Russia's presence in south-eastern Europe always exerted positive influence on the situation in the region, Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the Greek newspapers Eleftherotypia and To Vima, the text of which was distributed by the presidential press service. Having pointed out that Russia's presence in this region "was caused by objective historical and geo-political pre-requisites", the Russian president recalled that Russia's partners in the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe believe Moscow is playing a key role in the affairs of the region, including, above all, the positive contribution of Russia to the settlement of the crises in the Balkans and its permanent efforts to ensure peace and security, and develop cooperation in South-Eastern Europe. Speaking about the Balkans, Putin declared that Russian assistance in the development of this region "is long-term and especially efficient in the fuel and energy sphere." But today we are offering assistance also in such fields as humanitarian aid provision, the fight against illegal trade in light and small arms, the strengthening of border and customs regimes, the fight against the organised crime and corruption in south-eastern Europe, and the liquidating of the consequences of natural and industrial disasters", said the president. Unfortunately, he stated, "these initiatives are being restrained by the counter-actions to equal participation of Russian operators in the realisation of projects financed within the framework of the Pact and other regional programmes.
Forest fires in Siberia have been raging for three months already. They have become a disaster not only of Russian, but of global scale. The fires have already scorched 12 million hectares of land