this is bbc news, the headlines. there's a new offensive taking place to gain control of raqqa — the syrian city which so—called islamic state regards as the capital of its declared caliphate. in the past few days fighting has intensified between syrian democratic forces, backed by the us, and the fighters of the islamic state group. and in iraq — the un cultural organisation, unesco has condemned the destruction of the great al—nuri mosque in, which was blown up by islamic state militants. the building, with its famous, leaning minaret, was more than 800 years old. four us republican senators have signalled that they cannot support the draft healthcare bill put forward by the party's leadership to replace obamacare. they said they were open to negotiation. a vote is not expected until next week, but losing four republican votes in the senate would block the bill. now on bbc news, it's time for
hardtalk. now on bbc news, it's time for welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sacker. for the 17 years vladimir putin has ruled russia, as president or prime minister, he hasn't done it alone. he's been backed by a coterie of trusted associates, connected through past ties in st petersburg, or in the kgb or in business. one of mr putin's inner circle is my guest today. vladimir yakunin ran russian railways for a decade and was a close putin adviser. so much so the us made him a target of sanctions after the invasion of crimea. he left the railway two years ago. is he still a true believer in the putin project? vladimiryakunin,
welcome to hardtalk. hello. i think it's fair to say, you, for a decade more, were one of vladimir putin's closest associates and advisers. in general terms, as you look at putin's impact upon russia, would you say that you believe he is taking russia in a very positive direction? thank you for your introduction. listen, to tell the truth, i never considered myself a voice to be in the position to be considered an adviser of mr putin. i was doing my business, i was ceo, i was the head of the project, that is true, but i never was the adviser, to either the prime minister or the president of the russian federation. as far as your question
is concerned, i suppose that is the knowledge and i suppose the reference is to the poll showing that people in russia believe that his execution of power was in favour of development of russia. interesting that... nobody is above criticism, of course, but... interesting that you point to the polls, of course his poll ratings have been outstandingly high for some time, 70%, 80%, but one also can look at the facts on the ground, exercising hard military power in the middle east, and, of course, in neighbouring ukraine, in ways that have isolated russia, have brought international sanctions upon russia, thanks to its invasion of crimea. we also can talk to an economy which appears stalled, stuck in low growth. we can also talk about the sense in which russian economic development has in many ways stalled. now that isn't a record that many leaders would find easy to run on. listen, you know, everything can be judged in comparison.
the president is executing the huge military power, and, you know, there is nothing special involving the execution of the military power for the russian president. and from the point of view of any questions you ask, i am open to discuss anything, but, you know, this is my assumption for the situation. in a sense, it's where russia sits in the world. you know personally that the discussion to invade and annex crimea has attracted a great deal of international concern and international sanction. and you yourself in 2014 were named as a close confindante of vladimir putin, who is now subject to american economic targeted sanctions. two points. firt point, it were not russians, and it were not russian troops, who started the coup d'etat in kiev. it were not russian politicians who were speaking to me, it were european politicians and american politicians. can you imagine that here in london anybody from the russian parliament was in the first row of some kind of protest. impossible. so from this point of view it is very delicate to say how
what is going on, how it was arranged. and that is a tragedy from our perspective, i am simple russian citizen nowadays, but i do a lot ofjob in dialogue of civilizations research institute. you run a think tank with offices in moscow and berlin, you have thought about the need to have a much greater level of understanding between russia and europe in particular. europe is in the vanguard of imposing sanctions on russia right now. angela merkel is probably the world leader who is most concerned with sending a clear message to vladimir putin that his current policies are not acceptable. but, she wants, together with president sarkozy,
two first leaders to come to moscow to talk over the situation in ukraine. in ukraine, we are living through the tragedy of the civil war. and, you know, that is of course only the dialogue, only the understanding, not just sanctions or something like that, to improve the situation. that is my true belief. it's interesting to put this into context. it's not just the fact that the russians have annex crimea, your airforce is playing a crucial role propping up bashar al—assad in syria, but also, russia is projecting all sorts of covert cyber —based power, and soft power, around the world, sometimes through media, sometimes through perhaps less public forums. in a way, vladimir putin appears to be absolutely determined to play a role, whether it be in the us presidential election, the french or german elections, politics in eastern europe. how grand is this man's ambitions? listen, stephen, why
you did not name, you know, the election in great britain? why russian hackers not intervening in these very important elections? no person who knows a little bit about information warfare or something like that never believed that this huge amount of events could be placed and could be started just from one source, and this source is russia. this is not... are you denying all of the evidence, not least the absolutely categorical statements of the fbi director, as was, james comey, that russia was responsible for meddling in the us presidential election, for hacking those democratic party e—mails, and because of what happened was thereby a key player in that campaign which resulted in donald trump winning the white house? listen, listen, i did not see
any solid of evidence. why should i believe fbi former director that he had obvious evidence? why it was not presented to the general public? listen, isuppose, maybe, it is a little more complex than just one side, straightforward decision, i suppose there are a lot of very reputable experts in the west who are challenging these statements. because sometimes it is much easier to place the responsibility on one's own failure on somebody else. it's not going well, is it? this idea of yours projecting a different image of russia to the west. you can argue about the basis for the assumption, frankly, in washington, that russia was behind the hack of the democratic party, but that is the perception
in the united states and across the western world, intelligence agencies, police forces and the public. same can be said, and i can quote you if you want, angela merkel, german intelligence chief, saying there is no doubt that russia is intent on meddling in the german election. this is how you are perceived. listen, stephen, it was not russians who eavesdropped your telephone, why was she was not concerned with that? it wasn't russians. again, the development of it technologies is extreme, extreme important, you know, and valuable feature of contemporary world but it is not that simple. it's backfired. whatever the russian intent was, and you can argue about whether it's right to put it at russia's door, but the fact is, if you were hoping, and it seems you were, because there were warm words, a direct quote from you, welcoming donald trump, saying he was a man to be admired, picked himself up twice from being knocked down in business. me? yes, this is a quote from you.
trump, you said, is a smart guy, he lost two times everything and he raised himself up again. he is addressing some internal failings of the american people. where is the word of "admiring"? ineversaid admiring. that is a hugely admiring comment, is it not? no, no, no. the truth is, i never admired trump, even since i was in new york city. i did not like the guy. but my assumption was don't oversimplify the character of this person. and the fact of this person. that was my point. the bottom line is, what has come out, about the allegations of russian meddling in the united states, through the hacking, the cybercrimes, etc, etc, what has come out has made it actually more difficult than one could ever have imagined for donald trump to have this positive relationship with vladimir putin.
what we've seen is the americans conduct an air strike on assad, which the russians were very angry about. the g—7 meeting, after which the chief economic spokesman for trump said, russia can forget about us advocating a lifting of sanctions, until russia make specific conciliatory moves on the ukraine. donald trump is not giving you any thing right now. absolutely correct, and personally, i never said anything to be considered an expectation on the part of donald trump. what again i said, that is a fact, he is elected president, you know, he is bound by the system. he is not a free man to do whatever he wants. congress, prosecutions, everything. but the fact is, he was, during his campaign, he was addressing some very essential issues of relations with russia, and he stated, listen, i would go to do something to improve those relations, that's only his promise, and he did not fulfil this promise, yet. i do now want to switch now to russia's internal affairs, and the degree to which when putin
tries to project power, for russia, around the region and the world, he is hampered and hindered by the profound weakness of the russian state internally. governance issues, corruption issues, economic backwardness issues which drag down the russian state. listen. i suppose, in some part, i can follow your statements, about changing of the political system, the weakness in the russian economy, and that is correct, but, you know, remember that the history of russia of today is only like, you know, 25 years, or 26 to be more precise. and of course, for such a huge country, it is extremely difficult, and i am not an advocate of the regime, i have no right to talk on the part of the administration of putin, i am talking as a simple russian who do know something about international politics... or internal politics. let's talk internal politics.
when you see the pictures on your tv screen, whether you're in moscow or in berlin of alexei navalny trying to organise an anti—corruption demonstration across the country, he wants 100 towns and cities to be involved, arrested before he can leave his own apartment building. the people who go on his demonstration are arrested too, it is impossible for them to voice his strong opinions, do you believe that is a sensible way of approaching governance in your country, or is it damaging? listen, you know, the answer is simple, whether you like the law or not, law should be obeyed. that is correct, for great britain, for the united states of america, for russia. remember occupy wall street, what happened to those people? remember those protests against trump. but if you know, for example, the authorities accepted the possibility of this
demonstration, there were no accidents here. why on earth somebody should not obey the law, i don't think there is anybody immune from the law. the problem in russia, dissent is often a matter of, if not life and death, then certainly freedom or imprisonment. navalny, i have spoken with him recently, he has constantly been harassed by the law. yet again he's facing trumped up charges, he may well be disallowed from running, as he wants to, in the presidential election in 2018. i have been to his offices, they are constantly being raided. i have interviewed gary kasparov many times, he can no longer live in russia, he says it's not safe for him. this is the reality of the russia that you are defending. i cannot say anything about personal feelings for gary kasparov, for example, but what i can say?
i can say, you know, he did not say anything about his attempt to be the mayor of moscow, how it happened. who supported him. he is a free man. he is flying here, he has meetings with you. but any regime does not like opponents. to be clear, navalny met me in his office, in moscow, and his office is constantly raided by the police to be clear, navalny met me in his office, in moscow, an office is constantly raided by the police forces, who appear to believe that his activities highlighting corruption in russia are unacceptable. listen, i don't say it is unacceptable because by the fact that it was, you know, the russian president. again, i am not his advocate. i am not suspecting who is promoting the idea of fighting corruption, but i do not know all the facts about the office of navalny. you do know plenty about alexei navalny because it was personal between you two — he highlighted
the extravagant estate that you purchased outside moscow for many, many millions of rubles. he showed pictures of it, which i've seen, the elaborate housing and out houses, tennis court, and apparently, is it true, there was a special room for all of the furs that you were storing inside? this is funny story, just invention. if you are in moscow... the property was yours, was it not? i invite you to this property. to show this small storage for the furs, you would not find — like, you know, a dress, but you may find some furs from siberia, etc, etc. how much is it worth, that vast mansion? how much is it worth? i cannot say for sure, but for sure... many, many millions of us dollars. but i was earning yearly very substantial amounts of money. it's interesting that you say that, because in 2014, the government demanded all ceos, bosses of state
companies to go public with their income and assets. you refused for some time, and then when you finally acceded to their request, you declared that your income, i believe, was in the range of us$61,000 to us$83,000 a month. no way was that an income that could have bought you the vast estate that i'm talking about. listen, listen, i have on my account, in the bank, all the monies — not all the monies, because i have spent them, very substantial amount of monies. they were my payments, my bonuses, that i was getting as the ceo of the state company. this is true, the tax authorities know about it and they have it, no problem with that. and nobody challenges. there clearly was a problem, because if we get to the heart of it, i have described you as a very close associate of vladimir putin. which is not quite correct. it is — you go back to st petersburg days and kgb days. i know you didn't know him
so well in the kgb days. and what's wrong with that? that's the story of many of his closest associates, so it's no surprise. no problem. but what i'm getting to is this — in 2015, you lost yourjob at the head of state railways. i resigned, better to say. well, it's complicated. some in russia believe that vladimir putin decided... let them believe. well, but the reason why it seems you became a problem was because it was publicised — and again, i think this may be something to do with alexei navalny — it became clear that your own son, your own son. . . don't make him a hero. he is not so powerful to make problems. let's get to the point. your own son lives in a very expensive house in london and actually took british citizenship... what do you mean by "very expensive house?" worth many millions of english pounds. exactly. do you know the sum? i believe it was almost £5 million. that is a very huge sum of money. yes. indeed. and it was bought with some credit.
is this something very different from the others living here? it's probably different from the way that most people live but the point isn't about the vast property empire, it's about the british passport. russia today is full of official noise about how the west is against russia, how the west is trying to undermine and destroy russia, and your own son was seen to be taking british citizenship. that, in russia — even for mr putin, it seems — put you in a place where he didn't want to associate with you anymore. no, i never made any secret that my son was living here. and, you know, because of the special ruling here and the law, he obtained passport, and properly informed the authorities about that. and you know, not correct, saying that all russians are aware of that, "bad west is coming to hurt russia", etc. isn't that the message that they get from the kremlin?
no, i don't think so. and this is not true that russians are so afraid of the west. but, what my point is, again, we cannot understand each other, we consider history differently, but the only way to overcome differences, that is to talk. on this question of economic governance and corruption, i can cite you a transparency international report which put russia so far down the league table of corruption that malawi, sierra leone — these are countries that are actually less corrupt, according to them, than russia is today. the heritage foundation saying that the private sector in russia is so constrained by the encroachment of the state and the failure to defend the rule of law that foreign direct investment, for example, is a huge risk in russia today. all of these different ways in which putin's russia is failing its people.
listen, again, you know, we can name "putin's russia" but russia is a country with state owners, the duma, with the senate, with the president. we are a presidential republic. let's be clear — what really happens in russian today is vladimir putin and his associates in the kremlin decide what they say and do. i don't think so, i don't think so. really? yes, and why, i can explain you. you know, if he is the only ruler of the country, person to control huge territory, huge quantity of the people. all different aspects. 70% of gdp, of revenues, the proportion of gdp, 70% come from state—owned enterprises. that gives you a sense, an indication, of the way russia is run. this is correct, that is one of the setbacks of the structure of the russian economy.
but on the other hand, what we have, we are trying to exploit. yes, oil, gas. but, you know, recently, ijust read the draft of the new legislation in the united states of america, what they are to prevent the construction, stating "we should impose sanctions on russia." for what reason? what is wrong about trade? what is wrong about the trade of gas and oil? i don't think anything is wrong. about corruption, sometimes, yes, we witnessed the facts of this kind of corruption. but sometimes, to me, to myself, you know, sometimes, that is kind of the stories to be invented and presented. listen, we have a huge country, a lot of people, people who are creating newjobs, people creating new businesses,
people creating new ports, new railways, by the way! all of them, corrupt? it is funny, this is not true. a final point before we finish — i wonder whether you believe that putinism and the way that vladimir putin has governed and created a particularform of governance in russia, will that outlast the man himself? or, do you believe that russia will fundamentally change when putin leaves the kremlin? i suppose this is not a question of leaving one person in the kremlin or not, it is a fundamental question of the tectonic changes we observe in the world. russia is not excluded. today, i read an article in the latest issue of the economist which stated the end of neoliberalism consensus. so, you know, that is true to say that russia is developing, the world is developing, and the challenges should occur for sure, but those challenges
should not impose from the outside. are you saying you believe in the future russia will not look more like the west but maybe the west will look more like russia? congregation, correct. it is not my term to be invented, that is the long—standing theory of congregation between different systems. interesting idea, interesting words. vladimir yakunin, thank you so much for being on our show. thank you very much. thank you for you patience. thank you. well, it has certainly freshened up right across the uk. here'sjust a reminder of the heatwave we had on wednesday. the peak 35 — nearly — degrees celsius across the south—east. come thursday, almost a 10—degree drop as these fresher atlantic conditions are setting in. but some spectacular weather as well. this is a picture of a thunderstorm taken by a weather watcher in kent. but further north and across western areas,
those atlantic clouds have been rolling in, bringing much cooler conditions. this is the system. this system will be responsible for bringing some quite windy weather, particularly into northern areas, back into the weekend. let's look at friday, early hours of the morning. rain getting into parts of northern ireland, western and south—western scotland. for most of us in the south and east, it will be a dry end to the night. still quite warm for the morning. 111—15 celsius. let's look at rush hour. at this stage in belfast, glasgow, maybe edinburgh, some spots of rain, nothing too heavy. some heavier pulse is possible a little further south into the lake district, lancashire maybe, northern parts of wales, but for most of the central and southern areas, a dry start to the day. some sunshine poking through and temperatures around 15 or 16 degrees. now, this here, this band of weather, this is actually a cold front or cool front, that brings fresher atlantic conditions in.
it is going to sink southwards in the morning and into the afternoon. so across parts of the midlands and wales, there will be spots of rain, and as it moves south, it is going to brighten up in belfast and glasgow. so some sunshine in the afternoon. a fair bit of cloud in london, up to 23. it is worth pointing out the wind in northern scotla nd could be up to gale force. pretty unusual for this time of year, with showers around as well. i think on saturday, and sunday as well, a bit of a mixed day — sunny spells, passing showers, and even those even fresher atlantic conditions setting in. in fact, many of us will not have temperatures up to 20 degrees. maybe london just scraping into the low 20s. how are we doing compared to the rest of europe? it has been hot in paris. similar temperatures to london. berlin as well. as you'd expect in the mediterranean, in rome, temperatures still on the hot side, temperatures still into the 30s. the next two days, fresh and breezy.
rain at times, but also some sunshine from time to time. goodbye. hello. this is bbc news. i am david eades at the european summit in brussels, where a major plank of britain's brexit negotiations has been laid out before eu leaders. theresa may offers to ensure the rights of 3 million eu citizens living in britain once it leaves the union. the german chancellor, angela merkel, called the plan a good start, but said much work remained to be done. hello i'm rachael home in london. the other main stories this hour: on the frontlines in the fight for raqqa — we have a special report from syria with us—backed fighters battling to drive the so—called islamic state out of their last stronghold. thousands of people descend on somerset as the glastonbury festival gets underway with heightened security.