Kommersant: Russian President Did Not Bow for Queen: "However,
the main intrigue of that day was opened during the meeting with
business circles of the Netherlands -- the head of Shell raised
the question about the participation of this company in the
project Sakhalin-2.": Shell sometime ago signed an agreement
with Gasprom, and now Mr. Van Der Veer offered to reconsider the
conditions.": Wednesday 2 November 2005
Putin Defended Gasprom's Interests in the Netherlands
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived to the Netherlands
and during the meeting with Queen Beatrix he restrained himself
from the desire to touch a royal foot. However, the main
intrigue of that day was opened during the meeting with business
circles of the Netherlands -- the head of Shell raised the
question about the participation of this company in the project
Sakhalin-2. Putin fiercely defended Gasprom.
correspondent ANDREY KOLESNIKOV reports details from Amsterdam.
The President of Russia
Vladimir Putin and Queen of Netherlands Beatrix had
different moods that day. The first thing that Putin saw after
getting out of the plane was cannons. They were located about
hundred meters away from the President's aircraft and looked
almost like toys as well as the honor guards right next to them.
The salute of the cannons sounded like a plastic bag is being
popped. Then, Putin met with the Queen, who was wearing a
wonderful blue hat. Together they walked by the honor guards.
Beatrix was smiling so brightly to Putin and Her Majesty
soldiers that, I am afraid, they might create
some illusions about her in their heads. In the mean time Putin
looked gloomy. Not even a hint of a smile appeared on his face.
He was giving gloomy looks to the soldiers, who were already
shivering in the cold fall wind. The Queen of the Netherlands
Russian President looked like they were going to play "good
cop and bad cop" game.
However, Putin relaxed a bit when they approached to the members
of the delegation. He was patting for a longest time the
Minister of Education Fursenko, while introducing him to the
Queen. The minister did not response to the president in the
When they were next to the car, a white piece of paper got stuck
to the Queen’s shoe. Putin instinctively made a move to take the
paper off, because it was too bright and visible, but stop in
the middle with stretched hand. He probably realized in the very
last moment that cameramen would not waist this opportunity, and
in the end everybody would remember the ceremony not for the
roaring fighters and shooting cannons, but for Russian President
touching the royal foot.
Putin still was full of desire to help the Queen, whose
entourage stubbornly did not want to notice a paper. He made a
sign to his associates and immediately two anonymous officials
went down on the Queen's foot -- it didn't look bad either.
After breakfast with Queen Beatrix and the Prince of Orange,
Putin arrived to the residence of the Burgomaster (mayor) of
Amsterdam to meet with the cream of the crop of the Netherlands
Burgomaster Cohen remembered, of course, the first visit of a
Russian leader to Holland: "The first time it was in August
1697, when Tsar Peter the First visited Amsterdam. Just like
today, he had important questions on the agenda," the
burgomaster said. "The traders from Amsterdam were hoping to
have a good reception in Archangelsk (now they are hoping for
the most favorite trade status in all Russia --A.K.) and for the
privileges to travel across Russia (now it is called regime
without visas-- A.K.). Tsar Peter told the Burgomaster of
Amsterdam Nicolas Vitsen that he wanted to be a carpenter in the
ship-yard (the plans of Putin after 2008 are not known so far -
During the meeting with the representatives of the business
community, Putin praised Dutch entrepreneurs for their smartness
and openness in the relationship with Russia. (From the Russian
side here was only the head of
Alfa Bank Peter Aven and Chairman of
Sberbank of Russia Andrey Kazmin. The list of Dutch
participants was much more extensive. Right across from Putin
was Mr. Van Der Veer, President of Shell International B.V., Mr.
Dykegraaf, head of Gazuni, Mr. Dutine, and Executive Vice
President of Royal Phillips Electronics... Altogether there were
25 people.) As the result of Dutch entrepreneurship, the trade
between the two countries is probably about $20 billion. The
investments of the Netherlands businessmen in the Russian
economy are growing. For the short period they went up by 20
"This is an absolute record!" Putin repeated with admiration.
That only thing left was to decipher what is the famous Dutch
Putin introduced members of the Russian delegation: "Here, you
can see the Governor of Sverdlovsk Region Eduard Rossel (Last
week Rossel was meeting with the president in Kremlin and
received presidential support for the second gubernatorial term.
Thus the perspectives of cooperation of Dutch business with
Rossel should look attractive.)
"There, you can see the head of Alfa Bank,” Putin looked at Aven,
who already mingled with Dutch businessmen. “Who else do we
have? I don't see... Anyway, we are all to your service..."
Putin told shortly about the stable growth of the Russian
economy and the surplus of Russian budget.
"We pay a lot of attention to the de-bureaucratization of the
economy," he said.
I decided to make a comment on this thought, but the president
was ahead of me with his comment. He said that economic really
"We all know well the words of Bertold Brecht," Mr. Brinkhorst,
Dutch Economic Minister said. "'First we need to eat, and only
then to talk about morals." He, probably, left home without
After that, Dutch organizers of the meeting asked the media to
leave the room. They actually did not want from the very
beginning the presence of the media during the meeting of Dutch
business elite with Putin. Later, I was able to figure out why.
The meeting was over in about an hour. Aven, while making the
comments about the meeting, said that only Dutch business people
and Putin were talking among themselves.
"About what?" Aven repeated the questions. "They were asking if
they can do this and that..."
"What exactly they were asking?" journalists were inquiring.
"You better ask them about it," Aven firmly responded.
At least, he did not suggest asking that from Putin.
As strange as it sounds, the Dutch businessmen were pretty
talkative -- however, only on the condition of anonymity. At the
initiative of the President of Shell, the discussion was about
the possibility for this corporation to participate in the
exploration of deposits Sakhalin-2. Shell sometime ago signed
and agreement with Gasprom, and now Mr. Van Der Veer offered to
reconsider the conditions. When Dutch took a closer look on what
they would be exploring jointly with Gasprom, they saw an
unpleasant surprise: it looked like they had to invest more
money into the project than they thought while signing the
memorandum of cooperation. And now Shell wants to rewrite the
agreement with consideration of newly discovered (for Dutch
only) conditions. There were no Gasprom representatives in this
meeting and Putin had to fight for their cause. First, he said
that the agreement is agreement. Then, Putin, according to the
Dutch, who decided to stay anonymous, demonstrated magical
knowledge of the subject. It seemed like the Russian President
was preparing himself for this conversation all his life. For 15
minutes straight Putin was presenting number after number and
nothing but numbers. As a result, Mr. Van Der Veer withdrew all
complaints. After this conversation, the Dutch businessmen went
to ride a boat in a channel.
Only Van Der Veer stayed alone on the shore.
by Andrey Kolesnikov
Russian Article as of Nov. 02, 2005