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Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was interviewed by the RTR television channel

January 23, 2000

In reply to journalists’ questions, Mr Putin said that the policy statements made by Russian Communist Party leaders about the need for property redistribution, confiscation and nationalisation were unacceptable. He stressed that there were no grounds for believing that the government was prepared to make a deal with the Communists.

During the current election campaign, some people have been talking about an emerging dictatorship and portraying the acting president as a potential dictator. In this connection, Putin recalled a popular joke in which one person asks another: “How is your health?” and the latter replies: “Don’t waste your time waiting.”

The acting president stressed that Russia must have a government that would protect the interests of all levels of society and fulfil another important function, namely, enforce the law. He added that the latter was important from an economic and political standpoint.

Mr Putin said that the state must never directly intervene in economic matters. Rather, he said, the state must fulfil another function: It must create clear and understandable rules and, most importantly, it must create a system for implementing and enforcing these rules. The acting president said he regretted the fact that the Russian judicial system was often used to further the interests of clans and groups rather than the state.

Commenting on the present-day situation in the Chechen Republic, the acting president said that only military expediency would be used to set the timeframe of the current counter-terrorist operation, and that Russian leaders would not sacrifice the lives of soldiers for the sake of any domestic political events.

The defence minister, who was in charge of the counter-terrorist operational headquarters, was the only senior official responsible for the operation, Mr Putin emphasised.

According to the acting president, the counter-terrorist operation will end when the major terrorist gangs are completely eliminated. Mr Putin pointed out that work was proceeding speedily to set up Chechnya’s own law-enforcement system. Nascent democratic and political processes and procedures, including State Duma elections and those for republican administrative bodies, would signify the end of the counter-terrorist operation’s military phase, the acting president said.

Commenting on the recent visit to the North Caucasus and the Chechen Republic by a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Mr Putin expressed satisfaction that delegation head Lord Russell-Johnston had said before leaving Russia that he had changed his position on many issues. However, the acting president noted that some people in the West would always criticise the Russian authorities and take an anti-Russian stance because of geopolitical considerations.

In his interview with the RTR television channel, Mr Putin voiced his opinion of the latest events in the State Duma. On January 18, members of four State Duma parties – Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces (SPS), Fatherland-All Russia and Russian Regions – left the plenary session to protest the allegedly unfair distribution of top positions in the lower house of parliament.

The acting president said that he did not think the situation was critical because the 291 remaining deputies were enough to make any decisions, including those on bills. At the same time, Mr Putin said that the situation could not be considered normal and must be resolved somehow.

He flatly rejected any conjectures that the Cabinet of Ministers or the Kremlin had played a part in the State Duma dispute just because the Kremlin had supported the Unity movement during the elections.

The line-up of forces in the State Duma should reflect the realities of political life and the line-up of public forces in general, Mr Putin said. He added that about 18 million Russians had voted for those who had left the conference hall, while the Russian Communist Party had received nearly 16 million votes in the December 1999 parliamentary elections.

Mr Putin said that the country must have a coherent machinery to guarantee the interests of all levels of society, regardless of their political affiliation, and that the institution of the presidency was the only clear and coherent mechanism for doing so.

January 23, 2000