Question: There have been a lot of discussions about a new law on the formation of the upper Federal Assembly house. What do you think about the situation around those discussions? How do you expect it to develop?
Vladimir Putin: I think those who say that it is not a conflict but just legislative routine are right. This is a painful issue for some, and its progress has certainly been impeded. But we expected that, so I would not like to dramatise the events.
…We count on Parliament’s upper and lower houses not only to formally establish a conciliation commission but to make fruitful efforts towards a compromise. The presidential side has long been ready for such a compromise. I, for my part, was willing to see it from the start.
…I will have no objections to the two houses making it up between themselves to come to a compromise. What matters most is to preserve the essence of the law. It is not so important just when it fully comes into force. The law must start working. That is essential for our country. It matters far less, in the final analysis, whether it starts working in a year, six months, or a year and a half. The law must retain its core. That’s the most important point. The compromises suggested so far are preserving that core. I hope it will survive.
Question: How will Russia and Tajikistan develop their relations in the military field now? How will Tajik-stationed Russian units function, including the 31st Division?
Putin: The Russian armed group in Tajikistan must be preserved. The Tajik and Russian leaderships proceed from that. It promotes both Russian national interests and Tajik state interests. This position was reflected in an agreement signed some time ago, as you know. Those documents are now to be ratified – by Russia, too. Our military experts are making last improvements on them. That’s a technical matter. Both countries have a lasting political interest in the closest possible cooperation in the military sphere, and Russia will preserve its military base in Tajikistan. That is what we proceed from.
Question: There has been great interest in the Chinese leader’s participation in the summit. Would you please give us some details of your negotiations? What do you think of the prospects of relations with China?
Putin: As for the Chinese leader’s participation in the summit, he knows all the workings of the Shanghai forum better than I do, because Mr Jiang Zemin stood at the cradle of the Shanghai Five. Don’t forget that Shanghai is the President’s native city.
China is to us a strategic partner in every sense – from the point of international security guarantees, friendly relations, and development of contacts in culture, the economy and every sphere of state activities. As you know, my visit to China has been scheduled for the near future, July 17–19. The Chinese President and I talked about our plans for the visit today. Priority issues will be economic and military partnership. Chinese-Russian cooperation is an essential factor of international security. That is our approach. We are sure that not only our two countries and particular regions but also the entire world will benefit from that partnership.