Russia stable energy partner - Putin aide
Russia is a reliable energy supplier and should be viewed as a partner - albeit one ready to defend its position - that shares the West's values, a presidential aide said Tuesday.
With St. Petersburg set to host G8 leaders in July, Igor Shuvalov also said Russia would allow representatives of non-governmental organizations to enter the country for the summit and would put forward an initiative to establish a center to work on an AIDS vaccine.
But with Russia's image as a reliable partner under question in the Western media over accusations of energy blackmail and backsliding on democracy, Shuvalov was at pains to emphasize that the country was a reliable partner that shared commonly accepted values.
"The main political event of the summit should be that after the summit... Russia should be viewed as a difficult partner who in the final analysis shares all our [Western] values," he said, though he added the country would defend its position when it thought necessary.
"We share Western values... but consider it a crime to keep silent on a number of issues and will convince the international community that we know what is more correct," he said.
"No one had ever questioned the reliability of hydrocarbon supplies from Russia until the Ukrainian incident," Shuvalov said, referring to energy giant Gazprom's decision to turn off gas supplies to neighboring Ukraine in a dispute over prices in January this year.
Europe discussed the need to diversify supplies after shortfalls were then registered, which Gazprom said was down to Ukrainian siphoning, but Shulavov defended Russian companies in robust terms.
"Russia and Russian companies have fulfilled all contractual delivery obligations," he said.
The aide, who is also Russia's representative within the Group of Eight industrialized nations, criticized Western media for their portrayal of the country and said Russia would cooperate with Western experts to get its point across.
"There has never been a firm conviction that Russia is a positive European partner and in this case a PR agency is needed to make another viewpoint heard," he said, adding that papers frequently ran negative stories about Russia rather than good news.
One issue earlier in the year was the role of foreign NGOs after Russia was criticized over the enactment in January of a new law restricting their activities. But Shuvalov said representatives of such organizations would be allowed to attend marches and rallies held in St. Petersburg during the July 15-17 summit.
"It is a myth that we will not allow representatives of non-governmental organizations into our territory," he said. "An order has been given to issue visas to everyone in good time, and not to put any obstacles in the way of holding marches."
Russia will also seek further international efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS by proposing the establishment of a new center to work on a vaccine, Shuvalov said.
The disease poses a potentially dire threat for Russia, already under threat from a demographic crisis, as official statistics say a total of 350,000 people are HIV+, but independent experts claim the figure is about three times higher.
But Shuvalov said Russia was ready to pay for new research to combat the disease, which could have ramifications across the world.
"We plan to propose an initiative on establishing a new center for creating a vaccine against HIV/AIDS and are ready to assume a significant share of the center's financing," he said.