President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder consider their current meeting in Moscow a stage in preparations for the Russian-German intergovernmental consultations scheduled for this September in Hamburg.
"We agreed to hold this meeting as an intermediary event in preparation for wider inter-government consultations," Mr. Putin said at the beginning of the meeting in the Kremlin.
Mr. Putin said that today's discussion between Russian and German businessmen was another step toward the Hamburg session and reported about a prepared statement on wider Russian-German cooperation in the energy sphere. "This document is a major encouragement for joint work that is beneficial for both Germany and all of Europe," he said.
Mr. Putin referred to Germany as a large trade and economic partner and as a leading investor in Russia's market.
Mr. Schroeder, who arrived in Moscow several hours ago for a one-day visit, said there were no two other countries in the world with such a dynamic increase in trade and investment. He said that the dynamic increase was based on the successful reforms that Mr. Putin had already implemented and the planned reforms.
The chancellor noted that these reforms had resulted in German businesses' confidence in the economic and political stability of Russia had notably grown. "I am not tired of mentioning this fact because some discussions may indicate another view but statistics prove this confidence does exist," said Mr. Schroeder.
Mr. Putin said that he hoped that today's talks would be an impetus for the further economic development of Germany, which was currently experiencing economic growth and reductions in unemployment.
The chancellor reported that this year Germany expected an economic growth of about 2%, which would positively affect the labor market but, in his opinion, the current unemployment rate was still high.
Today, Mr. Putin and Mr. Schroeder will analyze the progress of the implementation of agreements in various spheres of bilateral cooperation reached at latest inter-government consultations in Yekaterinburg in October 2003. The will also discuss arrangements for the seventh round of talks this September in Hamburg, a source in the Kremlin said.
The two leaders will also review Russian-German cooperation in the international arena, including in the UN Security Council.
Much time will be devoted to the promotion of Russian-German cooperation.
Following the meeting, Mr. Putin and Mr. Schroeder will attend a business forum sponsored by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the German Economic Union in Russia.
This forum is seen as an opportunity to enhance business links between the two countries, above all, in the investment sphere, said the Kremlin.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building