Putin meets with Russian community in Australia

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Russian president Vladimir Putin met with various representatives of the Australian Russian community in Sydney on 09 September 2007 during his visit to Australia as part of the APEC summit. The Russian head of state said that he is glad that the Russian community is contributing to the development of Australia while at the same time maintaining ties with their homeland.

"It's a pleasure for us that our fellow countrymen occupy a place of prominence in the life of their adopted country, have played an impressive role in the development of Australia in sports and arts, and at the same time they do not lose interest in their historic homeland," Putin said during his visit.

More than 200,000 ethnic Russians live in Australia, the majority of whom reside in Sydney and Melbourne. There are also large Russian communities in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Geelong, Hobart, Darwin, and Newcastle.

According to the Russian news organization ITAR-TASS, most Russians in Australia are employed in highly skilled occupations in Australia. Australia has experienced five significant waves of Russian immigration since the early 20th century.

The Russian leader expressed hope that "relations between fellow countrymen in Australia and Russia will grown in strength."

"I'd like very much that all should feel that a new chapter has been turned in relations between Russia and Russians living abroad," Putin said. "Russia's attitude to fellow countrymen qualitatively changed over the past 15 years, and we welcome any interest in Russia," Putin said.

He called attention to a program designed to try and convince overseas Russians to return home. Russia's population is declining at an annual rate of 5 percent, due to a higher ratio of deaths to births.

"State funding, though small, is appropriated for [helping Russians settle in the country]. Metropolitan cities – Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as the Asia-Pacific region and the Far East display interest in the arrival of fellow countrymen," he said.

Putin's meeting with representatives of Russian communities from various Australian states was also attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and other members of Russian government.

"We are very glad that Russians have made an outstanding contribution to science and culture of Australia. It is pleasant that Australians value this contribution," Luzhkov said.