, I ask you to take a note of this issue,” the president said.

Putin also asked the members of parliament to index the salaries of military and law-enforcement personnel above inflation in 2022 and 2023.

Supporting families from the time a child is born.

It is extremely important to have a comprehensive system for supporting families with children, the president said.

“We have expanded our maternal benefit program, simultaneously increasing the amount paid. We have introduced new benefits for pregnant women and monthly benefits for children under 7 – or for children 16 and under, for single-parent families. In the coming years, we need to further expand this lineup of benefits, so a low-income family would get support the entire time from the moment a child is born until they finish high school,” Putin said. He also mentioned that many have been talking about a national idea for Russia and a vision for Russia’s future. “Basically, our vision for Russia’s future should be a robust, functional family with two, three or four children.. There’s no need for us to reinvent the wheel,” the president said.

Social benefits to be protected by law.

Putin suggested that once the election is over, the new Duma should immediately adopt an amendment prohibiting banks from automatically withholding benefit money as payment for one’s debts, even if there is a court order to exact the payment.

He added that if a bank withheld any benefit money earlier, it must return it. “Like I said when we met the day before yesterday, it should work retroactively. If a bank has taken some benefit money, it has to give it back. This money lawfully belongs to the person,” Putin emphasized. “Considering how much money banks have been making recently, it will be easy for them to do that,” the president added.

Helping people find a job.

It is important to find a solution for every person who has lost their income and cannot find a job, Putin said. The president mentioned that unemployment was at 5% and trending downward.

“But, of course, all these numbers and trends mean nothing to a person who can’t find a job and provide for their family, their kids. They don’t care about statistics or about the things we say on this subject,” the president explained. Putin said he had instructed the government to prepare a special program to help young people find a job and design specific measures to support the territories where unemployment is a major issue. “I ask United Russia to get involved and help with implementing these plans,” the president said.

Putin also said there should be a special program helping people with disabilities find jobs. “We need to create conditions for such people so they can work and have a regular income,” he said.

Moving people from substandard housing.

Vladimir Putin suggested launching a new program to provide people living in substandard housing with alternative housing. “It is not enough for us to support the provinces, which are working hard to move people from substandard buildings. We should also launch a new program that will help provide alternative housing for all the people living in the buildings classified as dangerous as of Jan. 1, 2021. This means we need over 11 million square meters of housing across Russia,” the president said. As a first step, he offered to allocate 45 billion rubles from the federal budget for this purpose. The president also asked United Russia to support this initiative by including it in the 2022 budget and plans for 2023 and 2024.

Vaccination should not be coercive.

Employers cannot threaten to fire their workers if they refuse to get vaccinated, Vladimir Putin said. The president explained that people need to be persuaded. “It’s unacceptable to force people to get vaccinated, telling them that otherwise they might lose their job. You have to persuade them to get vaccinated. You have to do it persistently but respectfully,” the president said.

He added that collective action was the only way to stop the dangerous epidemic. “Basically, vaccination is the primary means for stopping the virus. There’s not much I can say on the issue that you don’t already know,” Putin said. . . .

Supporting farmers and protecting small businesses.

Putin said the government should support farmers more, pointing out that the agricultural sector is the flagship of Russia’s economic development. “I totally endorse the party’s intention to focus more on supporting farmers and small businesses in rural areas, including local fairs and other nonstandard forms of commerce across Russia, where farmers can sell their produce directly, without any intermediaries,” Putin said. He thinks that, among other things, this will help bring food prices down.

In addition, Putin said the current moratorium on inspections for small businesses should be extended for another year. “And I don’t just mean small and medium-sized companies in the agricultural sector. This applies to all the sectors,” he added.

Wildfires: learning the lesson.

Russia will allocate 24 billion rubles for forest protection and wildfire prevention. The president said that this basically means that the government will double the funding for such programs.

“We have to learn our lesson and radically improve our system of forest protection. I ask the government to study this issue carefully and clearly delineate responsibilities between various levels of government in these matters. In case of an emergency, we should have clear protocols so the Emergency Situations Ministry and other special services can quickly provide the necessary assistance to the affected territory,” Putin added. He also mentioned that the authorities should create a special aircraft taskforce to fight forest fires.

Keeping Russia safe.

Russia has effective ways of protecting its people against terrorists. “Some may think that this is no longer a threat; that terrorist attacks are a thing of the past and only happen in other places. Let me remind you that we had terrorist attacks not too long ago, and they happened right here, on our territory. In the North Caucasus, we had to conduct what was essentially a military operation against large groups of international terrorists. We rose up together and defeated them. The people of Dagestan, Chechnya and other republics all rose up to fight this evil. Otherwise, the terrible things we see happening in Afghanistan today would be happening on our soil,” the president said. According to Putin, Russia was basically the only country in the world that managed to defeat large groups of terrorists and wipe out insurgencies.

The president also stressed that Russia has no intention of getting its troops involved in the “conflict of all against all” in Afghanistan. “We certainly won’t meddle in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs, let alone get our military involved in this conflict of all against all – because that’s what is happening there, in my opinion,” he said. Given the current situation in Afghanistan, Putin asked all security agencies to step up their efforts to keep Russia safe. The people of Russia should feel confident, knowing that they are safe, the president stressed.

“Children, parental love, solidarity between generations – all these things are core values for all the traditions and cultures in our multiethnic and multiconfessional country,” the president said. According to him, in order to have more children in Russia, people need stable incomes, good jobs, affordable housing, education, health care and social security. “Also, it is very important that our people feel confident about tomorrow, knowing that Russia’s security, the security of our children and our people will be solidly protected against any threats. People should know that Russia will continue developing in a stable and consistent way, and everything we have achieved will not be squandered. On the contrary, things will only keep getting better and better,” the president said in conclusion. . . .