Beginning of Meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich 2007-06-21 21:46:34 President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Viktor Fyodorovich [Yanukovich], I am very happy to see you. As you know, I had the opportunity to speak with the Ukrainian President in St Petersburg just recently, and I am pleased that we can now continue our dialogue through this meeting today. Frankly speaking, we regret what is happening in Ukraine. The country’s economic indicators have all been on the up recently and there has been real improvement in the social sphere, but now the country once again faces political problems, which it must traverse. But we hope that Ukraine, our main partner in the former Soviet area and one of our main economic and political partners in the world in general, will resolve these problems as soon as possible and everything will come right and fall into place. We hope that this process will take place with respect for the law and the current constitution and to the benefit of the entire Ukrainian people. Despite all the events taking place, our bilateral trade increased considerably over the first four months of this year. Ukrainian exports to Russia are outstripping Russian exports to Ukraine in their pace of growth. This growth can be seen in exports of machine-building sector products, agricultural produce and a number of the other areas in which we cooperate. I am sure that your visit today will also be useful and will help to expand and deepen our cooperation. Viktor Yanukovich: First of all, thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, for receiving our government delegation. I have been informed about your meeting with President Yushchenko in St Petersburg. I know about your agreement to hold a meeting of the intergovernmental commission in August in a venue of your choosing in Russia. We have come to Russia now to work with the Russian government on preparing and holding the intergovernmental commission’s meeting. We are ready to discuss the issues that will need to be examined at the highest level. Unfortunately, Ukraine has been going through a period of political crisis that began at the start of April. The main thing that we have achieved over this time – and we think this is a big achievement – is to ensure that all the branches of power operate within the framework of the law. There are still some outstanding questions that we need to resolve, and that concern the opposition mostly. These are issues that open the way to holding legal elections (and this was our main demand). Our second demand (the coalition’s demand) was that if elections take place they must be honest and transparent, and this required the appropriate laws to be passed. Vladimir Putin: Viktor Fyodorovich, you don’t have any opposition! Everyone is in power! Where’s the opposition? I can’t figure it out. Everyone there seems to be in power… Viktor Yanukovich: I remember well one of the first conversations I had with you. You asked me, what is constitutional reform? Well, this situation is to a certain extent a result of oversights in constitutional reform that we must address now. Whether elections take place or not the question still needs to be addressed because the balance of power determines the conditions for the authorities’ overall effectiveness. We cannot have a situation where one of the branches of power stops working. This breaks the chain of power and the country cannot go on living this way. Unfortunately, this is the situation we currently face in Ukraine, but at the same time, the process has been peaceful – we have prevented the kind of conflict and civil confrontation that could have taken place. We think that we succeeded in doing this by making a common effort. This is maybe not a great achievement, but we are simply happy that bloodshed has been avoided and that, although the situation is complex, we have managed to make some progress towards overcoming this crisis. Regarding our relations over this last year (In August it will be almost one year that my Government has been in office), we are very happy with our work with our Russian partners, colleagues and friends. We succeeded in boosting trade growth last year, and our trade this year rose by 38 percent — $7.9 billion – over the first four months of this year. If this growth continues to the end of the year, we could reach a trade figure of around $28 billion, and this represents a big increase. Our business ties, corporate ties, are developing actively now, especially in the machine-building sector, as you noted, and in the manufacture of complex and science-intensive goods. This is good to see and we have big prospects in these areas. Whether it be in aircraft manufacturing, the space sector or other sectors of the economy, we are looking at the future with optimism. Crises come and go but life goes on. Friendly relations between people are, in my view, the guarantee that Ukraine and Russia will always be reliable partners for each other. This, in any case, is the position that we have always defended and always will. We think that this is only way for our peoples and our countries to live. Vladimir Putin: We, for our part, share the same view.