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01.11.2005 Netherlands.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin (left) was able to handle himself and did not touch the foot of the Queen of Netherlands
Photo: Dmitry Azarov
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Nov. 02, 2005
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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

Vladimir Putin Defended Gasprom's Interests in the Netherlands

Yesterday 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. Kommersant's special 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 and 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 same way.

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 business community.

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 - A.K).

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 times.

"This is an absolute record!" Putin repeated with admiration.

That only thing left was to decipher what is the famous Dutch smartness.

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 needed that.

"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 breakfast.

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

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