Question: We have noted your very intensive contacts with your Ukrainian colleagues of late. You even found time to meet in Washington. We also noted that the Ukrainians did no forget to raise the issue of the price of Russian gas at this meeting. When can we expect to see this issue settled, and will this happen at the next meeting of the [Russian-Ukrainian] Intergovernmental Commission, or will it come earlier?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, our contacts with Ukraine have indeed increased now. We were missing each other, no doubt, and so I think that this renewed activeness is a good thing. I said to President Yanukovych that this meeting in Washington was important. We need to talk to each other more often.
On the subject of gas, on the whole, the issues in this area have already been settled. It is another question that our Ukrainian partners, for a whole number of reasons, think that the current gas price is rather hard for Ukraine’s economy to bear in the current circumstances. We are discussing this issue. It is not a closed matter and I said to the Ukrainian President right from the outset that we are willing to discuss this question. Given that we have started intensifying our contacts we are discussing other matters too. We are discussing everything that is relevant, super-relevant, if you will, to our relations today.
I therefore hope that we continue examining all the different issues, including security, developing trade and economic relations, and humanitarian ties. We will continue our discussions not just in May, during my scheduled visit to Ukraine, but perhaps even earlier, because we have decided to hold a meeting outside our scheduled contacts with President Yanukovych next week in Ukraine. So, wait and see.
Question: I have a question about Kyrgyzstan, not just one question in fact but several.
Dmitry Medvedev: Go ahead.
Question: What settlement has been reached regarding [former Kyrgyzstani President] Kurmanbek Bakiev, and has the situation actually been resolved? How do you perceive the part played by Russia, the USA, and Kazakhstan in these events? Is Russia ready to assist Kyrgyzstan’s new temporary government, and if so, on what conditions? And finally, do you think that this situation could repeat itself in other countries in the post-Soviet area, including in Kyrgyzstan itself?
Dmitry Medvedev: It was indeed a dramatic situation that unfolded in Kyrgyzstan, and precisely because this was not the first time. Not so long ago, we witnessed similar events that lead to a change of president and the formation of a new leadership in Kyrgyzstan, and it seemed that everything then settled down and life returned to normal. Sadly, now, we are seeing a repeat of those events. This is not because people in Kyrgyzstan want revolution, but because they are unhappy with the way their lives have gone over these last few years. Unfortunately, Kurmanbek Bakiev did not succeed in resolving the country’s social and economic problems. As I said a little while ago, I think the collapse of this regime, this political system, was directly linked to its failure to address urgent social and economic issues. At the same time, the system they built looked remarkably similar to its predecessor, based on the same kind of clan and family interests, dividing up business assets between themselves, and doing little to resolve other problems.
”We are ready to provide humanitarian aid. I have already given this instruction to our government. But as far as the big interstate projects of importance for the entire Central Asian region are concerned we will carry them out only if we see that Kyrgyzstan has a new leadership, legitimately elected by the people, and capable of dealing with these issues. This is the only option here.“
It is my great hope that the Kyrgyzstan’s new authorities, once a legitimate government is formed, will not fall into this same trap. I say this because Kyrgyzstan remains our strategic partner, and of course we are not indifferent to the fate of this country’s people and the situation there. I hope that the temporary government currently in control of the situation will take the full responsibility of government into its hands and organise a proper transfer of power, hold parliamentary and presidential elections and let Kyrgyzstan elect a legitimate leadership. We are ready to provide humanitarian aid. I have already given this instruction to our government. But as far as the big interstate projects of importance for the entire Central Asian region are concerned we will carry them out only if we see that Kyrgyzstan has a new leadership, legitimately elected by the people, and capable of dealing with these issues. This is the only option here.
On the question of reaching a settlement in the current political crisis, yes indeed, political forces from different countries did have to get involved. Why, not because we wanted to intervene in a situation that is ultimately another country’s sovereign affair, but in order to prevent bloodshed. Unfortunately, events were taking a turn in this direction and could have descended into full-scale civil war and the country’s subsequent disintegration. I very much hope that events will not take this turn now, all the more so as the former president has stepped down now. Various forces had to get involved in order to reach an agreement in this situation. I won’t hide the fact that I had talks with the President of Kazakhstan, who helped to settle this matter, and he and I discussed this issue together with the President of the United States of America at the summit in Washington, taking into account the tapestry of various interests in Kyrgyzstan and in the region as a whole.
In the end reason prevailed, and I say once again that I very much hope that we have all succeeded in preventing events from taking a more serious turn.
Now, as for whether this kind of situation could arise in other countries in the post-Soviet area, or elsewhere in the world… Anything is possible. If people are unhappy with their leaders, if the authorities do not make the needed effort to support people and address their biggest problems this kind of situation could repeat itself anywhere, in any country where the authorities are no longer in touch with the people. Listening to some of the statements that followed these events it seems to me that these statements were dictated by fears that this conflict and its outcome stirred among the leaders in a number of countries. But the only way to avoid such fears is to govern one’s own country in competent fashion. Of course, these kinds of crises are very dangerous, and I say again that we hope that the temporary government will obtain popular legitimacy, obtain legislative support, public support, and will manage to cope with the situation. Let’s wait and see. The new leaders still have to come to agreements between themselves, and this can be a difficult process. But I hope that they will have the political courage and influence to agree on the future of their country, whose fate we are not indifferent to, and with whom we want to have strategic, close and fraternal relations.
Question: I have a question on corruption. You have taken a number of initiatives in this area, but most of the anti-corruption laws focus on the civil service. Don’t you think that it is time to start addressing corruption in the military and law enforcement agencies too, for example, by setting up special anti-corruption commissions there and perhaps even holding a few trials to set the example and make our police force start acting a bit more honestly?
Dmitry Medvedev: I want to make one correction, because in fact, our anti-corruption laws are not divided into laws applying only to the civil service, or to the military and the law enforcement agencies. Strictly speaking, our anti-corruption laws represent a body of common legislation applying to all areas of public service, whether the civil service, the law enforcement agencies, including the police, and the military, which covers the Defence Ministry’s staff, and the staff of the Federal Security Service and a number of other organisations.
I agree that we usually hear about the cases higher up the ladder, when civil servants in the strict sense of the word commit crimes and violations, while we hear less about cases involving the military or members of the law enforcement agencies. This is related to our policy and desire to put things in order. But I would not say that we are neglecting the situation in the law enforcement agencies, because if you look at the number of criminal cases opened against personnel from the Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies it is actually quite high. It is another matter to turn this quantity into quality and assess the extent to which criminal prosecution under this or that charge can have an impact on the overall situation. Here, we probably need to get the law enforcement agencies themselves to pay more attention to these issues. They need to be committed to reducing corruption and eventually eradicating it altogether. And we also need to encourage the media to follow these processes more attentively.
Public interest in this area is huge. Just look at the internet, probably the most active form of mass media today. There’s a lot being written there about corruption in the military and law enforcement agencies. I receive a lot of correspondence on these issues. And so, I would not say that we are not paying enough attention to fighting corruption in these agencies, but since you raise the question, yes, we should work on this even more actively, including by drawing up some special rules. Incidentally, I proposed one such rule a short while back, a rule that would toughen liability for crimes committed by Interior Ministry officers. As far as I know, this proposal is currently being examined in the Duma. The deputies have even proposed extending it to apply not only to members of the police force but to the staff of other law enforcement agencies too. I think this matter has also come to the Constitutional Court’s attention. I have no objections. Perhaps it would indeed make sense to toughen the penalties for Interior Ministry and other law enforcement personnel because these people are tasked with protecting the law and they need to understand that if they commit a crime they will face greater penalties for it. I think this is fair and I think this law will be passed.
Question: Your visit to three countries on the American continent is coming to an end…
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, at last.
Question: These countries differ in their economic potential and in mentality too. Could you share a few of your impressions and say what and which place you liked most of all on this trip?
Dmitry Medvedev: I would rather not say which place I liked most of all because this would immediately offend everyone living in the other countries. I can say one thing, though. This is not my first visit to Latin America, and as far as I know it is not your first time here either. On the one hand, each of these countries has its own particular colour, and on the other hand, they all share something in common, the emotional nature of their people and various traditions that greatly distinguish Latin America from other parts of the world. This is a wonderful thing because we all need to be different from each other if only in order to be able to feel such interest in each other.
I visited two countries on this trip, Argentina and Brazil. Brazil hosted the [BRIC] summit, while in Argentina I made what was the first visit by a Russian head of state. I don’t know about you, but Buenos Aires struck me as a very interesting and beautiful city, very energetic, and with traffic as bad as Moscow’s, perhaps even worse, because no one can get through, not even the president of a friendly country. But perhaps this is not such a bad thing, if only to remind us of the problems people face getting round by car.
”We have taken on serious commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The situation is very simple now. As I said to my colleagues today, either we reach a common agreement with all countries, including the developed economies and the fast-growing economies, or, if we fail to reach an agreement, Russia will not extend application of the Kyoto Protocol as far as it is concerned, despite the appeals we have received on this matter.“
I think this visit was useful for our relations because we signed a good many agreements, some of which offer good prospects indeed, above all the agreements on cooperation in the energy sector, in nuclear energy, and in railway transport.
Here, in Brazil, the BRIC summit took place. I am very happy that this was the second summit, to be honest. I will not hide that I was happy that the first summit took place in Russia. There were doubts for a while as to whether the BRIC countries would actually become a group holding summits. Brazil, Russia, India and China were all coordinating aspects of their work, of course. These are close countries, partners, with good strategic relations, but we did not hold summits, and so I was happy that when we did decide to hold our first summit it was in Russia. Now the second summit has just ended. Next year we will hold our third summit. President of China Hu Jintao has invited us to China, so you could say that a system has started to evolve now.
We need to work out which range of issues we will examine. So far, we have concentrated mostly on economic issues. I think this is correct because economic problems are the most complex and important, and I would not be revealing any secret by saying that these kinds of contacts, especially with the G20 coming up, are very useful. It would be a good thing indeed if we reach an agreement that enables us to present a consolidated and common position at the G20. This would reinforce our position overall and at the same time could help the G20. I think that today’s exchange of views was very substantive and concrete, perhaps even more concrete than the discussions at the G20. We have a very similar vision of practically all of the issues that we discussed related to overcoming the economic crisis, building the new financial architecture and developing business cooperation, and I stress that this is a good thing.
But this does not mean that BRIC will always concern itself only with these issues, even if they are the most important issues right now. We also discussed climate change today, and this is another area in which we have plenty to say to each other, because when it comes to climate issues our country is not among the developing economies, but among the developed economies. This has its pluses but also its minuses, because we have taken on serious commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The situation is very simple now. As I said to my colleagues today, either we reach a common agreement with all countries, including the developed economies and the fast-growing economies, or, if we fail to reach an agreement, Russia will not extend application of the Kyoto Protocol as far as it is concerned, despite the appeals we have received on this matter. This is an issue where we need to bring our positions closer together, including with our BRIC partners, and this is something that the summit’s host, President Lula da Silva, specifically asked me to do today.
Concerning Brazil’s capital, I imagine you have seen for yourself its advantages. This is a new city. I found myself thinking that there are some advantages to be gained in having the capital city outside big urban centres. I am not hinting at anything here, but I just want to say that some of the biggest problems facing big historic capitals are absent here in Brasilia, and this is interesting to observe. This is not the only example. Our partners in Kazakhstan have a similar situation.
These kinds of visits are really very interesting, but I won’t hide the fact that they also take a lot of time and energy. I wish you all a good journey home. It’s a long way to travel – more than 16 hours. Of course, if you look at things in comparison, our Indian friends will be flying for 23 hours. I wish you a safe journey and high spirits. Good bye.