Putin on the birds: 'Only the weak ones didn't follow' me
Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked of leading a flock of birds and got in a veiled dig at voters who spurned him.
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Big plans for Siberia
Aside from that, Putin could rightly claim the Vladivostok summit as a major impetus for Russia's efforts to turn itself into a key economic and political player in the Far East.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Putin on a Show
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Among other things, he pledged that Russia – which finally joined the World Trade Organization in August – will promote Asian free trade, build an array of infrastructure projects in Siberia to facilitate the flow of Russian raw materials eastward, and create road, rail, pipeline, and sea links that will make Russian territory the main corridor for trade between Europe and the Far East.
Russia has been upgrading the 6,800 mile Trans-Siberian Highway – which still exists largely in name only – between Vladivostok on the Pacific and St. Petersburg on the Baltic, so that it might eventually be open to heavy trucking. A couple of years ago Putin's predecessor Dmitry Medvedev put forward a plan to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad through North Korea to Seoul, making direct rail links between Europe and the Far East viable for the first time. And the Kremlin has ordered creation of a special northern military force, and construction of a $30-billion port on the Arctic Ocean in anticipation of an ice-free Arctic sea route over the top of Siberia, that is expected to open up in coming years thanks to global warming.
"We suggest using our country's transit potential to diversify regional and global supply chains and to create new, shorter, more profitable routes that will link the Asia-Pacific and Europe across both the continental regions of Russia and through the North Sea route," Putin said.
Tensions with Europe over gas
Putin also slammed the European Union for trying to drive down the price of Russian gas, using non-market tactics "as if it were still Soviet times."