Question: Do you think the overall situation is conducive to such trips, to distractions from the main agenda, internationally and locally?
Vladimir Putin: Now listen; you saw that yesterday I met with the heads of public organisations, which is quite important for Crimea, considering the ethnic aspect. As I said yesterday, last year’s census showed that 68 percent of the population here are Russians, 16 percent are Ukrainians and about 10 percent – Crimean Tatars. In addition, there are Bulgarians, Greeks and representatives of other ethnic groups living here.
Inter-ethnic accord in the Crimean Federal District is a very important internal policy matter for the Russian Federation in general. Therefore, yesterday we considered these matters, along with the development of such an important branch of the economy as tourism.
Today, on the 170th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society we are holding events designed to revive an interest in national history. I consider this to be very important for the country.
Tomorrow we will deal with security matters. I believe this is timely and necessary. We are all doing our jobs: the Government is concerned with the economy, as I already said, on a daily and even hourly basis. We are not neglecting anything, so there is no need for concern.
Question: Mr President, going back to the expedition: 80 metres is a technical depth. Could you share your impressions of the depth? Would you ever venture to go that deep on your own, maybe scuba diving?
Vladimir Putin: This is something that should be left to the experts; submerging to such depths is not easy. When you are surfacing, you have to stop at certain points, as far as I remember, the ascent from such a depth should take about 50 minutes or so. This could probably be done, but let us leave that to the experts.
Question: What is your general impression of this depth?
Vladimir Putin: It is interesting. This is a very interesting device, a bathyscaphe.
Question: Were you afraid?
Vladimir Putin: No, I was not. At Lake Baikal, we went down to almost 2,000 metres, over 1,900, using Russian-made MIR devices. This is a different piece of equipment; it is not designed for such depths – only about 300 metres. 83 metres is also quite deep and very interesting, of course.
Question: Mr President, another question, if I may. The Russian Geographical Society has been operating here in Crimea for over a century and a half and they have had many expeditions. Are you planning to go anywhere else here in Crimea? As Chairman of the RGS Board of Trustees, you should be aware of the problems RGS may be having here in Crimea – are there any, does the regional branch need any help?
Vladimir Putin: I believe we should always help regional branches, but today the RGS is doing fine here: they have already conducted 2,000 studies. Our sponsors make it possible for us to invest significant resources into these studies, and not only here in the Black Sea area, but practically all over the globe.
I would like to thank our enthusiasts, in this case these are business people who are investing their own funds not only into such research, but also into restoration.
At the entrance to the bay, you saw a newly reconstructed fortification that was founded by Suvorov back in 1778 and was completely run down in the recent period. Our sponsors invested 800 million rubles to restore it.
We have many plans; they are all open to the public. I am certain that getting to know them would be of use for individuals and for the entire country.
Question: Mr President, where do you like it better: on the ground or underwater?
Vladimir Putin: Home is best, of course. It is best to be on solid ground and among your own people.
Question: Can I ask a question about Ukraine?
Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.
Question: Do you think the Minsk plan has failed? How do you assess the probability of an escalation in the conflict, of large-scale fighting?
Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, we are observing such an escalation now, and the blame lies not with the Donbass self-defence forces, but with the other side. It is the Donbass militants who suggested withdrawing all military equipment with a calibre of under 100 millimetres.
Unfortunately, the other side failed to do so. On the contrary, according to the data we have, they are concentrating their units there, including those enhanced with combat equipment. I hope it will not come to open, direct large-scale confrontation.
As for the Minsk-2 accords, I believe there is no alternative to a settlement and eventually peace will prevail. Our job is to minimise the losses that this would require.
Thank you very much.
this interview appeared first on: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/50148#sel=31:31,31:43