President Vladimir Putin: Dear ladies and gentlemen. You know that the Year of Ukraine in Russia has concluded fairly successfully, and yesterday we opened the Year of Russia in Ukraine.
I must say that for me, this marked an important, big event. I had not even expected that our departments – economic, cultural and political – would approach so professionally and responsibly the present stage of our joint work. The opening of the Year of Russia in Ukraine extended far beyond a formal political act. In essence, our arrival here had turned into a full-scale working visit with the signing of a number of serious documents. You have just been present at this joint work.
I agree with the President of Ukraine in his assessment of the Border Treaty. I want to once again stress that we are consciously taking this step, in the belief that we need to conclude the agreeing of all the questions which were causing in whomsoever any doubts about the intentions of Russia to build relations with Ukraine along lines of equality, as with an equal partner with whom we are bound by long-standing friendship and work within one state and whom we regard in all respects as our strategic partner for the long term. Differently we do not even think. This is one of the major foreign policy priorities of the Russian Federation.
We have very close cooperation in the economy, in industry. I now won't repeat the figures, but they are very impressive. We have, of course, noted the small decrease in trade at the end of last year, but we take it in our stride, we know the causes and we are ready to work together at their removal.
Also I would like to say what in my opinion is by far more important – it is that the quality of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the recent period has altered, has improved. Trust in each other has grown considerably, and this is the best basis for constructing relations, both at present and in the future. We have advanced in solving a whole number of questions, which had been deemed contentious issues. And, moreover, when we began to work on them, it turned out that the specialists had long waited for the signal from the top and were now working together with pleasure and were achieving practical results. We in the highest degree are satisfied with the way the Year of Russia in Ukraine has begun and hope that in the same positive spirit it will proceed not only in the capitals, but also in the regions – as was the case in Russia in the previous year.
Question: What changes in relations between Russia and Ukraine can be expected after today's signing of the documents?
Vladimir Putin: To answer your question in detail, it is necessary to take and read the Treaty – it's all written there. I can tell you how we approached the signing: this was, of course, the result of a compromise made on both sides, of a compromise, moreover, which does not cast doubt on the national interests of the two countries. And I hope that the President of Ukraine will confirm that the Treaty meets the national interests of Russia and Ukraine alike.
Very many questions of a purely formal-bureaucratic nature can well be resolved given the understanding that the supreme interests of the two countries demand their resolution. Such an understanding is there at present. We shall have yet to do some work in this sphere both at the political level and at the level of experts. I mean the problem of the Sea of Azov and some others. I am confident that these problems will be resolved.
Question: What will be the next steps in developing the energy consortium project?
Vladimir Putin: As soon as practical work began, all the political hissing and jabbering immediately ceased with regard to this. Furthermore, when the specialists dug into the problem, our Ukrainian colleagues began to prompt their Russian partners to move more rapidly along this road. An appropriate structure has been created which must concern itself with the development of the gas transportation system, with its operation, with the pumping over of Russian and not only Russian gas to Western Europe. This is a Ukrainian legal entity with headquarters in Kiev. A regular meeting of its governing bodies will soon take place and the registration of its statute is being planned. We have indeed reached the stage where we are ready to enlist, as previously agreed, our West European partners in further work.
I would like to especially draw attention to the fact that Russia, just as Ukraine, is holding active consultations with our partners in Central Asia – Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, as well as with Kazakhstan, with which we have established joint ventures and have gone even farther. We expect that by pooling the efforts of all the partners who have these resources, and gas distribution networks, together with Russia and Ukraine we will be approaching the markets of European countries. We are in parallel conducting work with our European partners and we think that this will be a weighty contribution on the part of both Russia and Ukraine to the development of our relations with the European Union.