Stephen Sackur speaks to Boris Titov, leader of Russia's Party of Growth. Does Russia need reform rather than authoritarianism?
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55% of the ballot.
It's just gone half past
four in the morning.
Now on BBC News it's
time for HARDtalk.
Welcome to HARDtalk I Stephen
Sackur. Seven candidates are
challenging Vladimir Putin in this
month's Russian presidential
election. Not one of them has a hope
of victory. To all intents and
purposes, this is a show election to
confirm the popularity and power of
Vladimir Putin. But is there a
danger for Russia in this
urbanisation of politics? My guest
is one of the seven hatless are that
candidates. Boris Titov, a Vladimir
Putin appointee for business. Does
Russia need reform rather than
authoritarianism? Party of
-- Boris Titov in Moscow, welcome to
HARDtalk. . You are going to be in
the election that comes ahead in
just a few days from now. To the
outside world, it looks at the
charade, a mockery of a democratic
process. Is that the way it feels to
No, it is a democratic process
because we are all by our own world
participating in it. But of course
the popularity of Vladimir Putin is
very high, and that is why we, of
course, understand that the chances
are very low. Our chances are very
You are not really a serious
candidate, are you? Because during
the course of the campaign, you have
said that as hang on...
I am a
serious man. I am a businessman. By
the way a British businessman.
Because I started my career and 89
Yes, well... Two 1989. In
99. You said ombudsman. Not a
serious man. I don't think is
serious man could handle this job.
It is a serious job. You said I am
that it hidden's ombudsman. The fact
is yes. But, I mean, in reality, I
am protecting the rights of
businessman from the state of
Russia. Because in very many cases,
are - they're using administrative
law, criminal law, corruption. So I
am protecting our businessmen from
the Russian state.
Boris Titov, I
would want to get to your job. But
even want to offend you. I didn't
want to say you were a serious man,
what wanted to say you were not a
serious candidate. The Rizzo said
that is because you have publicly
said, you know, but it didn't is the
toughest politician of our day. --
Lammy Purdon is the toughest
politician Barrett day.
Putin. Of course he has a great
strength against us. But ever
understand is why we are
participating in these elections.
Us, it is very important, this move.
We were thinking as a group of
businessman in our union of non- oil
business of Russia, who are
supporting me. And we were thinking
prolonged time to go for the
selection or not, but we decided to
do it. Why? Because we need to
promote our ideas. The idea that we
have is a strategy for Russia. We
are the best macroeconomic and
scientists in Russia and developed a
programme and this is a very
profound programme. A real strategy.
We prepared it for two years. The
main idea is that we have to change
the economy of Russia. We have to go
from today's oil economy, resource
economy, to a real market economy.
We had to promote small and medium
businesses. We have two promote
businesses. We have two make the
country know about that.
the point... Let me stop you, let me
stop you for a second. You say you
are full of important economic lives
is due to make I'm sorry. No, don't
worry. You tell about these ideas of
modernising Russia, and you say that
you, I can make this point, you note
the election is a stride. But it
Purdon has not released a manifesto.
-- Vladimir Putin. It is not regard
you are serious. The in the Kremlin
wanted for you and others...
finish my point.
You were to stand
as a figleaf to give the impression
that they were some sort of choice.
I am sorry. The Kremlin did not want
me to stand. The only question that
I asked the Kremlin, because I am
working in the Kremlin
administration, so the only thing
which I asked was it would be a
conflict of interest. Allow to leave
my day to day job to run for the
election? They said, OK, we thought
it was not a conflict of interest,
science still giving the job and
going for a elections. Otherwise, I
would have to decide, because it is
a big chance that I would have left
the job to run for the elections.
Alexei Navalny is by far the most
prominent opposition voice in Russia
today. He wanted to run in the
election. He was barred from running
on the basis of a conviction on
jumped up charges which were
condemned by the European Court of
Human Rights has been completely
unacceptable, and after that, Alessi
Davante said to all Russians,
please, do not vote. -- Alexei
Navalny. He said that it meant
fixing Vladimir Putin's problem by
helping in disguise his appointment
by making it look like serving like
a proper election. Why did you not
heed his words?
Because if beverage
will go for the polls, but it Purdon
will win with 100%. Those who are
not agreeing with the economic,
don't agree with the economical, if
they will not go, the country and
Vladimir Putin will think that
everyone supports him. Even 10% of
people, 15%, 20%, they will come and
they will say we are voting for
other people as candidates. So we
will see the picture, the social
picture in Russia, the picture of
opinions in Russia. So Alexi Diwali,
of course, we can talk about his
legal situation. Only about 1.5 or
2% of people support him.
respect, your current poll standing
is less than 1%, so...
compete with Alexei Navalny. We'll
see final stand. At least in one
week, you will see our result. Of
course we are not professional
politicians. We are professional
economists. But anyway, Alexei
Navalny asked his supporters, and he
had to make them come and vote for
him or if you can't vote because he
was legally not in the list, but
there were other possibilities to do
that. So I think that we had to have
more competition at every social
group supporting any candidate and
having the right to have very
candidate and to come and vote.
Boris Titov, we will talk economy,
because that is a real interest. But
before we do that, we need to talk
about what Vladimir Putin seems to
regard as the most important message
in the election. And that is his
message on foreign policy. A
bellicose, assertive, big message to
the Russian people about restoring
Russian pride and taking on Russia's
enemies wherever they may be. Do you
support that element of let me
That is not the
message he gives to the Russian
people. Mostly the message is for
the West. And this message could be
read as you don't want to talk to us
when we are weak. We think that you
will talk with us when we will be
strong. I think the perception of
the situation in the world is
different, between the Western
Vladimir Putin. He thinks the West
made many mistakes against Russia.
-- between the West and that it had.
I partly agree with that. Because in
the 90s, the West did not support
them in the Democrat presses. We
thought there would be huge
educational programmes. Thousands of
Russians will go to the West to
learn about democracy and the market
economy seat done. Of course,
Vladimir Putin considers as not
understanding of the Russian
interest in the world. -- on the
Sorry to interrupt.
I don't mean to be rude. There is a
time delay on the line and is the
ant is too long, we will not get
through all of the important issues
that we need to get through. On this
point, I am mindful that you are an
opposition candidate tried to remove
Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. But
your message to the outside world is
what? That you support his invasion
and annexation of Crimea? That you
support Russian trips in eastern
Ukraine? That you support the
intervention... -- Russian troops.
Two I support some things and not
-- I support something.
Crimea was never Ukrainian. The
mistake was made by Boris Yeltsin
when they didn't even consider the
issue of Crimea when they signed the
agreements. Because nobody even
thought that Crimea is Ukrainian at
that time. And he just let it go
without any - without even putting -
because he was so fast and hard to
move these agreements forwards
because he wanted to be the
president of Russia. He was the
president of Russia, but it was
Gorbachev who was the president of
the soviet union. In order to push
through the agreements and just
destroy the soviet union.
your view on selling top level in
the United Kingdom today. And that
is the very mysterious illness, the
critical honours, a rational double
agent in hospital fibrous life
alongside his daughter. Sergei
Skripal was seen to be working for
the UK, went to Russia, then was
sent to the UK any spy swap.
was not a question, that was a
Do you think Russia's
response will for what has happened
to Sergei Skripal?
And have nothing
to do without, and I can say that
you do not speculate on that. It you
start speculating, even if they did
not give his declination what
happened. There was no investigation
about that. Why we should put
everything on the hard side? Why
should we think about the enemy
psychology from the first thing,
from the first thing? Will never
agree on anything. We will never
agree on anything.
We might want to
think about Vladimir Putin's
responsibilities, because you might
think that in 2010...
already jetted about that.
all. Had he respond to this? If you
don't mind, let me ask the
questions. Back in 2010, at the time
of the spy swap, Vladimir Putin said
traders were kicked the bucket. They
have betrayed their friends for 30
pieces of silver and they will choke
on them. Of course, many people are
wondering whether Vladimir Putin...
I haven't heard this expression, but
I cannot comment on that. I never
had anything to do with spy
investigations or spy works. So let
me free-to be free out of these
questions. I want to talk about the
economical side. What I will you if
I may, the world is very small.
Before we talked and signed the
agreements with you, before that,
Churchill and Stalin signed the
agreement and further agreements
post-war. For together against their
enemies. Now we need to find ways to
meet each other.
I understand your
point, Boris Titov, but it is not
working away, right now, because of
Russia's actions in Ukraine and
When Hughes start your question...
What is the right word in English?
With accusations and not trying to
With accusations and not trying to
find the right way to find each
other. Boris Titov, UKIP trying to
tell myself you're an opponent of
Putin? I am an opponent of Putin but
IME favour of Russia. When I see
what happened, I have been living in
London for many years. I'd children
have British passports and what I
see now happening... Did not know
what to call it, it is a circus or
whatever, that people just do not
talk to each other, this is complete
You want reform, you want
to open up the Russian economy,
modernise it and massive
international investment in Russia
but do you not see it with the
attitude of Vladimir Putin right
now, you are not going to get any of
that. You are going to get
sanctions, more international
isolation and less investment...
Maybe you think like that but with
more free economy in Russia, there
will be investment and foreign
investment. The politics are
politics but we know, we're
practical people, businessmen, we
know that, to the Soviet Union,
there was foreign investment from
written, they were coming because,
if there was a trust even at that
time, we can talk, and when we talk
figures, investments, mutual
In fact, it is going the
other way. It is not going the other
way. ExxonMobil just pulled out of a
major joint venture because of the
sanctions. Both the UN and US are
talking about strengthening
I just had lunch in
McDonald's. We have all the main
brands staying in Russia.
I hope you
enjoyed your burger but the fact
that... I like... And the fact is
quite simple, you can eat as many
cheeseburgers as you like but
foreign direct investment in Russia
has plummeted in recent years and
you are a manner that is supposed to
It is true. It is
true. We have a big potential in our
possible economical development.
Russia is a huge possibility of
growth. We are saying we cannot do
it by ourselves. We have quite a
strong Russian business community.
We have technologies. A lot of
experts are still working in Russia.
You are the Ombudsman there, would
you agree with me that for example
the use of the law and the courts by
big companies to intimidate smaller
companies, to manipulate...
not right. The biggest problem now
in Russia is corruption. And threats
from the State to businessmen. Where
criminal law is used against
companies. We have to protect the
rights, we have to take people out
of jails because, according to the
Russian laws, businessmen before the
court could not be jailed. It is a
recent law. But they are still
jailed. I have just been in London
and we had the list of Russian
businessmen who have escaped from
Russia and they are living in
London, Greece, Spain and different
Boris Titov at this is
really important. And you are being
very frank about the degree of
corruption in your country and that
matters because you are the
Ombudsman the business and it is
important to businessmen to believe
in their ability to safeguard their
interests if corruption is corroding
their system. A simple question, the
youth think Vladimir Putin and his
cronies and France, many from Saint
Petersburg, are crooked?
I can say I
do not know this. I can say to you,
I talk to Vladimir Putin about our
strategy of growth. This is our
programme. And what he did is he
tried to move this way for more
I am asking you
whether you believe Vladimir Putin
I have never seen any
deals with Putin on corruption. I
have never seen it anywhere.
Really! Let me read to you the
latest Helsinki commission report,
highly respected, on Russian.
Endemic corruption is a defining
characteristic of the Putin regime
while the President is the prime
beneficiary, cronies maintain a
system of corruption. These low
support is necessary to ensure the
status quo and they often pursue the
governments illicit interests. That
is the Helsinki commission report
putting the blame on Putin himself.
Helsinki... I do not know about
Helsinki but they have never seen
anybody from Putin's Administration
asking for a bribe, at least in
business. I have never seen, I
cannot comment on that.
trying to beat Putin in this
election, wouldn't it be worth your
way at these allegations?
saying we have to work and go
forward. If we will claim that
everything is bad and this, this,
and this bash by the way not very
proved. Alexei Navalny's
accusations... At least I have not
seen the proved by coming back to
the main idea. We need to go
forward. We understand the problems
we have in Russia. Corruption. The
main corruption is a huge garden...
I did not know how to say it in
English... A huge sector of Russian
society which we call it the Russian
middle-class, which are all
bureaucrats, you know, the people
from the government and this
practically middle-class pushes
Russian politics forward. They are
interesting all the politics in
Russia. -- influencing. They do not
want peace to go forward because
they relate on that budget salary,
corruption and we see it every day.
When businessmen are put in jail,
the next day comes somebody who
says, you want to sit in jail? You
give some payment to this company
and you will be released.
Practically 60% of businessmen who
went in jail... We are almost out of
time... The main problem of Russia
is this corruption.
You have spoken
frankly about corruption in Russia.
In a few days there will be an
election and I hate to say this but
you are not going to win, Vladimir
Putin is going to win. How damaging
will 64 years of let me Putin be?
This election is not about electing
a president. Speaking honestly. Yes,
he has a big advantage against all
of us but this election is about how
Russia will be after the elections.
And who will influence on the
economy to go to the site of market
competition and for the
versification of the economy. -- de
versification. The other way is back
the 90s, backed to the Soviet Union,
I'm afraid to say. This is a very
possible alternative so we are
fighting for that. That we do not
Stephen Sackur speaks to Boris Titov, leader of Russia's Party of Growth. Seven candidates are challenging Vladimir Putin in this month's Russian presidential election, but none of them has much hope of victory. To all intents and purposes, this is a show election to confirm the popularity and the power of Mr Putin. But is there danger for Russia in this Putinisation of politics. One of the seven 'other' candidates, Boris Titov, is a Putin appointee as government ombudsman for business. Does Russia need reform rather than authoritarianism?