The USA and Central Asian countries should agree upon the US presence in the region on bilateral basis, Vladimir Putin said in his interview to Greek TV companies NET-TV and MEGA on the eve of his visit to Greece. The text of the interview was received from the presidential press service. Vladimir Putin called the former Soviet republics in Central Asia Russia's "independent partners and allies". "Today they are sovereign states and they have the right to determine their foreign policy," he said adding that Russia "is interested in the developments in this region". The USA has no long-term prospects for staying in Central Asia, the Russian President said referring to US President George Bush. "But that's not the point. The point is the quality of our relations with the Western civilization and the USA, in particular. If the relations will change in the sphere of security and defence we shall not be concerned about the development of all-round cooperation between Central Asia and the USA and other leading Western states," Vladimir Putin concluded.
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