* * *
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Gorbachev, I want to give you my warmest wishes on your anniversary birthday. Of course, you will receive a huge number of congratulations today, and I add my sincerest congratulations too and wish you good health.
Of course, today you will hear many warm words from your relatives and friends, from past colleagues, and from the numerous politicians who appreciate and respect you. As head of state, I want to inform you also that I signed today a presidential executive order decorating you with our highest national award – the Order of St Andrew the Apostle.
Mikhail Gorbachev: Thank you very much.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think this is a fitting assessment of the immense work that you did as head of state. You led our country through a very difficult and dramatic time in its history. We all remember this, all of us who had more or less reached adulthood, anyway. This was an immense labour. People may hold differing views on its results, as you know very well, but whatever one thinks, this truly was a great and difficult labour.
Second, I see in this decoration a symbol of respect for the country that you headed, and that was our common home: the Soviet Union.
Once again, I congratulate you. I will present the state decoration to you on a separate occasion at the Kremlin, as protocol dictates. Today, we will simply sit a while and chat, drink some tea and a glass of champagne together.
I also want to present you with this book. I don’t know if you perhaps don’t own it already, but if so, there is always the Gorbachev Foundation or other organisations to which you could give it. This is a book of essays by Count Witte [Sergei Witte, chairman of State Council under Nicholas II] On the Immutable Laws of State Life. I present it to you as my colleague as president and as a lawyer.