Before making quite revealing statement at a press conference, Putin enjoyed a railway trip with Gerhard Schroeder
Russian President Vladimir Putin released several significant statements during his two-day visit to Germany. In addition to official talks with chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and press conferences, Putin's visit to Germany was marked with conversations in a train and in a beerhouse. A press conference, however, put everything in its place, which became not a very prestigious place for Russia.
Vladimir Putin stated during the talks with Schroeder that he completely agreed with Germany's suggestions as far as Chechnya was concerned. It goes about a package of documents, which the Russian president received from Germany in autumn. The essence of those suggestions has not been exposed officially, although German journalists said that the documents were about a political regulation of the war in Chechnya at the EU's mediation. Russian officials could only say that Germany was going to participate in economic and social projects in Chechnya. Everybody was waiting for Russian and German leaders to clarify all points at a press conference in Schleswig: Putin and Schroeder left to the city by train from Hamburg.
The two leaders were talking in journalists' presence on their way to Schleswig. Gerhard Schroeder was sharing his joy of railway traveling with Putin. Russian-German top consultations were shorter than the romantic trip. The German chancellor raised one of the most talked-about issues – the poll crisis in Ukraine - in the very beginning of the press conference. Schroeder stated that it was the prerogative of the Ukrainian nation to elect their president; that is why both Russia and Germany would respect the results of the third run-off vote in Ukraine.
The German leader quickly passed to the next important issue – Chechnya. Gerhard Schroeder particularly said that Germany would like Russia to develop relations with the European Union in order to achieve a political solution of the conflict along with the socio-economic progress in the region. The chancellor confirmed that the above-mentioned package of documents contained a delicate political aspect.
One of the journalists asked a question about the recent sale of Yukos's major asset, the company Yuganskneftegaz. As it turned out, Putin was the only person in Russia, who could answer the question. First of all Vladimir Putin stated that the selling of Yuganskneftegaz was a solely internal matter of Russia. “The auction took place in strict conformity with the Russian law, according to market members' interests,” Putin replied. The Russian president added that China had nothing in common with the auction, although he added that the Chinese state energetic corporation might take an active part in the work with Yuganskneftegaz assets. It seems rather strange that a foreign company might be involved in the matter, taking into consideration the auction results (Yuganskneftegaz was sold to Baikal Finance Group).
Gerhard Schroeder, in his turn, stated that any attempt to make this problem become one of the subtle moments of the Russian-German relations would end in a failure. The chancellor was much more outspoken, when he touched upon the issue of Russia's debt to Germany within the framework of the Paris Club of Creditors. Putin said that Russia would be able to start paying its debt to Germany already in 2005.
When Gerhard Schroeder was asked a question about his attitude to criticism that Russia gets in the German press, the chancellor replied that criticism always comes with praise. Schroeder added that he could identify himself with that affirmation –several German journalists in the conference room sarcastically laughed at such a viewpoint. Vladimir Putin also expressed his wish to answer that question (Putin started speaking German): “Russia should provide more information about itself to the Western community. Here, in this land, we saw a group of people holding posters with “Stop the war in Chechnya” written on them. I can tell you this, esteemed protesters. There has been no war in Chechnya for three years already. You may go home. Merry Christmas! We do not say that there are no problems in Chechnya. We are prepared to discuss them with our European partners,” Putin said rather emphatically.
German reporters were still interested in the scandal connected with the Russian oil giant Yukos. They wanted to know Putin's opinion about the rumors connected with Baikal Finance Group and the company that was standing behind it – whether it was a Russian or a Chinese enterprise. The Russian president was rather informative in his answer: “According to the information that I have, Baikal Finance Group is owned by a group of natural persons, who have been involved in the energy business for many years. They are intended to establish relations with other companies in Russia. All members of the process, including state-owned companies, have a right to work with this asset,” the president said.
Several minutes later Putin was talking about Russia's support of Germany's plans to become a constant member of the UN Security Council. After that a reporter asked Putin if he could consider Yushchenko's victory at the Ukrainian election his own personal defeat. “Leaders come and go, but the Ukrainian nation stays. I know Mr. Yushchenko: he used to be the prime minister of Ukraine, like incumbent premier Yanukovich. We cooperated together quite well. He is also a man of Mr. Kuchma, the president of Ukraine. I do not see a big problem here,” Putin answered.
One may see that Putin has not acknowledged his own defeat – the president is still fighting. He stated that Yushchenko was Mr. Kuchma's man, and that Yanukovich was the incumbent Ukrainian prime minister.