Putin: We Will Never Agree to EU Decisions Which Separate Kaliningrad from the Rest of Country

'We will never agree to EU decisions on Kaliningrad which will cut off an area of our country', declared President Putin on Sunday, in answer to journalists' questions at a Kremlin press conference.

Putin said that Russia welcomes the expansion and development of the EU, and sees the European community as a vital trade and economic partner. At the same time, he said that Russia's position remains unchanged. 'This position is clear, open and reasonable', he said. He went on to say that the visa system should be the same for all Russian citizens, and that an unconditional transit should be provided between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia. The president said that 'a situation in which residents of Yakutia, Murmansk, or other Russian towns are forced to apply to foreign consulates in order to go to a family funeral or wedding in Kaliningrad, or even just to visit a friend there, is utterly unacceptable.'

The Russian president noted that at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was faced with a similar problem in East Germany. The USSR provided transit for citizens of West Germany to western Berlin. 'Now we would like to resolve these questions in the same spirit in which they were resolved in the Cold War, and taking into account the current cooperative relationship', he said. Putin also expressed his gratitude to Swedish Prime Minister Joran Persson and Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Shroder, and to the Lithuanian government for their attention to the Russian situation. He quoted to journalists the words of the Swedish prime minister: 'If we in the EU speak in this way to partners, then we are dictating, and no dialogue will develop.' Putin said that discussions on the Kaliningrad problem are a working process, and that 'there is hope that we'll come up with positive results.'

This is already the second meeting of the Russian President with journalists at the Kremlin. Today around 700 representatives of the mass media from various countries of the world and regions of Russia were present. The proceedings were recorded by 90 television cameras. The meeting continued almost 40 minutes longer than was planned. During the press conference, Putting replied to 39 questions.

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