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Official website of the President of Russia

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Statement for the Press and News Conference on the Results of the Russian-Spanish Negotiations

June 14, 2000, Madrid

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Mr President of the Government, ladies and gentlemen. First of all I would like on my own behalf and on behalf of all the members of our delegation and the Russian leadership to extend cordial thanks to the King of Spain and the President of the Government for the invitation to visit your country.

My colleague has made my task easy by practically telling you everything. This is not fair because he has hardly left anything for me to say. But I think I should tell you that on our way here our experts on Spain – and we have many good experts – were telling me: “It will probably be a difficult trip because your opposite number in negotiations, the President of the Spanish Government, is a man who does not care much about appearances and the public aspects of his activities. He is a pragmatic and a somewhat dry man, and it may be difficult to conduct a dialogue with him.”

I must tell you that, to my joy, these expectations have not come true. And perhaps for the first time I can say that our experts have made a mistake. You may have noticed that we have even changed the format of our talks renouncing the so-called enlarged format. We allowed more time for experts, ministers and members of parliament to work with each other while devoting all of our time to practically one-on-one meetings.

I would also like to thank the King of Spain for a very frank and very good business atmosphere that prevailed yesterday, and thanks are due for this also to the President of the Government. When we visited the King after the reception yesterday it was in effect an extension of our work schedule because the meeting was attended by many businessmen. I personally managed to talk with many of them. And when we met Spanish business representatives this morning it was, in fact, a continuation of the dialogue that began yesterday.

We have indeed discussed a very wide range of issues of interest to Spain and Russia. These problems had to do with bilateral relations, coordination of our efforts at international organisations, assessment of the situation in Europe and elsewhere. I had a chance to brief our Spanish colleagues on the internal political situation in Russia and on the country’s economic development and to present our vision of ways to broaden our cooperation.

We had a very interesting conversation today at the Spanish Parliament. At the initiative of the President of the Parliament – and I am sure it will be backed by our State Duma – it was decided to set up a joint group of State Duma deputies and Spanish MPs for regular meetings and exchange of opinions on issues of interest to both sides. It is heartening to note signs of substantial progress in coordinating our efforts both in the law enforcement field, in the fight against crime – and we will welcome and will prepare the visit of the Spanish Interior Minister to Russia – as well as in the military sphere. We look forward to a visit by the Chief of the General Staff of the Spanish Army.

Mr. President of the Government has already told you that shortly before flying to Madrid I signed a law on avoiding double taxation passed by the State Duma. Our experts have agreed to intensify joint efforts to prepare accords on investment protection. In my opinion, these are important conceptual documents which, without any doubt, will provide a good basis for the development of bilateral economic relations.

I am happy to say that we have agreed with the President of the Government not only to renew and intensify the work of the bilateral intergovernmental commission. The next meeting of the commission will take place in Moscow this autumn and the Russian co-chairman of the commission will be Vice Premier Mr Khristenko.

It is also heartening to note – and I would like to stress it – that we have agreed with the President of the Government to have informal working contacts and have regular meetings at least once a year either in Spain or in Russia. We will be in touch using modern communications. I think such a regime of constant working communication will not only contribute to greater trust, but will help to promote the concrete projects which the President of the Government has already mentioned.

I am referring among other things to some hi-tech projects, cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized busnesses, in the food industry, agriculture, railway transport and aviation.

I would like to end my introductory remarks there. But before we take your questions I would like to note that our visit to Spain is not accidental. We recognize a significant increase of Spain’s role and weight in international affairs not only in the Mediterranean, but also in world and European affairs. So we wanted to discuss with the Spanish leaders the issues that are of interest not only to Russia and Spain bilaterally, but to the whole of Europe and, without exaggeration, the whole of humankind.

These include international security, arms reduction and the entire range of related issues. I would like to note that our positions on these issues are either similar or very close. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Spanish leaders, the King of Spain and the President of the Government for a very frank dialogue.

Thank you for your attention.

Question: Prosecutor Ustinov. Why was he not available?

Vladimir Putin: Let me remind you that under Russian laws the Prosecutor General’s Office is not built into the Presidential structures or into the institutions of the Government. It is an absolutely independent branch. In many countries, as we all know, the Prosecutor General’s Office is part of the Ministry of Justice or some other body subordinate to the President or the Prime Minister. In Russia, let me stress, the Prosecutor General’s Office is an absolutely independent branch. The Prosecutor General does not report to the President or the Prime Minister.

From the legal point of view the Prosecutor General and the investigator make decisions independently complying only with the law. In that sense, I have neither the possibility nor the right to influence the decisions of the Prosecutor General’s Office and of course I do not keep track of the whereabouts of the Prosecutor General at any given time.

To tell you honestly, I am of course worried about what is happening. Yesterday night, after the official functions here were over, I tried to locate the Prosecutor General by telephone. He was out of Moscow. I don’t know where he was and where he is now. Our task here is of a totally different nature. But I can repeat what I said today at a meeting with businessmen: of course it will not pass unnoticed and I will get the full report on what is happening there.

As far as I know, claims have been laid to Mr Gusinsky not as a media man but as a businessman. By the way, because he has dual citizenship – Russian and Israeli – he is not a tax resident of Russia and he spends most or half of his time outside the Russian Federation. This gives him a legal opportunity not to pay taxes. He is a tax resident of the nearby territory of Gibraltar. This sphere of his activities involves huge loans – he borrowed more than a billion dollars recently, according to our media reports. And the credits are often not repaid. The latest credit in the amount of 200 million dollars has not been repaid and had to be repaid by Gazprom, because Gazprom was the underwriter of the loan.

And while on this subject, why is Gazprom engaged in these activities? Where are the representatives of the state who work at Gazprom? That needs to be looked into as well. But that is another question and it has nothing to do with the criminal and legal aspect. I could understand it if this matter had been taken up. But when the Prosecutor General’s Office is sorting out the company Russian Video… this case has been dragging on for years. I don’t think it is such a big deal. I stress, I will look into what is happening there. If the law has indeed been broken, there exists a legal way for resolving such disputes. They are to be resolved not by the Presidential Administration or by the Government Office, but in a law court. You should refer to the law courts. Thank you.

Question: Could you speak in more detail about the latest Russian proposals on international security?

Vladimir Putin: When I said that our positions on security matters are either similar or very close to each other, I had in mind the problems connected with anti-missile defense. Both Spain and Russia are worried about a possible upset of the balance of forces and loss of trust. Russia recently came up with a proposal on European security. As far as we understand, these are very complicated issues. They call for preliminary work with European leaders and with the American partners and with NATO. Before leaving Moscow yesterday I met with the United States Secretary of Defence Mr. Cohen, and we discussed that topic too. Neither the American nor the European partners seem to have objections. This topic is in the process of discussion and study. I think there is a lot of common ground. And in our opinion we should not chase blind alleys, we should choose routes that would lead us to a common decision for the sake of the security of humankind. Such routes exist.


In general Russia is not demanding anything and is not forcing anything on anyone. All Russia can do is to propose and our partners may agree or disagree or suggest some adjustments. I have spoken about it more than once. We proceed on the basis that Russia is a European country. It is a Eurasian state in terms of territory, but in terms of culture and mentality Russia is of course a European country. Hardly anyone in Russia can imagine European culture without Velazques, just like hardly anyone in Europe can imagine European culture without Tchaikovsky. So we have always considered our relations with the European community to be a foreign policy priority.

We are mindful of the fact that Russia has many opportunities. But we take a realistic view of the situation and believe that Russia has yet to do a great deal to be attractive for our European partners. We hope that the leaders of European countries and the leaders of the European Communities Commission are aware of this. We feel this mutual understanding and we are working together. I am sure this work will be effective.

Question: How big a part in your discussions was devoted to the fight against international terrorism? Do you see the two countries cooperating in this field? And a question of clarification: there is a considerable body of opinion in the Spanish press to the effect that Russia should take political steps to settle the situation in the Chechen Republic. What can you say about it?

Vladimir Putin: The fact that we have agreed that the Spanish Interior Minister will come to Russia for a visit soon is already a sign that the problem of international crime, drug trafficking and terrorism was discussed. Of course, it was discussed. I expressed concern to my Spanish colleagues with what we see happening in some countries. In our opinion, we witness the emergence of a kind of terrorist international rooted in religious fanaticism. It is equally dangerous for Russia and for Europe.

I got the impression that our negotiating partners understand it, and that applies to our partners here in Spain. It is a real scourge: terrorism, banditry, drug trafficking and slave trade affect many countries of the world and Europe. Of course, we should pool our efforts and we intend to do so.

As for the Chechen problem you have mentioned, let me stress again what I told the Spanish Parliament today, we believe that we are confronting not just separatists and nationalists, we are confronting terrorists, because nationalists and separatists do not come to a neighbouring republic, as happened with Dagestan, under the slogan of Chechen independence. They came and attacked Dagestan under a different slogan, causing more territories to break away from Russia. This has nothing in common with the independence of Chechnya.

As for the use of political means, I think what happened in Russia the day before yesterday will not pass unnoticed. The man appointed as the head of the Chechen Republic is a Chechen. We believe that the Chechens can sort out their internal political problems. And he is not just a Chechen, he is the spiritual leader of the Chechen Republic, the Mufti of Chechnya. He is not just a spiritual leader and not just a Chechen, but a man who fought against the federal forces during the first Chechen war and was a supporter of General Dudayev, the first Chechen President.

All this indicates that political processes are in full swing. Only those who do not want to see do not see it. We believe we are moving in the right direction and we are proceeding cautiously. Once the social sphere and the economy of the republic are restored and once the issue of terrorism is closed, once terrorism is destroyed in Russia and in the Chechen Republic in particular, we will of course move on to full-scale political procedures, most notably local elections.


Question: How relevant to Russia may be the Spanish experience in the relations between different levels of government?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, these problems were discussed at the Spanish Parliament today. The Spanish colleagues know that I have introduced at the State Duma draft laws to reorganize the government system and redistribute powers between the federal centre and the regions. We told our Spanish colleagues about our motives and about the discussion in Russian society on this issue. We have confirmed that our aim is not to dismantle the democratic institutions in the Russian state and society, but to create a more coherent and more effective balance of powers in the country. On the other hand, we seek to get rid of the obvious contradictions between different government bodies, violations of the principle of the delimitation of powers when the heads of regions, being quintessential representatives of the executive branch, are at the same time members of the upper house of parliament who pass laws which they themselves then implement.

The confusion of the two branches of power prompts the need to resolve this situation somehow. But we do not want to make the opposite mistake: we do not want to enfeeble the regional level of government. We do not want to diminish its role and significance. We want the regional governments to have not only duties, but also powers. And in that sense the Spanish experience is very interesting to us because here regional governments have many powers that enable them to fulfill their obligations. I think if and when our members of Parliament meet soon, that could be the topic of discussion.

Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich, you have several European trips lined up. Is there an inner logic to it? Is it about a new image of your country and to some extent a promotional job, or is it about a new partnership in the international arena?


Vladimir Putin: I am convinced that I personally, the Government and all the regional leaders should be concerned above all with the country’s internal problems. We should travel less and work locally more.


[We live in a country] which is an inalienable part of Europe and claims to be called a European power. That is why we believe it is important to explain our positions. Especially since both Spain and Russia have just emerged from elections and are experiencing a measure of internal political stabilisation. In that respect Spain, we believe, is a reliable and long-term partner. Spain is a member of the united Europe. I have already said that the place of Spain in the European economy and political life is constantly growing. And this explains why we are here today. This is not to mention the traditional friendly ties and very good relations between the Spanish and Russian peoples.

Tomorrow’s meetings in the Federal Republic of Germany are also logical and I don’t think any further comment is needed. Germany is our main economic partner. We expect a lot from that trip. You may have noticed that elements of trust are developing between Spain and Russia, and that trust is a good impetus for business people. We haven’t announced it yet, but a customs agreement will be signed right now. These are concrete measures which do not just facilitate business initiatives but lay down the legal framework for successful relations between Russia and its partners. We expect as much from our visit to the Federal Republic of Germany. So, what we do we do not do on an impulse, but as a result of preliminary analysis and with a certain purpose in mind.

Thank you.

June 14, 2000, Madrid