VLADIMIR PUTIN: Let's begin by exchanging our current information. ... Mr. Avdeyev, we started renovating the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory one year ago today. The Tchaikovsky Competition is about to begin soon. How are the renovations going? Will we be able to complete it on time?

ALEKSANDR AVDEYEV: Yes, Mr Putin, the renovations have been completed, and the hall is available for viewing. They have performed outstanding work amounting to some 1.5 billion roubles in order to restore and preserve the acoustics. Notably, the sound is better now than it was before because they removed equipment from the basement so that the sound now resonates through both the floor and the ceiling. This is a major event for us and most likely for the arts in general because this excellent hall can now be used by the world’s best musicians. That's really something to celebrate. We renovated everything, including the paintings. We also commissioned stucco mouldings and exact replicas of the state-of-the-art chairs in Italy. Indeed, the Conservatory staff, led by our professor and rector Aleksandr Sokolov, have accomplished the impossible, with the assistance of the current and previous Moscow municipal governments. We will open the Tchaikovsky Competition on June 14, as scheduled. One can come donate blood and then go straight to enjoying the Tchaikovsky Competition.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good idea. All right. We also have the Small-Towns Festival, don't we?

ALEKSANDR AVDEYEV: Yes, we do, but not so many people know about it. There are nearly 300 small town theaters in Russia. Such a dense and professional small-theater network is not available anywhere else in the word. And Yevgeny Mironov has organized this festival yet again. This time it was held in the town of Konakovo and brought together 11 theaters from Russian towns whose names may sound familiar to many, but finding them on the map may be a challenge: Volzhsk, Prokopievsk, Minusinsk, and Rybinsk. These are amazingly good theaters. The actors are paid 8,000-10,000 roubles per month, but act professionally and with great skill. We have agreed to establish an Association of Small Town Theaters and register all provincial theaters in small towns. We will set ourselves to it. Many thanks go to Yevgeny Mironov.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Just don't forget about our agreements and the concerns voiced by cultural activists during our previous meeting.

ALEKSANDR AVDEYEV: Yes, we are doing so and properly monitoring the execution. You are absolutely right. ...