Vladimir Putin: We agreed to hold this meeting while we were in Kazakhstan. And I would like to thank the President of Ukraine, Leonid Danilovich Kuchma, for the invitation. We always have something to discuss, but today, of course, when we talked alone with him we discussed mainly economic problems. And there are certain grounds for this. Leonid Danilovich noted back in Almaty that our trade had not been growing the previous year, and we are currently receiving updates from the statistical services. That is why today we discussed the mechanisms that can change the situation for the better.
On the whole we are pleased with the state of our economic ties – more than 10 billion dollars. It is a very good indicator for Ukraine and a very good indicator for Russia. But the past year has shown that by no means everything has been done to intensify our contacts in this sphere. So we have discussed ways to expand our cooperation, we have discussed the mechanisms that we can improve and the new mechanisms that we can introduce. In this connection I would like to confirm what Leonid Danilovich has said. Both Russia and Ukraine are determined to accelerate the process of creating a free trade zone. In the same context we discussed the possibilities of using EurAsEC, the Eurasian Economic Community which, as you know, was created some time ago on the basis of the customs union involving Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus.
Everything, and I stress, everything that will contribute to economic growth and to bringing our economies closer together, the creation of jobs and securing a proper status for our economies in Europe and elsewhere – will be used.
We have prepared a statement on the issue and it will be made available to the press. In this context we have also discussed cooperation in various fields and sectors of the economy. They include energy, high technologies, the defence industry and infrastructure projects. One of these, the transport corridors, has just been mentioned by Leonid Danilovich.
And of course, we could not but touch upon some issues for which we bear a particular responsibility, and that is the settlement of the political issues in the region, including Transdnestr, but our collaborator, the President of Moldova, has been speaking about this in detail.
Finally, I would like to thank the people of Odessa for giving us the opportunity to meet together here. It is a very interesting city, I last visited it 20 years ago, so I gladly accepted the invitation in order to have another look at Odessa. It is a unique and in many ways legendary city of the former Soviet Union. So I give special thanks to the people of Odessa for their hospitality. Thank you.
Question: Parliamentary elections will be held in Ukraine on March 31. Mr Putin, do you believe that these elections will influence the Russian-Ukrainian relations?
Vladimir Putin: As far as Russia is concerned, they won’t. There is a national consensus in Russia regarding the development of relations with Ukraine. It is our strategic partner in every respect. So I have no doubts on that point. I would very much like to hope that the Ukrainian leaders, whoever wins the elections, will adopt a similar approach.
Question: Have new regional economic cooperation projects among the three countries been discussed at the meeting?
Vladimir Putin: I can add that Leonid Danilovich raised several concrete issues on specific projects: industry, energy, and not only gas but also oil, including refining, transportation and taxation. It involves many specific issues that are important for the economies of the two countries and issues connected with concrete enterprises because all this is still at the development stage. It would be premature to speak about it, but these issues are being studied.
As regards Moldova, the per capita incomes there are as yet lower than in Ukraine and Russia and the prices have been the highest. The decisions we have made jointly with Ukraine will make it possible to cut electricity rates for households in Moldova very significantly, I think by 20% and perhaps even more. That will make a difference. And it will enable not only Russia but also Ukraine, which directs about 50% of electricity via Moldova, to enter the European market together.
Question: Much has been said just now about the deepening integration between our countries in various formats, both in bilateral and multilateral format. And my question is whether it contradicts the relations between our countries and the European Union, the countries of the United Europe?
Vladimir Putin: On the contrary, it helps because we are growing stronger and more interesting as partners. Leonid Danilovich has mentioned the energy sphere. We have been discussing that with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and we have just signed a statement to the effect in Alma-Aty. If we add the pipeline capacity of Ukraine we will become still more powerful and interesting as partners for our consumers in Europe. We will then make a real and very powerful impact on the development of the European economy. They will reckon with us more and our own economy will become much more stable.