St Petersburg, July 15, 2006
Vladimir Putin: Good evening dear ladies and gentlemen.
I am grateful to you for gathering here. I also want to tell you at once that nothing sensational will happen here. We assume that in order to best help us and yourselves, that we should orient ourselves around what is happening today in St Petersburg. The following work has not begun and you already know the results of our meeting with the President of the United States. Along with this I would like to start by expressing my sincere gratitude to all my colleagues, heads of G8 countries, for giving Russia the opportunity to assume the presidency and organize this event in Russia. I am thankful that they agreed to St Petersburg as the place where we will do our joint work. We prepared for this event very seriously and were met with understanding and support from all our colleagues in G8 member countries.
Since the beginning of our presidency we have hosted more then 60 events. And after it is over we plan to hold around another twenty events to continue our joint work. Arrangements to this effect already exist and, I hope, will be confirmed tomorrow and the day after tomorrow during our teamwork.
As you know, I was able to meet with representatives of civil society - more then seven hundred nongovernmental organisations gathered in Moscow. We met with representatives of trade unions, churches, with participants in the conference of prosecutors general, and listened closely to the business community's recommendations. And, I am not sure how pleasant it was for you, but it seemed to me that our Junior G8 was quite a success. In any case, I met with young people from eight countries and I retained a very pleasant impression - they are very gifted, clever young people who are really interested in the discussion they will lead among themselves. I am confident that that my colleagues will find it pleasant to meet with them after our main work here in St Petersburg is done.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the leadership of St Petersburg and all the city's inhabitants for giving us the possibility to work in St Petersburg. And for our part we will do everything we can to minimize inconveniences for city dwellers.
I think that we have managed to establish the necessary working atmosphere for media representatives. And I would very much like for you to be able to do more then just work hard, but also get to know one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and Russia, the city of St Petersburg. And I want to welcome you all to St Petersburg and to wish you fruitful, successful and interesting work here in St Peters. Thank you very much for your attention and I am ready to answer several questions. I will warn you at once that there will be no earthshaking revelations here since work has just begun.
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Television Channel Al-Jazeera: First of all, Vladimir Vladimirovich, allow us to thank you and your assistants for the excellent organisation of the event. Everything has really been well organised for us, for journalists. And I think that the majority of my colleagues will agree with me. In connection with this: Vladimir Vladimirovich, do you consider that the war in Lebanon will spoil the picture that we see now? And do you think that the peace process in the Middle East has already failed?
VP: I hope that the picture is a pretty one but at the G8 it is never simply a happy one. Because we are gathered here to work. We have other opportunities to relax together, to gather in less formal conditions and, as you know, from time to time we use these opportunities.
We gather at the G8 to discuss current world problems and look for joint solutions in what is perhaps the most important and most difficult area in which we cooperate on the international arena. Certainly this concerns the Middle Eastern problem. We -- the Russian party - regret that just before the G8 and during our work we are observing such escalation of tensions in the Middle East.
I already said and would like to repeat that whatever difficult questions there are we still need to expend a maximum amount of efforts towards resolving them with peaceful means. We do not think that peaceful means to resolve conflicts have been exhausted in the Middle East. It is not just that we don't welcome, but we condemn any terrorist attacks, including kidnapping. But we have the impression that in addition to wanting to ensure return of the kidnapped servicemen, Israel is pursuing a larger strategy. And we hope that peaceful means for resolving the problem will be found.
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Television Channel RV: I have a question on your attitude towards expanding the G8 to include other countries such as Brazil, China and perhaps India. This issue has been discussed for a long time and many of these countries would like to see the G8 become a G10 or G11. Thank you.
VP: As you well know, Russia joined the G8 not long ago and has taken on the presidency for the first time. I hope that this will be a successful event and experience. For that reason we certainly have our full say in making decisions, including that type of decision. I will simply tell you honestly that for the next while I would consider it inappropriate to put forward such an initiative.
Along with this, you are absolutely right, it is difficult to imagine effectively resolving economic, financial and energy problems without economies that are developing as quickly of those of China or India. And it is certainly true that the leader of development, the most powerful and promising country on the American continent, is Brazil. And if our partners consider it possible to put these issues in practice then of course we would support decisions of this kind.
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BBC Russian Service: Vladimir Vladimirovich, regarding the discussion between you and President Bush on Iran. Did your positions become any closer, and does Russia look at the possibility of introducing sanctions against Iran more favourably?
VP: Today at the press conference with the President of the United States we already said that we are satisfied with how the six-country forum began its work and we consider that this forum must be used to develop common approaches towards resolving this problem. The question consists not in toughening our positions but in uniting them. And as a matter of fact this is the most difficult thing to do but could also be the most effective way to resolve the Iranian nuclear question.
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Doordarshan (India): Mr President, I represent «Delhi News» from India. What is your view of negotiations between India, China and Russia that are taking place for the first time? What is the meaning of these three-party negotiations and how will they affect development in the region? Thank you.
VP: China is our neighbour and our historical partner, the same as India. You are well aware that Russia and India have long-standing partnership relations, very close relations. And I believe that the prospects, first and foremost for economic cooperation, are very great. As of yet despite the high level of political cooperation, we have not managed to engage in effective economic cooperation. For that reason when we meet in such a format we will first of all be concerned with developing economic relations between the three states. And we have already worked in this area for a long time with a view to establishing effective mechanisms for cooperation. I believe that this will certainly increase trust not only between our three countries but in the region and the world as a whole.
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Youth Change Newspaper, Grozny: Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich for six years now, and contrary to Russian and international legislation, no foreign travel passports have been issued in the Chechen Republic. Please tell me your comments on this situation? Thank you.
VP: I am very grateful to you for bringing this up. I will tell you frankly that I didn't even know that passports are not being issued. We will try to correct this state of affairs in the near future. I think that the problem consists in the fact that certification has not yet really been carried out in Chechnya but this is not a reason for not doing what you said and not resolving the issue that you raised. I will certainly pay attention to this problem and thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Source: Official website of the Russian G8 presidency