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Takeaways from Vladimir Putin's, Dmitry Medvedev's previous messages to parliament

On April 21, 2021, the Russian president will give his 17th state of the nation address

MOSCOW, April 20. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 21, 2021 will address the Federal Assembly with the 17th state of the nation message. The event will take place at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall in the very center of Moscow. Since 2000 Putin has delivered 16 such messages while Dmitry Medvedev during his presidency (2008-2012) made four addresses. TASS has reviewed the main ideas of the presidential messages over the past two decades.


The focus of Vladimir Putin’s message to the Federal Assembly on July 8 was the need to strengthen the vertical chain of command. He pointed to such key problems of Russian society as a critical demographic situation, the lagging of the national economy behind the Western ones and embryonic civil society.


The April 3 message was centered around socio-economic issues. Putin set the tasks of restoring order to inter-budgetary relations between the central authorities and regions, implementing a judicial reform, improving the operation of law enforcement agencies, drafting an administrative reform and upgrading pension and labor legislation.


On April 18, Putin brought to the fore the issue of an administrative reform and the distribution of powers between the center and the regions once again. Among other priorities the head of state mentioned military reform, including gradual transition to a professional army. Upon completion of the "military phase" of the special operation in Chechnya the president called for returning the republic to "Russia’s legal fold."


On May 16, the state-of-the nation address was devoted to security and to raising the quality of life. For the first time ever the task was set to double the GDP over a period of ten years and achieve the full convertibility of the ruble. Putin said the war on poverty was number one task. He stressed the need for contract manning of the armed forces and reducing the duration of military service for conscripts to one year. In foreign policy he put the spotlight on contacts within the G8 group (since 2014 - G7) and on struggle against terrorism.


In the May 26 message Putin identified the availability of housing as a high priority. The deadlines for doubling the GDP, set a year ago, were specified. He stressed the need for achieving the goal in 2010. Also, he mentioned the need for reducing inflation to 3% a year.


On April 25, Putin said that time was ripe for replacing a "policy of stabilization with a policy extended well into the future." On the list of the main economic tasks Putin set cancellation of the property tax, simpler rules of real estate registration and tax amnesty. For promoting civil society, it was suggested to ensure the information openness of bodies of state power, establish the institution of parliamentary inquiries and also to change the rules of nomination of candidates for the posts of heads of Russian regions (from the political party that wins the regional election).


On May 10, Putin said demography was Russia’s acutest problem and suggested a number of measures for solving it: reducing mortality, conducting an effective migration policy and raising birth rates. He came up with an idea of maternity capital - lumpsum benefits to be paid for the birth (or adoption) of a second child and all other children (since 2020 the right to maternity capital was granted to families where the first child is born).


On April 26, the president in his message set the task of conducting a pension reform on the principles of co-financing and increasing the average pension without raising the retirement age. Also, Putin came out with an initiative for changing the rules of appointing members of the Federation Council (including the residence qualification - the duration of residence in the given region). He paid special attention to the issue of patriotism and the status of the Russian language. In foreign policy Putin proposed a moratorium on compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.


On November 5, President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the Federal Assembly with the annual message to stress the need for fundamentally reforming the political and economic systems. He stressed such priorities as "the production of knowledge, new technologies and advanced culture." The increase of the president's and the State Duma's term of office to six years and five years respectively was a major political initiative.


Medvedev’s message on November 12 was based on his policy article Forward, Russia!, published in September. The main theme of his message was "comprehensive modernization of the economy based on the values and institutions of democracy." He stressed the need for reconfiguring the economy and reorienting it from raw materials production to high technologies. Among other things he suggested creating a Russian equivalent of the Silicon Valley.


On November 30, economic modernization was the central topic of the presidential message again. Medvedev called upon local authorities to divest itself of noncore assets and came out with an initiative for turning Moscow into a "major international financial center." He said the main task of the state was support for the family and an effective government's child support policy.


In the December 22 message Medvedev proposed a number of political initiatives. In part, he stressed the need for restoring the direct elections of heads of Russia’s regions and simplifying the rules of registration of political parties. To step up the struggle against corruption the president suggested transition to a federal contract system in the sphere of government purchases and also introducing tight control of spending of senior civil servants.


On December 12, Putin delivered his first message to the Federal Assembly following his re-election as Russia’s head of state. He said the main task was to "preserve the national and spiritual identity." High on the agenda were demography, "personnel development" policies, housing, higher wages, better education and measures against illegal migration. He stressed the need for prohibiting civil servants from having bank accounts abroad.


In his December 12 message Putin reaffirmed the policy of resistance to capital flight. He underscored the need for developing a system of local self-government and put the spotlight on problems in reforming education, regulating migration flows and protecting traditional values.


On December 4, the president said Crimea’s reunification with Russia was a "historic moment" and described the Western sanctions taken against Russia as an attempt to "restrict Russia’s growing capabilities." In the economy Putin suggested making no changes to the tax system for a period of four years and also promising full amnesty of offshore capital on the condition of its repatriation.


Putin began his December 3 address by declaring a moment of silence in memory of the victims of terror and Russian military servicemen, killed in Syria. Putin stressed the growing world threat of terrorism and the need for creating a common international anti-terrorist front under the aegis of the United Nations. He warned that the country must be prepared for a prolonged period of low energy prices and called for changing the structure of the national economy.


In the December 1 message the head of state spoke about ways of "multiplying human capital as Russia’s main asset." A considerable part of his address was devoted to social issues: education, medicine and the need for drawing the NGOs into addressing concrete social issues. Also, he touched upon tax reform and struggle against corruption.


The March 1 presidential message was devoted to two major themes. First, Putin reviewed the nation’s strategic development tasks. In particular, he said that by 2025 Russia’s GDP per capita was to grow 1.5 times. Also, he briefed the audience on the newest weapons capable of maintaining Russia’s sovereignty, such as the intercontinental ballistic missile Sarmat, hypersonic system Kinzhal, nuclear-powered cruise missiles and other latest achievements of the national defense industry.


On February 20, the presidential message’s main themes were social and economic development and the implementation of national projects. He stressed the need for supporting the family and added that "protection of the people" was a key task. As he dwelt on the international agenda, the Russian leader said the United States’ unilateral pullout from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was one of the key issues. He warned the US against taking decisions that might endanger Russia’s sovereignty and security.


On January 15, Putin said it was crucial to make a number of amendments to the Russian Constitution. He suggested establishing the primacy of the Russian Constitution over international legislation, complementing the fundamental law with a special provision on the State Council, expanding the powers of parliament and Constitutional Court, restricting the number of presidential terms for one person and merging the state and municipal bodies of power into one public system of power. He stressed that the amendments to the Constitution should by no means affect the fundamental principles. He suggested introducing them by means of adopting special constitutional laws and then holding a nationwide public vote on the whole package (on March 14, 2020 a law on amendments to the Constitution was signed; on July 1 the amendments were approved in a nationwide public vote and took effect on July 4). Also, the president touched upon demography, family support, education and the encouragement of investment.