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Putin holds talks with Slovak officials

DURING his offical visit on February 25, President Putin met the three highest Slovak officials - President Ivan Gašparovič, Speaker of Parliament Pavol Hrušovský, and PM Mikuláš Dzurinda. They talked principally about bilateral relationships but also democracy in Russia, the SITA newswire reported.

Hrušovský asked Putin about prepared changes to the Russian electoral system. He told journalists he had asked whether these changes had not been proposed with the aim of curbing democracy in Russia. Hrušovský was also eager to learn more about plans to create a so-called public chamber in the Russian parliament to analyze laws and oversee elements of the federal government.

Putin assured Hrušovský that his plan to create the chamber was not designed to limit parliament's powers but to create a communication channel for central government organs with the public. The Russian president also stressed in Bratislava that Russia wants to find a long-term solution to the situation in Chechnya and the Caucasus, but that it first needs to create a safe environment and a stable economic situation there.

Economic cooperation dominated the discussion between Putin and Dzurinda. Even before their talk Putin declared that trade turnover between the two was sound, but that it could still be improved. Putin informed Dzurinda of the interest of two companies in acquiring the 49 percent stake that Russian crude oil giant Yukos holds in Slovak company Transpetrol. Later, at a press conference, Putin identified one of the firms as the Russian Tatneft oil company.

Despite his previous statements to the contrary, Dzurinda decided to raise the issue of human rights with Putin. Originally, Slovak senior officials had said they would not raise the issue of democracy and human rights in Russia during their meetings with the Russian president.

Putin, however, said that information that is published about Russia often does not correspond with reality or with his own view of what is going on. However, the Russian president said he was interested in pursuing a path of democracy in his country, reported Dzurinda.

Compiled by Spectator staff from press reports

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