President Putin conducted today a meeting with the heads of the Federal subjects on countering the spread of the Coronavirus infection. The full transcript of the meeting is published at the official site of The President of the Russian Federation.
What I found especiall enligtening is the last portion, where the President makes an address to the Russian people. This address underlines important Russian values and social contracts, as well as historical roots. It touches upon the concerns with the postponement of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Below is the video of the address from NTV and my speed-translation of the transcript.
I appeal to all citizens of Russia.
For each of us, the most important thing is life, health of the loved ones, safety of the parents and children. We now feel this especially acutely, we worry about our families and friends, and we strive to protect them from a cruel threat.
At the same time, it may – and does – seem to some that nothing terrible is happening. Many people don’t see the threat, they simply don’t feel it. After all, even in Moscow, where there are most sick – 48 thousand people – it is only 0.4 percent of the capital’s population. However, first of all, it is the lives and health of specific people, and there are many of them. And secondly, the risk of further, wider, spreading of the disease has not passed. It is still very large.
Among our relatives, colleagues, and people we know well, there are more and more people who were directly affected by the disease, who were found to have the infection, and who ended up in hospital with complications. Dear friends, I am deeply sorry for all those who have suffered the irreplaceable loss of their loved ones.
I understand how difficult it is: the bitterness of losses, and the burden of fatigue, anxiety, and uncertainty. This, of course, is exhausting, psychologically draining people. Material, financial, and everyday problems accumulate. And each of us wants to exhale and say: everything is finally over, everything is behind us.
Especially since it is spring outside, and warm sunny days are coming not only to the South of Russia, but also to the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East. Many people planned, where possible, to spend the May holidays in their dacha and garden plots. And of course, that is how it should be done.
But I ask you, dear friends, to show the utmost responsibility and caution, to refrain – no matter how much you would like it – from going to visit your neighbours, from gatherings in large companies, from unnecessary trips.
We all must not allow the fight against the Coronavirus to fail. The upcoming May days are crucial here. In order to avoid such a failure, we are extending the period of non-working days and restrictive measures in the regions until May 11, inclusive.
While observing the requirements of security and self-isolation, we will naturally celebrate our sacred holiday – Victory Day. No matter what, we will do it together, as a whole country. This day and its spiritual power are forever in our hearts.
On the 9th of May, our aviation, modern combat aircraft and helicopters, will fly in the parade formation in the sky of Russia, honouring the heroes. In the evening, there will be the traditional fireworks display in the city centres.
We will remember our soldiers of the Great Patriotic War, those who are no longer with us. And of course, we will congratulate our veterans. Even if we can’t hug them, we’ll find a way to say the warmest words to them. Together with our children and grandchildren, we will look at old family photo albums, we will tell them what we once heard about the war and its events from our parents and grandparents, we will sing “Victory Day”, “Katyusha”, “Zemljanka” – songs that we love and know by heart.
And everything that was planned in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory will definitely take place. We will hold both the main parade on Red Square and the March of the “Immortal Regiment”.
We will celebrate the anniversary of the Victory with dignity, when we are sure that the situation is completely safe. And above all, doubly so, for our veterans.
Perhaps for the first time since the war, the whole world is going through such difficult trials. Of course, they can’t be compared to the war one. And thank God for that! But we must clearly understand that today we are in a situation of fighting the enemy. And its danger to life, health, and well-being of people cannot be marginalised either. After all, we see what severe consequences the spread of the Coronavirus has around the world, and we are doing everything possible to stop it.
Of course, our medical workers bear the brunt. They risk their lives every day to save others, and they call on all of us to be careful and comply with the requirements of self-isolation. They are on the real medical front. Fighting for all of us. And their word has a special weight for the understanding the extreme necessity of the restrictions that have been imposed.
Yes, any prohibitions, even if justified, but violating the established course of life, will of course, irritate, even anger. But it is difficult to agree [with such emotions] when such irritation results in disregard for others, in self-adoration, in loud words about the infringement of personal freedom and constitutional rights.
In this regard, I would like to say once again what is at the heart of my decisions.
The absolute value of modern civilization is, of course, freedom. Freedom of every citizen. But the life of each person is unique, it is an absolute value given to us from above. And we must protect it, so that people can enjoy, love, raise children, and just live.
Let me also remind you of the well-known formula: the freedom of every person is limited by the freedom of others. In the fight against the infection, this formula is very much appropriate. If someone prefers a different behaviour, that is, if their personal, unrestricted freedom is raised above the interests and freedoms of other people, then today they are putting other’s lives at risk. And in this case, freedom turns into irresponsibility, selfishness and, in a certain sense, violence against others, it can lead to considerable troubles.
And to talk about one more thing – the moral choice that we face now. In the world as a whole, and sometimes in Russia, we hear the idea that we should first and foremost think about the economy and material well-being. And this, of course, is very important.
But what is proposed in this regard? It is proposed, in fact, to go forward, stepping over everything and everyone, not taking anyone or anything into account, in fact, not taking into account the risks associated with the epidemic, and just lift all the restrictions as quickly as possible. And if someone can gets sick, they say, let them get sick, remain disabled or even die, then that is their fate. In short, the law of natural selection is proposed, where everyone is for themselves.
We know from history and world literature that in primitive times elderly, sick children, and weak people were simply abandoned for the sake of the survival of the entire tribe. I guess there was no other choice then. But we live in the twenty-first century. And I will say directly: those who now offer to sacrifice people, leave them to their fate, do in fact call for a return to savagery and barbarism.
It is said that in Ancient Sparta, sick, crippled children were thrown from the cliff of Taygetus. However, historians and archaeologists of today believe that this is only a legend, a myth. But we know that the society of Sparta was really built on severe rules. But it didn’t help. And eventually it lost its statehood. As they say, the story is instructive.
Let’s also recall a very short, only a few pages, but poignant, moving to tears story by Jack London “The Law of life”. It tells of a tribe abandoning their old people, who became a burden. The children gave them some food and left, leaving their parents to be eaten by the animals, leaving them to die. And the old father, left alone by the fire, believed till the end and hoped that his sons would come back for him. Can you imagine, even for a moment, that it is possible to do to our parents, to our grandparents, as in this story? I’ll never believe it. It’s not in our genetic code.
Because we learned something completely different from our ancestors. Russia has lived with the values of mutual aid, mutual assistance, and solidarity for a thousand years. And today these values are the main support of our statehood. We got them together with the Orthodoxy. These values are also the basis of other religions of the peoples of Russia – Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. The philosophy of love for man has helped us survive for centuries. Today, the fate of our neighbours and other people depends on our responsibility.
Let me reiterate – the main concern for us now are the people and their lives. Any other choice is unacceptable for our people. I firmly know that the absolute majority of you think and act in accord with conscience.
Let us save people, keep them safe. And everything else will come as a result. We will fix everything and make up for it, overcome this Coronavirus, and with a calm heart, all together we will raise the economy, strengthen welfare, support those who have lost their jobs, prosperity, those who have it difficult, give a shoulder to the affected businesses, help them save workplaces, get back on their feet. Such state support measures will be constantly supplemented and expanded.
And now every success, even if small, but still real, and especially every life saved, strengthens our hope and confidence in the victory over the epidemic.
We’ll make it back off. Life will get better. And it is in our power to make sure that this happens as soon as possible, so that we not only overcome the current trials and tribulations, but also create reliable conditions for future development.
Thank you all.