Question: You have already briefly described today's CSTO summit. In general,
what can you say about your two days in Dushanbe?
President Vladimir Putin: In my opinion, the work that was done here in Dushanbe within the framework of these three organisations: the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), was the most productive and fruitful that we have accomplished in recent years.
With regards to the CIS, after a very long and heated debate over the fate of the CIS and how to reform it, we came to an agreement and rightly endorsed a CIS development concept and concrete action plan. We agreed that we will choose one concrete theme once a year that will then be the main focus of our attention. And this year we decided to discuss migration. It is clear that this is a very sensitive issue for practically all CIS member states, including the Russian Federation. We reached an agreement about establishing a special agency to coordinate our policies on this issue, on this problem.
The results concerning the EurAsEC are almost revolutionary. We agreed to create a customs union and establish a supranational organ, a commission that will deal with customs regulations. This is not yet the creation of a customs union as such – the union will only be created after we have finished all procedures, ratifications and signed the additional agreements until 2011 – but I could mention that all participants want to do more than simply participate in this process; they want to accelerate the speed at which we are moving towards a final concrete result. Along with this, despite the fact that in its initial stage customs union is the creation of three states – the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan – all remaining members of the EurAsEC expressed their interest in participating in this process. It is for precisely that reason that we made the decision to conduct the entire negotiations under the auspices of the EurAsEC rather than create a separate organisation somewhere on post-Soviet territory.
And finally, the CSTO also achieved significant and tangible results. Primarily, they concern military and technical supplies. We agreed on and approved a final list of all documents according to which CSTO members will receive Russian weapons and special equipment both for their own armed forces and special services, almost at Russian domestic prices.
Question: Several questions arose concerning Mr Lebedev. How would you characterise his work as head of the Foreign Intelligence Service and who will head that organisation now? In addition, it became clear that Mr Rapota has lost his powers. It would be very interesting to know what will happen to him? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Let's start with Grigorii Alekseevich Rapota. He worked well, productively, and it is in large part thanks to his efforts that the EurAsEC achieved the results I mentioned earlier. Moreover, in my opinion, he was able to create a very business-like yet friendly atmosphere, and to a large degree this has been passed on to those who participated in the meetings today. In general, I should have said this in answer to the first question: I very much liked the constructive approach. You know that when we sat down at the negotiating table it was possible to think that we wouldn't agree on anything. It seemed that there were such differences in approach, despite the fact that experts had worked very thoroughly. Yet there still was the desire to reach an agreement – this is something that can already be felt throughout post-Soviet territory – the desire to achieve results in these issues, to be together, and to cooperate. And today this desire is becoming dominant, and is driving integration processes in post-Soviet territory. This is to a large degree thanks to Rapota's activities, and for that reason I think that it would be possible that, once I have returned to Moscow, I will sign a decree appointing him as Plenipotentiary Presidential Representative in the Southern Federal District.
Question: Now about Lebedev …
Vladimir Putin: Yes. Lebedev has, of course, done more than simply head the Foreign Intelligence Service. He is a person who, without any undue exaggeration, has already engaged in public activities as a member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. This is something on a serious scale and it is certainly true that Sergei Nikolaevich is the person who headed a priority area of Russia's foreign policy, policy directed at CIS member countries. As to the person who will take his place as director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, you know him will. It is Mikhail Efimovich Fradkov. Thank you.
Question: Can you tell us where and in whose company you will celebrate your birthday? And maybe not only tomorrow?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I usually do not have any parties for this occasion, but I thought that because this is a good round figure, it would be possible to invite the permanent members of the Security Council and heads of the Armed Forces, including the District Commanders, commanders of different divisions and types of Armed Forces, to the Kremlin tomorrow.