by RAY FLEMING
IN his embattled Downing Street headquarters Tony Blair received welcome support from an unexpected quarter yesterday. Speaking in Tomsk, Siberia, President Putin referred to reports that the British government might try to block possible investments by Russian energy companies in the UK and said he had been pleased to learn that Mr Blair would not intervene in this way. “It is very pleasant that Mr Blair has spoken out against such arguments,” said Mr Putin and added, “With such an approach it is possible to solve complex problems.” Clearly, President Putin is seeking to strengthen his position ahead of the Group of Eight summit of industrialised nations due to be held in St Petersburg in July. After a meeting this week with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, he said, “When European companies come to us its called investment and globalisation but when we go there it's called expansion by Russian companies.” And he rather pointedly asked why there should be any doubts about the reliability of Russian energy deliveries when “even during the Cold War the Soviet Union supplied gas to European customers without fail”. Russia wants “energy” to be a priority topic for the St Petersburg summit but there is little information about what else might be on the agenda. The probable failure of the Doha round of trade talks will doubtless feature but any attempt to revive discussion of climate change will have to take account of President Bush's reluctance to discuss internationally set emission limits.