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Address and answers to questions at the news conference following the Second Russian-Ukrainian Interregional Economic Forum

October 18, 2011, Donetsk, Ukraine

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,

The second forum has completed its work and I must admit that when Mr Yanukovich and I first came up with this idea I did not expect its results to be so impressive. Why? Because all the positive achievements in the economy over those past years were centred on our regions, which received the freedom they needed to make decisions and made use of the energy that had been building up in recent years. Therefore, I would like to sincerely thank the Forum’s organisers for the meticulous preparation, to thank our colleagues, both Ukrainian and Russian, who contributed to the Forum’s organisation, the governors, the leaders of our regions, because they participated in those efforts, and, of course, to express my appreciation to my colleague, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych for everything that was done. I want to emphasise once again that this is an absolute and clear policy priority for us and an overwhelming success of regional cooperation, which is manifested in figures.

Let me remind you that as I said earlier our trade this year will most probably exceed $50 billion despite the difficulties that exist in the Ukrainian and Russian economies and despite the financial crisis. Importantly, 90% of trade is generated in the regions, which means this figure is due to the intensification of interregional cooperation, and that is invaluable.

Naturally, we will discuss very important major issues and, as Mr Yanukovych said, we hope to hold a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission to draw a line under various problems and to plan for the future – that is the Presidential format, as they say. But the events taking place in Donetsk have an absolutely human dimension, which my colleague just spoke about. Indeed, Russia and Ukraine have signed over 300 agreements and these agreements are filled with real content; in fact, they create the fabric of economic cooperation between our two nations and our businesses, both large and small.

We must work harder to promote modern projects, by which I mean technoparks, as we discussed earlier. We have seen an interesting exhibition just now. Clearly, the potential for interregional cooperation is enormous. Mr President and I have looked around the exhibition. For example, there are some companies that have half of their staff in Russia and half over here, their revenues are divided between the two states, and they create jobs – thousands of jobs – both here and in Russia. Well, what more could you wish for? This partnership is the best proof of the need to maintain friendly ties and develop strategic relations between our states.

We must also think about the future, how we will manage in view of various integration projects. Mr Yanukovych and I will continue this conversation because I think we need to look at the long term: what will happen as a result of our collaboration with the European Union or as a result of the decision adopted by Russia and its other partners to establish the Eurasian Economic Community and the Customs Union.

We witnessed the signing of very important documents today. The meaning of these agreements is evident: they make it easy for all people living in our two states to communicate normally, to visit each other at home without the burden of excessive bureaucratic procedures at the border. Mr President and I discussed these measures when we participated in the border events and had an opportunity to talk with the people living in those areas. In general, people care very little about the agreements we sign and the figures we cite. They want to see tangible benefits for themselves. The simplification of immigration and customs procedures can now be considered an asset in Russian-Ukrainian cooperation of the recent period and millions of our citizens will feel its benefits.

Next year we are planning to meet in Nizhny Novgorod for the third forum. I hope that it will be interesting and useful as well, and will have a tangible human dimension that we talked about earlier. There are different kinds of human dimensions but it is very gratifying that our meeting is taking place on the eve of a football match, which we discussed several times today. Tomorrow we will wish our players good luck and support our own teams. A lot of fans are coming over. I had a look at Twitter, and there are comments from Russian followers, who write: ‘There’s a summit going on here, I saw presidential planes of @MedvedevRussia and Yanukovych, the airport is a dump, to put it mildly, but on the whole it’s great here’. Well, what do you want? That’s the human dimension for you, and you’re going to get a new modern airport by the way, the design of which we have just been shown. So we are happy for our Ukrainian friends.

Question: Since you have fully covered the development of interregional cooperation, I would like to inquire about less obvious matters.

As you know, Ukraine is trying to revise its gas agreements with Russia. Yulia Tymoshenko was recently sentenced for violations in its conclusion. In this context, will the price of gas change and will a gas consortium between Gazprom and Naftagaz be established on the basis of the Ukrainian gas transmission network? We have not been able to get an answer to this question from Mr Miller and Mr Boyko.

Dmitry Medvedev: Don’t expect to get it. They are disciplined guys. How can they say anything before the presidents make an announcement?

I would like to say that I fully agree with Mr Yanukovych: every country must perform its contacts properly and accurately. Pacta sunt servanda, as lawyers like to say, agreements must be performed and performed properly until they are cancelled by a new agreement. That is what we proceed from. We have a valid contractual basis with our Ukrainian partners, whether it is perfect or imperfect but it exists and it must be implemented. Can this base be changed? Of course, it can if the parties agree and if they believe that it will bring them mutual benefits. That is precisely the job for the two esteemed gentlemen you mentioned earlier and who would not answer reporters' questions. I hope that they will be able to find forms of cooperation that will be beneficial, transparent and legally correct for both Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

They have received the instructions to design a modern and mutually beneficial gas cooperation scheme, focused on the future for years ahead. I hope they will be successful in tackling this challenge. As soon as they achieve a result, we will have a reason to gather everyone together and announce it officially. And if necessary, you can attend the signing of the documents. That's all.

Question: Mr Medvedev, we would be grateful if you agree to comment on the Yulia Tymoshenko case.

Dmitry Medvedev: First I would like to answer questions on integration. You know, I don’t like the suggestion that the crisis will push us towards integration. I think this step is based on national interests, as the President of Ukraine said, and is not taken because of the crisis, be it an economic crisis or a small political storm between Ukraine and the European Union or someone else. It should be dictated by national interests and sober calculations. I think that’s the main thing.

Incidentally, our European Union partners, whom Mr Yanukovych has mentioned, are worried about gas and some other things but it seems to me they should worry about their own stability above all. We read the news every morning and wonder if they have reached an agreement or not, and if the markets are going to start crashing again. We must all have a sense of responsibility today, including our European partners, who are responsible not only for the EU economy, but also for the state of the global economy. I am planning to talk about this with our partners at the G20 summit, which will be held in France in the near future.

So, I would like to reiterate regarding the Customs Union: we're talking about it but our position was never that we had to reach agreement by a certain deadline, otherwise everything falls through. The more I observe the political playing field, the more I hear our Ukrainian colleagues, senior officials sometimes say, “Joining the Customs Union is out of the question for us.” It would be better if it was not out of the question for them but nevertheless, we will see what these talks lead to. We are always open to discuss any issue with our Ukrainian partners, but at the same time, and I have told so Mr President, there can be possibility of joining the Customs Union, just as the EU or any other union, on special terms. When it comes to integration, the accession must be fully-fledged, all the documents must be signed and obligations adopted in full; it cannot work any other way. But we are always ready to continue this dialogue, Mr President and I are engaged in this conversation both here and in Russia – the last time we met was in Zavidovo and we talked about this matter.

Now, regarding trials, including the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. You know, when I was a student at university I was taught not to comment on court decisions prior to their entry into force, whether they are Russian or foreign. Moreover, I proceed from the recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty in respect of all decisions taken by the Ukrainian authorities, including the judicial authorities, bearing in mind the courts’ independence.

However, if you ask me to comment on this decision as President, I can tell you the following. I would like to see the decisions adopted by Ukrainian courts fully comply with Ukrainian legislation. I want to see verdicts untainted by political or anti-Russian motives – that is particularly important to me as President of the Russian Federation – and to see that court decisions do not put in question international obligations, whether they are based on public law or international private law. I am referring to contracts between companies, as Mr President and have discussed and answered questions that were asked earlier regarding the current agreement between the two companies, the Russian and Ukrainian.

That is in brief my attitude to the trial, given the understanding that this is an internal affair of Ukraine.

October 18, 2011, Donetsk, Ukraine