Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is giving his fifth annual press conference to domestic and foreign journalists at the Kremlin in Moscow. It is of particular interest this year as Russia is currently president of theG8 group of major industrialised nations. Doubts have been expressed in some quarters about Russia’s suitability to belong to an organisation built around free-market economics and democracy.
Putin took a swipe at those critics: “We are a nation whose economy and society is in full-blooded development, and we understand better than any other G8 member the problems facing developing countries. So, the participation of Russia in the G8 is completely natural. Moreover, who can imagine discussions on global security and nuclear issues without the participation of the world’s biggest nuclear power?” Putin spoke briefly on domestic economic issues before taking questions from the floor and said he was, on the whole, satisfied at his government’s performance last year. Returning to nuclear issues, he outlined Russia’s ideas on defusing the impasse with Iran: “We intend to create a entire network of nuclear cycle centres to reprocess uranium that will be open to all nations that want to participate in a common project to develop nuclear energy. Access will be without discrimination to all, including our Iranian partners”. In the nuclear crisis with Iran the Russian offer for the moment appears to be the only avenue open that will head off confrontation. However, Iran continues to insist it wants control of its own fuel cycle, and the relevant technology.