Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a meeting of the Council of CIS Foreign Ministers and an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)
Sergei Lavrov: The Council of CIS Foreign Ministers met on Friday and examined the state of progress in implementing the development concept for the CIS.
The discussion was interesting and useful and the meeting approved some 20 decisions, including on preparations to celebrate the sixty-fifth anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War and the plan for all the CIS countries to institute a common medal for this occasion. The meeting also decided to set up a working group to study proposals on ways to further improve the CIS’ intergovernmental mechanisms and the Executive Committee.
We also looked at expanding humanitarian cooperation and we addressed a number of foreign policy matters: a statement was approved supporting the United Nations’ efforts to establish a universal mechanism for information security (this is a Russian initiative), and we also made decisions on preparations for the international forums on eliminating chemical weapons and approved a detailed statement on combating the narcotics threat coming from Afghanistan.
This meeting was followed by an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation member states, at which we exchanged views on issues primarily related to security in the Central Asian region and also to strategic stability, including missile defence and the future of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. We informed our colleagues about the situation with negotiations with the United States on strategic offensive weapons. We think these were very useful meetings and our CSTO colleagues also noted the importance of holding this kind of exchange of views, especially before the meetings scheduled to take place in Bucharest at the beginning of April as part of our countries’ cooperation with NATO.
Healthcare and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova on meeting social commitments to war veterans
Tatyana Golikova: In accordance with your instruction at the beginning of March we have announced a tender for providing war veterans with means of transport. We hope that this procedure will be complete by May 9, Victory Day.
We are providing the necessary financing for our commitments to all of the different groups of the population. In particular, pensions will be indexed for the second time this year – 7.5 percent for the insurance component – as from April 1.
Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev on the spring sowing campaign
Alexei Gordeyev: The spring sowing campaign got underway 10–12 days earlier this year than usual. The situation with winter crops is good. I remind you that winter crops account for around 40 percent of the grain harvest. Winter crops currently cover 16 million hectares – the best result in the last ten years.
The spring crop sowing campaign began in the southern regions and is gradually moving up into the black earth regions. In other words, it has entered the active phase. We expect to see spring crops sown over an area of more than 49 million hectares, which is 400,000 hectares more than last year.
We plan to harvest around 3 million tons more than last year, that is, to bring in a harvest of at least 85 million tons. The Government has made a thorough examination of this matter, looking particularly at two problems: the rising cost of mineral fertilisers and the need to make short-term loans available.
Decisions have been taken on these matters. Regarding the first issue, we have introduced export duties on mineral fertilisers. The extra budget revenue generated as a result will be used to compensate agricultural producers for the additional costs they have to pay to buy fertiliser.
The banking sector has received funds for short-term loans. In particular, Rosselkhozbank has already received an additional 22 billion roubles.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on financial support for agriculture production
Alexei Kudrin: Regarding the financial resources for the sowing campaign, funds have already been transferred to Rosselkhozbank in the form of credit resources from the key state banks.
Regarding support for mineral fertilisers, first, export duties on mineral fertilisers have been introduced and this is slowing down their export somewhat and thus pushing the prices downward. The second form of support involves allocating federal budget funds generated as a result of the changes made.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Gordeyev said that the money from the additional export duties would be put into the agriculture sector. That is what interests me. Did you and he reach an agreement on this, or is this his proposal?
Alexei Kudrin: Yes, this matter was decided at a Government meeting and when the next change is made to the budget we will incorporate these funds in the budget and channel them into agriculture.
Vladimir Putin: Have you already approved an amount?
Alexei Kudrin: The amount will depend on the revenue generated through the changes made to export duties. Reference figures have already been agreed.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.