“Tatarstan can solve very difficult problems some regions can’t. Putin considers it”
The president of Russia pays the next visit to Kazan and opens a new format of talks on issues of the Defence and Industrial Complex
The president of Russia arrived in Kazan – Tatarstan became the first region where Vladimir Putin began a series of talks on issues of the Defence and Industry Complex, which had been announced by his press secretary a day before. Meetings in such a format will be held in other regions too. This time it seems that the head of the state is intending to personally learn about the reasons for the slippage in the project of the cargo unmanned vehicle Altair in the Tatarstan capital, think experts surveyed by Realnoe Vremya. More is in our report.
Putin again in Kazan
The president’s plane landed right on the site of the Kazan Aviation Factory at about 14 p.m. The first of the series of talks on issues of the Defence and Industry Complex in a new format took place on its territory. It means that the head of the country will personally stay tuned for problems and the development pace of military projects on the spot. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov accompanied Putin.
It became known the head of the country was going to come after the May holidays in late April. This year the president had already been in Kazan on 12 February and took part in the work of an extended session of the panel of the State Council. Unlike his previous visit, this time the press wasn’t allowed to cover Putin’s visit, limiting to just several video cameras of federal channels. As official representative of the Kazan Kremlin Liliya Galimova specified, the discussion will be focused only on defence issues:
“Putin is holding a series of talks on the Defence and Industrial Complex, such talks are mainly held in Sochi. The new format means that he will chair the meetings in enterprises themselves. In this case, it’s the Kazan Aviation Factory, that’s to say, he will briefly look over the planes exhibited there and have a meeting right away.”
Galimova noted that Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu and head of the Russian Ministry of Industry Denis Manturov accompanied Putin – everyone involved in state defence procurement.
The Russian president was going to be told about the reconstruction of the aerodrome base, the update of the control tower, warehouses and indoor plane parking areas, reads the Tatarstan president’s press service’s message. He was to be said about technical rearmament of production facilities: repair of shops preparing the production of connections and units, other production capacities.
It should be noted that during Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s visit to Kazan this January, he also visited the Kazan Aviation Factory, which implements a Tu-160 production revival programme, which is a strategic bomber also famous as White Swan.
The updated plane, as it’s planned, is due to become the main strike force of Russia’s strategic aviation.
As early as a year ago, a contract aimed to produce 10 Tu-160 strategic launch vehicles was signed also in January, during Putin’s visit to the KAF.
Although the work keeps to the schedule, as the defence minister noted then, experts surveyed by Realnoe Vremya said earlier about difficulties in production. Some production technologies as titanium processing were lost.
Personal examination of DIC’s readiness
A day before Putin’s visit, his Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the visit to Kazan was the beginning of a series of talks in a new format. The president said about an idea of “update” at a meeting with Shoigu and head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov in February.
“Previously, all events designed to discussed issues of the Defence and Industry Complex were held twice a year in the format of traditional sessions, in the president’s residency. So now, as I understand, such a format presupposes a visit to enterprises of the Defence and Industry Complex and a discussion of problems on the post,” says military expert, editor-in-chief of Fatherland’s Arsenal magazine Viktor Murakhovsky.
Putin himself gave a task to control the mobilisation preparedness of enterprises of the Defence and Industry Complex, federal and regional bodies of executive power at a military meeting last autumn. According to the mass media, he said about the armament of the army and navy with the latest weaponry but without involving in the arms race.
“Kazan is a famous and powerful defence industry centre. It has an aviation factory, a helicopter factory and shipbuilding. We shouldn’t forget Naberezhnye Chelny,” Murakhovsky goes on.
However, Murakhovsky notes that the meeting might be provoked by a “failure” when developing the Altair unmanned vehicle in Altius project: “There are things to consider, and there are problems in some issues – in unmanned vehicles and strategic aviation where the Supreme Commander must personally make sure, define ways of solution: the previous developers’ project closed and was given to another enterprise, but several months have passed, and it doesn’t move forward.”
Earlier, the Simonov Design Bureau developed Altair UAV, they took on the project in 2011. The mass media wrote about failed deadlines and fraud, this is why last autumn the project was given to the Kazan office of the Ural Civil Aviation Factory. In late 2018 it was said about a slight delay in the project’s schedule, while the first test flight was to take place in May or in early summer.
“We can say the deadlines have already violated, while the area is quite promising, topical for the Armed Forces, this is why something must be done. But the topic is so that they prefer not to speak about problems,” the expert concludes.
“The country’s officials and the government’s official always try to discuss problems not in a narrow circle but together with specialists in some defence enterprises focused in a region,” says FSB General Mayor in reserve Aleksandr Mikhailov denying the name of the format as “new”. According to the interlocutor, talks on the territory of defence enterprise have always existed, while the president’s participation is the novelty: “The premier used to deal with such things, but the president solves these problems due to his liveliness”.
Mikhailov noted that the choice of both the format itself and the republic isn’t accidents – so the president can learn about problems first-hand, without intermediaries, “that’s to say, without functionaries who, as a rule, form the opinion of the country’s leader, and this is very important”:
“We must say that Kazan plays an important role in this topic, there is a big number of defence enterprises, aviation infrastructure. I think the relations of the head of your republic with Putin are quite kind and correct. Generally speaking, it’s the Tatar mentality that allows solving big problems in the short term – for this purpose, one must correctly establish relations with Tatarstan because, as I already said, Tatarstan can solve very difficult problems some regions can’t. Putin considers it. Of course, it’s easier to go to Kazan, invite representatives of other defence enterprises or this issue in general, discuss development issues – it’s a very important question today. It’s a correct format for serious discussion.”
Where else the president might fly
The meeting didn’t last for more than two hours: “No events with him are planned in the city – only defence. There will be a very short visit, as then he will go to another region,” Liliya Galimova specified but found it difficult to name the next region in Putin’s agenda noting that “she didn’t have authority to give the information”.
Russia has other powerful regions with defence enterprises, Murakhovsky presupposes the next possible candidates to visit:
“The Urals region – Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Tagil, Chelyabinsk. We have quite powerful enterprises in Moscow Oblast, I mean Tula, for instance, it’s a whole conglomerate in different areas of the defence industry. But it’s hard to guess where the Supreme Commander will go.”
It’s not the case of Kazan but the case of the Kazan Aviation Factory, says military observer Pavel Felgengauer: “If there were a factory manufacturing bombers in another place, he would have gone there. It has nothing to do with Tatarstan. It’s linked with both repair and production, but it’s not linked directly with Kazan.”
After Kazan, Putin will head off to Sochi where he has a scheduled meeting on the DIC, Felgengauer continued: “Today in the evening the Chinese foreign minister will arrive (Editor’s Note: Wang Yi), it’s unclear if he will meet with Putin or not, then Pompeo comes tomorrow (Editor’s Note: US State Secretary Mike Pompeo), I suppose he has a meeting with Pompeo.”