President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear friends. It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to be here in Australia and be able to take part in this meeting.
The Russian community in Australia began to form back in the nineteenth century and various estimates now put it at around 200,000 people.
I spoke about this yesterday with the Prime Minister and also with the city authorities. Sydney is home to one of the biggest Russian communities, and there are also communities in several other regions. We are very pleased to see that our compatriots play a noticeable part in the life of their second homeland, making a considerable contribution to the development of sports and the arts in Australia while at the same time not losing interest in the country of their forebears.
As you know, relations between Russia and Russians living abroad have changed dramatically over the last 15 years. We welcome any interest in Russia and will help to develop ties between our compatriots abroad and the Russian Federation in all different areas.
The Russian Orthodox Church has always been the natural focus of spiritual life for Russians abroad at all times. You know about the immense event that recently took place in the Church’s life, that is, the Church’s unification, the unification between the Moscow Patriarchy and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
I am very pleased to see that members of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad here in Australia have played a noticeable and positive role in this process. I would like to thank you for this and express the hope that relations between our compatriots abroad, including those living here in Australia, and our common motherland, Russia, will continue to grow stronger.
Russia has adopted a programme to support our relations with our compatriots abroad. The state has begun allocating some money under this programme and different regions in the Russian Federation are showing great interest in its work, above all the main cities, Moscow and St Petersburg. As far as the Asia-Pacific region goes, the Far East region is the place of interest, of course. In general, I very much hope that you will all realise that a new page has been turned in relations between Russia and Russians living abroad.
I would like once again to give you my warmest greetings. We are all here at your disposal, I and my colleagues from Russia, the mayor of Moscow, the leaders of Russia’s Far East regions, Khabarovsk Region, the presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, members of the State Duma and Russia’s ambassador to Australia. Once again, I wish you good afternoon.