Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Zurab Nogaideli, leader of the Movement for a Fair Georgia
21 december 2010
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Mr Nogaideli, I would like to thank you for participating in today's event and for supporting the idea of restoring the monument to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War, which we unveiled today.
In essence, we have restored a symbol that [our opponents] tried to destroy in Kutaisi. But the most important thing is that we have the support of many people in Georgia. We know it – we don't just feel it, we know it, and, moreover, these people are of different ages and, more importantly, of different political beliefs. I have only just now spoken about it with our veterans, among them those arriving from Georgia itself.
We are aware of the misfortunes that have occurred between Georgia and Russia in recent years, but when we learned of the monument's demolition, the question arose: What does the monument have to do with it?
I have no doubt that the only thing connecting our relations, the tragic events of recent years, and the destruction of the monument is, in essence, the policies of Georgia's current administration. These events bear no external link – they are simply the manifestation of one and the same political agenda.
Unfortunately, we can see similar trends in a few other former Soviet republics. But I have confidence that these trends will be reversed under the pressure of public opinion and common sense.
It is my pleasure – I'd like to reiterate – to thank everyone who contributed to this work, including the people of Georgia itself. I want to emphasise my appreciation.
Zurab Nogaideli: Mr Putin, I deeply thank you for restoring the monument. You and I discussed this issue a year ago at our first meeting. At the time, the monument was being demolished, and in its wake two utterly innocent people were killed. It was, of course, a tragedy. It was an act of vandalism unacceptable under any circumstances – all the more so on the day of St Nicholas, December 19.
A year ago, when you raised this issue and suggested that the monument be restored here, in Moscow, perhaps few believed that it could happen in a year – I regret to say that I personally didn't. But we profoundly thank you for delivering it here, on Poklonnaya Hill.
I believe, as many people have said today in their opening remarks, including you, that this is, first and foremost, a monument to the tragedy of last year – to the destruction of a monument dedicated to Georgians who perished in the war and to Georgians in general. But, on the other hand, this is a monument to Victory, and I am very pleased that this painting, depicting Yegorov and Kantaria raising the Victory Banner over Reichstag, has been selected. I believe that it is an excellent, and even symbolic, choice.
I believe that the events of this day – not the events of last year or the year before that – will mark a turning point in relations between Russia and Georgia. That is my firmest hope.
Vladimir Putin: I'm counting on it as well.