Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev talked about the establishment of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs.
The issue of extending the current discount price of natural gas for Ukraine was also discussed.
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of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr
Medvedev, you and I have had many discussions concerning the importance of closer
coordination on matters that are particularly significant for a nation like
ours. I am referring to ethnic policy. Such structures have existed at various
times within central government agencies. Right now, we are getting requests to create such an agency, primarily from ethnic republics, to help people in the regions coordinate with the central Government and between one another.
I know that the Government has also worked on these issues and passed a corresponding draft executive order. How do you assess the ideas that emerged during the discussion with your colleagues in the Government?
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: Mr
President, indeed, in accordance with your instructions and a wide range of ideas and suggestions we received from the regions, we have prepared a draft
executive order on creating a special agency – the Agency for Ethnic Affairs –
for submission to the President.
If the Executive Order is signed, this Agency should be part of the Government structure and provide coordination in addressing challenges related to ethnic issues. Naturally, not all of them, because some of the matters are being resolved by other agencies, but its task would be to formulate the common foundations of ethnic policy, as well as work with government programmes in ethnic affairs, tackling complex problems, including ethnic and faith-based issues, and resolving various conflicts that sometimes occur in a nation as large and complex as ours.
Therefore, we suggest that this compact agency should have relatively few staff. We will see how it works, and I hope it will be able to resolve these difficult challenges pertaining to ethnic issues in our country.
Vladimir Putin: Good. I will read this draft today and sign a corresponding Executive Order. I very much expect that the Government will work closely with the Presidential Executive Office and give this matter significantly more attention. Especially since these issues certainly merit greater efforts in everything we are doing in this area so that we can take this work to a qualitatively new level. Russia is a multi-ethnic nation, home to over 100 ethnic groups, and certain matters are a cause for concern.
We know how issues pertaining to culture, literature and publications in ethnic languages were dealt with in the past. Unfortunately, much has been lost in recent times. Therefore, we certainly have an obligation not only to restore everything that was good before, but also, as I already said, to raise this work to a qualitatively higher level.
Dmitry Medvedev: We will try to do this jointly – not as it was done before, but in accordance with modern approaches to resolving ethnic issues.
Vladimir Putin: Ok.
And another issue I want to discuss, which has concerned us fairly often in recent times: our relations with our neighbours – in this case, in the economy and energy sector.
Tomorrow, the discounted energy supplies to Ukraine – in this case, natural gas – will end. I know that Naftogaz of Ukraine has asked Gazprom to extend this discounted package, and Gazprom intended to address the Government Cabinet about this.
Mr Medvedev, how does the Cabinet feel about this request and what do you plan to do?
Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President, we received a request from Gazprom that follows from their Ukrainian partners’ request, which essentially boils down to extending the discounted package for the next quarter – in other words, through July 1, for three months.
We feel thatcurrently, the Ukrainian economy is in a fairly difficult position. And although waiving some of the export duties would mean less than optimal results for our budget, under these circumstances, we feel it is possible to support the request from Gazprom and, accordingly, the Ukrainian side. That’s proceeding from the fact that the terms and conditions of the current contract between Gazprom and Naftogaz of Ukraine will be strictly complied with, including the repayment of accumulated debt.
Vladimir Putin: Then let’s do that: we can extend the current conditions for three more months with the understanding that the ultimate gas price for our consumers abroad is, one way or another, connected to oil prices. And oil prices in the global market are quite volatile, so we will need to see what is happening in this area in three months and then make subsequent decisions.
Dmitry Medvedev: Then the Government will issue a resolution to extend the natural gas discount for three more months.
Vladimir Putin: Excellent.