- Ekaterina Podkolzina: Mr. Minnikhanov, last June marked the three-year anniversary since you became Chairman of the RIW Group. Over these years, the Group has held a series of events to bring Russia and the elite of the Arab-Muslim countries closer. What does it mean for you to chair such an organization? What are the Group's prospects?

- Rustam Minnikhanov: Russia is a country with ethnic and religious diversity. According to different reports, there are some 20-25 million Muslims here. As you can see, Russian President Vladimir Putin has good ties with the Islamic world. Russia has had an observer status at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that unites 57 nations since 2005.
The Russia - Islamic World strategic vision group was set up as part of the strategy. It was first chaired by Evgeny Primakov, and when he passed away, Vladimir Putin decided to resume the Group's activities and appointed me as its Chairman. I believe it is a good platform uniting 35 eminent representatives from 34 nations. The Group convenes annual meetings. We came together in Moscow, Kazan and Grozny. Next year we would like to hold our meeting in Saudi Arabia. Leaders of Islamic states are positive about this work.

We maintain positive contacts with the Islamic world through our strategic vision group. We work hand in hand with the Foreign Ministry.

Second, Islamic banks demonstrate exceptional resilience, there are no bubbles theer because the underlying principle of Islamic banking rejects speculative actions that are practised in banking systems elsewhere. An Islamic bank is the most stable bank. Islamic banking does not necessarily need to be tied to religion. Today London is the biggest customer of Islamic banking instruments. Our country also needs those instruments when we have limited access to European and US funding. We need resources, and we should work with an Islamic bank. Take grocery stores. It is not only Muslims who buy Halal goods there. People know that these are high quality goods. Our country has huge potential in this area. Why can't then Russia expand its Halal production? Most countries, particularly Arab ones, depend on food imports, and these are vast markets.
Just recently I had a meeting with Minister of Economy of the UAE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri. He said that we need to introduce the Halal way of life. It involves tourism and medicine. Why don't we implement it here in Russia and make it so appealing that people from other countries would come to us? We need to have all those elements. We will be introducing this into practice. In our relations with the Islamic world, we as members of the Russian society, have an opportunity to communicate with them and use the instruments that are in demand today.