President Dmitri Medvedev met in the Kremlin with young survivors of the earthquake that hit the Chinese province of Sichuan about two and a half months ago. He said that the arrival of the children from the People’s Republic of China was a good sign for Russian-Chinese relations. The president talked with 45 boys and girls who came to Moscow from the Orlenok (Eaglet) all-Russian children’s centre in Krasnodar krai, where they went for medical rehabilitation. Mr Medvedev recalled that he invited young survivors of the Chinese earthquake to spend some time in Russia when he was visiting China last May on an official visit to confer with Chairman Hu Jintao, the leader of the PRC. No more than two months later, a thousand girls and boys of the quake-hit provinces of Sichuan, Gangsu, and Shenxi left their home country for rest and medical treatment in Russia.
Chairman Hu saw them off before they boarded the plane. He told them that Russia was quick to extend a helping hand to China and that China appreciated the help they received from the leadership and common people of Russia. He said the children’s visit would promote friendship between China and Russia and communication with Russian youngsters would make it possible for this and the next generation of Chinese and Russian people to be friends. He called the children China’s young friendship ambassadors.
Mr Medvedev said, “This is a very good sign. This shows that there are friendly, heartfelt, and warm relations between our countries. I hope that you’ve had time to rest, to recoup your strength, and to make friends with the kids from our country. Looking at you, I see that you’re of different ages and all of you have survived a terrible ordeal. Some of you earned the title ‘Young Hero of China’. I think that such a lesson of courage shall remain forever in your memory”.
It’s not every day, is it, that 8-to-13-year-old children are received by a foreign head of state? It is quite understandable why they felt ill at ease at the beginning of the meeting. But, as soon as President Medvedev started speaking, the children started feeling better. Mr Medvedev welcomed his young guests to the Moscow Kremlin and hoped that their visit to Russia would be interesting and enjoyable. He also wished that the people of China would recover quickly and press on with the task of restoration, and he promised every possible assistance in this from Russia.
President Medvedev told the kids that he thanked China for its excellent preparations for the Olympics and said, “Only yesterday, I met with our Olympic team, which has left for China to compete in the Games. This shall be a great occasion for the athletes of all countries around the world”. After this, the children gave Mr Medvedev a scroll with fancy Chinese calligraphy proclaiming the “centuries-old friendship of Russia and China” and a special photograph of a panda, a symbol of their country. The children were photographed with the president in the Andreyevsky Hall of the Kremlin, and, afterwards, he took them on a tour of other parts of the State Kremlin Palace, the Aleksandrovsk, Georgievsky, and Vladimirsky Halls. At the end, the kids were given plush Cheburashkas, the mascot of the Russian Olympic Team.
Yuri Sentyurin, a deputy minister of public education, said, “Russia is launching a two-year rest and rehabilitation program for the young survivors of the Chinese earthquake. As many as 1,570 kids are expected to visit Russia this and next year. One thousand will be visiting Russia this year, and the others will come next year. According to Mr Sentyurin, 1,020 children from the quake-hit provinces of Sichuan, Shenxi, and Gangsu are now in Russia. They will be holidaying in six different parts of Russia, such as Vladivostok, Omsk, Tuapse, Novosibirsk, and Kemerovo. As many as 207 children have gone to the Black sea coast in Russia’s Krasnodar oblast. Let me point out before I finish that the bill for the children’s stay in Russia is entirely covered by the Russian government”.
30 July 2008
Voice of Russia World Service