Vladimir Putin: I would like to thank the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for accepting our invitation to come to Russia. Our meeting was very fruitful.
The next performance will be in Covent Garden, London, so the Prime Minister will be the first Briton to hear the opera and will be able to recommend it to all his fellow countrymen.
We also had an opportunity here in St Petersburg to exchange opinions on a wide range of topics. We talked about what mattered most – the way we saw our bilateral relations and our countries’ situation in the 21st century Europe.
We talked about political relations, the development of European cooperation, the role of Russia and Great Britain in international organisations, and about preparing events within the United Nations.
I informed the Prime Minister about developments in the North Caucasus and answered his questions about human rights in Russia. Russia is ready to extend co-operation with international organisations, such as the Red Cross, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. Mr Blair welcomed the introduction in Russia of an office of presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya. We discussed how Russian presidential envoys would fight the abuse of human rights in the republic and attract their foreign colleagues, in particular from the OSCE, to settling the problems that might arise.
We talked about bilateral economic contacts, the general patterns of our relations, prospects of economic cooperation, and particular projects in that sphere. Great Britain is among Russia’s principal economic partners. Its total investments in the Russian economy reached $12.5 billion within recent years.
We also talked today about certain special projects, particularly in the fuel-and-energy sphere. As you know, British business is active in developing the Russian fuel-and-energy complex. British companies are interested in investing in five newly opened-up deposits.
We want Russian-British cooperation to develop in many fields, in particular, aerospace, engineering, shipbuilding and electronics. The Russian Economy Ministry is ready with a package of start-up projects to offer partnership with Russian regions.
In conclusion, I thank Mr Blair for an open and businesslike conversation.
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Vladimir Putin on the situation in the Caucasus:
What is going on in the Caucasus is not only, and not so much, a Chechen problem. Extremists are under the impression that state agencies are still weak in the post-Soviet area, and that a great deal can still be changed in the former USSR – changed through terror. Tajikistan comes first, with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to follow…
Terrorist forces promptly filled the vacuum that Russia tolerated in Chechnya. They do not limit themselves to one republic but are out to cross the Chechen borders and attack Russia along all its borders. Russia cannot afford to tolerate this dangerous situation.