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[Putin] Press Conference Following the G8 Summit
July 17, 2006
Strelna, St Petersburg

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, Russia is hosting the G8 summit for the first time and we understandably placed a lot of importance on this meeting. Intensive work took place over many months, including at the highest expert level. We are pleased that our partners have reacted with understanding to the ideas and proposals Russia put forward for this summit. It is clear that Russias growing economic potential is enabling it to play an increasingly important role in global development and we are ready to participate actively in carrying out all the initiatives put forward. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our G8 colleagues for the interest they have shown and for the work that has been done together. This has enabled us to achieve some very good results. I note also that the G8 continues to become more democratic and open, as can be seen by the fruitful participation of the leaders of Brazil, India, China, Mexico and South Africa, and by the international organisations, including the CIS and the African Union, in our work together.

Furthermore, our discussions took into account recommendations made by two very important forums that took place in Moscow at the beginning of July the World Summit of Religious Leaders and the International Forum of Non-Governmental Organisations, the Civil G8 2006. These two forums were organised on the Russian presidencys initiative. The summits discussions resulted in the substantial outcome of a whole range of agreements that are reflected in the corresponding documents.

First, we have worked out a common approach to ensuring global energy security. Our joint strategy is based on the common understanding that humanity shares a common energy future and that we all bear collective responsibility for this future. The decisions taken will enable us to ensure long-term improvement to the global energy security system. What is important is that practically all aspects are covered making energy infrastructure more reliable, diversifying production and supply, and developing energy saving technology and alternative energy sources. This will also enable us to make energy markets more transparent and predictable and give them a foundation that takes into account the interests of all the participants in the global energy chain.

I am convinced that these measures will lead to the formation of a stable and favourable trade and investment environment in the global energy sector. I think that the fact that we have succeeded in agreeing on a formula for the development of nuclear energy that has been accepted by everyone is also one of the summits indisputable achievements. Moreover, we have also held in-depth discussions on assistance measures for countries that are vulnerable in energy terms. Of course, there are no simple solutions in this area and a lot more time and effort are still required from all of us to resolve effectively the energy problems in the developing countries and the poorest countries.

Environmental protection and reducing the effects of climate change are also important aspects of global energy security. In this respect I note the G8s readiness to fulfil all previous environmental commitments and to work out new, effective steps to protect the environment.

One of the summits priority subjects was improving the quality of education. It is absolutely clear that knowledge is the main growth resource in the modern world, fuelling not just the development of national economies but social progress in general. Education forms the foundation for the development of all modern culture in the world. Ultimately, the kind of world we live in tomorrow and its degree of growth capacity, tolerance and stability will depend on the kind of education people receive.

But education is increasingly lagging behind the demands of the global economy. To address this issue we have agreed on coordinated and substantial work in three key areas:

First, we need to adapt education to the demands of the innovation-based economy, which not by chance is called the knowledge economy. The possibility for life-long learning and training is of key importance in this respect.

Second, we need to step up efforts to implement the Education for All Programme. If we do not ensure universal basic literacy, especially in the developing countries, we will not be able to achieve scientific and technical progress in the world.

Third, education programmes are a key to resolving the serious problems arising from the expansion of migratory flows in the world. Education is an effective tool in helping immigrants adapt to their new countries and in preventing conflicts that arise from ignorance and lack of tolerance for the traditions and values of other peoples.

The formation of a new global labour market requires us to address urgently the issue of mutual recognition of professional qualifications, ensure access to world information markets, increase mobility of teachers and students and develop contacts between education organisations. These measures should all make the education systems in different countries more open and more ready for integration.

Significant decisions were taken in the area of fighting infectious diseases. We intend to work intensively on developing international efforts to prevent and stem the spread of epidemics. These decisions carry on from earlier work in this area and set the outlines for future G8 strategy on preventing widespread diseases. It is important in this area to strengthen multilateral mechanisms for the early detection of and rapid reaction to epidemics and to provide support for the development of new means of diagnosing, preventing and treating infectious diseases.

The G8 countries have reiterated their funding commitments to the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We will also continue to finance work to fight bird flu and support measures to prevent a possible pandemic of human flu.

I am certain that by combining our efforts we can completely eradicate poliomyelitis. We will coordinate our work in this area with the World Health Organisation and the relevant international organisations.

Following on from the agreements of previous summits we examined other important international issues. They include developing world trade, assisting social and economic development in the poorest countries and fighting corruption and intellectual piracy. Statements have been adopted on all these issues.

We had an exchange of views on the issues facing Africa and our statement on this subject reflects the state of progress with the G8s fulfilment of its commitments to support Africa over the period since Gleneagles. We have also set out a blueprint for further work in this area.

We have reached agreements on issues of strategic and regional stability. We are ready to continue coordinating our work on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this respect I note that the G8 countries share a common position regarding the need to resolve the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues through exclusively peaceful and diplomatic means.

We have made notable progress in counter-terrorism. Our statement emphasises the improvement of the legal base for counter-terrorism work, measures to prevent the financing and propagandising of terrorism, and calls for resolute punishment of all involved in terrorist activity.

We have reaffirmed the unique role of the United Nations in consolidating efforts in the fight against terrorism and have set out concrete steps for making this fight more effective, including through helping to develop the counter-terrorist capacity in third countries.

The settlement of regional crises occupied an important place in our discussions. Given the flare up in the situation there, we paid particular attention to the Middle East. The main thing now is to stop the violence and the growing contradictions and prevent the region from sliding into chaos and setting off a broader conflict. What is needed now is to end the suffering of innocent people and give priority to political and diplomatic settlement methods with the United Nations playing a central mediating role.

The G8s common position on all of these issues is reflected in the final statement of the president.

Finally, the G8 leaders have welcomed the proposal of Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to hold the next summit in the Federal Republic of Germany. We now hand on the baton and wish our German friends success.

In conclusion, I would once more like to thank all our colleagues for their constructive work during the St Petersburg summit. Now it is time to begin working hard on implementing all the decisions that have been taken.

Q: (Yaroslav Alexandrovich, MTV Russia): Mr. Putin, I am sorry about the delay, I am just very nervous.

PUTIN: No problem. We have plenty of time and there is no hurry. I was also anxious as the G8 [summit] was being organized. It is only natural.

Q: The G8 decisions will affect everyone and doubtless young people as well, the same generation as the Junior G8 participants here. What can we expect?

PUTIN: You should expect only good things. One should always expect good things to happen, and then we will overcome all the difficulties we might encounter.

Q: Thank you.

Q: (Phoenix TV, China): Mr. Putin, which key issues will you discuss with President Hu Jintao? Also, many Chinese people send you their greetings and thanks. You are a real hero for us.

PUTIN: Thank you very much. This is unexpected and very nice to hear. It is always nice to hear such things when you dont expect them. Please convey my best and warmest wishes to the friendly Chinese nation. I say this in all sincerity.

We have been on exceptionally good terms with China, especially in the past years. I think that in the long years of our common history, such a level of dialogue and confidence had never been reached before. This is what we are going to discuss with President Hu Jintao. I would like to add that he has made a very important contribution to todays debate on all issues that were on the agenda.

Incidentally, I must tell you what I have already told other G8 leaders. Our work was very tough yesterday, especially the Declaration on the Middle East that issue, as well as others, caused some controversy. Todays debates were also intense, particularly on global trade, but all my counterparts agreed that it was even more productive in the broader format than exclusively within the G8. This just goes to show that you cannot effectively resolve modern development issues, far less global economic and financial issues, without such countries as India and China. We are very happy about this. I thank President Hu Jintao for accepting the invitation and coming to St. Petersburg.

Today we will talk about bilateral relations, and we will also come back to some issues on the international agenda that cause some concern. Of course we will discuss our shared position on the Middle East, on North Korea and some other issues.

QUESTION: (Oleg Osipov, RIA Novosti): Mr. Putin, my question relates to the recent events, including in Lebanon and other places, which have shown that considerable conflict potential has been amassed across the globe in the past year or two. Hundreds of people are killed every day you can see it all on TV, and everything is perfectly clear. Old conflicts seem to disappear but the problem persists and new conflicts break out. This creates an impression that the existing decision-making and conflict prevention system does not work I mean, globally. What is more, the international relations architecture seems to be staggering. I think the conclusion is unless all you watch is MTV that soon it will become dangerous for young people to go outside. Thank you.

PUTIN: We have talked about it many times, and you have repeated it time after time in broadcast and printed media: the demise of the bipolar world has not unfortunately made this planet a safer place. In those times, mankind was repeatedly on the verge of a global catastrophe. The good news is that we are not on that verge any more, like we were during the Cuban Crisis, for example. However, on the whole the world has not become safe. It has become less predictable. The entire international system had been built for decades to support the bipolar world, and right now we are still short of tools to address todays threats and challenges. In effect, the entire mankind, including the Group of Eight, my counterparts and myself, are now working on a future architecture of international relations.

Yesterday when the Middle East was under discussion it was no coincidence that the Russian delegation insisted on highlighting the role of the United Nations, because we have no other cross-functional organization like the UN. After the demise of the bipolar world, many questioned UN effectiveness, especially ahead of and during the Iraqi crisis. On this count, I can only reiterate what I have said before: I disagree. If the UN had faltered at that point, bowing to the interests of one particular country, one particular international player, no one would need it any longer. The UN is still in place because it had taken a firm stand. And we must do everything in our power to let it remain in place.

The number of smaller conflicts is rising, I agree with you on that. Unfortunately, that is true. I will not go through the full list because we know them well enough: Darfur in Africa, and elsewhere Afghanistan, Iraq, the recent tension around Iran and the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea, and so on and so forth. This is true. But the only way out we have got is to look for joint solutions.

Question: Mr. President, many African representatives thought as we were on our way to the summit that now is the worst time and no one was going to listen to Africa. So we were greatly impressed as you spent over two hours with our Civil G8 representatives. I told my colleagues: Cheer up! President Putin talked about Africa. Now you say that this work will continue, and we have had a chance to set out our position. Thank you for that.

PUTIN: As we prepared the St. Petersburg meeting, we wanted to have consistency. The baseline being that all the past decisions must be implemented, we admitted that we have not always done this in full and within the approved timeframe. However, as we again openly admitted that yesterday and earlier today, we agreed for the future to seek to honor all our past commitments.

African representatives President Mbeki and the Chairman of the African Union have talked a great deal about Africas problems and drew considerable attention to them. This included both education (especially the education of girls and women) and health services. There was a heated debate about international trade rules, an intense discussion with the president of Brazil, who is always very tough and demanding toward developed economies. I am positive that all this will promote African development greatly.

There are many problems, problems which President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair in particular take very seriously. Britain has not only developed the Gleneagles plan of action but continues to promote those ideas now very actively. Clearly, we will go on working with our African colleagues in the future.

Question (BBC Radio) (translation): Mr. President, what do you think was the main achievement of this summit? What do you think the summit has done for Russias image abroad?

PUTIN: Russias image abroad will depend on people like you. We have strived to perform our duties of G8 hosts as well as we could. We chose what we thought were key issues on the international agenda, and now we can see that we made the right choice. The main result is that we were able to find common approaches to how these problems should be solved.

One example I already mentioned yesterday is the document on energy security, which we worded in such a way as to include in its definition the security of delivery and sales, as well as the security of energy consumption and supply. We raised those issues for the first time and found our partners understanding on the need to provide the security of energy infrastructure. All of this, plus the decisions on additional efforts to fight infectious diseases, [is the main result].

It is very important for this country and the entire region that we establish two institutes in Russia: a laboratory for research on virus strains, which is very important, and an AIDS medication production center for Central Asia. This has particular importance to us because Central Asian nations are our neighbors and closest partners, especially since they are all CIS members.

The discussion on world trade was also very important for global development; Mr. ElBaradei made a useful contribution to todays energy debate; in other words, we think this was a good summit.

Question: Mr. President, first of all, I would like to thank you on behalf of all journalists here for those oilskins that we have been given because the summit seems to have been split along the sunny/rainy line. I would like to ask you this question because I specialize in America. If your relationship with President Bush which as we have seen during this summit is on a very high level can be used as a benchmark, how would you assess the Russian-U.S. relations against it? Is there a gap, and if so, how do you explain it? What efforts do you make to overcome it?

PUTIN: It is true, there is a gap. This is explained by the fact that not all the people in our countries are ready and able to look into the future. Unfortunately, there are structures and forces guided by past ideas, of the 20th, rather than 21st century, of the times of the third confrontation. Unfortunately this is true, and we often see this and encounter this.

But, as President Bush has repeatedly emphasized and I fully agree with him our relations have changed dramatically. We have not only stopped being enemies we no longer consider each other opponents. And, incidentally, the debates we had yesterday and today have shown that our positions are similar in many respects. We must simply strive to be straightforward and professional in our efforts. Moreover, while protecting our own national interests, we can always find a solution, which will generate compromise rather than confrontation.

Question: (Natalia Kirilova, St. Petersburg, independent media agency Volny Ostrov): My question relates to Russian-German relations. How do you assess the prospects of setting up a Russia-Germany TV channel discussed as far back as 2003 during the St. Petersburg dialogue? Thank you.

PUTIN: To be honest, I do not know how far they have moved forward in establishing the Russia-Germany channel. Personally, I do not quite understand what kind of a channel this could be. A state-run channel? But I know RTL is already working with a Moscow-based company, and there is a prospect for a merger that will broaden its scope. As far as I understand, part of the capital there is German. However, what is likely to happen is that it will be a private company. I will be very pleased for them if their plans become reality.

QUESTION (Alexandra Kasharnitskaya, Television Channel RUSSIA TODAY): Vladimir Vladimirovich, my first question is about North Korea. Could you give some more detail on the agreements reached on North Korea. Regarding Iran, Russia has agreed in principle to imposing political and economic sanctions if Iran fails to fulfil the resolution. Is the same thing possible with regard to North Korea? And a second question regarding the energy charter: yesterday you said that Russia agrees with the main principles of the energy charter, so what is stopping the signature from going ahead?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, it is too early to speak of sanctions with regard to Iran. I dont know, perhaps [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov said something about sanctions. We have not reached that point yet. What we would like is for the Iranian leadership to react as soon as possible to the proposal made by the six countries and for negotiations on the basis of this proposal to begin. I remember well my meeting with President of Iran Ahmadinejad, and he said to me that they would make their response within a month. A month has already gone by but the negotiations have still not begun. Now we hear that the deadline is for August. Our position is based on the hope that negotiations will begin. As for sanctions, I would not even raise the issue right now because even just raising the issue could create unfavourable conditions for beginning the negotiating process. That is to answer your first question.

Now what was your second question?


VLADIMIR PUTIN: A resolution was just adopted on North Korea and adopted unanimously whats more. President [of China] Hu Jintao told us about the results of the talks the Chinese deputy premier held in North Korea and expressed cautious optimism that the North Korean issue can be resolved through political and diplomatic means. The objective is to create conditions for establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Korean Peninsula and reach an agreement on the missile issue. We will work hard on these objectives. The matter now is how to return as soon as possible to the negotiating table.

Finally, the energy charter. First, the energy charter implies access, mutual access, to energy production and transport infrastructure. Of course, we can give our partners access to both production and transport infrastructure, but the question arises as to what they will give us access to in return. Where is their production and where is their transport infrastructure? And we are not just talking about separate pipeline systems here, but, looking at what we ourselves have, about mainline pipeline systems, which our partners simply do not have. We are not against the idea of working on these principles, but we need to know first what we will get in return.

Second, the energy sector is the heart of our economy today, and we would like our partners to understand this and to also let us into the heart of their economies. Unfortunately, the restrictions that applied under the COCOM lists have been lifted only in word and in practice we still face considerable restrictions on high-technology transfers to Russia. We would like to see at least gradual change in this area. The sooner the better.

Finally, the charter and the additional protocol still contain some completely unresolved issues. And I would advise you and European journalists here to take a closer look at what is written in the charter. If you look closely you will see that the document contains internal contradictions. Our European partners agree to the principle of working based on long-term contracts, but at the same time they insist that certain sections of pipeline transport systems could be sold and rented out. But how can we then ensure energy supplies on a long-term basis for our consumers in western Europe? We would not know in this case how to calculate the final price. We could calculate it for a year ahead, but after that we would have to start incorporating the risks into the price and the price that you pay would start to rise. Once this is clearly understood I think that the tone of negotiations on this issue will change completely.

And one last point: we do not oppose the ideas set out in the charter. Whats more, we are putting them into practice. We do open our market, our production sector, to our western partners and they give us access to their transport systems. The best example of this are the contracts between Gazprom and German partners such as BASF. I think that talks with E.ON will also end soon. We have given them access to one of our biggest deposits, have valued their assets using market methods and have taken part of their transport assets in Germany. We also have agreements now with other partners. We could take a share in assets in Central Europe in exchange for access to our deposits. Overall, I want to point out that we only have two large oil and gas companies with state participation. The rest are all private, and we have more than 20 large companies. Most of them have foreign capital and some companies, such as BP, are seeing their reserves growing in large part because the Russian government opens access to these reserves. And I think that our partners are satisfied with this joint work.

QUESTION (KOMMERSANT Newspaper): According to some western sources, it is possible that not only Hezbollah but entire countries, Syria, for example, are behind the abduction of the Israeli soldiers. Do you think that the release of the Israeli soldiers can stop this conflict, or has the situation already got out of control?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not think the situation has got out of control but nor am I certain that the release of the soldiers will end the conflict. The situation is under control, that is certain. That is about all I can say. But we very much want for the people who were abducted to be released as soon as possible and for the bloodshed to end.

QUESTION (Vyacheslav Terekhov, INTERFAX): This is an important question. Yesterday [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan said that an international stabilisation force should be deployed in Lebanon. [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair said more specifically that it is not possible in general to stop these conflicts without deploying troops and that they cannot be separated. Will Russia consider participating in such a stabilisation force if the Security Council adopts the corresponding resolution? And will this concern only Lebanon or Palestine too and the Palestinian-Israeli border also?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Russia takes part on an ongoing basis in peacekeeping operations and we will continue to take part in these kinds of operations in the future. Looking at this specific situation, what we are talking about is that the G8 has addressed a request to the UN Security Council to examine the possibility of sending international forces to Lebanon in order to maintain peace. But only the UN Security Council can take this decision in accordance with international law and the procedures that exist for this kind of case in the UN Charter. Aside from anything else this would also require the agreement of all the parties involved in the conflict. I hope that the Security Council will carry out this work and take a coordinated decision. At this point there has not yet been any decision to send in international forces. We will decide whether to take part or not once a decision has been made.

QUESTION (EL PAIS newspaper, Spain): Good afternoon, I am from Spain. You said yesterday that there was an intensive discussion on the Middle East. Could you explain what made this discussion so intensive? And second, what impact do you hope the global energy security programme will have on oil markets?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The situation in the world is already having an impact on global energy markets, including for oil. How much does a barrel cost now? It already costs more than $70, and if things continue this way it will soon cost $80. The greater the instability in the regions where large amounts of energy resources are produced, the higher the prices. This has always been the case and always will be, and we are seeing an example of this with the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

As for our discussions yesterday on the Middle East, as I already explained, the statement on this issue had not been prepared by our experts earlier and we had to react to events as they happened. We were not able to hand this work on and place it in the hands of our experts, and so we had to invite our experts to join us and work together with them directly on the statement, and of course there were different approaches to some of the issues involved.

For example, your colleague asked just now about a possible peacekeeping force. One of the proposals for the wording on this point was prepare a plan or propose that the Security Council send a contingent. It is my view that we cannot propose that the Security Council do something, but can address it a request to examine this issue.

In another example, referring to the two previous Security Council resolutions on Lebanon concerning the militias and so on, one of our colleagues proposed wording that, in our view, substituted itself for the Security Council. Our position is that we cannot do this because it is not within our powers, and we therefore approved wording that also received the approval today of the United Nations Secretary General. In principle he agreed with us. This really was pure drafting work that we were carrying out.

But what I want to stress is that we were not coming from completely different or diametrically opposed points of view. We all shared absolutely the same goals. The question was simply one of finding the right wording for our proposals and ensuring that everything was in accordance with international law.

QUESTION (CNN television): Vladimir Vladimirovich, continuing with the subject of the international force in Lebanon, your position is very important given that Russia is a member of the UN Security Council. First of all, I would like to ask what discussions took place on how this contingent should look, how big it should be, where it should be located, what functions it would have, military functions or purely observer functions? What were the discussions between the G8 leaders today on this point? And what is Russias position, what is Russias vision as a member of the Security Council? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Its too early to say yet. I cannot answer your question at this point because I do not have sufficient grounds for doing so as yet. Answering your colleagues question, I said that we mentioned the two Security Council resolutions on Lebanon, and at the end, one drafting proposal was that we propose an implementation plan for these Security Council resolutions. But the G8 cannot propose such plans for implementing Security Council resolutions. This is why we changed the wording slightly and wrote instead that we address an urgent request to the Security Council to draw up such a plan. And we will do everything we can to facilitate its implementation. That is the proper way of putting it.

The same concerns the international force. When the Security Council begins its work, we will, of course, participate most actively, and then it will become clear just what is being proposed.

As I said, we still have to obtain the agreement of the parties involved in the conflict, and the kind of force and the functions it will have will also depend a lot on this. We will have to conduct a dialogue with them. But this dialogue is essential if we want any peacekeeping mission to be successful.

QUESTION (Mikhail Petrov, ITAR-TASS): Vladimir Vladimirovich, you have spoken about the summits achievements, but it would also be interesting to know if there are, in your views, any issues on which not as much progress was made as you had hoped. Also, talking about the results of the summit, the final documents do not contain many references to Iraq, despite the fact that the situation there is far from normal. Can you comment?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I cannot say that we feel any disappointment regarding any of the issues that we discussed. We reached all the goals we set. There was not a single issue on which we were unable to agree.

As for Iraq, Iraq and the problems there did come up, and our discussions and the documents reflect this. But understandably, everything was eclipsed by the tragic events in the Middle East involving Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Israel. We were therefore forced to react to the events that were unfolding. This is the only explanation and nothing more than this.

QUESTION (POST SCRIPTUM PROGRAMME, TV-CENTRE): My question is more about the atmosphere the summit took place in, the attitude towards Russia. As far as I know, when [U.S. President] George Bush arrived, he met with representatives of non-governmental organisations. Earlier, two aides to the U.S. secretary of state attended the opposition forum A Different Russia. What is your view of these facts?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I also met with representatives of non-governmental organisations. I met with them in Moscow and he met with them in St Petersburg. This is good. The more we work with civil society the better.

As for the participation of representatives of certain foreign governments in the activities of our opposition groups, I do not think this is entirely proper, but nor do I see any problem with it. On the contrary, it is another sign that democratic processes are developing normally here and that we have a functioning opposition. As is the role of the opposition, it criticises the authorities. There is always reason to criticise the authorities. If some countries representatives think it fitting and proper to support our oppositions efforts in this area this is their choice and I see no problem here. This is often common diplomatic practice for some countries. I do not see any problem, anything that could harm us in the opposition forums work. On the contrary, if the opposition says some constructive things, it is really our duty, in my view, to take these opinions into account.

Im simply not going to be able to answer all your questions and President of China Hu Jintao is waiting for me, so lets make this the last question.

QUESTION (Natalya Tverdokhlebova, Internet publication ITALY NEWS): My question is as follows: the Russian character is such that we never do things by halves. In general, we always put our all into everything we do. But if we do something not out of duty but out of friendship, our effort goes up ten-fold and the effect is simply fantastic. Could you please say what progress you have made in your personal relations with your colleagues, because we know that this can have a big impact on politics? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: These kinds of meetings strengthen personal contacts and personal relationships. Each meeting of this kind helps. This is the case in life in general, in any work, and in politics too. You get more information about each other. In one way or another people open up during formal and informal contacts and you begin to get a better understanding of what motivates their behaviour and this makes for more accurate feedback and reactions. This is always beneficial.

I am happy with the businesslike and also very friendly atmosphere that surrounded all of our work. On your behalf and on behalf of my colleagues I would like to thank the residents of St Petersburg and Strelna for being so understanding about our descent on their city and on Strelna.

I would also like to say a separate thanks to the press. We have tried to make your working conditions as comfortable as possible not in order to buy you so that you will write good things about us, but simply because we know that its not just politicians but also journalists who have a tough job, and that your job is maybe even tougher than ours because you have to work in difficult and complicated circumstances and under a lot of stress. I hope that you have enjoyed yourselves here and we will be happy to see you again in Russia and in St Petersburg as often as possible.

I wish you all the best.

Thank you very much for the attention you have given to our work together.