President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, let me say a few words about our work today.
The talks with the President of Finland were substantial and constructive. We discussed the current state of our bilateral cooperation and the development prospects, and exchanged views on current issues in international politics.
Russia and Finland are bound by solid and good-neighbourly relations that have stood the test of time over the decades and are based on traditions of friendship, mutual trust and respect. We have always paid particular attention to our trade and economic ties.
Russia is Finland’s biggest trade and economic partner and in 2013 was firmly in first place in terms of trade volume. Russia is the reliable supplier for practically all of Finland’s natural gas needs, and is a reliable supplier of other energy resources to the Finnish market too.
Finland is also one of Russia’s key economic partners. Our bilateral trade grew at an excellent pace over the last few years. In 2012, it increased by 6.5 percent and in 2013 added another 10 percent and reached nearly $19 billion.
Our investment cooperation also reached a high level. Our companies are engaged in big joint projects together. Last year, we were both at the ceremony inaugurating the Nyagan Power Plant, one of the biggest and most modern thermal power plants in the world. The project was carried out by Finnish company Fortum. We have been working actively in other fields too – construction materials, shipbuilding, forestry, and many other areas.
But the European Union’s sanctions have jeopardised the whole range of Russian-Finnish trade and investment ties. Negative trends are emerging in our bilateral cooperation: our trade turnover has dropped by 8 percent since the start of the year. Russia is categorically against the situation developing this way.
President Niinistö and I discussed these negative developments. I think that the sanctions will have a negative effect on trade, business interests, our countries’ development outlook, and ultimately on the entire world economy.
Of course we discussed in detail developments in the serious internal political crisis in Ukraine. We are both seriously concerned about the large-scale military operations in Ukraine’s southeast regions and the genuine humanitarian disaster that is unfolding there.
We will do everything within our power to end this military conflict as soon as possible, establish a dialogue between all parties concerned, and provide humanitarian aid to those who need it.
Let me conclude by thanking Mr Niinistö for this visit and for the substantial and very useful talks.
President of Finland Sauli Niinistö (retranslated): I want to thank President Putin for the candid discussion.
As you said, Russia and Finland have very wide-ranging and diverse relations. We have traditionally had good trade and economic relations and our political cooperation has also been good. The people in our border regions, people close to the state border, visit each other and go back and forth across the border, going about their business.
We discussed today the big projects that will have a long-term impact on our relations. These projects continue to move ahead and have nothing to do with the sanctions. As President Putin noted, the sanctions do affect the economy of course, and will have an impact in general on global economic activity. These sanctions were imposed because of the Ukrainian crisis, and so we discussed this crisis at length and in detail today.
This crisis concerns not just Ukraine itself but has a wider impact and has an effect on many different issues. We, myself included, are all very concerned at the cooling in relations between Russia and the European Union. At the global level, we are hearing talk about how we have come to the gate that will lead us into a new ‘Cold War’.
Today, we heard the news that the Russian Federation’s humanitarian mission is going ahead and that an understanding has been reached between Ukraine, Russia, and the Red Cross on delivering this humanitarian aid.
We hope that this news signals the possibility of building confidence between the sides. We really do need this mutual confidence in order to take the next step and achieve the next objective, that of a ceasefire.
But for the guns to fall silent there must be mutual trust, and here we need the Russian Federation to take some steps too, for example, ensuring that no weapons cross the Russian-Ukrainian state border.
We are seeing some desire to sort out the situation, just the first signals of this desire, but we nonetheless see this aspiration and wish it success, including with Russia’s involvement.
In conclusion, I would like with your permission to remind you that Finland was, is, and always will be ready to perform good services if needed and if they can be of any help in resolving the situation.
Thank you (said in Russian).