Anders Rasmussen (back translation): Welcome to the news conference. Today we held the 10th summit between Russia and the European Union. The summit achieved concrete results. We exchanged views in an open and frank atmosphere. The main aim of our common efforts is to develop a strategic partnership between the European Union and the Russian Federation. Today we adopted a balanced agreement which addresses the need for Russians to be able to travel to Kaliningrad and back and the Lithuanian right to full sovereignty over its territory. I believe that the decision taken ensures a balance of the interests of the European Union, the candidate states and the Russian Federation. The agreement will fulfil the terms assumed by the candidate states during the EU accession negotiations, but at the same time the agreement will preserve transport communications between the Kaliningrad Region and the rest of the Russian Federation.
Secondly, I would like to mention the joint statement on Russia-EU cooperation in the fight against terrorism. We are ready to intensify our cooperation with Russia in combating that evil.
And finally, I would like to say that we have discussed the situation in Chechnya and we have agreed that it is necessary to help the civilians who have been drawn in this conflict.
Thank you very much.
You have the floor, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr President. Allow me, ladies and gentlemen, to brief you on the results of the work as seen by the Russian side.
This has been the 10th Russia-EU summit. It confirmed that there is no alternative to strengthening the strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the European Union. We have had a thorough-going, sometimes sharp, but on the whole constructive discussion on the key aspects of our interaction. It has shown that we are in the process of an objective search for systemic interaction within a united Europe based on national interests. As usual, the agenda of the summit was very full. I would like to single out only its key aspects.
The recent tragic events in Moscow and other regions of the world have confirmed the need to work out further measures to deepen cooperation between Russia and the EU in the fight against international terrorism. We were one in thinking that the world community today is facing not isolated actions, but a skilfully organised aggression of the shock forces of international terrorism. In this context we have outlined concrete steps to form an effective global and regional system of counteracting terror, those who finance it and of creating an atmosphere of civil intolerance of terrorism. We are glad that we have managed to adopt a joint document on the issue.
The trustful character of our discussions has enabled us to consider all the possible consequences of the forthcoming enlargement of the EU, and of course the problem of the survival of the Kaliningrad Region was at the forefront. It is an acute problem for us. We are satisfied with the results achieved. We are satisfied with the way the discussion proceeded, especially recently, and we are satisfied with the results, I stress. I must say that the discussion continued until the very last moment and experts were finalising some provisions of the joint document even as we were having our discussion. I would like to thank the President of the European Council, Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen and Mr [Chris] Pattern [the EU Foreign Policy Commissioner] for approaching these issues in such a constructive manner. We have managed to find approaches that have removed many of the Russian concerns regarding the procedure of transit travel by Russian citizens across the territory of Lithuania, a future EU member.
We hope that other problems of the enlargement dossier will be settled in the same constructive spirit. It still contains many issues, above all of the economic character. We discussed it frankly and openly today. We discussed the status of economic cooperation in detail. We noted the unquestionably positive development of the energy dialogue, which will enable us to ensure the energy security of Europe. I take this opportunity to tell you that Russia has decided to establish an international Global Energy Prize for outstanding fundamental and applied scientific discoveries and inventions in the field of energy and the power industry.
Of course there are still questions in the trade and economic sphere that we will have to resolve on a bilateral basis. There are some objective problems. And there are some extraneous problems connected with a lack of political will or bureaucratic barriers. We discussed this frankly and we agreed to continue the work to clear the path for mutually beneficial trade and investments.
Today’s summit again demonstrated that Russia and the European Union have a vast potential for cooperation in the broader international context. The development of the world situation demands from us joint actions, and it is heartening that by the exchange of opinions we had confirmed that our positions are in many ways close or identical on many pressing international issues. We have adopted a joint document on the situation in the Middle East. On the whole, we believe that the further strengthening of coordination and interaction between Russia and the EU on the international stage meets the interests of global stability and security.
Finally, I would like to sincerely thank our European colleagues for a very productive and result-oriented work.
Thank you very much.
Question: Are you pleased with the results of the summit and in what areas has the biggest progress been achieved?
And a question to the Danish Prime Minister. In what way is Aslan Maskhadov different from bin Laden? Under what circumstances do you believe negotiations with one and the other can be held? And how would you comment on the situation of Russian-Danish relations in connection with the holding of a Chechen congress in Copenhagen on the eve of the summit, on the day which Russia had declared to be a day of mourning for the hostages who died in the Moscow theatre?
Vladimir Putin: I must say that the Danish Prime Minister and I bilaterally discussed all the issues contained in the second part of your question and we have agreed to do everything to fully restore our bilateral relations. But as regards your question, the Prime Minister will of course answer it himself.
Now about the results. We are satisfied with the results of the 10th summit and with the course of the discussion. It was a frank conversation, we argued on some issues, but at the same time it was an absolutely constructive discussion on both sides. From our side, and considering the achieved results, it certainly is safe to say that our partners were also clearly committed to achieving positive solutions to the more pressing problems. They include the issues of economic cooperation. And thanks are due to Mr Lamy. During the past year we noted many positive changes, although problems still remain. And we discussed them too, and had some arguments over them. But I think that there is a very welcome commitment to moving forward in all these areas and secondly, of course we solved the issue of transit between Kaliningrad and the rest of the Russian Federation. We are satisfied with these results. The dialogue was not an easy one and it continued until the last minute. It was towards the very end of the meeting that experts came in and reported that the work had been completed and presented its results. I repeat, the result is acceptable for us.
Anders Rasmussen: (as translated) Let me begin with the events on October 27–29. This World Chechen Congress was not organised by the Danish Government, it did not finance it. It was organised by private organisations.
As regards the threat to public safety, the Danish Government does not agree with the views expressed during the Chechen Congress….
We believe that there should be a united front in the fight against terrorism. The European Union unequivocally condemns terrorism, and that position has been reflected in the joint statements adopted in Brussels today….
Just recently a horrible terrorist attack was committed at a theatre centre in Moscow and who knows where the next such attack will be perpetrated tomorrow….
The Moscow terrorist attack and the holding of the Chechen Congress just coincided in time. We are sorry that it has had a negative impact on the Russian-Danish relations….
In conclusion I would like to say that under the Constitution there is freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Denmark, and the Danish Government had no legal powers to ban this event because it did not pose a threat to public security.
Question: The Russian Government says that it is fighting terrorism in Chechnya. How are antipersonnel mines and high explosives used? They claim thousands of lives. Don’t you think that by trying to eliminate terrorism in Chechnya in this way you are exterminating its population?
Vladimir Putin: I would put it this way: Russia is fighting terrorism not only in Chechnya. Russia is fighting international terrorism and is ready to fight it anywhere. In our country we confront it first and foremost in Chechnya. It is a complex tangle of problems that initially were engendered by separatist trends in that republic. In the absence of an effective administration, separatism quickly transformed itself and came under the influence of international terrorists and religious radicals who within a few months took the power that was there for the taking. And you know about it very well. It is no secret for any of those present that no one can accuse Russia of suppressing freedom. In 1995 Russia granted full de facto independence to the Chechen Republic. And we had to pay the price in 1999 when a large-scale attack on Russia, in the Republic of Dagestan, was launched under the slogan of creating a caliphate and wresting more territory from the Russian Federation, the whole of the North Caucasus and some other areas. What does that have to do with the independence of Chechnya? Who can answer that question? I will tell you. That question is answered by the people who aided and abetted that aggression, who inspire and finance this kind of activities. They are religious extremists and international terrorists.
By the way, I would like you to note that the creation of a caliphate on the territory of the Russian Federation is only the first part of their plan. Actually, if you follow the developments in that sphere, you ought to know that the radicals have much more ambitious goals. They speak about creating a world caliphate. They say it is necessary to kill Americans and their allies. I think that you are a country that is an ally of the United States and you are in danger. They speak about the need to kill all the non-Muslims or crusaders, as they put it. So, if you are a Christian you are in danger. But if you decide to renounce your faith and become an atheist, you too are to be eliminated in accordance with their thinking and their principles. You are in danger. If you decide to become a Muslim, even that will not make you safe because they believe that traditional Islam is also hostile to the goals that they set themselves. So, even in that case you are in danger.
And if you want to become an Islamic radical and are ready to be circumcised, I invite you to Moscow. We are a multi-faith country and we have experts who can do it. And I would advise them to carry out that operation in such a way that nothing would grow in that place again.
Question: Do you believe that today’s decision on Kaliningrad is final? Or is it only an interim agreement?
Vladimir Putin: As regards the problem of Kaliningrad, I repeat, it was a fairly complex problem connected not only with the European Union but with the need to respect the national interests of Lithuania. I repeat, we are highly pleased with the agreement we reached today. I don’t think the decision is ideal in every way and we will continue to work with the European Union. I think our ultimate goal should be to create conditions for the free movement of Russian citizens and the citizens of European countries in both directions on business and personal trips. It is not a task that can be solved tomorrow. But that is a direction in which we must move. The main thing for us is that the agreement is in the right direction. And both Russia and our EU partners are in agreement on that.
Question: Several years ago, addressing a similar summit in Sweden, you compared the Chechen militants to ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. Don’t you think that the decision taken in Macedonia, whereby former militants became government members, could serve as an example in Chechnya instead of once more attacking the Chechens with the use of high explosives against civilians?
And the second question. When does Russia plan to pull out its troops and armaments from Transdnestr because you were supposed to do it by the end of this year?
Vladimir Putin: As regards the first question, I agree with you. Unlike many of my colleagues I believe that all those who want peace in Chechnya have the right to be involved in the process. I am not only thinking but acting on these lines. I would like to tell you that the current head of the Chechen administration, Mr Kadyrov, was only recently fighting against the federal forces. Some people may dislike it or criticise it, but I think it is not surprising because we are living through a complicated period in the history of the Russian Federation and a very complicated and difficult period in the history of Chechnya. We must take everything into account, know everything and bring in all the people who seek peace. The only exception are those people who do not want peace, who seek war, who carry out terrorist acts under the slogans of peace and other considerations that are considered to be normal in a democratic society. And I think that we must fight these people, who are militants and terrorists. We will do it and I hope we will do it together, because if we give a single chance to these people who abduct innocent civilians under any pretext, we will face it not only in Moscow, New York or Washington, not only in Bali, but in many other countries. If the so-called “freedom fighters” terrorise and try to scare us by threatening to seize nuclear or other facilities that are critical and dangerous for the broad public and use them for their own ends, I think the options for us are either to take a common approach to this kind of activities, or we will face a problem. I would just like to warn you against creating any loopholes for these people. Even a trifle that is to their benefit is perceived by them as a sign of weakness and will immediately be used against those who show the weakness.
I met with the representatives of the Chechen public yesterday, and I told them and I can repeat it again that we are not against political processes, we are for them, but we believe that the problems of terrorism should be separate from the problems of the political settlement of disputed issues, no matter how complex.
And your second question about Transdnestr; it is a very difficult question. We discussed it today. Russia has not only assumed corresponding obligations, but has a direct stake in removing weapons from Transdnestr. Unfortunately, the leadership of Transdnestr are people with whom it is hard to resolve such issues. They have their own interests and their own idea of what their national interests are. I think these ideas are mistaken. We will continue dialogue with them on these matters. We are working hand in hand with the OSCE, and we are on the same wavelength on these issues. We have full trust in the OSCE on this problem. I would like to thank all those who deal with these problems on behalf of the OSCE. We have removed part of the armaments. But that is absolutely not enough and we will continue that work in the future.