The following is a full transcript of Christiane Amanpour's interview with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Prime Minister, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining us.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): Good day.
AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you about the Sochi Olympics. This is a moment of great pride for Russia, great anticipation for the world's athletes. And yet you have a major security threat, a major security alert that your government security forces have stated.
Can you tell me what you know about this threat?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Put it right, this is a major event for our country, for the whole of the world. The Olympics always constitutes a huge feast of sports. Before I speak about security, let me say several words on what we expect from the Olympics. We expect a huge number of visitors – our nationals and foreigners – so that they can watch the Olympic Games. Overall, we have sold 1.2 million tickets, which is a huge amount, huge number for the Winter Olympics. And together with the TV broadcast, three billion people will be the speculators. So it's a huge feast of sports. And we'll do our best to make it successful. We have completed all the works, all the facilities and venues already. Everything was – is as we planned, despite the fact that it was a very long preparation. And now the task of ours is to start the Olympic Games, to launch them on time and properly. With respect to the threats, on public events, there are always some threats. That's not only in this country but also in others. In this country, they have some specific nature and consequences. Definitely we are aware of that and we will take that into account during the Olympics. I’m referring to the mobilization buildup of police forces, and we want – well, a huge number of policemen will watch the process of the games. And some other forces will be involved, and we will control and will recite the facilities and venues. And they were controlled at the construction stage. We watched all the contractors what was built and how it was built.
And general cooperation matters at such events because there are some examples in history that can be cited. And we expect that during these Olympics we'll be able to be in coordination with our partners, including from the airs and have some relevant agreements with them upon that to prevent those threats to ward them off, some possible threats. But on the whole, I am sure it's going to be OK and the level of the games will be excellent. And we invite everybody to watch the games. And those who have bought tickets are welcome to come to this country and see it with their own eyes.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you to be specific, the Russian security forces, the government has sent out alert about a specific so-called Black Widow who may have penetrated even the ring of steel around Sochi already. And hotels are being told to look out for this person. Flyers and posters are being sent around. Given the amount of security that you've put in place, how is it possible that this could happen so close to the games?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): You know, we are having very tough struggle against terrorism. This is the reality of our life today. And all those threats, including the ones you have mentioned occur not in the context, not only in the context of the Olympics. And we keep fighting them every day. Sometimes we have good results but sometimes we don't have results we expected. But anyway the struggle will be continued regardless of the Olympic Games, and that will be also born in mind and that will be also borne in mind by our international partners and the nationals of Russian Federation.
AMANPOUR: As you know some international athletes are already expressing some fear, some nervousness. They see the tape or they see the posting online from these jihadis who said we have a present for you, at the Sochi Olympics, you know, wait and see what's going to happen. So they’re worried about that.
Even a U.S. senator told CNN, athletes, U.S. athletes, don't go to the Sochi Olympic Games. This must be terribly worrying for you. Are you afraid that some people just might not turn up?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I believe that the threats during the Sochi Games are no greater than at any Olympics in other places. We are – speak frankly: it's a global world, globalized world and we know about other deplorable developments in other countries, including the United States during sports events. So to speak that all the threats are accumulating in Sochi would not be right. That's exactly what I meant. So to consider that there are some special extreme threats for American athletes, would not be a right thing to do. But any person, any senator, has a right to express his or her own view. We are confident that we'll be able to protect all the athletes that will arrive and we will hold the Winter Games.
AMANPOUR: Extraordinarily, some athletes have their own private security they're coming with. The United States apparently has warships and planes, a whole evacuation plan, if things don't go according to plan and if there's any danger. The head of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Rogers, said to CNN, they - you, the Russians - are not giving us the full story about the threat. Who do we need to worry about? Are these people terrorist groups who've had some success in the past, still plotting? Why is the United States staying that they're not getting full cooperation from Russia? Is that true?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I believe that we have good cooperation, a decent level of cooperation between special services of Russia and the United States on that matter. And that was proved in various situations and deplorably (ph) after some terror attacks and in the process of our cooperation with Afghanistan and a number of other tracks, but I believe that such speculations constitute an attempt to distract some people from the current situation within that country, because I believe in the world of today, in the globalized world of today, given the global threats to security, on a legislative level and the level of the executive authorities, everyone should tackle their own threats and not speculate on threats that are existent in other states.
This is my profound and firm belief. And everybody should do that, including the legislators of the United States. And we should tackle our threats by ourselves. And we do that.
AMANPOUR: Are you - are you reassuring the United States that you are cooperating to the fullest?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): There can be no situations when there is no room for advancement. Definitely we believe that our cooperation could be better, could become better probably. But on the whole, the cooperation between our special services, between the FBI and our special service that deals with all the security matters, the so-called FSB, Federal Security Service, is now currently at a good level, especially with respect to the Olympics. And I believe that these contacts help us solve a host of domestic issues of ours. They help both us and the Americans. And the cooperation I believe will be at a good level during the games. I am positive.
Can’t anything be streamlined? I am confident that, yes, that can because in terms of the special services cooperation, there are two things that should not be forgotten. Every special service of a country has its own tasks. And second,
the more frequent the contacts are, the better the level of trust.
And in large-scale joint operations, the solution of common goals and tasks in our territories and on territories of third countries, the spirit of trust is raised by these things. And I hope that the Olympics will be propitious to that because it's here that our special services should cooperate on that matter. It's not the Olympic Games of Russia. It's a universal and a national event, hosting many guests, including from the United States, and we welcome them.
AMANPOUR: The Chechen terrorist, Doku Umarov, there's some discrepancy about whether he's dead or alive. As far as you know, is he alive? Is he dead?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I believe that before we have the proof of the death of this or that terrorist, I will not speak names. Special services should count on him as alive. If there are such proofs, then of course this terrorist should be signed out from the list of the living.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to come back to talk about other elements of the Games. But I want to move on to another major story happening right now, and that is the so-called peace conference, Geneva 2, trying to resolve the Syrian crisis. One hundred thousand-plus people have been killed in the last three years in Syria. There is starvation in the land, haunting many people. And there just doesn't seem to be any way out of this. What are your real hopes for this Geneva 2 conference this week? Do you think that there's really going to be some kind of solution?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Well, I am optimistic about this event. I have really optimistic aspirations.
I have really optimistic aspirations. I will not – I'll be frank: I follow the events around Syria very attentively and I began doing this when I was in the presidential office, because, according to our constitution, the president is responsible for foreign policy.
And I remember well how, during the G8 summit, in 2011, the problem was – began to be discussed - began to be discussed. And then I had to say that I believe – and that is the Russian Federation believes – that there should be no forcible scenario to solve the Syrian crisis, no use of force. And some sanctions which used to be inflicted on other countries will not be positive in their results. And I believe that the following events prove that with the most – utmost evidence. That's the first.
The problem in Syria is the Syrian domestic problem. That is not the problem of the Russian Federation. That is not the problem of the United States. That is not the problem of Iran. That's not the problem of Saudi Arabia. And that's not fully the problem of the Arab world, but of course, it is related to the situation, to the Middle East, of course. I believe that the roots of this problem lay in Syria itself and we have to have the domestic Syrian settlement, which is the most difficult. Sometimes the situation is Syria is simplified as the conflict between the totalitarian regime, from regime, which is associated with President Assad on the one side, and some civil forces who conflict with them on from the other side. But that's not the whole truth as we understand. Syria is a complex, multi-confessional country. And if we break the balance which was being formed for decades, we'll have the society warring inside itself and we have such symptoms already when there are clashes between Sunnis and Shia. And the society was built in order for Alawites to have the key posts. But there are also Christians, Druzes and this complex ethnic and polyconfessional, multi-confessional point, if I may say so, which was created during decades, is now boiling. And the tasks of the international community is to help the process to restore the national settlement. If we succeed, then Geneva 2 will succeed as well.
But we have a long way to go before that, of course. And the last remark about this in the settlement, all the stakeholders should take place, all the countries which in this or that way are all either neighbors or partners of Syria and other forces, which have the key stance in the Middle East. Why am I saying this? The thing that has happened with the revoke or withdrawal of the invitation to Iran, I believe that's unacceptable. Can someone think that [the] Syrian problem may be seriously discussed without the Iranian factor, without the account of it? Of course, everything should be taken into account. But when the international community or the U.N. first extends an invitation then withdraws an invitation, that is not consistent and that does not contribute to positive result, I guess.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, all of these things that are happening just seem to me to show the international community paralyzed. Nobody quite knows what to do. The west and the other Arab nations have done certain things but they have not intervened. Secretary Kerry has recently said that Syria is the biggest magnet for terror of any place today. Many would say because it's been left to fester for the last three years. I know President Assad talks always about fighting terrorism. You also are very concerned about the terrorist threat. But would you not concede that there have just been too many people killed by the Assad regime; that this has got to somehow stop? And nobody seems to be doing anything to make it stop.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): The problem is that in Syria, unfortunately, there is the civil war in its nature. And who is to blame? I believe everyone is to blame. All the forces which exist on the territory of Syria and which are trying to influence this process. I do not idealize President Assad. Me and President Putin, mentioned and said that Assad is not one of our strategic partners. Assad was the friend from – of our colleagues from Europe. But on the other hand, we can't but see that the situation has several sides about it, several features. I remember 2011 and what I said about it in 2011. We have to bring everyone to the negotiation table earlier, begin the process of national reconciliation, have the necessary changes in the constitution, begin the national dialogue, have the elections. Then in 2011, I phoned to the president, and I spoke with him about it. But it hasn't been done. But we can’t believe that only the ruling regime is to blame for the situation as it is because we understand that the state in this particular case is being opposed by different forces. There are, of course, those who do not – do not like the regime. That's understandable. But there are also bandits. I can’t call otherwise people who call themselves the State of Iraq and Levant. These are bandits, the terrorists, this Al Qaeda; which negotiations or talks can we have with them? So the situation is complex indeed. And the only solution is to hold the domestic national Syrian dialogue and use international tools for that, which I hope will be used during the meeting in Switzerland.
AMANPOUR: “I want to show you a picture. This is a pretty shocking picture. It shows an emaciated Syrian. And these are pictures that a defector, who used to be military police in Syria, brought out. There's 55,000 pictures seeming to show that 11,000 people, prisoners, were killed by the Assad regime. And an international panel of jurists, very highly respected, have testified to the credibility of this defector. Again, what is your reaction? This is a direct accusation that would stand up in court, according to these jurists, against the Assad regime.”
MEDVEDEV (through translator): You know, in my university where I was studying law, I was taught that until the fact of guilt is proved in court, a person cannot be claimed guilty. That is the presumption of innocence. And it should be extended to all the people, simple people and leaders if the international court created, by the U.N. maybe or by any other institution, proves the fact of committing international crimes, then the regime and separate leaders can be claimed responsible. But in other case, it's just a set of speculations. I know there are a lot of victims, and that's very sad, but that does not mean that the existence of victims or victims in a particular place is the proof that those are the victims of the regime and not the bandits who were doing something or any other force. We understand that the situation on the territory of Syria, unfortunately for Syria itself, is being controlled by a set of organized groups. They control the regime in Syria.
AMANPOUR: These come from, according to the defector and corroborated by international jurists who were chief prosecutors at U.N. tribunals, so very respectable, distinguished jurists from Britain and the United States. Apparently in a Syrian government detention facility, 11,000 people killed since 2011 by starvation, by strangulation, by heavy, heavy beating. In fact, I've got another picture which I can show you if you want, but I –
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I saw different pictures, yes. That – these are all sad pictures and sad consequences of the existing conflict. But I'd like us to speak the same language here and I repeat, all those crimes – and these are crimes, of course – should be, should have firm proofs legally. And those proofs can be given to the authorities or to their opponents. But this has to be proven legally and it should be used in the preset legal process. We can't judge the Syrian regime or Assad or any of his partners or even the representatives of the so-called opposition forces only because it seems to us they committed it. We need to have the full protocol of the crimes, create the database of proof and use it for the future. But it is very important to stop that for the future.
AMANPOUR: The jurists say this would stand up in an international tribunal and would be proof of crimes against humanity and could be proof of war crimes. I understand that the legal process has to play out. But if they did, would you condemn President Assad? I've never heard you condemn him. I've never heard any Russian official condemn him for 100,000-plus deaths and these kinds of pictures.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): That's what I said, such circumstances are subject to be clarified during trial and investigations, no matter who is judged – a person or the whole of the regime. But let us look at international practices, at the processes, including the Nuremberg Tribunal. They collected evidence and submitted them and a number of criminals were sentenced, which is normal path based on international law, not on the emotions of ours. And let me reiterate that we don't whitewash anyone. We don't have those we love or those whom we consider criminals without any investigation or trial. But all the dispense, all the parties of the conflict should be subject to one and the same rules. We cannot say that Assad is a criminal without investigation. Assad is the current president and he cannot be ignored or disregarded. The situation in the country is very difficult and complex. The main task with the international community is to try to do its best to resolve the conflict and afterwards carry out an investigation. So probably this other trial should be held on the territory of Syria after the conflicts subside, the conflict subsides. It's the right of the Syrian people.
AMANPOUR: You said that President Assad is the president of Syria. I don't know whether you noticed what he said this week on television, that there is a very big chance that because of public opinion in Syria, he would run again for another term in office. What is your reaction to that, and do you believe that is a helpful statement right now when there's meant to be some kind of attempt to resolve this between the regime and the opposition?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): You know, it's not quite easy for me to speculate on the matters right now, because if I am frank, I deal with domestic affairs. This is my scope as prime minister. I deal with the preparation for the Olympics and the state of the Russian economy by trying to solve a number of complex tasks and attain some goals for the legislative development of our country. And to a much lesser extent, I participate in foreign affairs, because foreign affairs are the responsibility of the president of the Russian Federation. But if you ask so detailed questions, I may say as follows: we believe, and this is the firm belief of ours, that to rectify the situation in Syria on the whole the negotiating table should see all the stakeholders, all those who in least or other way influence the situation. One cannot ignore the current authorities, the current regime. I don't know what the fate of Assad, his political destiny is, although I visited Syria and I am familiar with him and like very many people who try to lecture the Syrians now, when I was there, it was a quiet country. It was rather a tolerant country. But this is in the past definitely, anyway one should sit down at the negotiating table and agree upon the future, get the groups on that. It's a matter of Syrians primarily and the international community should help, not interfere, not make holes and handicaps. And I would believe it's not quite right with a number of Syria, of the neighbors of Syria, say that a war should be waged there, and that they will not participate in talks with Assad. And our partners, I believe, by this only provoke the conflict and create some space and room for more victims. Things would be calmed down and appeased, not stoked up. And this is our message to everybody who would participate in the talks.
AMANPOUR: Stand by, Mr. Prime Minister. We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we'll talk about Russia's economy. We'll talk about human rights, political rights and all sorts of other issues, right after a break.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. We're going to continue our conversation, Mr. Prime Minister, about Russia's economy which is your main area of responsibility. Obviously, for many years, Russia's economy was exploding on the back of high energy prices, high oil and natural resource prices. Over the last year or so, growth has sputtered to about 1.3 percent. How difficult and challenging is it for you to move the engine of the Russian economy again?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Well, generally there are two main issues. One is external; the other is domestic. Let's first speak about the external, because it's more clear to everybody. The external situation is clear. It's the aftereffects of the global financial crisis, the situation in the global economy is still not quite sound. And all the economies are experiencing some difficulties. The European economy is very complicated. Europe is our main trading partner on $410 billion is the trade we have done with them, and the fact that the European economy is depressed cannot but have an impact on us. But that is not it, not everything. It's probably not the main thing. The main thing is that the Russian economy unfortunately so far has the considerable footprint of the raw materials and commodity driven economy nature, we export energy. So the structural issues, the most difficult one, the structure of our economy, the structure of manufacturing, the structure of exports. Had we had a different structure, we would less dependent on the global markets. Although anyway, it would be dependent. Everybody is dependent on global markets. Japan, USA, China, Europe, everybody. But the main task for us is to alter the structure of our economy and to move to a different technological tier, to create a high-tech economy, a contemporary high-tech economy, based on knowledge and innovation. This is a difficult task, but we can solve it, especially given the fact that we are a powerful country with good education and the good basis that was set in the 20th century. This is what we are now doing.
AMANPOUR: One news report, a business magazine said that you, Prime Minister, are hanging onto your job, clinging onto your job, because the President Putin is not happy with the state of the economy. Is that true? Is your job in danger?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): [[laughs]] You know, everybody is stratified by the state of our economy, although you haven’t said the figure. Our economy last year grew by 1.4 percent. This is not much. But this is not a disaster. If we look at things in Europe or compare with - although they haven't been the United States we have similar growth rates with them. We have some decent ratio debt - of debt to GDP. We have the best debt-to-GDP ratio because we have 10.7 percent of domestic and external debt to GDP compared with European and American figures. We have low inflation figures for Russia, which would bring it down further. But for this country, it's historically very low. It's around 6-something percent. And we have low unemployment figures, around 5.5 percent is the level of unemployment.
This is probably the best figure in the world. So the situation in the economy is OK on the one hand. But on the other hand, no one is happy – neither me nor the president nor those who try to get the groups with the economy. To grow as we want to grow we should make some step change, a breakthrough, if we succeed, we'll be able to attain the goals we set forth. And this is what the dialog is about. This is all the talks are about.
AMANPOUR: And of course there are many people in the world who want to do business in Russia. You have a huge, as you said, educated population which would rather stay here than brain drain, as they're doing now, fleeing. Now the OECD had a report recently in which they said your problems are not just structural in terms of the economy, but the economy, as a crossroads, it's being held back by poor governance, they say, and rule of law issues. For instance, this report says only 10 percent of entrepreneurs have never encountered bribery, in other word presumably 90 percent of business people trying to work here have to pay bribes or there's corruption Corruption is a huge problem according to business people here. Do you admit that? And what about governance? What about the rule of law that can, you know, give investors the trust to be able to do the kind of business that you need here?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I don't know what exactly report of OECD you're referring to. But I just met the head of OECD during the guide-off [[PHONETIC]] forum, Mr. Gurría –
AMANPOUR: He's the one who said that.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): And he said a very good thing that to some extent made me laugh. He said and smiled, he said the crisis in your country, even the crisis is better than in other places. It was quite upbeat with respect to how things stand in this economy. Probably it was the courtesy of a guest. But anyway, I cannot say that OECD harshly criticized our country and they were a compliment to us, and they named a number of problems and issues. And these are existent, I agree, and admit that. If we speak of the main difficulties, we are to overcome, the main issue is the creation of the good and sound business environment. In some part corruption, of course, it's an evil, a scourge and impacts the business climate, it irritates everybody and entrepreneurs included. But it's not about corruption only. It's about the weakness of our institutions that are participating in the shaping of this business climate. It's not about the crime rate that should be addressed. Corruption is existent anywhere, but the scale may be different after we move to the market economy. This country, this now is much more serious a problem than it used to be in the Soviet times. So it's on our agenda but the institutions are of equal importance. I'm referring to the judicial authorities, courts; I'm referring to the executive authorities. I'm referring also to the possibility of quickly getting all the permits to start a business and be able to smoothly run it, if you pay taxes and are all in the legal boundaries doing everything by the rules, by the prescriptions. And having invented a so-called road map system, business road maps, and each of the road maps is dedicated to separate issue like this situation with customs administration, with taxation, with the registration procedures and with other factors that impact business climate. And we are progressing on these road maps and the progress is evaluated by the international organizations, including OECD. And some other indicators issued by these.
So in this respect I believe we are moving forward and making progress, probably not as quickly and as we would like to do. But the rating that is indicative here, the doing business rating of the World Bank has seen a surge of our country several dozen notches up. I am not sure that it's as crossed as we would like it to be, but still we are moving forward and advancing.
AMANPOUR: Of course, all of this is in sharp relief again, because of Sochi. The Russian government says that the cost of these Olympics is $6.4 billion. But others -
MEDVEDEV: Six point four…
AMANPOUR: Is that correct? What is the cost of the Olympics? 6.4?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Well, I'll explain to you what – where those figures come from.
AMANPOUR: Because the reason I ask you is that everybody else is saying that it’s…
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I'll tell you everything, don't worry. I'm responsible for the figures so I can respond to them personally. The situation is that when we began doing the Sochi project, we understood that holding the Olympics somewhere where there nothing Olympic was used to be – that's not the Olympics in the central of Europe or of in any well-developed city of Russia or the U.S. This is a resort, but it’s a sea resort and we are holding Winter Olympics there. And we are to hold them in a difficult mountain conditions. So we understood that on the whole, the costs of the Olympics will be large. I'd just like to separate the costs of the preparation of the Olympics – that's the venues, that's the number of infrastructural objects for the Olympics on the one side, and the development of Sochi itself on the other side. Those figures cannot be mixed up, because the Olympics will pass, the sports events will finish. But Sochi will have another life infrastructure and –
AMANPOUR: So is 50 billion an accurate figure?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): - just a minute, please. The costs for the Olympics themselves are a bit more than 200 billion rubles. That is the figure which you named in dollars. [$6.4 BILLION] But if we speak about the costs for development of Sochi for creating road infrastructure, transport area, railroads, to solve difficult infrastructural problems in Sochi, which were accumulated during decades – there was no water supplies, proper water supplies. There was bad power supply. So those figures are of course larger. But those costs were to develop one of our regions. And these had positive results.
AMANPOUR: Is that a reasonable figure then for developing a region?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): If we speak about the development of the region, then yes, it is reasonable. But…
AMANPOUR: In terms of first you got the Olympic figure and then you've got the development figure?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Yes. The first figure is the Olympics and the second figure is the development of the region. When we solve the Olympics task, we have also solved the development of the region in parallel. And now the results, the achievements, that is 500,000 new jobs, which is quite important for people living in the region, and the low, the almost naught, zero unemployment, I don't even speak about the new infrastructural projects, roads, bridges, tunnels, railroads, water supplies, power supplies, all that has been done. But even in the human scale that's half a million jobs. So when we speak about large figures, we should understand that those figures were to develop one of the largest Russian regions.
AMANPOUR: You’re not concerned that some of that money has gone into people's pockets, that it's been skimmed, it's corrupt.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): You know it's – the situation's similar to what we were speaking about, the international problems. Of course, the investigations should be done. And if it will be proven that someone has stolen something, and that there was corruption, of course the procedures are going; the investigations on a number of actions are being held. And if they prove something, then we can speak about the scale of corruption. Now we don't have the data that there were huge numbers of – huge figures of corruption as compared with the situation in the country. But – and it is not happen. Of course we do not have an ideal situation in that matter. But that does not mean that Sochi is a special enclave with a different situation. When our colleagues comment on the issues it would be good to be guided by a legal criteria and not by the speculations and another point, another factor, thanks to our work in Sochi and in the region as a whole, the environmental situation has got better. The quality of water has gotten better. The sea has got better because we were able to build the new cleaning facilities. That's not mentioned often, but it's important.
AMANPOUR: You're right, it is important to help improve the environment. Let me get back to some political questions. In an interview that you gave before you gave this one, a few years ago, you obviously consider yourself a democrat. You said once that we are well aware that no non-democratic state has ever become truly prosperous for one simple reason: freedom is better than no freedom. You still believe that? [[HE NODS]] OK. People looking at Russia are shocked, disappointed, worried, concerned about what looks like a distinct lack of freedom. We see certainly President Putin really controlling the opposition to the point that the opposition, the political opposition has no space. It's irrelevant. What about gay rights here in Russia? I know it's not illegal in Russia. But we have done so many reports on gay people here who are changing the way they behave, who are scared, gay couples who are afraid because of this new law; their children are going to be taken away from them. Things do not look good on the freedom front here in Russia. Surely that must concern you because it's about your reputation. It's about your people, your governance your ability to prosper.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I have a feeling that the situation which really exists in this country and the interpretation of the situation from the outside exists in some different parallel worlds because – and that concerns me, actually, because I agree,
of course, that in order to be prosperous and develop fully in the community of the modern democratic state, which would understand each other and speak the same language, and of course some time ago I said that the freedom is better than non-freedom and I still share this opinion. There is no doubt about that. But when I'm being said that the overall situation in the country is deemed – it's difficult and our rights are being abused –
AMANPOUR: The ability to challenge politically? That’s a basic democratic right.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I believe that does not correspond to the real situation.
AMANPOUR: But there’s no opposition parties here.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): You spoke about opposition. And let's begin that I had the largest party in Russia, the United Russia, and of course it has the (INAUDIBLE) share –
AMANPOUR: Trying to challenge President Putin has not been easy.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): So about the opposition, just a minute. In the parliament, we have four parties now. Of them, only one party is associated with the active authorities – that is the United Russia, which I head. And that is normal, because this party has the parliamentary majority. Even in the parliament, we have three other parties, one is the predecessors of ours on the political arena, that's the Communists, who ruled the country for a long time. They have a huge faction in the parliament. And the second is the Just Russia (INAUDIBLE). That's the social democratic and then we also have the faction of the liberal democrats in the parliament. And almost half of seats in the parliament are shared by those three political forces and not by the party associated with me and which was a couple of years ago headed by President Putin.
When I was president, moreover, we initiated a draft law to simplify the registration of political parties and currently we have about 100 political parties registered in Russia. These are quite different political groups. They can be small; they can be larger, smaller. But nevertheless, we can’t say that there is no place for political opposition. That's not serious.
AMANPOUR: … journalist who dissents… (INAUDIBLE)?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Well, with all due respect to the journalists, journalists as any other people, first, can make mistakes. Then can just make like oversize the facts because there is – they say that there is no separate politics, which is different from the politics of the authorities. That's not true. We have rich political life. We have parties within the parliament. These are the parliamentary parties. And we have parties who are trying to get into the parliament and who are beginning their political career.
But that is a complex process that – and the life is quite turbulent here. And if someone just cannot achieve their political goals, that – they can speak that they are being opposed; they are not let in the parliament. They are not let to work, to live, et cetera. But this – these are the speculations also of some marginal groups, second groups in other countries as well, not only in Russia. If we ask leaders of some very small parties in any other states, I believe they will say that had it not been for the authorities, I – they would rule the state. Let they win the hearts of people. Let they explain their political goals to the people, and purposes. That is as far as the parties are concerned.
Now as far as the civil freedoms are concerned and the legislation, there can be different evaluations. And everyone has the right to do them – journalists, analysts, foreign and domestic. But if we speak about the overall system, the constitutional system, the legal system which enables the balance of interests, which regulates main rights and fundamental rights and freedoms of our people, it hasn't changed since we adopted a constitution in 1993. You mentioned a number of famous or notorious draft laws that I believe, frankly, that if at all the talks we have…
Yes, of course, but they are either emotional or they are not linked with the – I mean, commentaries with the situation in the country. Most of them, the commentaries, 95 percent of them or more, are being done from abroad. That none of the people in our country speaks about.
AMANPOUR: I have to ask you. Many Russians are telling us they're terrified. Many are leaving, gay people. People are worried. People are worried about their future. What will you do to reassure them, then?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): If you mean the situation with the anti-gay propaganda, draft law, law, the so-called untraditional values, I believe that this problem in our country is the concern of the significant part of people. That's the first. Second, I haven't almost heard the – that this law was applied in practice. There are many talks, but no application of the law, practical application. The third, in the difference from many countries where such relations are forbidden, in this country, the relations themselves are not forbidden at all legally. So I believe that this has nothing in common with the real situation in our country, the comments, I mean. And the rights of gays as well. I have seen no application in the internet from the Russian sexual minorities where they would write that their rights are violated. And you understand that in this country, we have the full freedom of communication. People could express their opinion in the internet as they like about authorities, prime minister, president, and I am an active surfer. And I have never met a single application of the so-called non-traditional sexual minorities communities, I mean, Russian, to the authorities, saying that their rights have been violated. But the situation caused some disturbance in other countries. So I believe that this problem is partially non-existent. If we see that the rights of this or that category of our population are violated, doesn't matter which category it is, of course we will have amendments to our laws. But so far, there is no problem about those matters that you speak about, no problem at all.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Medvedev, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Thank you.