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CNN Today

Vladimir Putin's Western Exposure

Aired April 17, 2000 - 1:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: For the first time since his election as Russian president, Vladimir Putin is on a diplomatic mission to the West.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports on his visit to Britain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his clearest signal so far that he wants to do business with the West, Russia's president-elect, Vladimir Putin, told Britain's leader, Tony Blair, he wants to build economic ties and is ready to make changes in Russia to do it.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ELECT (through translator): It is certainly our aim to create those favorable and much, much wider cooperation with -- and a more positive cooperation with our Western partners and, of course, with the representatives of business in Great Britain.

ROBERTSON: Putin said he intends changes to Russia's tax and the judicial systems, reforms Blair said he welcomed.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If we work with Russia as full partners, then we open up the prospect of solving some of the world's problems.

ROBERTSON: But by working together now, Blair was criticized on the streets outside by demonstrators angered by Russia's alleged abuses in Chechnya.

MARIANA KATZAROVA, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Dialogue is better when the dialogue is really critical, and when the dialogue is about respect for human rights.

ROBERTSON: Blair said he urged Russia's new leader to start talks with the Chechens. Putin strongly defended his country's role in the breakaway republic.

PUTIN (through translator): The actions of Russia are not against Muslims, against Chechens, they are directed entirely against international extremism and terrorism.

ROBERTSON: During their 3 1/2 hours of talks the two leaders also discussed terrorism, drugs and nuclear weapons. Putin made absolutely clear there could be no change to the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty agreement with the United States, limiting defensive batteries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: Whatever the substance of their talks, the two leaders will now have a better understanding of each other. Whether that understanding translates into cooperation will likely remain very much dependent on Vladimir Putin's domestic policy rather than his international diplomacy -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Nic Robertson, live in London, thank you.

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