Wed. May 18th, 2022

17:50

Following Russian-German talks, Vladimir Putin and Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz made statements for the press and answered journalists’ questions.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Federal Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Kremlin.

Mr Scholz is visiting Russia for the first time as head of the German government. However, during his tenure as the First Mayor of Hamburg, he, in particular, largely contributed to the development of sister city partnership with St Petersburg. This year in fact marks the 65th anniversary of those ties.

During today’s talks, which took place in a business-like atmosphere, we substantively and thoroughly discussed various aspects of bilateral relations and prospects for their development. We also focused on the most pressing items on the international agenda.

I have mentioned more than once that Germany is one of Russia’s key partners. We have always strived to strengthen interaction between our states.

We have the impression that the Federal Chancellor, too, is interested in further pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia.

This applies primarily to economic ties, which are as intensive as ever. Germany is Russia’s second biggest foreign trading partner after China. Despite the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic and volatility in global markets, by the end of 2021, mutual trade grew by 36 percent and reached almost US$57 billion. German investment in the Russian economy exceeds US$21 billion, while Russian investment in Germany amounts to US$10 billion. About 4,000 companies co-owned by German investors are operating in Russia.

We regularly meet with the management of major German companies. I can say that these meetings will certainly continue; they are extremely important for taking into account our German partners’ opinion, in order to create a suitable atmosphere, a business atmosphere in the Russian market. This is very useful for us because entrepreneurs often make constructive proposals for improving the general business and investment climate in Russia. We heed many of these proposals, develop them and put them into practice.

Energy is an important part of bilateral economic cooperation. As early as the 1970s our countries successfully implemented their landmark gas-for-pipes project. Since then, Russia has reliably supplied gas to Germany and other European countries.

Today, Russia provides over a third of Germany’s energy needs – both oil (34 percent) and natural gas (35 or even 35.4 percent). In 2021, Germany received 50.7 billion cubic metres of Russian gas.

I would like to note that even during the high exchange quotes for gas and the shortage in Europe, we have continued to deliver fuel to German customers for the prices in our long-term contracts.

As you know, the national regulator of the Federal Republic is charged with certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which has technically been complete since last December. This is one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects. It is designed to substantially enhance energy security in Europe and facilitate the resolution of pan-European economic and environmental goals. As I have said on many occasions, this is strictly a commercial project without any hint of politics.

I would also like to note that we are ready to continue distributing gas through Ukraine even after 2024 when the current contract for the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine expires. Naturally, we will do this if there is demand from European importers, if it is profitable and if Ukraine’s gas transport system is in proper technical shape.

We see many prospects for expanding Russian-German cooperation in other energy areas, including the development, commercialisation and use of renewable energy sources. We have talked about this as regards hydrogen.

A bilateral working group on sustainable energy is already holding a dialogue on all these issues.

We are also interested in closer cooperation with our German partners on issues of preserving the climate. Russia has suggested several areas for cooperation in this respect. I would like to mention the development of methods to monitor the emission and absorption of substances that have a direct impact on climate change; improvement of technology for reducing carbon dioxide and methane emissions; and the large-scale introduction of hydrogen that I mentioned as a “green fuel.”

We also discussed the humanitarian agenda. We have a genuine mutual interest in the further development of bilateral scientific, educational and cultural exchanges. The Petersburg Dialogue Russian-German public forum will certainly play a role here.

Of course, we have exchanged, with complete frankness, our views on the situation with Russia’s initiatives and proposals to the United States and NATO regarding the provision of long-term legally binding security guarantees for Russia.

We also talked about the main demands, the most important ones being to preclude any further eastward expansion by NATO, to refrain from deploying strike weapons near Russian borders, and to take NATO’s military potential and infrastructure in Europe back to its 1997 configuration, the year the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed.

Russia cannot turn a blind eye to the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance interpreting the key principles of equal and indivisible security, as enshrined in many pan-European documents, so loosely as to suit their own interests. Let me remind you that equal and indivisible security spans more than the right to freely choose methods of ensuring one’s security and entering into military alliances and blocs, which our colleagues keep reiterating; it also refers to a commitment to not strengthen one’s own security at the expense of other states.

At the same time, NATO continues to cite its “open door policy.” We know what Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty is about, and I have already spoken about this here in this room at previous news conferences following talks with our European partners. Article 10 says nothing of the kind. It says, “the Parties may invite,” not they “must invite.” This is all it says.

We see the forceful containment of Russia as a direct and immediate threat to our national security; legal agreements based on the drafts we have proposed would in fact remove this threat.

I will repeat that in our view US and NATO responses to our proposals on security guarantees do not meet the three fundamental Russian requirements. However, as the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation reported yesterday, the responses still contain a number of considerations that we are not only ready to discuss but that we have actually suggested to our partners over the years. I am referring to our proposals on European security, certain weapons systems, notably, intermediate and shorter-range missiles, and military transparency. We are ready to continue this joint work. We are also ready to follow the negotiating track, but all issues, as we said before, must be considered in a package, without being separated from Russia’s fundamental proposals, which we consider an unconditional priority.

Naturally, the issue of European security was also discussed in the context of the situation around a settlement of the conflict in Ukraine. As you know, the Kiev authorities are refusing to abide by the Minsk Agreements and the 2015 arrangements, as well as the agreements reached at later summits in the Normandy format, including in Berlin and Paris.

There is no progress on such important issues as constitutional reform, amnesty, local elections or the special legal status of Donbass. So far, Ukraine’s legislature has not confirmed the Frank-Walter Steinmeier Formula, as put forth by Germany’s former foreign minister and current President. He suggested this formula as a compromise for implementing the key points of the Minsk Agreements. Unfortunately, this has not yet been carried out. Opportunities for restoring the country’s territorial integrity via a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk continue to be ignored, like before. Ukraine is systematically violating human rights on a large scale and continues to endorse discrimination against Russian speakers at the legislative level.

We also reviewed a number of other international issues, including the situation with Iran’s nuclear programme. We are permanently in contact on this issue at the foreign minister level. I will say that our positions are rather close on this issue.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr Federal Chancellor for our joint efforts, and a useful and meaningful dialogue.

Thank you for your attention.

Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz (retranslated): Ladies and gentlemen,

It is important and good to be here in Moscow today. Thank you for the reception and the in-depth talks.

You have already heard from the President that we did not pass by a single issue in our countries’ relations or European relations that matter for international relations. It is good because it is important that we really talked to each other.

Our countries are historically and culturally very closely connected, our relations are deep and varied. It is evidenced, for instance, by over 90 active partnerships between our cities and by lively cultural, educational and youth exchanges.

The Year of Germany has just finished in Russia. More than a thousand events in over 70 cities have covered the entire spectrum of our relations – culture, science, environment, sustainable development and gender diversity.

Our economic cooperation has big potential, as you have heard. It concerns such crucial issues as decarbonisation, renewable energy sources, hydrogen and digitalisation. We can bear responsibility for climate change only if we bear it together, and it is crucial that this issue remain important in Germany and Russia’s relations in the future, too.

Energy is being delivered today but the question is how to make the industrialised world work neutrally in terms of carbon emissions.

An indispensable element of our relations is the dialogue between our societies which made a great contribution to mutual understanding and reconciliation of our nations after World War II. All that should be supported further, and this is why we spoke about the St Petersburg Dialogue. It has been for many years a symbol of German-Russian mutual understanding, and today it is more important than ever. Therefore, I expressed hope that we will find solutions during subsequent high-level talks in order to lift the blockade we are experiencing at the moment. We need space for open and candid dialogue in order to discuss all issues and so that everyone can join in the dialogue.

We are watching with concern as the space for action by civil society becomes smaller and smaller. There are partners with whom we have been working for a long time. I will name Memorial by way of example. We in Germany fail to understand why Memorial has to stop its activities. This organisation made an important contribution to uncovering the fates of Soviet people carted off to Nazi Germany for forced labour. I hope some positive prospects are possible here.

I also expressed the hope that Deutsche Welle will be able to continue its journalistic activities in Russia.

There is a broad range of issues of bilateral interest but we did not avoid crucial topics, either. This speaks to the character of the talks, and it is important.

My visit is taking place during a crisis, the most serious and threatening crisis in many decades in Europe. During the talks, we spent significant time on Russia’s military activity and build-up on the border with Ukraine, as well as on the security guarantees formulated by Russia.

I expressed my views on security. I explained how we and our European partners assess the situation. I said they regard the military build-up as a threat.

I must emphasise in this context that we are very concerned over the massing of 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border for no apparent reason. This is why urgent de-escalation is necessary. It is very important to prevent war in this tense situation.

During our talks, President Putin told me about his consultations with [Russia’s] Foreign and Defence ministers. He spoke about this. I agree, diplomatic opportunities have not yet been exhausted. Now it is necessary to work with dedication and courage to peacefully resolve this crisis. We are hearing that some units are being withdrawn and this is a good sign. We hope this trend will continue.

We are ready, together with our EU and NATO partners and allies, and with Russia, to speak about concrete steps on enhancing mutual, or more precisely, common security. NATO has already proposed holding issue-oriented talks at the NATO-Russia Council level. Poland, the OSCE Chair, has launched a new dialogue process at the top level. This dialogue will be conducted in the spirit of mutual understanding and mutual recognition of the principles we jointly agreed upon in the OSCE. These principles include the inviolability of borders, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, and this is not up for debate for us.

I suggest we discuss all these things as part of a dialogue. We must not end up at an impasse, which would be a disaster for all of us. It is quite obvious for the Federal Government that further military aggression against Ukraine will entail serious political, economic and strategic consequences. It seemed to me that everybody understands this clearly. Such an escalation should be avoided by all means, with resolve and wisdom. The search for diplomatic solutions was one of the key reasons for my visit to Kiev yesterday and today’s visit to Moscow.

President Putin and I share the opinion that the Normandy format, along with talks between Russia and the US, at the NATO-Russia Council and OSCE, is another crucial format for settling this conflict. Movement is needed here, and, of course, progress. And so, it is good that President Zelensky made a firm commitment yesterday that very soon all draft laws on the status of Eastern Ukraine, amendments to the Constitution and preparations for elections will be presented to the Trilateral Contact Group which operates within the Minsk process and where all the stakeholders meet. This is a good move, and it should be followed up. I urged the President to invest his negotiators with a similarly constructive mandate in the interests of achieving progress.

To conclude, I will say the following: it is absolutely clear for us, Germans, and for all Europeans that sustainable security cannot be built against Russia but only with Russia. We are united on this point, both in NATO and the European Union. Therefore, a solution must be found. However difficult the situation is now, I would not call it desperate. Now we must act courageously and responsibly.

I will say that war in Europe has become unimaginable for my generation, and we must make sure it remains so. Our duty as heads of state and government is to prevent a military escalation in Europe.

Question (retranslated): Michaela Kuefner, Deutsche Welle.

President Putin, you sent a signal that you want a dialogue but at the same time you are criticising the Federal Chancellor for not bringing enough in his suitcase. You are saying that President Zelensky’s promise is not enough. All Europeans are asking themselves: Will there be a war in Europe despite close ties with Russia? Do you rule out war in Europe?

And, Mr Federal Chancellor, I have a question for you. What do you think about the situation after this conversation? Was there the progress you expected? And what should be the next step?

Vladimir Putin: As for war in Europe, the Federal Chancellor has just said that the people of his generation – and I belong to this generation – can hardly imagine a war in Europe. Of course, he referred to the situation around Ukraine. But we all witnessed a war in Europe that was unleashed by the NATO bloc against Yugoslavia. A large military operation with missile and bomb attacks on a European capital, Belgrade. This was done without the UN Security Council sanction. This is a very unfortunate example, but it did take place. This is the first point.

Now the second point – whether we want it or not. Of course, not. This is exactly why we suggested negotiations that should produce an agreement on equal security for all, including our country.

Unfortunately – and we already spoke about this – we did not receive a detailed, constructive response to our proposals. Nonetheless, we believe that even the documents sent to us by our partners from NATO and Washington contain some elements for discussion. But we are ready to do this only in conjunction with the fundamental issues that are of primary importance to us.

We hope – and I told the Federal Chancellor about this today – that the dialogue will take exactly this shape. Depending on how it proceeds, the situation will likewise proceed on all other tracks that are of concern to you and us. Believe me, they worry us just like you.

Olaf Scholz: I think in the current situation, it is important to use all opportunities, not to miss a single opportunity for a peaceful outcome.

This is why I said that we consider the Minsk process an important prerequisite with the relevant draft laws. I think this will help jumpstart the talks on these proposals in the Trilateral Contact Group. This is a good starting point for achieving a peaceful settlement of the situation in Ukraine between Donbass and the Ukrainian government.

What is important to me? The talks must be held in the Trilateral Contact Group because that is the Minsk Agreements. We are moving towards making this possible.

I will emphasise that the situation in Yugoslavia was somewhat different. There was a danger and a threat of genocide, and this ought to have been prevented. I am very glad that everything is going peacefully there and that the Balkan nations have found a future in the European Union. All this is a very good sign.

Vladimir Putin: I will allow myself just to add that, in our view, what is happening in Donbass today is, in fact, genocide.

Question: Maria Glebova, RIA Novosti.

I would like to ask a big question that covers a broad range of issues, if I may.

Mr Chancellor, you have come from Kiev, where you met with President Zelensky. Do you think that Kiev wants to and will implement the Minsk agreements as they were signed? What is the outlook for a peaceful settlement?

Mr Putin, a partial troop withdrawal has been reported this morning. And then news from the State Duma indicated that the deputies have asked you to recognise the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics. Will you comment on this news, please?

I would also like to ask both leaders about Nord Stream 2. What are the prospects for implementing this project in light of tensions and numerous threats regarding it?

Mr Putin, I have one more question. Your old friend, Mr Schroeder, has been nominated for Gazprom’s Board of Directors. This has provoked a storm of criticism in Europe. What can you say on this account?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: First I will speak about the vote in the State Duma. I received the news from the Presidential Executive Office right before this news conference. And second, about the partial withdrawal of troops from the area of our military exercises.

What is there to comment on? There is nothing to comment on when the issue concerns executive authorities, including the country’s military and political leadership. Yes, a decision has been made to pull out part of the troops.

As for the vote in the State Duma, I believe that this issue is connected, in one way or another, to the fact that members of parliament in any country, including Russia, adjust their actions to public opinion and the opinion of their electorate, which they are keenly aware of. It is obvious in this context that the overwhelming majority of people in our country feel sympathy for people in Donbass, support them and hope that the situation would improve dramatically.

I know that there were two draft documents. One was presented by United Russia, which has an overwhelming majority, and the other, more sharply worded initiative provided for making a direct request to the President on recognising these republics. I am told that the vote was open and free, which means that party discipline was not applied in this case, and the majority of deputies voted for the resolution submitted by an opposition party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

We, and I will proceed from the assumption that we must do all we can to solve the problems of Donbass, but do this, as the Federal Chancellor has said, based on the still unused potential of the Minsk agreements. We are quite hopeful that our partners, both overseas and in Europe, primarily the Federal Republic and France, will bring influence to bear on the current Kiev authorities, and a solution will be found.

Now let us talk about Mr Schroeder and Nord Stream 2. I told the Federal Chancellor this today. In the early 2000s, we came to terms with Ukraine (at that time, Ukraine was headed by President Kuchma, the German Government was represented by Mr Schroeder, and Russia – by your humble servant) and signed an agreement on creating an international consortium with the participation of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and, possibly, other European partners. The consortium was supposed to manage Ukraine’s Gas Transportation System (GTS). It was neither a purchase, nor an appropriation deal. The GTS was to remain Ukraine’s property, while the consortium would only lease and manage the system, investing funds and resources in its maintenance and development. Later, the new Ukrainian leadership in the person of Mr Yushchenko withdrew from this agreement. After that, questions arose as to how to ensure safe deliveries to Germany and Europe as a whole, and Mr Schroeder supported the construction of Nord Stream 1.

Today, Germany receives 55 billion cubic metres of gas along this route. This gas is shipped under long-term contracts at prices that are three, four, five, or even seven times lower (if we take the peak prices on Europe’s spot market) than they are at present. They were seven times – now about five times lower than on the spot market. German consumers, both industrial and private, the households, receive gas from Russia at prices that are five times lower.

Let German citizens open their purses, have a look inside and ask themselves whether they are ready to pay three to five times more for electricity, for gas and for heating. If they are not, they should thank Mr Schroeder because this is his achievement, a result of his work.

Regarding his presence in Gazprom’s managerial bodies, many Europeans are now worried whether Russia will regularly deliver energy resources to Europe and to Germany, in particular. I believe that if the decision is made and Mr Schroeder becomes a member of the Gazprom Management Board, the purpose would be to conduct oversight as an independent expert. In this sense, Mr Schroeder is, of course, an independent expert. He is an honest man whom we respect and whose goal is first and foremost to promote the interests of his own country, the Federal Republic of Germany. In any event, the Federal Republic and all Europeans will have a person who can influence the adoption of various decisions as a member of the Gazprom Management Board, and will be able to obtain objective information directly from Gazprom.

I believe that this only benefits our cooperation. We can only feel happy about this. Will this be accomplished or not? To the best of my knowledge, elections are scheduled for June. This matter rests with Gazprom and independent experts, including Mr Schroeder.

Regarding Nord Stream-2

By the way, Mr Schroeder’s work on the Gazprom Management Board is a natural consequence of his work on the Nord Steam-1 and Nord Stream-2 projects. He also chairs the Nord Stream project’s Board. I would like to note that five German companies, including two major German energy companies, co-finance the project.

Nord Stream-2 has been ready for commercial operation since December 2021. The only remaining issue is that the German regulator needs to make the decision on launching gas deliveries via this route, and this is it.

Olaf Scholz: The first question was on the Minsk agreements. Everyone must comply with them. This concerns the Ukrainian government and, of course, Russia, Germany and France, which are involved in the political process. This is why it is so important for everybody to contribute.

One kind of contribution is presenting the necessary draft laws for discussion on how to deal with the three major tasks that I mentioned in the beginning: the status of Donbass, elections, the Steinmeier formula, and, obviously, constitutional issues. All these matters will be presented and discussed in the trilateral format between Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE and other parties involved. We agreed on this and this process needs everybody’s support, without dragging our feet. Of course, there may be different interpretations, but the words are on paper. Of course, extensive discussions are required, but it will be the next step. This is my expectation, and all conditions are in place. If everybody could shake themselves up and move forward, we can succeed.

Of course, if parliament adopts the proposals today and they become reality, it will be a violation of the Minsk agreements, which means the process will be disrupted. That would be a political disaster.

Settlement is possible only if everybody returns to adhering to the Minsk agreements, which set forth perfectly clear criteria.

As concerns Nord Stream 2, I do not want to comment on the economic activity of a former politician, who speaks on his own behalf, not on the behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany. As for the pipeline itself, we all know very well what is happening. We undertook obligations to secure gas transit to Europe via Ukraine, Belarus and Poland using Nord Stream 1, as agreed, and we are delivering on these obligations.

We want to ensure peaceful development in Europe, without military confrontation in Ukraine. And if confrontation happens, it will entail serious repercussions. Everybody understands this. We know what to do in this case and it seems to me that everybody else knows and understands it too. They understand what is going on and understand the potential political repercussions.

Therefore, right now, it is important to prevent this kind of situation and choose peace, thus showing true political leadership, without pointing fingers, but making one’s own contribution to maintaining peace. This should be our goal.

Question (retranslated): Mr Federal Chancellor, a question for you. You mentioned some complicated issues in German-Russian relations. You spoke about Memorial and Deutsche Welle. There are other topics as well, such as the Navalny case, whose trial has started today. There is also the forced medical examination for foreigners in Russia and cyberattacks on Germany. Did you mention these too? How did President Putin react? What would be your general overview of German-Russian relations?

My question for President Putin concerns the first steps to withdraw troops. What will be happening in the next few days and weeks? Will the pulling out of forces continue? Can you now rule out an attack on Ukraine?

And a question concerning Ukraine’s accession to NATO. Chancellor Scholz and other NATO heads of state and government are not ready to guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO but perhaps you envision some kind of moratorium? NATO representatives have said that Ukraine’s accession is simply unrealistic in the next few years and even decades.

Olaf Scholz: Yes, we have touched on many topics.

As concerns Navalny, my stance here is absolutely clear: a prison sentence in his case goes against legal standards of a state that abides by the rule of law. I have stressed this many times.

Vladimir Putin: I believe now our guest will give me an opportunity to answer your question.

First. What will Russia do next? Russia will act according to plan. What is the plan? The plan is based on the actual situation on the ground. Who can say how the actual situation will develop? Nobody at this point. There are other parties to consider. But it is our intention and resolve to reach agreement with our partners on the matters we put on the table, by diplomatic means. These matters are well known: with respect to Russia’s security, it is the non-expansion of NATO and the withdrawal of the bloc’s military infrastructure to the 1997 positions, and non-deployment of missile strike systems near our borders. I think everything is clear.

We are open to discussing other matters stated in the response we received – but in conjunction with the issues that constitute priority to us.

What was the second part of your question?

Remark: Withdrawal of troops and weapons from the Ukrainian border and expansion of NATO.

Vladimir Putin: I have already spoken on the withdrawal. I think I gave you an answer to this part.

As for the expansion of NATO. You said remarkable words: “NATO representatives have said that Ukraine’s accession is simply unrealistic in the next few years.” What does it mean, “they have said”? We need to understand what “they have said” means in relations between states. For 30 years, we have been told that there will be no NATO expansion whatsoever, not by an inch towards the Russian border. And now we see NATO infrastructure right outside our home. Moreover, there is a discussion of Ukraine’s accession to NATO. As you said, they say it will not happen tomorrow. But when will it happen? The day after tomorrow? What does it change for us in the historical perspective? Nothing at all. We hear that Ukraine is not ready to join NATO today. We are aware of this statement. Then they say immediately that NATO will not accept it tomorrow. Will they accept Ukraine once they have prepared it for accession?

It may be too late for us then, so we want to address this issue now, right now, immediately, through negotiations and by peaceful means. This is our understanding of the process, and we really hope that our partners will hear our concerns and take them seriously.

Question: My first question is for President Putin.

Yesterday, at a meeting with Sergei Lavrov, you coordinated the reply on guarantees for Russia and agreed that there were prospects for talks. Does this mean that Russia will enter a period of protracted talks lasting many years, while Washington and the West reject the three main provisions of the Russian initiative, which you have already spoken about?

And my second question is for Mr Putin and Chancellor Scholz. As I represent RT, I must ask about the decision to ban RT DE broadcasting in Germany. Is it possible to make any headway and arrive at a constructive solution to this issue? Perhaps it would be appropriate to set up some joint working group, so that Deutsche Welle and we would be able to continue broadcasting in Germany and Russia?

Vladimir Putin: As far as I know, they have already asked our guest about Deutsche Welle. Today, the Federal Chancellor and I discussed the work of Deutsche Welle in Russia and the work of RT in the Federal Republic of Germany.

I do not want to go into detail now so as not to complicate the situation, but we agreed to think about how these matters can be resolved. This is the first thing.

The second, regarding lengthy talks that may lead nowhere. This is precisely why I met with the Foreign Minister and my colleagues from the security services yesterday. The Security Council gives constant attention to this matter, and, of course, we are concerned about it. We have apprehensions that our partners might unjustifiably protract the talks on the security issues that are important for us, and that during this process decisions will be made, one way or another, which will seriously aggravate our situation, just as it has been happening for many years.

It goes without saying that we are keeping an eye on this, and we know which matters we will be discussing with our partners, and what outcomes we will not allow to materialise.

Olaf Scholz: First of all, the question you have asked about RT. This is a state governed by the rule of law, one should submit applications, and they are yet to be submitted. The relevant agencies will process them in keeping with the existing laws that are now in effect, laws that everyone can refer to and rely on. In a rule-of-law state, there are procedures, and legal preconditions must be met.

As for the situation with the talks, the positions of the sides differ, as it has become clear. This is why we talked for so long. And this is good. The important thing is that we talk to each other. It is also important that NATO and the EU have responded to the letters from Russia. Of course, Russia does not agree with this, but still, it finds something positive in these answers. We also disagree – I mean NATO and the EU – with the suggestions formulated by Russia. But they also contain points that we are ready to talk about and discuss.

Right now, it is necessary to prevent the emergence of a dangerous situation, which all of us would like to avoid. Everyone ought to know that these are major shifts and points of reference for further talks. The first thing to do is to solve the Ukrainian problem with a focus on the Minsk agreements. The Minsk process is afoot and everyone should abide by it. All of us must have the will to talk to each other. This also concerns the differing positions on NATO expansion.

The situation is somewhat odd: no expansion is being planned; nor is it discussed, or put on the agenda. Everyone knows about it. While each of us is in office, we will not have to deal with this. I do not know how much longer Mr President will remain in his post. I think this might be a long time, but not an eternity. I mean, we will not be addressing this. Our task, therefore, is to reach political mutual understanding and a situation where no one renounces their principles. This is political leadership and the responsibility that we bear to ensure peace and international cooperation in Europe. This is always discussed when we talk about important matters, such as security, cooperation in Europe, transparency, and arms control.

The desiderata are formulated, NATO has responded positively – differently from what the other side desired, but this should be used as a basis for making further headway.

Source – Website of the Russian Kremlin