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Russia
President Vladimir Putin
Photo Op with United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair
Moscow, Russia
October 4, 2001

Good afternoon, esteemed ladies and gentlemen.

We would like briefly to inform you of the results of our meeting. But primarily I want once more to thank Mr. Prime Minister for his so promptly responding to the invitation to come to Moscow in order to exchange views on the situation that has now developed in the world.

We look on today's consultations as a natural continuation of our contacts with the United States, with the EU, with all European nations, with the countries of the Central Asian Region, as a definition of the positions of all those who have taken a firm decision to counteract international terrorism.

That we manage to meet so promptly and to agree our stands once more underlines the high level of relations that has recently been established between Great Britain and the Russian Federation.

We have been closely following the recent developments in Great Britain, the position which the British Prime Minister has taken, and this evokes respect and, without a doubt, will find support on the part of Russia.

Of course, we could not fail to touch on questions of a bilateral character. We will yet continue to exchange views both on questions of economic partnership and on cooperation in all other areas. But both what we have already talked about now, and in what spirit all this took place gives me the grounds to declare that the level of relations established between Russia and Great Britain will help solve the most acute problems with which mankind is faced today - the issues of combating terrorism.

QUESTION: Mr. President, at the previous meeting with the British premier in St. Petersburg you spoke much of the threat of Islamic terrorism. Perhaps you think the West scorned, did not take that threat seriously? Can Russia make an independent, its special contribution to dealing with the current state of affairs - I mean the removal of Osama bin Laden?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Indeed, you have recalled the things about which Mr. Prime Minister and I talked back then, during our first meeting in Petersburg. I do not think that Western leaders responded with indifference or did not attach significance to what I was saying. Of course, probably there's always the wish to think that a trouble that has come to your neighbor will go past you. And one is reluctant to think that this threat bears a global character, yet that's exactly what I was saying, you're right. But least of all can this reproach be leveled at the British Prime Minister.

I am not saying this because the British Prime Minister is my personal guest here today, but because this is really so. For it was precisely he and, say, FRG Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who were the European leaders that, despite the fact that the Western public was not so favorably disposed toward Russia as it is now, took the lead in building the relations that have become established between Russia and the Western world today. Thanks not just to the stand of these leaders, but first and foremost to the stand of these leaders at that period of time, the West today has obtained in Russia a reliable partner in the struggle against international terrorism.

Besides, against the background of what I hope is but a temporary recession in the Western economy (we are not inclined to exaggerate anything with regard to our possibilities, but still, considering the growth of Russia's economy), we are ready to make and we are making our contribution also to bilateral economic relations, including not in the last place - to the establishment of a stable supply of energy resources to Europe.

As far as the direct contribution of Russia to the common efforts against terrorism is concerned, I already stated our approach and our contribution to these joint efforts on Russian television three days ago. This may lead also to the neutralization of the most odious international terrorists. We do not rule that out. And as I said, we are ready for the expansion of our cooperation on other issues, in addition to those that I declared publicly, but that, of course, will depend on the level and character of the relationship with our partners. Thank you.

QUESTION: My question is slightly complicated. Please say how do you perceive the fighting efficiency of the antiterrorist coalition as a whole? Won't combat actions, which are quite likely and of which there is talk, lead to even greater suffering for the Afghan people and won't this tragedy spill over into Afghanistan's neighbor countries?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, will the actions of the antiterrorist coalition be effective? This we will be able to determine and see only after these actions have become a reality, and then we'll be able to understand whether they are effective or not. But what I absolutely do not doubt is, they can be effective. The main condition here is the combining of the efforts of many countries and a sincere desire for joint effective work.

As to the suffering of the civilian population, which we may encounter during the military operations, we, of course, cannot fail to bear those problems in mind. But in this case I'd pay attention to several circumstances. The first circumstance: the Afghan people is already suffering under the oppression of terrorism and fundamentalism, under which it is due to the regime that has emerged in Afghanistan over the last few years. And it is our principal task to rid the Afghan people of this suffering. It is clear that the terrorists have made the Afghan people a hostage to their aims. And those engaged in the military actions will have to do everything (I do not doubt for a second that everything will be done) to avoid casualties among the civilian population.

But if such casualties do occur, the blame for that must under no circumstances be put upon those who will plan and conduct these operations. The blame must be put upon the terrorists who have made the civilian population a hostage to their objectives. I agree, of course, with the Prime Minister that we ought to do everything to see to the social rehabilitation of the population and to the rehabilitation of the territories, to help Afghanistan, the Afghan people. To render assistance of a humanitarian character in the most general meaning of the word.

QUESTION: I would like to ask the President what is the latest news about today's air crash. Russia is convinced that this was not a terrorist act?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Only specialists can draw final conclusions about the causes of the tragedy after a careful investigation and laboratory studies of the remnants of the plane. Our rescue services responded very promptly. Literally a few minutes after we had received information about the tragedy, aircraft and ships were sent to the scene. Work is now going on there. The collection of information, the gathering of evidence for final conclusions. Until this done - any statements on this topic are premature and only a hindrance.

As you know, by my order a special commission of inquiry into the causes of the crash has been set up led by Secretary of the Russian Security Council Vladimir Rushailo. This commission consists of specialists from various ministries and agencies. They are to draw final conclusions about the causes of the tragedy.

QUESTION: My question is to both Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. President. How do you assess Russian-British relations today? Have they become different, in your opinion, over the last twelve to eighteen months? What are the most important gains of the last few days and the last few hours? And, if it's not a secret, you have finished work now or are going to communicate a little more?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I've already spoken on this topic and it only remains for me to repeat once more that the construction of relations between Russia and Great Britain has a long prehistory, but over the recent period it was the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, who initiated the imparting to these relations of a new quality. And that was in the conditions when, I repeat, Western public opinion was not so favorable toward Russia. We remember that. We know that it was he who along with the FRG Chancellor laid the first little stones into the foundation of our relations with the West. Today we understand that those were far-sighted, correct steps.

Of course, much has changed during this time. Our relations have become stronger and acquired a steady character. And this shows itself not only in the areas of security and international relations, but also in the economic field. We are very satisfied with this, but, of course, this is not the limit. We intend to develop our relations further.

We are not ending our today's meeting with this, the exchange of information, exchange of opinions. We are not ending the consultations. We'll continue. After the press conference, Mr. Prime Minister has kindly agreed, we will go to my place now and at supper continue our talk.

QUESTION: Vladimir Vladimirovich, please, one more question about the plane. There are reports that the plane has been downed by a Ukrainian missile. Have you comment?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: According to the information received by us from our Ukrainian partners, training exercises were indeed being held in the area adjoining that territory.

But, in the first place, all the necessary services had been notified in advance. In the second place, the weapons used during these exercises could not by their characteristics have reached the aircraft corridors that run in this area in which our aircraft, the TU-154 plane, was flying.

Our servicemen did not take part in these exercises, but we had observers there. So today, as of now, all that I told you is based on the information from the Ukrainian partners. We have no reason not to trust them. But, of course, under the auspices of the Defense Ministry, and the Russian Defense Minister has already had a talk with the Ukrainian Defense Minister on this topic, under the auspices of these ministries the details will be specified, including details of a technical character. Here there are no problems in obtaining this information considering, I repeat, that our observers were there.

Therefore I would here ask you not to fan anything. All that is there on this question will be investigated and in the end also submitted to the public.

Thank you very much.

END


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© Publication of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.