Russia shares G8 partners' values - Putin aide
BRUSSELS, April 27 (Reuters) - Russia aims to convince its partners in the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations that it shares their values at a meeting in St. Petersburg in July, a top aide to President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
But Igor Shuvalov, Russia's main organiser for the G8 summit, added that the former Soviet giant had a "right to speak and to be heard" on issues where it had different views, including the war in Iraq. Critics say Russia's shaky economy and concerns about democracy set it apart from other G8 members.
"We expect that when all the leaders leave the summit, it will be obvious for all that Russia shares the same values as our G8 partners," Shuvalov said.
"We are all in the same family," he told reporters in Brussels at the headquarters of the European Commission during a tour of Europe that has included stops in London and Paris.
Shuvalov's tour comes as Russia and the European Union squabble over Moscow's gas exports to the 25-nation bloc and Russia's desire to expand into markets outside of Europe.
Shuvalov said the size of a country's economy was less important than its ability to influence "global processes" like energy security, a key issue on the July meeting's agenda.
"Can you imagine speaking seriously about energy security without Russia?" he said. Russia is the world's largest producer of natural gas and second largest producer of oil.
Other G8 members are the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada. The St. Petersburg meeting on July 15-17 will also discuss the fight against infectious diseases, Shuvalov said.
Moscow drew international criticism earlier this year when it briefly turned off its gas taps to Ukraine in a pricing dispute that disrupted supply to Europe.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the dispute would "draw comment about the distance between Russia's behaviour on something like this and what would be expected by a leader of the G8."
Shuvalov said Russia's only error had been communicational.
"It was our fault that we didn't explain it properly," he said. "Russians were silent for a month."
On the key European demand that its companies gain more access to Russian pipelines and other infrastructure, Shuvalov said Russia was looking for the same for its companies.
"We welcome companies who are investing in Russia," he said. "Reciprocity is the key issue."