Friday, August 29, 2014

President of Russia

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Vladimir Putin’s news conference following the G20 Summit

Vladimir Putin summed up the results of the G20 Summit and answered journalists’ questions.

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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Ladies and gentlemen, friends!

To start with, I’d like to say that in the five years of its existence the G20 has really become an effective mechanism for elaborating and coordinating common approaches to the global economy and finance among the world’s leading countries.

We have managed to achieve stabilization after the peak of the crisis in 2008–2009 and consolidate our efforts to ensure balanced and sustainable development of the global economy.

The global economy is doing better than it was five years ago. Economic growth is picking up, but the risks are still very high. This is why at the start of our G20 Presidency we set the task of promoting growth and creating new jobs primarily by encouraging investment, enacting effective regulations and increasing confidence in the markets.

These priorities have allowed us to ensure continuity in the G20’s activities and to make serious progress in all key areas during Russia’s Presidency. I’d like to thank my G20 colleagues for their productive cooperation. I’d also like to thank our outreach partners – all of them took an active part in discussing Russian initiatives and played a major role in enhancing the transparency and effectiveness of our joint efforts. The results achieved during Russia’s Presidency have been recorded in the St. Petersburg G20 Leaders’ Declaration and its amendments adopted today.

We were able to find many important practical solutions both for the international community and the Russian economy, and to propose our action plan for finding and encouraging new sources of growth in practically every sphere. Thus, we have reached consensus on the need to combine a policy of maintaining the necessary economic growth rates with medium-term standards and country-specific standards for the fiscal consolidation strategy.

"In the five years of its existence the G20 has really become an effective mechanism for elaborating and coordinating common approaches to the global economy and finance among the world’s leading countries."

The summit has adopted the St Petersburg Action Plan. It sets medium-term goals for reducing budget deficits and conducting comprehensive structural reforms for each country. These include urgent measures to regulate the labour market and taxation, develop human capital, upgrade infrastructure and regulate commodity markets.

These measures should strengthen the financial markets’ trust in our plans and at the same time encourage investors to co-finance the real sector of the economy and development. We see this as a guarantee for the lasting stabilization of the global and national economies.

Major progress has been achieved in stimulating employment. The G20 leaders have approved decisions taken at the meetings of labour and employment ministers and during their joint meeting with finance ministers. I’d like to point out that this was the first such meeting in G20 history.

We have formulated the task of creating quality jobs with a focus on stimulating employment of vulnerable groups, primarily young people, women, people with special needs and several other groups.

For the first time ever, we have proposed an integrated approach to formulating labour market policy, in particular by tying the task of creating quality jobs to economic development goals, taking into account macroeconomic, financial and social conditions as well as the connection between the labour market and investments, the budget and the fiscal policy.

This approach will enable us to balance demand and supply in the labour market and to create conditions for the development of business and investment in creating jobs, training personnel, and ensuring the social protection of workers. The issue of financing investment was a priority for the Russian Presidency and for the G20 as a whole. We have developed a programme for doing research and preparing recommendations on improving the investment climate and encouraging long-term investment.

Considerable results have been achieved within the framework of this program, and they have been approved at this summit meeting. These are above all the high-level principles of participation of institutional investors in financing long-term investment projects.

Critical decisions have been made at the summit on reforming tax policy in order to fight tax evasion, for example through the use of tax havens. This issue has come into focus this year. We have approved a joint action plan on base erosion and tax evasion, and agreed to work out a new and multifaceted standard for information sharing in the tax sphere.

In trade, the G20 has reaffirmed its support of a multilateral trade system and the World Trade Organization. We have also agreed to limit protectionist policies in global trade and extend the countries’ respective commitments until the end of 2016. We will also work to increase transparency of regional trade agreements and to have them comply with the WTO requirements.

"At the start of our G20 Presidency we set the task of promoting growth and creating new jobs primarily by encouraging investment, enacting effective regulations and increasing confidence in the markets."

Noticeable progress has been made in reforming global financial regulation, including regulation of the banking sector – the so called Basel III standard – and in reforming over-the-counter derivatives markets. We have also seen progress with regard to systemically important financial institutions. These achievements were partly due to the fact that the Financial Stability Board was established as a fully-fledged international organization this year.

We have agreed to see to it that national policies to improve financial stability do not lead to unreasonably high regulatory costs for foreign players on national financial markets, let alone fragmentation of these markets. Additional analysis of the financial sector reforms’ influence on economic growth needs to be conducted.

This year was the first time in G20 history that an accountability report on the implementation of G20 development commitments has been prepared. The release of this report should first of all make the G20’s work more transparent. With a little help from you, we all – the public in our countries – will be able to better understand what the G20 does and what results, exactly, it is trying to achieve. I hope this will help extend our positive cooperation experience mainly to low-income countries.

On the whole, in the three years since the Seoul multiyear action plan was adopted in 2010, the G20 has seen tangible progress in development assistance.

The G20 leaders have also approved the St. Petersburg Development Strategy, which defines five priorities for the G20’s further work to assist low-income countries – food security, financial inclusion and financial literacy, building modern infrastructure (including energy infrastructure), developing human capital and mobilizing domestic resources in emerging economies.

We’ve affirmed a number of important principles in the energy sphere. First, it is necessary to ensure the transparency and predictability of the energy and raw materials markets. Second, it is essential to encourage the green growth and support the world community’s efforts to prevent climate change. Third, it is important to support the exchange of best practices in energy regulation.

Countering corruption is an important issue for the G20. This year, we developed a strategy to this end and discussed a number of initiatives, including those proposed by Russia in addition to the G20 Anti-Corruption Plan.

"We were able to find many important practical solutions both for the international community and the Russian economy, and to propose our action plan for finding and encouraging new sources of growth in practically every sphere."

I’d like to make special mention of the exchange of best practices on limiting opportunities for corruption during preparations for international sports, cultural and other major events requiring substantial investment, primarily from the budgets. I hope the Global Alliance for Integrity in Sports that is being established now jointly with the United Nations will aid these efforts.

I’d like to thank all my colleagues for their constructive work at the St. Petersburg summit. I’m sure our decisions will be consistently carried out and that the G20 will exemplify effective cooperation between partners and promote stability, steady global economic development and improved living standards.

Ladies and gentlemen, we held the traditional BRICS forum on the sidelines of the G20 summit. It allowed us to compare notes on a broad range of issues concerning global economic development and to discuss cooperation within the Five. Our association is very important and it continues to steadily grow.

Today, BRICS is the world’s biggest market and accounts for 40% of the world’s population – 2.9 billion people. The BRICS countries account for 17% of global trade and almost one third of the world’s GDP. Working within BRICS is a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their meaningful contribution to the agenda of our Presidency. We have considered their ideas and specific proposals in drafting St. Petersburg action plan and other documents.

The IMF reform is a major aspect of joint work in the G20. We believe that the redistribution of votes and quotas in the fund in favor of developing nations should be completed in the near future.

We’ve discussed in detail the establishment of the BRICS development bank and determined its founders – all five BRICS countries. We’ve also endorsed the amount of initial capital distributed among them – $50 billion – and coordinated procedures for decision-making on key issues concerning the bank’s activity. We proceed from the premise that the bank will operate on the basis of consensus.

We have also discussed the creation of a pool of BRICS foreign currency reserves. The monetary authorities of our respective countries have reached a preliminary agreement on the distribution of quotas. Russia plans to contribute $18 billion into the total pool of $100 billion.

These measures will strengthen the stability of the global financial system, which is not always predictable and is critically dependent on several emission centres and just a few reserve currencies. We instructed the Finance Ministers to continue this work and report back the results at the Brazilian summit next year.

"We have formulated the task of creating quality jobs with a focus on stimulating employment of vulnerable groups, primarily young people, women, people with special needs."

In closing, I would like to once again thank our partners for our productive joint work. I am convinced that the talks will serve to further deepen cooperation within BRICS.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. I am at your disposal. Let's focus on specific issues and keep it brief, because it’s been a long day and it’s getting late. Let's start with Grozny. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr Putin, with your comprehensive support and thanks to the efforts of Ramzan Kadyrov towns and villages, as well as the social sphere, have been restored in the Chechen Republic. However, there’s the issue of industry and job creation. This is an important issue.

As you are aware, the oil industry is the flagship industry of the Chechen Republic. We know that Rosneft hinders the construction of oil refineries. As President, can you facilitate restoring industry and building refineries? This is my first question.

The second question, if I may. It’s a little off topic, but I take this opportunity to ...

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Do you believe the first one was on topic?

QUESTION: Yes. Unemployment and the economy... The second question is a personal request for you, Mr Putin. You are aware that during World War II the battle for the Caucasus, primarily for Grozny, was fought. Grozny along with Baku supplied raw materials. Grozny residents, along with the other peoples of Russia, fought on the fronts. All these years we were hoping that Grozny would be designated a City of Military Glory, but so far in vain.

Here’s my request and question. Mr Putin, could you please have Grozny considered in an impartial manner as a candidate to receive the honorific title of City of Military Glory. Thank you.

"The issue of financing investment was a priority for the Russian Presidency and for the G20 as a whole. We have developed a programme for doing research and preparing recommendations on improving the investment climate and encouraging long-term investment."

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Let me begin with the second question.

The Chechens, first of all, have suffered as a result of [Stalinist] purges. But the Vainakh peoples, namely Chechens and Ingush, contributed to the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. They showed extraordinary courage, proving themselves valiant soldiers and defenders of our motherland. This is a fact, and there is ample documentary proof that this was the case. The Chechens are a heroic people by mentality. This was how they behaved when war raged through our common home.

About the Military Glory status for the city of Grozny – usually I do not personally intervene in such issues. However, in this case, I will raise this issue at the relevant agencies, which also include war veterans. In any case, I am happy to hear you ask this question, to know that people think about it and want it to happen. I appreciate this, thank you.

The issue of oil refineries is closer to the G20 agenda, because we have discussed energy problems among other issues. You have asked a specific question; well, we’ll have to look at the local economy. An oil refinery in a region certainly creates jobs and brings in tax revenue. I understand why the Chechen Republic’s leadership is interested. We’ll see.

I promise to return to this discussion and to issue respective instructions for the Energy Ministry and Rosneft. But again, economic aspects of the specific project need to be considered. We’ll see. Thank you. Next please.

QUESTION: Mr. Putin, it can be said without exaggeration that the shadow of Syria was looming over the current G20 summit, while the leaders managed to reach mutually acceptable solutions on purely economic issues. With Syria, as far as we know, the participants were split in two over what needs to be done there now. So my question is, how deeply have political disagreements affected – or could still affect – economic decision-making? What future awaits Russia’s relations with the West?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, everything that is linked to developments in the Middle East influences the global economy in a very serious way, because the region supplies energy resources to the world – or at least to most countries.

We all know that every time there is a crisis or a conflict in the Middle East, energy prices shoot up. What does this mean? It means suppressed global economic development. So I would say it is counterproductive to destabilize the Middle East at a time when the global economy is going through its own crisis – this is the minimum, and I say this very diplomatically.

We indeed spent much of Thursday night discussing Syria and related issues. We talked long into the night, until 1 a.m., and I had a bilateral meeting with Mr. Cameron after that until 2:30.

"We have agreed to limit protectionist policies in global trade and extend the countries’ respective commitments until the end of 2016. We will also work to increase transparency of regional trade agreements and to have them comply with the WTO requirements."

You said the meeting was split 50-50 on the issue, but it was not quite so. I can tell you which countries approved a military operation because this is no secret: the United States, Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France. Mr. Cameron used to support this plan as well, but as we know, the country’s parliament – which expresses the will of the British people – voted this down. Germany’s Federal Chancellor is also being very cautious – the country is not planning to participate in any hostilities anywhere.

Which countries were firmly against it? Russia, the People’s Republic of China, India, Indonesia – mind you, the largest Muslim country by population – Argentina, Brazil, the Republic of South Africa and Italy. The UN General Secretary was also against fighting. Now let us not forget the most recent address by the Pope, who openly said that starting a new wave of conflict is unacceptable.

I cited the countries whose governments support the exacerbation of conflict in Syria, who support external strikes. But I can assure you that, according to public opinion surveys, the overwhelming majority of their populations are on our side and are against waging hostilities. It would suffice to look at European and US sociological surveys. As many as 60%-70% of respondents are against a military operation.

Finally, the most important issue, something I have already discussed and commented on. I believe that the so-called use of chemical weapons was a provocation staged by militants, by those who count on external assistance from countries that had supported them from the start. This is what the provocation was targeted at. This is my first point.

Second, I would like to remind you that using force against a sovereign state is only possible in self-defense; but Syria is not attacking the United States. The only other reason for military intervention could be a decision by the UN Security Council. As one of the participants in yesterday’s discussion said, “Those who act otherwise are putting themselves outside the law.”

QUESTION: Mr Putin, did you ultimately meet with Barack Obama? I know such a meeting was not planned, but did you meet informally?

Many experts and journalists believe that the United States and Russia have some differences on international politics and this is aggravated by a lack of good relations between you and the US president. You got on very well with Mr Schroeder at one time, but not with Mr Obama. Is this true? What can you say about your relations with Mr Obama?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First, I met with the US President today – we sat and talked for 20 or 30 minutes. In any event, it was a very meaningful, constructive and friendly conversation. At any case, it took place in a friendly atmosphere.

We agreed to disagree, but there is a dialogue. We hear each other and understand each other’s arguments, even if we don't agree. I don’t agree with his arguments and he doesn’t agree with mine. But we hear each other and try to analyze them. Incidentally, we have agreed on some possible scenarios designed to settle this crisis peacefully. We’ve agreed that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry will be in touch in the near future to discuss this very sensitive issue.

QUESTION: You’ve just said that there was no rapprochement between you and President Obama in terms of your positions at the Summit. Have some other leaders changed their positions – at least a bit – after the Summit?

And one more question. Since you met for 20 or 30 minutes and communication between Washington and Moscow is improving, would it be possible to exchange Edward Snowden for a Russian citizen from among those whom the Russian Foreign Ministry considers to have been convicted without cause in the United States? I’m primarily referring to Mr But.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Snowden has not been convicted in Russia. What kind of an exchange do you suggest?

REMARK: He could be exchanged for a convict.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We exchange secret service agents that have found themselves in an embarrassing position abroad for their colleagues that are serving terms in our prisons. This is common practice worldwide. Meanwhile, Snowden has not been convicted and has not committed any crimes in Russia.

This is a separate issue and it is not related to espionage. President Obama and I did not even touch on it today. We only talked about Syria but did not say a word about this issue.

I’d like to emphasize once again that Mr Snowden has ended up in Russia by accident. We have not invited him or lured him in. He would have passed through Russia, whooshed past to some country in Latin America, but your compatriots – how should I put this to avoid blurting out something wrong? Anyway, your compatriots scared everyone with their usual skill so much that he got stuck on our territory – he simply got stuck here.

They could have done things differently, couldn’t they? They compelled the Bolivian president’s aircraft to land without any fighters – by simply shutting down the air space. They could have done the same with Snowden if he were flying a civilian aircraft. They could have compelled it to land by shutting down the air space but no, they didn’t do that. They had to scare everyone out of their wits and let him stay with us. And what did they expect?

Do you think that we would agree to extradite Snowden unilaterally without an extradition agreement? He has not committed any crime on our territory. You see, such issues are addressed on a reciprocal basis only, which is a standard and clear practice in international relations.

 We have repeatedly suggested, “Let’s enter into an extradition agreement,” only to receive a negative answer in response. We said: “Extradite criminals who are on your territory. These offenders committed crimes against people - murders, kidnappings not just some ephemeral offences regarding data disclosure.” “No, they are on our territory, so forget about them.” Well, fine. Why should we be taking unilateral steps? The question itself is inappropriate. And the President did not raise this issue today, the US President, I mean.

QUESTION: And what about rapprochement between other leaders?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: With regard to rapprochement, you know that we have our own perspective. Naturally, we consult with everyone, which is very important for us. Look at yesterday’s unexpected statement by India’s Prime Minister, who said, “I strongly oppose any military action.” The position of the Indonesian President, who heads the largest Muslim state in the world with over 300 million people, I think it’s 350 million, also came as a surprise. The Brazilian President has taken a tough stance on this issue as well. South Africa’s President said a very remarkable thing, which, in my opinion, is important in every respect, not just with regard to Syria. He said: “In today’s world, small nations increasingly feel vulnerable and unprotected. It seems like a more powerful country can use force at any time at its own discretion.” And he is right. This is the direction things are going in.

In this situation it would be very challenging to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program by saying: “Come on guys, deposit your arsenals in warehouses under international control.” They’ll say: “We’ll get whacked tomorrow then. Everyone will be destroyed.” The fundamental principles of international law should be unconditionally respected in order to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. I would like to go back to the Syrian issue. What, in your opinion, might be the possible consequences of a possible US strike against Syria for the Middle East, especially for countries like Egypt where the new authorities are saying that they are fighting terrorism? And generally, what is your perspective on the situation in Egypt?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: That’s a difficult question for me to answer. Everyone is aware of how things started in Egypt and how they ended. It all began with toppling President Mubarak and legalizing the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, the Muslim Brotherhood has gone into hiding again. It began with lifting the state of emergency, and now they have returned to it.

We are very concerned about the situation in Egypt. The Egyptian people have been our friend for many decades. There’s another important aspect for us and for the rest of the world: Egypt is the key country of the Arab world, of the Arab countries. Instability in Egypt is extremely dangerous not only for Egypt, but for the entire region as well, because with a weak Egypt, the situation becomes unpredictable and uncertain.

The military is trying to combat the terrorist threat, which is particularly dangerous on the Sinai Peninsula. The fact that terrorism has reared its head in this region is very dangerous not only for Israel, but for Egypt as well, because it gives your opponents, including in Israel, the legal instruments that they can use to ensure their security.

This can lead to things that I don’t even want to say out loud. Israel will say: “We must and we will ensure our security.” And it will carry out appropriate actions and operations. This cannot be allowed to happen. If it does, it will strongly destabilize the entire region.

So, we want stability to come to the land of Egypt as soon as possible. We will do everything to facilitate this and we will help and cooperate with any legitimate government.

QUESTION: I’m an editor with the newspaper Society and Environment. I’ve worked as an editor for 14 years, and I look at the economy through the eyes of an ecologist. I want you to know that the G20 summit is very important for Russia and the entire world, both in formal and substantive terms. It is very well organized, at least the part where we talk with journalists. I have also interviewed our colleagues.

I have a strategic question. Much is being said here about the economy, finance and money, but no one talks about the environment, information policy, social justice, or ideology, and yet you declared the year 2013 the Year of the Environment. This should somehow influence the representatives participating in the summit.

I have the impression that the summit participants want to ignore the issues of environmental protection. One could even get the impression that the summit is dealing with a minor makeover of the capitalist world economy. The economy cannot grow permanently, because the Earth has only so many resources, and economic growth will stop at some point in the future.

Therefore, my question is about your personal vision of the world leaders. Are they prepared to talk about sustainable development and environmental safety, not just the economy as such? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think your claim that development has to stop sometime is mistaken. That’s what you said just now: development has to stop sometime. I should cross myself now and pray to God that this doesn’t happen. Development is boundless. But I would agree with you that it will be boundless only if we bear in mind that the environment requires careful attention; it is not a bottomless pit that we can constantly pollute without experiencing negative effects.

But I will also disagree with your statement that the leaders have not given this enough attention. Moreover, nearly every issue we discussed, from energy to systemic measures to support investment, was linked with the natural environment in one way or another. Maybe we should have listened to you and other environmentalists and treated environmental safety issues as a separate topic. But the G20 leaders are not to blame; it is us – the host country  – who should have given it more thought. I take this as valid criticism and will bear this in mind in the future. Thank you. Next question please.

It looks like we have put Mr. Peskov out of business – he was just going to start moderating this press conference.

DMITRY PESKOV: Pardon me, I suggest we take two final questions and call it a day, because bilateral meetings are scheduled for later today.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Right. Please try to keep it short, and I will make my answers as concise as possible.

QUESTION: Mr. Putin, I would like to return to the issue of Syria one last time, because this issue has for the most part been discussed behind closed doors. Here is my question. You said once that there is no way Russia will ever intervene in a military conflict in Syria. However, if hostilities do begin, will Russia provide any aid to the country?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Hostilities are already underway.

QUESTION: I was talking about a foreign military intervention. Will Russia help Syria? Which country do you think is likely to find itself in a situation like Syria’s?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, I don’t even want to think about it – to think that another country might find itself the target of foreign aggression.

Will we be helping Syria? Yes we will. We are helping now. We are supplying arms and providing economic cooperation. I hope we will further expand humanitarian cooperation, including humanitarian aid and support for the civilian population, people who have found themselves in a very difficult situation in that country.

QUESTION: Where did you catch a cold? Or did you argue until you were hoarse?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No, I caught a cold during my trip to the Far East because of the air conditioning on the plane. Please.

DMITRY PESKOV: There will be one last question, Mr Putin, if you please.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course. Two questions.

QUESTION: My question concerns the green economy and energy. Since a decision was made to consolidate budgets, will it affect the tax policy of our country in terms of concessions to oil and gas companies operating on the continental shelf, including the Arctic, as the risks – economic and investment risks, in particular – are very high? The risks for the budget would be huge, of course.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We already have concessions for companies operating on the shelf.

REMARK: Yes, extra concessions are subject to approval in the third reading this month. The estimated additional funds are $20 billion per year.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You see, these are in fact very investment-intensive projects with an unknown end result because geological surveying and preparatory work are needed. Even the first stage of such a project is very expensive considering that the areas involved are hard to access and the operations within the projects require the latest technology; they often take place far from the shore and at great depths. Obviously, there is no way to proceed with such projects without government support, at least at the very beginning.

Speaking about another aspect of this problem, which is the environment, I should say that we will not allow companies to proceed with their projects before they undergo a thorough environmental impact assessment. It is unacceptable to do otherwise, especially in the Far North where the natural environment is especially vulnerable.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Putin. Dozhd television channel. My question concerns international relations, specifically, relations with Belarus following the Uralkali case, Baumgertner and the arrest in absentia of Suleiman Kerimov. We often compare ourselves to the United States and other Western countries. In these circumstances, it is hard to imagine that if, say, the CEO of Coca-Cola were arrested someplace abroad the officials would keep silent and not comment on that. What is the reason for your silence? You have not mentioned Uralkali, not even once. Have you talked to Lukashenko about this? What was his response? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I didn’t discuss this issue with Mr Lukashenko. Things have calmed down, because we want to actually resolve this problem rather than driving it into a dead end, which is very easy to do if we start making lots of noise about this issue. This problem must be resolved. Let me take the last question and wrap it up. Yes, this lady over here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: You met with David Cameron. How would you describe your relationship? Are there any problems, obstacles, lack of understanding?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have a different take on the situation in Syria, and everyone is aware of it. We operate based on the belief that Russian-British relations have a great value of their own. Our trade relations are developing successfully, trade is growing and the outlook is good.

Our relationship with the United Kingdom is to some extent special in the political sense, because both the United Kingdom and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and we constantly cooperate on this important international platform. We do a lot of work together in order to improve relations between Russia and the European Union, and for this we are grateful to our British partners.

Thank God, at the moment I don’t see any major issues that could complicate Russian-British relations. We are grateful to our British partners for their interest in promoting relations between our countries.

QUESTION: Mr Putin, first, I’d like to congratulate you on a successful Summit. I have two questions for you.

First, we know that you met with the President of China yesterday and signed several cooperation agreements. Both sides expressed readiness to expand cooperation. Could you clarify how will Chinese-Russian relations be strengthened? And my second question. We know that Russia has held many major events, such as forums, summits, APEC, the G8, the SCO and BRICS meetings over the past few years, and will also host the Olympics and the World Cup. What does Russia primarily hope to achieve by hosting so many major events? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I didn’t get your question. A lot of events, yes, but what’s your question?

QUESTION: What does Russia hope to achieve by hosting so many major events?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I see. The first question was about Russian-Chinese relations. Indeed, China is essentially our strategic partner, and this manifests itself not only in trade. Today China is our number one trade and economic partner. Our trade amounts to $57.5 billion, which is more than our trade with any other country.

But the value of our bilateral relations is not limited to trade. We are increasingly developing our high-tech cooperation. Today we are taking the first steps in aviation cooperation, notably, helicopter construction and projects on wide-body jets.

We’ve agreed on cooperation in agriculture and the nuclear power industry. I’m pleased to say that our Chinese friends trust the Russian experience and R&D in this sphere. Two units of the Tianwan nuclear power plant are operating; the work on the third and fourth units and maybe more is still ahead. We are naturally interested in this, and believe this area of energy and high technology is very important.

And finally, a few words about hydrocarbons. You know Gazprom has large-scale plans on gas and liquefied gas supplies. We have let our Chinese partners work on one of our major deposits. Our company Novatek will work with them on Yamal, one of the most promising gas deposits.

So, our diversified cooperation is on the upswing, and this is what lends it a strategic aspect. Naturally, we are very closely coordinating our political cooperation with each other. Today, China and Russia’s common position is one of the key factors of international life.

As for our goals in conducting major events – sports, business or economic – our aim is to develop the infrastructure of relevant regions of the Russian Federation.

Speaking about the Asian track, I visited the Far East quite recently and went to see the Far Eastern Federal University that we built in Vladivostok for the APEC forum. In addition to the University, we built many first-class roads and bridges. These bridges are among the best and longest in the world. We also built an airport. To sum up, the city has changed beyond recognition.

The same is true of the Olympic Games. We want Russia, which is mostly a northern country, to have a modern, high-class, year-round resort. And I hope we’ll have it after the Olympics.

Naturally, hosting international sports, political and economic events gives us an opportunity not only to take a most active part in them, but also to voice our position and promote those solutions of international issues that seem to us to be the most effective.

 Thank you for your attention. I wish you all the best.

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