Vladimir Kozhin: G8 summit will be organized perfectly
In an interview with Interfax, Russian presidential property manager Vladimir Kozhin comments on preparations for the G8 summit in St. Petersburg and a number of other issues.
All G8 leaders invited to attend the organization's St. Petersburg summit in July will stay and work at the Palace of Congresses complex in Strelna outside the city, which will help avoid causing inconvenience to ordinary St. Petersburg residents, presidential property manager Vladimir Kozhin told Interfax.
"The Konstantinovsky Palace, or, to be more precise, the Palace of Congresses complex, is to host all of the main official and unofficial events of the summit. All leaders and official delegations, excluding delegations of non-G8 members, will stay there as well," he said.
The measure will allow the St. Petersburg authorities to keep the city's central streets open to traffic, the official said. "We will do our best to prevent such a large gathering of VIP guests from influencing the city's life. Everything will take place in Strelna. The summit's agenda does not include any events inside the city," Kozhin said.
Officials invited to the summit, technical staff and several thousand journalists will stay at St. Petersburg's major hotels such as the Astoria, Evropa, Nevsky Palace, Pribaltiiskaya and a number of other high-end hotels, he said.
Several foreign leaders stayed on board the cruise ship Silver Whisper during the St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebrations, he said.
Preparations for the summit have entered the final phase, Kozhin said.
All Palace of Congresses buildings and parks have been renovated, landscape designers are completing their work and the interiors of the village where the delegation heads are to stay have been refurbished, Kozhin said.
A press center is the only part of the Strelna complex that will have been built from scratch, he said.
Commenting on Russia's property abroad, Kozhin said Russia plans to lay claims to a number of facilities in foreign countries that belonged not only to the former Soviet Union, but also to the Russian Empire.
"We are vigorously searching for property that was owned not only by the Soviet Union, but also by the Russian Empire. Great progress has already been made in this area. We are going to lay claims to this property," he said.
"Taking Russia's interests into consideration we prevented the Bulgarian authorities from privatizing Bulgartabac," Kozhin said. Control over Bulgartabac, Bulgaria's tobacco giant, was transferred to the Soviet Union after World War II as part of reparations to be paid by Sofia.
He criticized Ukraine's rejection of the so-called 'zero' option, whereby Russia pledges to pay off all Soviet-era debt, in turn gaining control over former Soviet property abroad.
"We do not understand the position of our Ukrainian friends and consider it unconstructive and inconsistent. Furthermore, it hurts our bilateral relations and delivers a blow to the economy of the Russian Federation,' Kozhin said.
The presidential property management department and the Foreign Ministry have been detailing an inventory of Russian property abroad since 2000, the official said.
"Today we have totally reliable and verified information regarding our possessions abroad," he said.
Operations with property in foreign countries which is not used for diplomatic purposes become more profitable year by year, he said. "I am speaking about the tens of millions of dollars that we invest in this property," he said.
Asked whether Russia might purchase dachas once owned by former Soviet leaders in foreign countries, Kozhin said that the authorities of a number of countries where such residences are located, among them Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, are ready to return them to Russia. "However, we are increasingly wary of such suggestions and have no immediate plans to accept them. We will develop what we have on our own territory, for instance at Sochi," Kozhin said.
The creation of an airline that will cater to the needs of Russia's highest-ranking officials has been completed, presidential property manager Vladimir Kozhin told Interfax.
"The reorganization of the State Transport Company Rossiya is almost over. The Rossiya specialized aircraft group has diversified to provide services to the country's highest-ranking officials such as the president, the prime minister, the speakers of the Federal Assembly's chambers, the foreign minister and the prosecutor general," Kozhin said.
The group, which operates over 20 aircraft, is a state-owned organization that reports to the presidential property management department, he said. Its fleet includes two Il-96-300 and two Tu-214 planes, modified versions of the Mi-8 helicopter, Il-62, Tu-154M, Tu-134 and Yak-40 planes.
"Of course, we have kept the most advanced aircraft owned by the State Transport Company Rossiya, such as new airplanes and helicopters with a long service life," the official said.
Several new airplanes will be added to the group's fleet soon, he said.
"New Tu-214 airplanes and new re-transmitter airplanes will be ordered," he said.
Medium-range aircraft, including An-18, Tu-334 and RRJ planes, will also be purchased for the group, he said.
The reorganization involved the Rossiya company's merger with Pulkovo Airlines, with control over the new company being handed over to the Transport Ministry, Kozhin said.
Commenting on the upcoming transfer of the Constitutional Court's headquarters to St. Petersburg, Kozhin denied rumors that the measure may worsen the judges' working conditions.
"My opinion is that all debates on the matter are pointless. The judges will be offered the most advanced infrastructure and will enjoy a high standard of living," he said.
Kozhin disagreed that the handover of control over maintenance of the court's building, transport and cafeterias to the presidential property management department would affect the judicial institution's independence.
"Our position is that the status of the Constitutional Court and its position make it the highest judicial body in the Russian Federation under the Constitution. It is simply ridiculous to say that it will be dependent on anybody else," the official said.
Claims that the Constitutional Court can become dependent stem from policies pursued in the 1990s, when "everybody sought to become independent: the State Duma wanted to become independent of the president, the president of the State Duma, and the government of all the other agencies. They all created their own structures," Kozhin said.
"The Constitutional Court has its own economics division, which enjoys our strong support," he said.
"Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court, together with the government, the chambers of the Federal Assembly and a number of other agencies, helps the presidential property management department perform its duties," he said.
The Supreme Court, the Higher Court of Arbitration, the Audit Chamber and the Central Bank will not be moved to St. Petersburg, Kozhin said.
"Such allegations are groundless. I have information to confirm that plans for the next five, six, seven, eight or maybe even ten years do not envision other relocations," he said.
Kozhin welcomed the decision to transfer the Constitutional Court's headquarters to St. Petersburg. "The presence of the country's higher judicial body in this city restores historical justice and returns St. Petersburg its status, about which a great deal has already been said and written," he said.