On Friday, Vladimir Putin opened a summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in St. Petersburg. The meeting of SCO leaders is staged in the dancing hall of the Grand Palace of Petrodvorets, a palace outside St. Petersburg that used to be a residence of Russian emperors.
"I hope the meeting is constructive, and I also hope we enjoy our communication," said the Russian leader, addressing his counterparts.
According to his words, SCO experts spent the past 12 months "working, productively and laboriously, to reconcile the main positions and to prepare the statutory documents of this organization." The documents in question were initialled by representatives of each member state of the SCO, he reminded.
"We can discuss this and some other problems when our delegations join us, and also during breakfast," said Putin.
He thanked Chinese leader Jiang Zemin for his idea to hold the summit in St. Petersburg. "No doubt you will feel comfortable here," the president told his counterparts.
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