7 april, 2010 20:44  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk hold a joint news conference


Vladimir Putin's opening remarks:

Distinguished Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

This is a special day for our countries and our people. It is dedicated to our shared memory of the past and to Russia's and Poland's common future.

For the first time ever, the prime ministers of Russia and Poland have paid their respects to the victims buried at Katyn together. This step was necessary to advance Russian-Polish relations. It was motivated by our shared desire to have a relationship as true partners and neighbours.

The truth about the past is important to Poles and Russians alike, however harsh and uncomfortable this truth might be. We will do everything possible to let the public know the truth.

This is the motivation behind the considerable efforts of the joint Russian-Polish Group on Difficult Issues. We have met today with its co-presidents, Mr Torkunov and Mr Rotfeld. We will provide this group with all the support it needs.

We have discussed plans to build memorial centres in Russia and Poland. They will cooperate in their research on sensitive issues.

The Prime Minister mentioned the agreement we reached when we met in Poland previously. Unfortunately, it's true that not much progress has been made on this front. We have agreed to renew our focus on this work and to order both our ministries of culture to make the necessary practical arrangements.

During our talks, Mr Tusk and I spoke about history, of course, but we also discussed a wide range of current bilateral issues, with a focus on economic matters.

We had achieved impressive results by the end of 2008, when bilateral trade exceeded $27 billion. However, the recession reduced this figure to just over $16 billion.

Reversing this negative trend is our main objective today. We have the ability to do this. We talked extensively about an energy and transport partnership, and we have agreed on the long-term export of Russian natural gas to Poland. The relevant documents will be signed in the near future.

Poland raised this issue long ago, and the prime minister has raised it again today. We will sign the relevant contracts and other documents soon to secure supplies through 2037. A transit contract for Russian natural gas supplies to Europe is expected to extend through 2045.

We have also discussed the power industry, the construction of new power plants and grids, and the opportunities to integrate our grids for the benefit of Polish and Russian consumers.

Our investment partnership is coming along nicely. Poland has accumulated about $2 billion in investments from Russia. The corresponding figure for Russia is much smaller, roughly $500 million, but this is only the beginning. Our potential far exceeds current investment levels.

We have also discussed streamlining the visa process for both nations. We know that the Polish leadership wants to expand contacts between our citizens as much as possible. We thank the Polish leaders for this.

Poland will soon host the European football championship, while Russia will host the 2014 Olympics. We are interested in sharing information in the interest of providing mutual assistance and support.

Contacts between Russian and Polish regions are developing rapidly, and we will promote this any way we can.

I am grateful to the prime minister and all our Polish friends for today's visit and for the highly constructive work. Thank you very much.

Donald Tusk's address (as translated):

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. Today's events have made a great impression on all of us. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and I have met with the Russian-Polish Group on Difficult Issues and its Polish and Russian co-presidents. As prime ministers and members of this group, we have all realised that when we agreed to embark on this difficult joint project so many months ago, none of us expected such results.

Today, when we saw the Russian prime minister bowing his head to the victims of Katyn, kneeling with the rest of us as we lit candles in Katyn, it seemed to some of us as if it were an ordinary event.

However, when we began our work and our conversation with the prime minister even at the political level, and when we started our discussion with Polish and Russian scholars, these events seemed extraordinary. We had been looking forward to that moment.

I can say that this is a very important step forward because now we can talk about the past, the present and the future. We can talk as friends and neighbours. We can talk as representatives of nations eager for mutual understanding.

Even today not everyone is fully satisfied... But then, I have no idea just how to satisfy everybody. Certainly, however, everyone sees that we are on the right road, and the direction we have chosen together with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is difficult to attack in both Russia and Poland. This direction has profound significance.

I want to express my gratitude to our hosts for an excellently organised meeting.

Poland is a European Union country, a country that is interested in Russia being a good partner for us Poles and for the entire European Union. Good partnership will not eliminate all arguments and differences of opinion and interest. Good partnership eliminates lies and aggression. I think we are building a good partnership.

Together with Mr Putin we have embarked on a dialogue as to what we can do together for the Russian and Polish economies. We are finding common ground where this was very hard to do quite recently. I can say today that Russia and Poland have a high level of understanding on the most sensitive of issues, including energy issues and other, economic issues.

Poland and Russia certainly can do much and profit much. During a downturn this makes sense. Such good partnership should surely be based on a foundation of mutual understanding. Let me stress that point again. Today we have built such a foundation up to a satisfactory level.

I would like to stress our shared willingness to implement as quickly as possible those ideas discussed in the framework of the Group on Difficult Issues. These issues concern institutionalising the study of issues related to our complex history. In fact, it took a mere five minutes to make a decision for our ministries of culture to establish institutions in both Poland and Russia as early as tomorrow.

So I think this is an excellent step forward. Our ministers will inform us about the results of their efforts in a few months.

I have also invited Prime Minister Putin to visit Poland. We have been glad to hear that we might even meet again this year.

There are several urgent issues: economic and other matters pertaining to exchanges between our states. We will certainly discuss these issues during Mr Putin's visit.

This day will certainly be recorded as one of the best days in our relations, and will allow us to improve our partnership even further.

Question: Good afternoon. Kommersant newspaper. Mr Putin, as far as I know, it was you who invited Mr Tusk to Katyn. I believe that this is rather an unprecedented event. Would you say now that the Katyn issue is no longer a political one? That is to say that politicians have nothing else to say on it and it is time to turn it over to historians and archivists? Would you agree with that?

Vladimir Putin: It was indeed Russia's initiative to hold this meeting between the heads of government of the two countries here in Katyn. I invited Mr Tusk to come here today. I did this deliberately, out of deep respect for the Polish people.

I did this to stress once again that we do not have any banned subjects in Russia and that we denounce all the crimes committed by the totalitarian regime. I did this to emphasize that 4,000 Polish officers and 8,000 Soviet citizens killed in the 1930s, as well as many more Soviet soldiers massacred by the Nazis lie in the soil of Katyn.

This is a painful part of our common history. But we believe that the truth cleanses. As Mr Tusk put it accurately, the truth unexpectedly illuminates the way forward. And I hope that this meeting will put these tragic events of the past beyond the scope of political life, and that it will not allow anyone to cash in on them. I hope that it will create an opportunity for an efficient and truly mutually beneficial, honest and forward-looking cooperation for many decades to come.

Donald Tusk (as translated): Mr Putin, I would like to make a very important point, which is equally important for the Russian and Polish people.

Our purpose today was not to take something off the agenda. We knew when we began our joint work that our purpose was to open rather than to close. I do not mean to open a new dispute. We have had enough of those. The main purpose was to open politicians and our two nations to the truth, including the truth about the Katyn crime and other difficult issues in our history.

We are convinced that reconciliation requires the truth. We are convinced that the significant historic steps we started taking more than a year ago, and today we have witnessed such steps, were absolutely necessary to make this reconciliation happen.

We do not want the Katyn tragedy to be a burden that will make the relations between Russia and Poland more complicated than with other countries.

It has turned out to be possible. The memory of this crime is no longer a burden because more and more people dare to tell the truth about it. The fact that we are speaking openly about this issue together today makes this meeting especially valuable.

Question: The Polish Prime Minister said in Katyn that for Poland any information and any document relating to the circumstances of the Katyn crime are important. Can we expect a declassification of all records made during the investigation by Russian prosecutors closed six years ago? Can the Katyn families hope for a rehabilitation of the Polish officers?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Concerning the investigation and its documents of this investigation. As all of us realize, the initiative in opening a criminal investigation into that crime came from the Russian side. It was our initiative to bring to light all aspects of that tragedy.

In the course of the work, four million documents were examined. And millions of pages of these documents were passed on to the Polish side. Millions! This is an unprecedented case in relations between states.

We recalled just now how the British government, for example, classified for another twenty years the documents connected with the death of the then Polish prime minister and in general with events surrounding the beginning of World War II. In our instance, no attempt has been made to hide the truth about what happened at that time or how it happened.

The only things requiring additional examination are exclusively of humane character. We wish to avoid placing in an awkward position the relatives and descendants of people involved in the tragedy in one way or another. That is all.

Nothing that could conceal the truth about the crime, nothing that could keep the truth about the workings of that crime is a sealed book. Everything has been exposed and shown. Including the million documents handed over to our Polish partners.

We will continue the work in this direction. Our only wish is that this work should be shared and exhaustive. I also spoke about that during the meeting with historians earlier today. I can reiterate what I said. My position is absolutely open: We are talking about the pre-war policies of the European powers. We often recall and speak of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. That is right, we must think about it.

But for some reason we always keep silent about how that policy began in Europe. It began with the so-called appeasement of the aggressor. It began with the signing of the Munich Pact between Britain, France and Germany. And the treaty was signed not by foreign ministers, but by heads of state. On the German side, Hitler signed those documents personally.

No one seems eager to recall that somehow. No one wants seems eager to remember the tragic fate of Czechoslovakia. Perhaps, it is not appropriate to discuss that now, but those were all mistakes of that period. They all led to World War II, to these sacrifices.

I repeat: We would like very much to have an all-embracing, rather than one-sided, truth. And we wish that this truth, in all its greatness and with all its tragedies, should help us to move together into the future. I assure you, we have no limitations except purely humane considerations, as I mentioned earlier.

Question: Good afternoon. Yekaterina Azarova from Russia Today television. My question is in two parts. The first is this: I know that today you discussed increasing Russian gas supplies to Poland. Were the talks successful, and what are the details?

And the second part: I apologise in advance, but, unfortunately, the news today are dominated by the events in Bishkek. Could you comment on them? Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: I spoke about energy in my opening remarks. We did not dwell at these issues at length, but discussed them just briefly.

The Polish side has long been asking for increased Russian gas supplies to the Polish market. And companies have already agreed to that effect. I hope the relevant documents will be signed in the near future. This will be a long-term delivery contract until 2037 and a transit agreement until 2045, if I'm not mistaken.

But that is not all we discussed on energy. We also talked about possible cooperation in nuclear energy, construction of additional network facilities, and cooperation in electric power generation. On the whole, we proceed from the following - and Mr Prime Minister has confirmed it again: We are ready to - and will - depoliticise all relations in this area.

Incidentally, I informed Mr Prime Minister that we are beginning the construction of the Nord Stream [pipeline] any day now. The work will start in the open sea: modern technology makes it possible. A pipe-laying ship is already on location, ready to begin work.

I wish to stress once more, as I assured Mr Prime Minister, that this decision is absolutely transparent, aimed to improve energy supplies for Europe and has no anti-Polish dimension. We do not intend to cut gas supplies to Poland, or to reduce the volume of gas transported through Poland. On the contrary, as I have said, we are prepared to sign documents on increasing the supplies of our energy raw materials to the Polish market.

That is what I can say on this subject.

Now concerning the second part of your question. That, of course, has no relation to our meeting today. But I understand that events there are dramatic. To be honest, I do not even have a full picture of what is happening there.

The only thing I can tell you is that neither Russia, nor your most humble servant, nor any Russian officials have any connection with these events. Personally, I was totally taken by surprise.

At the same time I recall that when President Bakiyev came to power, he criticised sharply the toppled president, Akayev, for nepotism, for having installed his relatives and people close to him in key positions in the economy and political life in Kyrgyzstan. I have the impression Mr Bakiyev has walked into the same trap.

But whatever may be taking place there is an internal matter for Kyrgyzstan. The only thing I want to urge is that both the official authorities and the opposition show restraint and allow no violence. That especially concerns the official authorities, of course, because they run the repressive bodies. I hope these will be used sensibly and in keeping with existing laws.

Question: Gentlemen, may I ask to what extent can the current meeting be considered a real turning point? Can this just be a symptom of a turning point? Do you believe that new prospects have appeared, and that the same level of reconciliation as had been reached between the formerly hostile French and German nations is possible between our nations?

Mr Putin, you did not mention any names today, while speaking about the crimes of the Stalin regime. As Nikita Mikhalkov would say, the evil in your speech was faceless and nameless. Why is that? Hasn't the time come yet? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: If possible, I would like to start answering right away. First, I would like to say a few words about the turning point. A turning point would be attained if no one tried to cash in on these tragedies in the present day politics in order to pursue selfish political goals. If some people want to take advantage of this for themselves, it would be just the beginning of the turning point.

In any case, this is a positive development. We can see the reaction of the Polish public. To be frank, I am confident that the trend will change, even if someone tries to use these tragedies for their time-serving political interests. The Polish side cannot but see our sincere desire to move into the future together, as well as our sincere condemnation of past crimes.

I would like to stress once again that the Russian nation was the first to fall victim to the totalitarian regime. But there were many positive aspects in our relations. We have every chance of moving into the future, while denouncing all tragedies, unlocking their secrets and relying on positive experience. Most importantly, we are extremely interested in this.

It may be strange, but today I have mentioned examples of resolving similar issues between other European countries and nations. By the way, I am deeply convinced that Polish-Russian reconciliation and the settlement of our difficult past problems have both bilateral and European dimensions. Naturally, Europe is interested in removing all thorns of the past from its body and creating a favourable European situation facilitating development and cooperation.

And now a few words about names. The names should come from investigators and prosecutors. The names of politicians, including the heads of the then security services, the People's Commissariat (Ministry) of Internal Affairs and Lavrenty Beria, are well-known.

But what about the perpetrators? Do you think that I know all of their names? As I have already said, we have forwarded a million pages of documents to the Polish side and have declassified another four million. I think that specialists and historians should and can assess each document. This does not rule out the possibility of making them public. I don't think that any names remain secret. As you understand, it's a million pages. That's why I don't think this issue is so important for events like this.

Donald Tusk: For some people, this is a turning point, while for others this is just another step on the road towards complete reconciliation. The heirs of Russian history have a certain sensitivity, while the families of those killed here have an entirely different sensitivity.

To my mind, it is not in our power to convince everyone today that this day is a very important event, and that it is a turning point from the standpoint of all participants in today's meetings.

Some of us, especially those who are emotionally involved in these events, primarily family members, will expect more. As I see it, our task is to find a certain way and to openly tell ourselves and to say in private conversations that we are still divided on certain fragments of history. Even if public opinion in Russia and Poland may have different expectations, it is our sacred duty to stay on this course.

We must not relegate these tasks to future generations. Let's do this as quickly as possible. Let the generation currently assuming responsibility for Poland and Russia take on this role in order to take us from this sharp turn in Russian-Polish relations. This is very important. We must not neglect this. Even if someone expects something more, I think both Russians and Poles and the political leaders of our countries are saying unequivocally that we want to tell nothing but the truth about the Katyn crime.

The complete truth probably requires patience on our part.

Research should also be institutionalised. This is a method enabling us to act in a peaceful and friendly manner and on the basis of mutual respect. In this way, we will be able to understand all circumstances which, in our opinion, have not yet been clarified.

For me, this is a turning point. I consider this day to be very important. I know that Prime Minister Putin also considers this a turning point. We have told ourselves about this. However, one should not expect everyone to assess this in precisely the same manner. Future generations will assess events of the past few years and today's events.

In reality, the value of this day and the value of today's gesture (I don't conceal the fact that we had waited for this gesture) will, surely, be confirmed and duly assessed several days, months or years later. This is because the confirmation of the essence of the current event will be seen in our joint work. Our joint work will, most likely, make it impossible to lose sight of this gesture.

We hope this meaningful gesture will promote our future positive work. Let's do all this in our time while there is still good memory, will and determination to tackle complicated historical issues. Let others appraise us.

I am convinced that Poles and Russians are now building new and better relations. Although we argue and disagree in some cases, our relations will continue to improve. Ask the people, who should be asked more often than politicians. Ask the people here and in Poland whether they desire good relations between Russia and Poland, and you will always hear a positive reply.

Vladimir Putin: The Prime Minister and I have already talked to each other. I can tell the Polish public once again that no previously concealed facts remain. Naturally, one is prompted to ask why some people were exiled to Siberia, and others executed. There is no rational explanation for this. The documents say nothing about this. The motives and goal of this crime remain unclear. We have talked today, and I can say as frankly as I have told the Prime Minister of my own understanding after a meeting with scholars. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know this before. It turns out that Josef Stalin had personally supervised a military operation in the 1920 Soviet-Polish War. I didn't know anything about this. The Red Army was defeated at the time, and many Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner. The latest records show that 32,000 Red Army soldiers died from famine and diseases in Polish captivity. In my opinion, and I repeat, this is just my opinion, Stalin felt personally responsible for that tragedy. Perhaps, he organised this execution as an act of vengeance. Although this does not justify the crime, it may explain something about its motive. We know nothing about this, and the documents keep silent on the issue.

But what we know for sure, and I want to reiterate the Prime Minister's words, is that this is a turning point for us because we have displayed profound respect for the Polish nation and condemnation of this crime, but have shown that this objective and authentic truth should help us move on. Thank you very much.