In 2021 the forum is themed Cooperation in the Field of Ecology and Green Growth. Invited to take part in the discussions are the heads of key ministries and the heads of a number of constituent entities of the Russian Federation and the regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
A package of documents was signed on the sidelines of the forum. In particular, documents related to the preservation of saiga antelope and Caspian seal populations, a series of agreements on bilateral cooperation between Russian and Kazakh regions, and a number of contracts between companies.
The Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum involving both countries’ heads of state is held annually to maintain and promote economic, cultural and humanitarian ties between Russia and Kazakhstan.
Speech at the plenary meeting of the 17th Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to say that I am very happy to see you, Mr Tokayev. Not so long ago, we were working together and agreed to take part in today’s event.
You have brought up all the most important issues and there only remains for me to comment on some of them. I will do this with pleasure and am even likely to succeed in formulating certain proposals concerning the points you have just set forth.
First of all, I would like to say that I am happy to welcome the participants in the 17th Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum.
Regrettably, the pandemic prevented us from organising the meeting of representatives of both countries’ regions last year, but this year – incidentally this is the proposal of the President of Kazakhstan – we agreed to hold this event and work together at least via videoconference.
On the whole, regional forums are indeed of the utmost importance. Not only do they make a considerable contribution to the development of ties between constituent entities of the Russian Federation and the regions of Kazakhstan, but they also facilitate the strengthening of the comprehensive Russian-Kazakhstani strategic partnership as a whole. I am confident that the discussions at this forum will also be useful and will yield a concrete practical outcome.
I would like to note that our countries maintain truly intensive, diverse and mutually beneficial cooperation. From the very beginning, we have been building our relations in this manner, and this has almost always been the case throughout modern history. This primarily applies to trade and investment.
Thus, over seven months of 2021, bilateral trade volumes expanded by 34 percent to reach, according to our statistics, $14 billion. Mutual trade volumes are to reach a record-breaking $20 billion by the end of the year. It is precisely inter-regional cooperation that has made this possible. In all, 76 of the Russian Federation’s 85 territories maintain solid ties with all regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
We are clearly satisfied with the fact that, as of late, we have continued to maintain and actively expand exchanges involving delegations of regional authorities, representatives of business circles and the public at large. In the third quarter of 2021 alone, the heads of Bashkortostan and Astrakhan and Ryazan Regions have visited Kazakhstan. And massive delegations from Udmurtia and Sverdlovsk Region are also set to visit their Kazakhstani colleagues.
Work is also underway involving twin cities, namely Moscow and Nur-Sultan, St Petersburg and Almaty, Rostov-on-Don and Uralsk, Makhachkala and Aktau, Omsk and Pavlodar.
An impressive contractual legal framework of regional cooperation has been formulated. There are plans to sign quite a few important agreements between regions of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan during the current forum. An inter-governmental agreement or, rather, a programme of inter-regional and cross-border cooperation up to 2023 is also being drafted.
Indicatively, this year’s forum is devoted to a topical subject, namely, ecology and green growth, and the President of Kazakhstan has already discussed this in great detail. This is a worldwide trend, and Russia and Kazakhstan also devote great, if not high-priority, attention to these matters.
Our countries have already accumulated substantial experience in cooperation in the area of environmental protection, water – which is very important for us, I confirm what Mr Tokayev has said – and forest management. This is particularly important for us, for Russia. Mr Tokayev has said that Kazakhstan has few forest-covered territories, while Russia has a lot.
We need to reach agreement on mutual cooperation in this field, in the interests of both countries, to utilise Russian and Kazakhstani capabilities, to discuss biodiversity and specially protected nature territories and to work on these matters.
Fruitful dialogue is also underway between our federal and regional environmental agencies. The Russian-Kazakh Commission on the Environment, the Commission on the Joint Use and Protection of Transboundary Water Courses, and the Commission on the Preservation of the Ecosystem of the Ural River are working successfully.
As we are all aware, the Ural and the Irtysh are two large rivers running across Russia and Kazakhstan, and so they are indeed of great economic, environmental and even cultural importance for our countries. It is for a reason that joint Russian-Kazakh programmes have been adopted for the preservation of the ecosystems of the Ural and Irtysh rivers. They stipulate extensive joint involvement in all these events, that is, scientifically substantiated efforts to restore the biosphere, identify pollution sources and purify wastewaters. It has been proposed to synchronise our efforts under these two programmes by preparing roadmaps for them, which I regard as absolutely correct.
I would like to remind you that 10 years ago Russia and Kazakhstan established the Great Altay Transboundary Biosphere Reserve, which incorporates the Katon-Karagay Biosphere Reserve in Eastern Kazakhstan and the Katun Nature Reserve in Russia’s Republic of Altai. It was a perfectly correct decision, because nature, as we know, has no borders and so we must protect it together; this is more effective.
This is why, of course, we support the implementation plans for another transborder project under the aegis of UNESCO, which will allow us to combine the ecosystems of the Bokeyorda Nature Reserve in the West Kazakhstan Region (Kazakhstan) and the Lake Elton Reserve in Volgograd Region in Russia.
Another environmental issue of major significance for Russia and Kazakhstan is the preservation of rare animal species, which the President of Kazakhstan has spoken about persuasively. These species include the saiga antelope and the Caspian seal. There are also efforts to combat wildfires, of course; we understand that fighting steppe fires is very important for Kazakhstan and for us as well. The methods include the planting of protective forest belts and forest rehabilitation. This should certainly be done on the basis of partnership and cooperation, for it would be impossible to attain the desired goal otherwise, which is perfectly obvious.
Our countries are addressing an entire range of tasks to reduce the negative anthropogenic impact on the environment. This implies switching to a new energy concept stipulating the reduced use of hydrocarbon fuel and the rapid de-carbonisation of the economy. This means that federal and regional authorities need to pool their efforts.
I would like to use this opportunity to say that Russia is working actively to create favourable conditions for a transition to a low-carbon economy. We have passed a federal law stipulating basic climate regulation mechanisms. We are drafting a road map for economic de-carbonisation. The idea is that all Russian regions will be involved in the implementation of the road map, in the context of their social and economic realities, climate specifics and the volume of their natural resources.
Moreover, we are paying substantial attention to the all-out technological modernisation of regional economies and to upgrading the infrastructure. We are motivating local authorities and businesses to increase the share of low-carbon energy sources, to more actively introduce technologies reducing the industry’s carbon footprint and to boost the energy efficiency of the housing and utilities sector.
Russian regions are doing a lot to reduce atmospheric pollution levels during the production of natural fuel and its transportation. We are introducing modern and effective systems for trapping associated gas in the area of crude oil production. We have accomplished a lot here, even more than many other countries have, especially oil-producing countries. We have accumulated positive experience in this field, and we are ready to share it with our Kazakhstani friends, if they are interested. To the best of my knowledge, our Kazakhstani partners are interested in this matter, and this provides ample opportunities for fruitful cooperation.
Some territories of the Russian Federation are establishing a chain of testing facilities for measuring anthropogenic emissions and calculating the carbon balance. These monitoring systems will soon start operating in Kaliningrad Region, in Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, Novosibirsk and Sakhalin Regions, Krasnodar Territory and the Chechen Republic.
An experiment to introduce low-carbon and carbon-free technologies has been launched in Sakhalin Region. These technologies will ensure that the region is carbon-neutral by 2025. We are ready to share all these inventions and this experience with our colleagues from Kazakhstan.
But, of course, we should not forget that we are oil and gas producing countries, and that this switchover to a low-carbon economy is virtually impossible without gas. This is simply unrealistic. Regarding natural gas vehicles, mentioned by Mr Tokayev, we are also working in this direction, and we are ready to pool our efforts, all the more so as we maintain active trans-border traffic, and it is very important to have the relevant refueling and service stations and so forth in both countries. This is an absolutely practical matter.
We have also done a good deal of groundwork in hydrogen technology. In particular, we have launched hydrogen transport development projects. We are open for cooperation with our Kazakhstani partners in the design of equipment and the implementation of hydrogen production, storage and transportation projects.
Considerable attention is also being given in Russia to expanding the use of gas fuel, as I have already mentioned, and the development of the relevant infrastructure. We continue working to diversify natural gas, including LNG, deliveries. We plan to increase its production – I will provide the figure now, and I am not just hopeful but confident that it is a realistic plan – to 140 million tonnes a year by 2035. We believe that we can work together with our Kazakhstani friends in this sphere as well.
As for the peaceful use of nuclear energy – my Kazakhstani colleague and friend has already mentioned this, we are closely monitoring the plans of our neighbours, friends and allies, including Kazakhstan, in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As I have already said, I will try to formulate our proposals regarding the ideas put forth by the President of Kazakhstan. Russia is offering its partners, including Kazakhstan, support and assistance in the construction and maintenance of nuclear power stations, if you take the relevant decisions.
In particular, we could discuss more than just the construction of a nuclear power station based on a Russian design in the republic. The issue concerns the creation of a whole new industry, including the training of Kazakhstani personnel in nuclear energy-related fields at Russian universities.
The polluting effect of nuclear power stations is negligibly small. Russian professionals are working consistently to reduce their effect on the atmosphere by improving technologies and installing efficient gas purification equipment.
Overall, I would like to say once again that Russia and Kazakhstan have good prospects for joint projects in the fields of environment and green growth. We hope that all regions in our countries, Russia and Kazakhstan, will join in actively. For our part, Mr Tokayev and I regularly discuss the issue in various formats, and we will certainly support our colleagues in the governments and the regions.
In conclusion I would like to express gratitude to the forum’s organisers and participants and to wish them every success.
In 2022, the next interregional forum is scheduled to be held in Russia. We have set our eyes on Orenburg. I would like to invite all of you to visit us and hope that we will be able to meet in person. I am confident that our join work, including in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, will produce the necessary results and that we will be able to at long last meet face to face, discuss all our plans and projects in detail and adopt decisions necessary for our effective progress.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to ask your Minister of Ecology a question.
Mr Brekeshev, I have a question about restoring the tiger population. Did tigers roam these places in Kazakhstan in the past? Do I understand it correctly that we are speaking of restoring the tiger population?
Minister of Ecology of the Republic of Kazakhstan Serikkali Brekeshev: Yes, Mr President. We are talking about the reintroduction of tigers. Historical facts show that a tiger population once roamed this region.
President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: We are talking about the so-called Turanian tiger. The last of them were sighted in the 1930s, and they disappeared from Kazakhstan shortly before the Great Patriotic War.
These are steppe tigers; in ancient times they were sabre-tooth tigers. Consequently, we are now promoting an international project to restore the population of these tigers called the Turanian tigers.
Naturally, we are inviting Russian specialists to take part in this highly interesting project. The Minister of Ecology has mentioned the size of the territory allotted for this tiger population. I believe that the Turanian tiger project is a very interesting one that can be implemented.
Vladimir Putin: Where can we obtain them? Do they still live somewhere? How can the population be restored?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Specialists should have their say.
I suppose that, perhaps, we should use tiger species now living in the Russian Federation, and biologists and other specialists will join the process later on.
Vladimir Putin: We have restored certain animal populations, including Persian leopards in the Caucasus and snow leopards in Siberia. They were extinct here, but similar species live in Tajikistan and Iran, and we import them from Iran and Tajikistan. We inter-breed them with surviving animals here, and this is how specialists work to breed them and to restore the population.
But it is a good question as to where we can find completely extinct animals.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Generally speaking, tigers are the same everywhere.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, that is true.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Tigers are more or less the same everywhere, be it in India, Russia, or other countries.
Vladimir Putin: No, the largest Russian tigers live in the Far East.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Yes, I know, this is the Amurtiger.
We have seen you visit the taiga and take part in restoring the tiger population. We know all about this, and we are monitoring this process.
This is, of course, a complicated matter, but tigers are the same everywhere. Biologists should work on this and try and restore this population which had once roamed in Kazakhstan. Of course, it is impossible to completely achieve this goal, but we should give it a try.
Specialists from other countries, from UNESCO and other international organisations are helping us, and, of course, assistance on the part of Russia will be very important here. I believe that the Minister of Ecology has raised this matter correctly.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Tokayev, we will be happy to join in at government level, and I think, at expert level, too.
Our specialists who have accumulated very good experience over the past few years will certainly find this interesting. We will be happy to share this experience, and to work together with you.