Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a message to Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, congratulating him on the 10th anniversary of his country's independence. The Russian presidential press service has quoted Putin's message as saying: "Over these years, marked changes have taken place in all fields of life of the Turkmen society. Your country is a full-fledged and respected member of the international community, consistently adhering to the policy of neutrality." Putin emphasised that Russia "regards Turkmenistan as its old and reliable partner, with whom Russia is connected by mutually advantageous cooperation in various fields. We highly value our interaction in the present-day difficult situation in the Central Asian region." In conclusion, the Russian president expressed conviction that "the traditionally friendly ties between Russia and Turkmenistan will continue developing for the benefit of the peoples of our countries, in the interests of peace and stability in Central Asia."
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea