Russian President meets key ministers

RIA Novosti, Russia
April 19 2004


MOSCOW, April 19 (RIA Novosti) – At today’s conference with the key
ministers of the cabinet, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a
series of significant statements.

Vladimir Putin told the cabinet that he had submitted amendments to
the federal constitutional law on the government on Monday. “They are
linked to the concluding phase of the reform,” said the Russian
leader. Today we will begin work with leaders of the power bloc on
relevant changes in these ministries, he said.

When touching on the relations with Ukraine, Mr. Putin demanded that
the presidential administration and the government together with
parliamentarians and Ukrainian colleagues complete ratification of
the agreements on the Azov and Kerch water area.

“Ukrainian colleagues and we agreed this week to ratify agreements on
Azov,” said the Russian president.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia was ready to
begin the second phase of evacuating Russians from Iraq, if need be.

“The first stage of the evacuation was exclusively voluntary. We did
not force anybody. The decision was adopted by people themselves
consulting the leadership of their companies. No contracts were
canceled. All the contracts remain effective,” said the minister.

As for the situation in Iraq, Mr. Lavrov said, “the security
situation remains complicated. It is early to speak of any progress.”
“Our warning that it is insecure to stay there [in Iraq] is still in
force,” concluded the Russian foreign minister.

(On Thursday, April 15, three Russian rescue planes evacuated 370
staffers of Russian companies, mainly Russian and Ukrainian citizens,
and also Belarussian, Armenian and Tajik citizens working in Iraq,
from Baghdad. On the next day, the fourth Russian aircraft arrived in
Moscow with 117 people, 100 of them Russian.

In all, 553 Russian citizens and 263 CIS citizens were in Iraq before
the evacuation.) The Russian foreign minister informed the president
about the upcoming Moscow visit of Chairman of the European
Commission Romano Prodi due on April 22.

Vladimir Putin in turn noted that the meeting with European
Commissioners was expected this week. The head of state suggested
that relevant issues be discussed at a conference with the cabinet.

Mr. Putin listened to the report of Minister of Economic Development
and Trade German Gref that in the first quarter of this year the GDP
had grown 8% year-on-year. The Russian president demanded that the
government keep an eye on macroeconomic indices boosting the
processing industry.

“This is a serious element of our current and medium-term activity,”
said the president.