Putin jokes at Eurasian forum

President Vladimir Putin joked that it was "inhuman" to have the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Community meet so early because of a three hour time difference between Moscow and Astana.

The Russian President is participating in the international forum, "Eurasian Integration: Trends of Modern Development and Challenges of Globalization," in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, at Lev Gumilyov Eurasian University.

"We have come here to discuss humanitarian issues but [Kazakhstan's president] Nursultan Abishevich [Nazarbayev] is not treating us humanely - it is 6 a.m. in Moscow now, and I will hardly be able to deliver as great of a speech as he has," Mr. Putin said smiling.

Mr. Putin was to speak after Mr. Nazarbayev who spoke about many aspects of cooperation between member states of the Eurasian Economic Community (the member states are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) and CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan). The Russian president was apparently in high moods.

"Gumilyov's ideas captivate people," he said, "Some experts argue that almost all people become relatives as 14 or 15 generations pass. I am not sure about the entire planet, but within the Eurasian boundaries of the former USSR we are all relatives, and closer than 14 generations," he emphasized.

Also smiling, he added that there was a funny thing on the agenda that caught his eye. He said that while the first issue on the agenda was speeches by heads of Eurasian Economic Community and CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization member states, "the second line is especially for [Armenian President Robert] Kocharyan's speech," the Russian leader remarked.

Other heads of state followed in Vladimir Putin's cheerful tone. Giving the floor to the President of Armenia, Mr. Nazarbayev said that he "would like to correct the mistake Vladimir Putin has noticed." He assured Mr. Kocharyan that he had nothing to do with what was written on the agenda.

Mr. Kocharyan reciprocated by saying, as he took the floor, that "the status of [the economic community] observer has some advantages. It is great to be a separate issue on the agenda of the forum," he said and added he was "thinking whether one should lose this advantage by getting membership."

The hall applauded and Mr. Putin, jokingly irritated, exclaimed: "What are you applauding at?"