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Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the ORT television channel

February 7, 2000

Vladimir Putin commented on the social, political and economic situation in the country, as well as on the operation in the Chechen Republic.

He said that the last bastion of terrorist resistance was seized in Grozny. The nation’s leaders have never doubted that the counterterrorist operation in the North Caucasus will be crowned with the restoration of law and destruction of all militants, Mr Putin emphasised. In his opinion, the terrorists in Chechnya have been taught a lesson and sustained heavy losses. He said that after the operation the Russian leaders were planning to start a scheduled withdrawal of military units from Chechen territory and to replace them with a permanent army division.

Speaking about the cabinet’s economic priorities, Mr Putin stressed the importance of good working relations with international financial institutions, first of all the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said that Russia was self-sufficient but “if credits are offered, and on good terms, it is simply foolish to turn them down.”

Mr Putin emphasised that only a robust political system and a stable and strong state would attract large-scale investment in the national economy. The state should not only establish the general principles of economic management but also guarantee their uniform application without any privileges or preferences and independent of political affiliation.

When asked about the state’s relations with the so-called oligarchs and their impact on vital decision-making, Mr Putin said that it was in the interest of the oligarchs to comply with clear and accepted rules of the market. He pointed out that lobbying was legal in some countries, for instance, in the United States, and that major market players exerted a strong influence on decision- and law-making even in those nations where it was officially outlawed. This cannot be avoided. Mr Putin observed that the state should have an institution that would stand above any influence and would ensure that everyone’s interests were protected, and not only those of major companies and monopolies. He said that the president could and should play this role.

Commenting on the socio-political situation on the eve of the presidential elections, Mr Putin said he was not uncomfortable about the criticism of the opposition. The opposition should always be there, or the authorities will relax altogether and very quickly lose touch with reality, Mr Putin warned.

February 7, 2000