Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, respected colleagues and friends,
I would like to give you a heartfelt welcome once again to St. Petersburg. The reason why we have gathered here today in Russia’s northern capital is not accidental as many who live in the former Soviet Union have much in connection with St. Petersburg: someone went to school here, someone has friends here, and still others have taken great pleasure in visiting St. Petersburg’s museums and theaters. And this, in general, is such an element with a uniting character for all of us.
I am sure that everyone present will still have pleasant minutes of his life associated with the city. We strove to do everything possible so that in our circle of friends during the celebration of St. Petersburg’s 300-year anniversary you will feel quite at home.
This informal meeting will give us the ability to discuss the most urgent issues on the activities of the CIS and the international situation while participating in the festive events dedicated to the city’s 300-year anniversary. But before I give the floor to our chairman, President of Ukraine Leonid Danilovich Kuchma, I would like to convey you all the best from the president of Azerbaijan, with whom I spoke on the telephone. Geidar Aliev requested me in his behalf to welcome all of you and give his best.