26 august, 2009 17:30  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity conducted a news conference


“The main issue to which we paid attention during the meeting is the development of bilateral trade and economic contacts, and assistance to South Ossetia in restoring its infrastructure and social sphere, and in creating the conditions for normal, peaceful life of its citizens.”

Vladimir Putin At the news conference with Eduard Kokoity, President of South Ossetian

Vladimir Putin's introductory remarks:

Exactly a year ago, on August 26, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In this difficult time, immediately after the aggression staged by the current Georgian leaders, the decision of our country served as a firm guarantee for peace the region, and the survival of the two nations.

It goes without saying that there will be no return to the past situation. The sooner all parties involved in this process realize this, the easier it will be for them to build a joint future.

Much has been done since then for developing full-scale relations between Russia and South Ossetia and for consolidating their legal foundation. In September 2008, we signed a Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, and last April, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Protection of South Ossetia's State Frontier. The Russian border guards have assumed responsibility for securing peace and tranquility in the region.

More than 30 agreements and treaties - all in all, 36 agreements - are being discussed today. They are designed to consolidate the legal foundation of our cooperation in all areas - security, the economy, and the social sphere.

The main issue to which we paid attention during the meeting is the development of bilateral trade and economic contacts, and assistance to South Ossetia in restoring its infrastructure and social sphere, and in creating the conditions for normal, peaceful life of its citizens.

We understand the difficult position of the republic and its citizens, and are ready to fulfill all the commitments we have assumed, including financial obligations.

Russia has appropriated about three billion roubles - 2.8 billion roubles, to be exact - for supporting the republic's budget this year, and another 8.5 billion roubles for restoring the infrastructure facilities. Out of the 8.5 billion roubles, 3.5 billion roubles have been spent. Let's see what can be done in the remaining months of this year. We have agreed with the republic's President that if some funds are not spent, we will not rush to meet the deadline for spending them. The main task is to guarantee the quality of construction.

In other words, we will use these funds next year, and will see what else can be done in 2010, beyond the first quarter of 2010.

Let me recall that a comprehensive plan for the restoration of housing, social facilities, and housing and utilities in South Ossetia, has already been adopted. It includes almost 600 facilities.

As you have seen and heard today, a gas pipeline to Tskhinval has been launched today. As I have already said, it was laid in a record short time along a complicated alpine terrain, and rids the republic of its dependence on gas supplies via Georgia. This was also Russian gas but it was supplied via Georgia. Now South Ossetia itself can become a transit country for Georgia.

We have also signed an agreement on assistance to South Ossetia in its social and economic development, and an agreement on countering crime. Russia is going to continue rendering all-round political and economic support both to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

I would like to make it clear once again that Russia will not allow any attempts at having revenge, or staging new military ventures in the region. We will closely follow the developments in the region and adequately react to them.

I would like to congratulate once again the Republic of South Ossetia, and its citizens, as well as Abkhazia with the first anniversary of their full-scale independence.

Thank you for your attention.


Eduard Kokoity: Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to express my gratitude to the Russian gas companies, which managed to construct and launch within a remarkably short period of time the gas pipeline Dzuarikau-Tskhinvali, a project of great social importance. This facility should be in the Guiness World Records since it is the only gas pipeline in the world constructed at this altitude.

I would also like to use this occasion to express gratitude to you personally, Mr Prime Minister, since it is you who made a discretionary decision in 2006 to authorise this gas pipeline's construction.

Today, on August 26, South Ossetia marks its national day - the Day of State Independence Recognition. August 26, 2008 became a hallmark in Ossetia's modern history. This date is lettered in gold in our country's chronicles and is celebrated as a national day. The recognition of the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of South Ossetia, which the Russian Federation made after repelling Georgia's barbaric aggression against South Ossetia, created guarantees against new attempts of Georgia's military attack.

A gate has been opened for our country's free development. The years of war and the economic embargo, as well as the invasion of Saakashvili's hordes and the barbaric bombings of peaceful towns and villages by the Georgian artillery and Air Force inflicted immense damage on South Ossetia. The world turned a blind eye to the problems of South Ossetia devastated by war.

Only Russia pursued a truly ethical and humane policy, free from double standards. Russia came to the rescue of South Ossetia at the moment of a deadly military threat, when the survival of a whole nation was at stake. Russia extended a helping hand to our country to restore it. It is needless to say how immeasurable our people's gratitude to Russia is and what the Day of State Independence Recognition means to South Ossetia.

We can still hear idle talk in the West that in defending South Ossetia, Russia wants to expand its southern borders, annexing another state's land. Certain forces, guided by the cold war logic and false stereotypes, are loath to acknowledge that Moscow and Tskhinvali have been developing genuine interstate relations, based on the state independence recognition, with South Ossetia's sovereign statehood continuing to gradually strengthen with Russia's assistance.

On September 17, 2008 a Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Economic Assistance Treaty was signed to map out the basic objectives and directions in the interstate cooperation. In the past months, dozens other agreements for various interaction areas have been signed on the basis of this framework agreement.

The agreements that the Republic of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation signed today are of special importance. The Agreement to Render Assistance to South Ossetia in Social and Economic Development gives us an opportunity to seek a breakthrough in addressing urgent issues, including the restoration of destroyed housing, as well as the development of the infrastructure and the social sphere.

A new era in South Ossetia's development has been ushered in. The Agreement on Cooperation on Countering Crime expands the legal base for the cooperation between both countries' law-enforcement agencies, creating a tool to increase crime control and to boost the effectiveness of human rights and freedoms protection measures.

Speaking about the law-enforcement sphere, I can't help noting that unlike the majority of the countries that went through war, South Ossetia managed to avert an upsurge of crime.

It is because of both law-enforcement agencies' effective performance and the high level of South Ossetians' consciousness. Our nations want to live in peace, stability and security. This is what today's agreements are aimed at.

I would like to once again emphasise that the signing of the agreements today that determine the direction of cooperation development with the Russian Federation on social and economic as well as law-enforcement issues is of major importance to South Ossetia. These agreements aim to normalise life in South Ossetia, contributing to strengthening peace in the Caucasus in general.

Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, today's holiday is another cause for South Ossetians to extend their deep and sincere gratitude to Russia for the role it played in our nation's history, and for the aid that allowed us to withstand hardship and face the future with confidence and hope.

I would like to assure you that Russia will never regret its decision to come to the rescue of South Ossetia and to recognise its independence.

Thank you.

I would also like to use this occasion to congratulate the fraternal nation of the Republic of Abkhazia on the first anniversary of the recognition of Abkhazia's independence and state sovereignty.

  * * *

Question: I have a question for the Russian Prime Minister and the South Ossetian President. An agreement concerning Russian assistance to South Ossetia for the latter's social and economic development has just been signed. What can you say about the focus and scope of this assistance? How will it be carried out? Thank you.

Eduard Kokoity: I would like to note that despite the global economic crisis and all the upheavals that have befallen the country in recent times (you are well aware of the tragic events on the Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydroelectric Power Plant), Russia is carrying out its commitments in full, no matter how difficult this might be.

It was emphasized at the meeting today that Russia is not going to cut down on its current assistance to South Ossetia. Everything that is being built within South Ossetia is thanks to Russian assistance. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all Russian construction workers and other specialists, who are now selflessly working in our republic.

South Ossetia is directing all of the funds and assistance we have received to resolve social issues and improve living standards. As you know, South Ossetia is a multiethnic republic, and we are doing all we can to create normal living conditions for our people.

At the same time, I would like to draw several parallels. Georgia is also receiving assistance from the West, and all this assistance is geared towards rearming Georgia and creating more tensions in the region.

We will do everything to achieve peace and to prove through economic development that living in peace and reasonable circumstances is much better than being an object of permanent tensions in the Caucasus.

Vladimir Putin: We have said more than once that Russia is interested in stability in this region. We have done everything to achieve this in the last few years. We had to react to the aggression unleashed by the Georgian leaders last year. We simply had no other choice.

There was no other way of ensuring this stability but to recognize the independence of both republics, because we realized that the current Georgian political leaders will not leave them in peace. It is necessary to establish the conditions for ensuring reliable security for the long term.

As for social and economic assistance, early this year we announced that it would amount to 10 billion roubles. As I said recently, this support will be in two areas. The first part, 2.8 billion roubles, has been allocated for supporting the budget, that is paying wages and allowances through the South Ossetian Government, and the remaining 8.5 billion roubles are designed for restoring the social infrastructure, housing and utilities. Out of the latter sum, 3.5 billion roubles have already been spent.

Much more could have been done in this respect, but we realize that it is difficult enough to organize the work immediately after hostilities have ended. It is always difficult to arrange it in such a way as to guarantee the quality of work and conserve the appropriated funds. The South Ossetian leaders have taken all the necessary steps in order to do this. It was also essential to establish a corresponding legal foundation. All these tasks took time.

I would like to repeat once again that if there are funds that are not spent this year, they will be transferred to the next year, and will certainly be sufficient for the work in the first quarter of the next year. If additional funds are required for the same purposes, that is, for the restoration of housing, utilities and social facilities, we will consider allocating additional resources.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Russia is also supporting Georgia. I'm sure you know that Georgia is receiving no small amount of assistance through the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We are an active member of the IMF, and regularly make serious contributions to this international organisation, which are then distributed among the distressed countries, Georgia included. This shows once again that we are not interested in humiliating Georgia, and we are not interested in having losers and winners here.

We are interested in creating a stable situation, which would guarantee peace and stability to all people in this region of the Caucasus for a long-term, historical perspective.

Eduard Kokoity: I would like to add that currently, the regions of Russia are doing a lot to restore South Ossetia. They are doing so independently of the afore-mentioned programme. The Moskovsky residential area is under construction now. Representatives from the Arkhangelsk Region, Tyumen, Tambov and St. Petersburg, to name but a few, are very active in our republic.

Therefore, I would like to express my gratitude to the representatives of these regions for their active efforts. Today, there are up to 8,000 workers from different parts of Russia in South Ossetia.

Question: I would like to ask two questions if you don't mind. Does it bother you that, in the past year, only Russia and Nicaragua, if I'm not mistaken, have recognised South Ossetia's independence? Do you know whether other governments are going to recognise its independence? Maybe Belarus? And the second question: Do you consider it likely that Georgia will launch another military operation?

Eduard Kokoity: No, we are not upset about this fact. For us, the most important thing is the recognition by the Russian Federation. Also, we are grateful to Nicaragua for this step, for recognising our country's independence.

There have been many examples in history when countries didn't recognise each other for decades. But nevertheless, the most important thing is to develop a normal, modern state, thereby proving to everyone that Russia made the right choice in recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

As for fears that the events of August 2008 may be repeated, the Russian military bases on the territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia guarantee peace and stability. But nevertheless, we are watching developments in Georgia.

Georgia managed to quickly restore its military potential. NATO members, above all the United States, arm Georgia and send their military experts to this country. The Georgian Minister of Defence has recently stated that Georgia might prepare its army for another war with Russia with the help of experts from the US and other NATO countries.

It means that there are still revanchist sentiments in Georgia, and its leaders have not drawn the proper conclusions from what happened in August 2008.

I am sure that Georgians want to live in peace. I am sure that Georgian people do not want war. Nor do Ossetians or Russians.

We must try our best to preserve international stability, preventing people known as political adventurists from taking control of the situation. I am referring to the present political regime in Georgia.

Vladimir Putin: As for the recognition by a large number of states, according to international law the international legal personality of South Ossetia and Abkhazia takes effect once their independence has been recognised by at least one member of the international community. And so the recognition by Russia is enough.

If one considers the moral and ethical aspects, or better yet the moral and political sides of this issue, rather than the international law issues alone, the situation looks as follows: Comparing South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's case with the precedent of Kosovo is justified. In essence, there is no difference between the developments in these regions. There were ethnic conflicts and law infringements in both areas, with ethnic minorities seeking state independence.

And the international community must agree on which rules we will live by. Either we will privilege the principle of countries' national sovereignty and will all follow this rule - but then Kosovo needs to remain part of Serbia, or we will privilege people's right to self-determination - and then we need to secure this right for other minority groups that are striving for their independence, such as the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

What is taking place now, despite the obvious arguments, is telling of only one thing - that not many members of the international community use sovereignty in the full sense of the word. And everyone is under pressure from one superpower - the United States - and everyone carries out that country's political will, in essence, neither understanding nor wanting to understand the substance behind current events.

But I am confident that gradually this situation will change, because nobody wants to be vassals, nobody wants to be dependent to any extent. And the block mentality of the Cold War era will gradually dissolve in the present-day reality.

The fact that the majority of countries do not now recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia does not harm them very much, because recognition from Russia was needed only to legalise our peacekeeping efforts. What I mean is that the efforts of the international community, the presence of international observers and the presence of peacekeeping forces could not prevent aggression on the part of the current Georgian regime.

This, unfortunately, is an accomplished fact. There were both observers and peacekeepers there, but so what? No one noticed that military forces were approaching and killing civilians and those very same peacekeepers. Therefore, the instruments did not work, and we were forced to replace them. We can no longer risk the lives of our citizens.

These conditions were created as the result of the recognition. Conditions have also been created to help people who are in a difficult situation, in essence, people that are experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe. This is the second outcome of Russia recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

We never cajoled or asked anyone to recognize the independence of these republics. I want to emphasize this - we never asked anyone to do this. For us, it is enough that we did this ourselves.

Believe me, Nicaragua's actions were a total surprise for us. There was no discussion of this with the Nicaraguan leadership on a diplomatic level or any other political level. I personally learned of their recognition from the media. We are, of course, thankful for the moral and political support for Russia's efforts to restore stability and order, but I reiterate that we did not ask for that.

Regarding Belarus, this is a question for the Belarusian leadership, a question for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Of course, the question is probably fair, considering that Russia and Belarus are developing a Union State. For many years, Russia rendered political and economic assistance to Belarus. But I'll say it once again - this is a question for the Belarusian leadership.