17 september 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with participants of the Silk Road Challenge, Dakar Series, in Maikop


Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Hello, once again. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Of course I knew that this was a major event, but, to be honest, I had no idea that it would be so extravagant.

It is especially gratifying, as I have said from the rostrum, that people from the whole world have gathered here - the fans of this sport. It is impressive.

Sports bring people together, and car racing is no exception, as I have seen today.

I was glad to hear you approve of the organisation of this race. This is a new affair to us - it is only the second time Russia is hosting such a race, and I am glad that we have managed it, on the whole.

You have certainly heard - or, if you haven't, I will say it now - that despite the global downturn, we are paying great attention to the automobile industry and supporting it. Our assistance to it throughout the crisis period through various channels and in diverse forms amounted to 125 billion roubles, that is, over $4 billion. On the whole, this investment was effective enough, and the automobile industry really felt it.

Practically all global brands are present in Russia now - Japanese, European and American manufacturers...

We will open another two plants in St Petersburg in a couple of days - one is South Korean and the other is Canadian-Austrian. You've surely heard of it. It's Magna.

Volkswagen is also active in Russia. It opened a plant in Kaluga, in Central Russia. I met with top managers from the company a few days ago to discuss the prospects for extending Volkswagen's business activities elsewhere in Russia.

As for your route, it is extremely complicated, of course. To be honest, I was amazed to see you cover 4,000 kilometres at such speed in so little time. We only regret that Russia is known for its rough roads. This is the rare occasion that it is a positive factor. Russia is a vast country, and you have every opportunity for training and competing.

Where else in Europe can you find such rough terrain? There are top-class highways everywhere. As for Russia, flying from its easternmost point to its westernmost point takes ten hours. I would advise you to travel in Russia by car in winter, too. I don't think our drivers, especially truck drivers working in the Russian Far East and North, are much inferior to you in skill - don't think I am trying to be offensive. I suppose they could compete with you.

Speaking seriously, I am impressed by the organisation, the number of participants and the vehicles. I will congratulate you now because you have practically finished the race. There is only a small final stage left, and I hope it will proceed smoothly. I want to thank you for participation and wish you every success.

Response: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Do you have any comments or proposals to make for future events?

Response (as translated): I want to thank you on behalf of my team for finding the time to come here and see what we have done. Come again please!

Vladimir Putin: Thank you! It was really interesting. I like such things. I was very glad to meet you all and see people who are brave and such top-notch professionals.  I think that any kind of machinery can be made because there are dozens, hundreds and even thousands of people working with the latest equipment. But people who withstand such, almost superhuman, loads as yours really deserve admiration.

I wish you every success.