Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to thank the Federal Chancellor for having accepted our invitation and come to Russia. The very fact that the Federal Chancellor arrived in time for Orthodox Christmas from the outset gave this visit a positive outlook and was well received in Moscow. I think that this can be judged by the reaction of Muscovites.
On the business side of our meeting I can say that we had a very long and detailed talk on European development, on the relations between Europe and Russia in the near future and in a longer term. I was very glad to learn and hear personally from one of the leaders of Europe how Germany perceives the development of relations between the united Europe and Russia, and between Russia and Germany.
Question: We would like to hear your opinion on the business part of the visit, more specifically, the talks on the problems of the structure of European security in the light of the scandal with the use of depleted uranium weapons in Yugoslavia.
Vladimir Putin: I believe — and you are familiar with Russia’s position — that the use of force in Yugoslavia and generally in Europe is absolutely inadmissible. It does not matter, whether this is done with depleted uranium or without it. Although if uranium was used there, it is necessary to investigate the causes and results of its use. We have too little information to draw final conclusions. But the very use of force is a bad thing.
Meetings like the one I held with the Federal Chancellor aim at creating conditions in Europe which would exclude any use of force. We also talked a great deal about that in a positive way.
Question: What can you say on the repayment of USSR debts?
Vladimir Putin: In the first place, Russia intends to and will repay the debts of the former Soviet Union. I want to stress this. We will meet the obligations we have assumed. Today the expenditure component of our budget already provides for 25% to cover those debt obligations. I think no one is interested in placing the Russian economy in a situation where it could be possible to undermine the positive elements which are now visible, and to deprive Russia of a possibility to repay the debts. Neither Russia nor its Paris Club creditors are interested in this. We have requested at the expert level that our partners discuss this question and decide to what extent and within what time we are to repay the debts. A part of the debts is being repaid regularly. In any case, Russia intends to and will meet its financial obligations.
Question: Did you discuss energy cooperation?
Vladimir Putin: We spoke on this topic in only the most general terms. But some of our large companies, in particular Gazprom, are working on specific projects, and the count there runs into hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. As to relations with Europe in this field, we are now involved in active negotiations with the leadership of the European Union.
Question: Was the question of restitution raised during your conversations?
Vladimir Putin (adding to Mr Schroeder’s answer): We want to create conditions under which there will be no irritating elements at all in relations between the two states. The question is, can we do this or not. I think the Federal Chancellor is absolutely right: staying within the bounds of the current law of both Germany and Russia, we can attain this aim. Only one essential precondition is necessary — good will. And both sides have it.