Vladimir Putin to Visit Bulgaria in March

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to make an official visit to Bulgaria between March 1 and 3, 2003. This was announced today at a press conference by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin after a meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation between Russia and Bulgaria. The visit will coincide with the 125th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. Kudrin said that the Russian President would sign a number of agreements in Bulgaria which are currently being drawn up by the commission. According to Kudrin, the agreements concern cooperation in the energy, transport, farming, and tourism sectors, as well as information exchange.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Vasilev said that serious preparations were being made in Bulgaria for the visit of the Russian President because 'there has not been a visit from Russia to Bulgaria at such a high level for a long time.' It is only during the last 13 months that there has been 'an intensifying trend' in high-level relations between the two countries.

Kudrin stressed that Bulgaria is of great geopolitical importance to Russia. He particularly noted that Bulgaria remembers the assistance it received from Russia in its struggle for independence and that there are around 400 monuments to Russian soldiers in the country.