More than a dozen important bilateral agreements and business deals were on the agenda of a two-day state visit to Prague by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his entourage. Bilateral relations were at the forefront of attention, but topics such as the eurozone’s debt crisis and the recent parliamentary elections in Russia were also addressed.
President Medvedev was welcomed with state honours on Thursday morning when he arrived at Prague Castle for the second time in two years. In the presence of the two countries’ heads of state, Czech and Russian officials and businessmen signed deals worth more 54 billion crowns (2.15 billion euros), including a contract for railroad construction in Siberia and nuclear power supplies. Czech President Václav Klaus called the visit a “signal of bilateral interest in mutual friendly relations”. Quoting his Russian counterpart, he said relations had been freed of ideology and were no longer burdened by the past.
“There are no doubt many areas in which we already cooperate, there are more than 100 Russian investors in the Czech Republic and there are many Czech investors in the Russian Federation. Today we have outlined new possibilities and forged new contacts for future cooperation. I am also very happy that we managed to bring here a unique exhibition from the Kremlin treasury which President Medvedev and I first discussed two years ago during my visit to Moscow. I see the fact that this exhibition is being opened as a significant and positive occasion that does not occur very often in the history of our two countries.”
“We are taking a pragmatic and rational approach to the problem. The Czech Republic is interested in a fair and transparent process of selection of the foreign partner. In my view, the Russian bid has a positive aspect in that it offers probably the largest share of subcontracts for Czech companies. But the final bids have not been submitted yet.”
President Medvedev said he would like mutual cooperation between the two countries to be more diversified and include more projects than energy or heavy machinery. The two sides also briefly touched on the debt crisis in the eurozone and the outcome and aftermath of last week’s general elections in Russia.
“There is nothing unnatural about the results, the figures reflect the situation in society as well as predictions, so it was no surprise to me. As for the post-election situation: if people want to express their views, it is important that everything goes in line with the law, without excesses. As for possible irregularities, such claims must be investigated by the central electoral committee and judiciary. We are willing to listen to objections from our partners but they must not be biased.”
President Klaus refrained from commenting on the Russian elections referring to them as the country’s internal issue and adding that he himself did not like foreign commentaries on Czech domestic affairs. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg who is currently on a working visit to Brussels was less diplomatic in this respect saying that he disapproved of the way the Russian authorities were handling post-election protests and he would be happy to tell the Russian president so to his face were he to meet with him in person.