Putin invites Schroeder to WWII anniversary
21 December 2004, SCHLESWIG - Marking the build-up to 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited German leader Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday to take part in ceremonies in Moscow next year celebrating the Soviets' 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.
21 December 2004
SCHLESWIG - Marking the build-up to 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited German leader Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday to take part in ceremonies in Moscow next year celebrating the Soviets' 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.
At a joint news conference in Schleswig, northern Germany, Putin also confirmed that Sunday's auction sale of Yuganskneftegaz, the main extraction unit of the Yukos oil and gas group, had come up in his two days of talks with Schroeder.
The Russian leader however remained tight-lipped about who was behind the little-known Baikal Finance Group, the eventual buyer.
He could neither rule out Chinese involvement - "It is perfectly possible" - nor the hand of Russian state-owned companies in the transaction: "Like other participants, they have a right to it," Putin said.
Putin added that Baikal was owned by "physical" individuals, not corporations. "As far as I know, they are endeavouring to establish connections with the other energy corporations," he added.
Two senior managers of the Russian oil and gas company Surgutneftegaz were identified by Moscow media on Tuesday as having made the mysterious winning bid.
Russia is planning major 60th anniversary celebrations next May of its victory in the "Great Patriotic War". Moscow has preferred in the past not to invite the former enemy to such emotion-laden events.
Last year, France, Britain and the United States invited Germany for the first time to attend D-Day anniversary ceremonies.
Schroeder told the news conference at Gottorf Castle, the venue for the 7th round of regular Russian-German talks, he would be honoured to attend an occasion devoted to "remembrance, but not coming to a halt by remembering".
The chancellor also confirmed Russia was seeking to pay back part of its sovereign debt to Germany ahead of schedule. He said he assumed there would be such a payment next year, but officials still had to work out details.
Diplomats said Russia was keen to use booming oil revenues to pay off early some of its EUR 21 billion in sovereign debt to Germany.
Government sources said Russia aims to pay Germany between EUR 2.0 and 2.5 billion in the years 2005-2007.
Altogether, Russia is said to be aiming to pay off some EUR 30 billion worth of foreign debts in the next three years.
Television news reports said on Tuesday that a bigger payment of EUR 5 to 6 billion all at once, could help to significantly reduce Germany's deficit next year and bring net borrowing down, closer to the European stability pact guideline of 3 percent of GDP.
German and Russian flags fluttered high over the tower of Tuesday's venue, Castle Gottorf, which was the ancestral castle of the later czars of Russia. The Romanov dynasty intermarried with the Gottorp family, who were the dukes of Schleswig.
Putin and Schroeder were to view the castle together after the official meetings, and then head to Schroeder's private home in the northern city of Hanover in the afternoon for a fireside chat.
Subject: German news