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President Putin’s visit to the J8: not on the agenda but a more than welcomed surprise

President Putin taking questions from the Junior 8 young people in Russia participating in a video conference with young people from the Middle East in Cairo
© UNICEF, 2006/Alena Svirid
President Putin taking questions from the Junior 8 young people in Russia participating in a video conference with young people from the Middle East in Cairo.

Pushkin, (St. Petersburg), Russia
By John Varoli


14 July 2006: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on President Vladimir Putin's visit with ‘Junior 8’ youth delegates in Pushkin, near St. Petersburg, Russia.

Russian president Vladimir Putin took time off from his busy schedule today and made a surprise visit to Junior 8 delegates at their conference center in a St. Petersburg suburb while they were discussing the issues of education and energy resources.

The Russian President impressed the young delegates, informing them of his views and giving them indelible memories for life.

``I was so excited that I almost cried,’’ said Kelly Velasquez, 15, a member of the U.S. delegation. ``My aunt really likes Putin, and even before we left the U.S. she said that whatever I do, I’ve got to get a photo with him. And I did!’’

Today began just like any other busy and intense day at the Junior 8, and there was no advance warning of the presidential visit. First on the schedule was an early morning video conference on HIV/AIDS between delegates and a UNICEF youth group in Bangkok.

After the coffee break and shortly before lunch, about 16 delegates were in a video conference on education with youth in Cairo when to their surprise a group of imposing, well-dressed men in black quickly entered the room. Within seconds, the Russian president, dressed in a stylish gray suit, minus a tie, followed them in.

The stunned delegates gasped, began murmuring to each other, but remained in their seats. Ignoring formalities and careful not to disrupt the meeting, Putin greeted the group and quickly took a seat between two astonished delegates. With great ease, the Russian president took up the issue of education that had already been under discussion for the past 90 minutes.

``I must be honest and admit that not everything promised regarding education has been fulfilled,’’ said Putin, his frankness appreciated by the audience. ``But education is a top issue on the G8 agenda.’’

The Russian president praised the work of the Junior 8, and then called for questions, giving the floor first to the youth in Cairo.

UNICEF, 2006/Alena Svirid
© UNICEF, 2006/Alena Svirid
President Putin greets the young people of the Junior 8 participating in a video conference with young people from the Middle East in Cairo.

``Education is an important factor impacting world progress,’’ answered Putin to the Egyptian group’s question of what the G8 can do to help developing countries. ``It’s especially a factor for economic growth, and the G8 has a number of initiatives to help developing countries with education.’’

One of those initiatives, emphasized Putin, was the importance of making sure that girls be given equal access to education, in order to facilitate their participation as full-fledged members of society.

``It was good to know his views on education, and I liked what he said,’’ said Charlotte Millar, 14, a member of the U.K. delegation.

Toward the end of the meeting, to the shock and chagrin of the presidential guard, the delegates spontaneously crowded the president, shaking his hand and asking for photos. The Russian president motioned to his guards to back away, and he obliged the excited and smiling children.

``Only if there is peace and safety in the world can basic human rights such as education be fully guaranteed,’’ concluded Putin, speaking to the delegates about their meeting scheduled for July 16 with G8 leaders. ``All my colleagues at the G8 look forward to meeting with you.’’


Junior 8 Summit - St. Petersburg, Russia - 2006
Impressions from the Junior 8 Summit in St. Petersburg where young people met with the leaders of the G8 nations to voice their opinions on the future of the world.
[Photo Essay]






Audios and Videos

French youth delegate Xavier Atwell shares his thoughts on the Junior 8 summit.

Italian youth delegate Elena delle Site discusses her experience at the Junior 8 summit.

UK youth delegate James Goodall comments on events at the Junior 8 summit.

July 13 2006: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the ongoing ‘Junior 8’ Youth Forum in Pushkin, near St. Petersburg, Russia.

7 July 2006: UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the start of the Junior 8 Youth Forum in Russia.

Related links

'Junior 8' - Address to the Leaders

Press releases

16 July 2006: G8 Leaders met Junior 8 Children
14 July 2006: Girls and boys from Latin America ask leaders of the G8 to combat violence
13 July 2006: At Junior 8 Youth Forum, delegates strategize to put intolerance in check
10 July 2006: Children of Junior 8 gather to share views with G8 world leaders
10 July 2006: ‘Junior 8’ Youth Forum opens in Russia

Children to be given voice at G8

Stories, by John Varoli
Day 1: St Petersburg 
Day 2: Touring the sites
Day 3: Working day
Day 4: Working day
Day 5: Delegates strategize to put intolerance in check
Day 6: President Putin's surprise visit to J8

7 July 2006: ‘Junior 8’ delegates arrive in Russia
5 July 2006: ‘Junior 8’ Youth Forum prepares to meet

UNICEF in Russia

Junior Summit J8 2006

J8 competition

Voices of Youth – Junior 8 2006: Russia

Interact with Junior 8 2006 participants


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