ST. PETERSBURG, May 23 /ITAR-TASS/. What are Russia’s priorities in the development of the energy sector, is Russia planning to go on attracting foreign investments, what are the ways the Russian economy will take part in the development of the international labour market, and, last but not least, how to rebuild trust to ensure normal business development - these are the questions posed to Russian President Vladimir Putin by participants in a summit of the leaders of the global business that was held within the framework of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.
Companies investing in mineral prospecting in Russia could have a prerogative right to receive a production license, but it is up to the government to make the final decision, Putin said, commenting on a proposal by Paul Robinson, the chief executive officer of the Kinross Gold Corporation (Canada), who called for facilitating bureaucratic procedures in Russia.
“If we are to allow the prospecting (in Russian), then we believe that those who invest the money in it are entitled to have a priority in obtaining a production license,” Putin stressed. “But the solution should not be automatic. Licensing should remain the Russian government’s prerogative.”
The Russian government, Putin noted, was working on easing administrative procedures. Specifically, Russia has taken decisions in the sphere of the registration of enterprises and in the sphere of customs regulation, he said. “But this is probably not enough and we’ll naturally move further,” he pledged.
“As for simplifying access and the procedure of filing applications, we can discuss this,” Putin said, adding that Russia already had “quite a liberal approach” on this issue.
A French businessman asked Putin about Russia’s priorities in the development of the energy sector. Obviously, Russia is looking at the development of prospective energy sources - solar, hydrogen energy, the Russian president said, adding that in the next 30 years the structure of energy sources was unlikely to be changes, despite continuing growth of energy consumption. That is why, Putin stressed, Russia’s priorities in the energy sector were nuclear energy and hydrocarbon production.
According to the Russian leader, Russia plans to increase the atomic power share in the country’s energy balance to 25%, while at the moment it was 16% The president told the forum participants about the plans for the construction of 20 - 25 large power units in Russia. “It’s almost the same number as during the entire history of the Soviet atomic power,” he noted.
Putin also stressed that new atomic power facilities would be built according to the most up-to-date standards and they would be maximally safe, taking into account the “Fukushima plus” formula. Putin added that Russia would also develop its atomic power as science.
As for hydrocarbons, such fuels, according to Putin, were unlikely to become cheaper, since now hydrocarbon production was carried out at fields located far from infrastructure facilities. So, Russia’s plans included prospecting and production at shelf and Arctic fields, Putin said and vowed that all environmental standards would be strictly observed.
Naturally, participants in the forum could not but ask about the effects of the recent “deal of the century” - a long-term contract on gas supplies to China. Russia will have enough reserves for gas supplies to China, Putin pledged. “This deal was signed for 30 years while we have enough reserves for, I think, 50 years. The reserves are undervalued. Recoverable reserves for two fields which we must launch, Kovykta and Chayanda, amount to about 1.5 trillion cubic meters for each of them. This means that there will be a total of 3 trillion cubic meters. But I repeat, there are more reserves there,” he said.
The Russian leader also said that the implementation of this contract would help Russia to take a step towards creating a united gas supply system, which would give opportunities to send gas both eastwards and westwards. Stage one is the so-called eastern route from Eastern Siberia. “We have agreed with our Chinese friends that the next stage will be a western route. There is a resource base - Western Siberia - for that. The development of infrastructure in both directions will make it possible to at a certain point to link these territories - the Far East and Western Siberia, and Western Siberia, and European Russia,” he said. As a result, “we will have a united gas supplies system in the country, which will dramatically improve the situation with gas supplies to Russian territories. It will also allow us to diversify the supplies westwards when we need to or eastwards when this is more profitable for us in accordance with the global situation.”
In 2013, Russia was ranked third in the world in term of attracting direct investments, Putin said, answering a question of an American participant. “Naturally, we will not stop at this and will be moving on,” Putin pledged.
“The Direct Investment Fund that was set up a couple of years ago, is working rather efficiently - it has attracted ten billion U.S. dollars over recently, along with its partners,” Putin said.
Naturally, there were questions about the developments in Ukraine, which have told negatively on the level of trust in relations between countries. Problems linked to Ukraine and Crimea, according to the Russian president, had been caused by lack of trust.
“The question of restoring trust is vital for the entire economic forum. The urgent problems you have mentioned in relation to Ukraine and Crimea are linked exactly to lack of this trust,” he said. “What are the causes behind the Ukraine crisis? It was triggered by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to postpone the signing of an association agreement with the European Union. What followed next was a state coup supported by our U.S. and European partners. What was next? The next thing was chaos, and now we see a full-scale civil war,” Putin stressed.
He voiced sever criticism of the sanction regime imposed against Russia at the United States’ initiative over the situation in Ukraine. “They backed this state coup, plunged the country into chaos and now they want to place responsibility on us, to bind us remove the dirt they have left there. The sanctions against Russia are aimed at it,” Putin said, adding that the only way to rebuild trust was a dialogue. “We hope that a substantive meaningful dialogue, as diplomats say, will begin one day. There is no other way to build an atmosphere of trust.” Putin stressed.