President Vladimir Putin: Dear colleagues, I propose that we round up our discussions now. Everyone has spoken in considerable detail on all the problems facing the region. I will not repeat generalities about the importance of Siberia and the Far East – much has already been said on this today. Everything has been said and we must now concentrate our efforts on other matters. We must now work together to draw up a system of measures that will enable us to develop as fully as possible the region’s competitive advantages. These advantages are real and they are truly immense. In this work we need to balance three main development vectors: innovation, raw materials and infrastructure development.
I would like to see us give increasing attention to the first of these vectors. But, as Governor [of Kemerovo Region] Tuleyev said today, even in the regions in Siberia and the Far East that have based their development over these last decades primarily on raw materials, our colleagues are already beginning to introduce new methods for developing these resources and developing their regions as a whole. This is because modern raw materials production and refining methods are directly linked to advanced technology. Without question we must make use of the possibilities this technology offers for our country as a whole and for the regions of Siberia and the Far East.
Another important subject that was mentioned today is infrastructure. Neither the transport minister nor the chairman of Russian Railways were given the floor today, but work in the areas they are involved in is undoubtedly one of the priorities for Siberia and the Far East. If we do not resolve these issues, and I am referring here also to water transport, sea and river transport, Siberia will not be able to develop effectively.
A lot was said about pipeline transport today. What Semyon Mikhailovich [Vainshtok] reported on and what the regional governors and representatives of the Academy of Sciences said in this respect does not exhaust the subject. Pipeline transport in the region is not limited to the major pipeline system being built from Siberia to the Pacific Ocean and the Chinese border. If we want to develop the resources of Eastern Siberia we must also help the oil companies, together with Transneft, to carry out their large-scale projects of connecting their pipeline systems to the main pipeline that Transneft will build.
In this respect I would like to say the following words. This project is unprecedented in scale even for our country. It is important for the country in general and for the regions of Siberia and the Far East. The construction work must go ahead. I agree with Leonid Vasilyevich Potapov [President of Buryatia], with our colleagues and with Nikolai Pavlovich Laverov [Vice President of Russian Academy of Sciences] that this work must not be stopped. The construction work should continue and, what’s more, it should proceed according to the previously agreed timetable.
This project’s implementation will create completely new infrastructure opportunities for developing Eastern Siberia. This is all the more important as we know that Eastern Siberia’s reserves are underestimated. If we don’t take the pipeline into this region we will never be able to open up its true potential – everything will just remain on paper.
Aside from anything else, this project will give Russia new opportunities for entering promising new energy resource export markets. At the same time, we need to start planning ahead and think about building oil refineries in the country, plants and companies, so that our economy and our citizens will be able to gain maximum benefit from our export opportunities. According to the Economic Development and Trade Ministry’s preliminary estimates, it would cost around 60 billion-80 billion roubles to build an oil refinery at the border. I think that Rosneft, for example, could begin construction next year already and I ask the government to develop a system of support measures for these projects.
As for the most sensitive issue – the pipeline system’s proposed route, I want to first of all express my thanks to the regional governors here today and to Transneft for the immense work they have done in this area. I also want to thank the scientists and the public figures for the attention they have given this issue. I believe that carrying out this project will help to improve the environmental situation in the region, and I mean improve because, as we heard today from the governor of Irkutsk Region and the chairman of Russian Railways, transport by rail is not less but a lot more dangerous, and this kind of transport is already going on today.
The construction of the pipeline should improve the environmental situation in the region, including around Lake Baikal. I believe that the technical solutions proposed have been carefully studied and worked through. Nonetheless, I also believe that we must listen to those who express concerns regarding this project, above all to the specialists from the Russian Academy of Sciences. If there is even a miniscule chance, even the tiniest risk that Lake Baikal could be polluted, we must think about future generations and do everything we can to not simply minimise this risk but exclude it altogether. This means that the pipeline system we are discussing should be built north of the Lake Baikal basin area.