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Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the Voronezh Region

March 18, 2000

Mr Putin began his trip by visiting the workshops of the Voronezh Aircraft Construction Company and examined the latest models of airplanes.

The Acting President then went to the Voronezh garrison hospital, which treats officers and soldiers wounded in the North Caucasian counter-terrorist operation. Mr Putin presented the Order of Courage to Alexander Kuzmin from Orenburg and Ivan Matviyenko from the Stavropol Region for their courage and wished them speedy recovery and well-being.

The Acting President attended a meeting of the Chernozemye Association of Economic Cooperation of Black Soil Regions, which discussed regional social security, industrial, agricultural and infrastructure development, as well as preparations for the spring-time sowing campaign.

Mr Putin said the fight against poverty and efforts to raise living standards are the main economic challenges of the state. He said the volume of social allocations directly depended on economic growth rates. Mr Putin also noted the paramount importance of solving the unemployment problem and raising real incomes. “The state cannot be a tow-boat and act as a good social-security office,” Mr Putin stressed. He added that the state must create favorable working conditions and wage opportunities. The Acting President noted declining unemployment in the last few months but admitted that it was still too early to talk about any fundamental changes in the employment policy.

The Acting President also met with education workers in Voronezh and discussed pressing social problems. Mr Putin said the Government was doing its best to pay wage and social-benefit arrears at federal level, but this problem was not being solved at municipal level. In this connection, the Acting President said local governments must honour financial discipline and take a more active part in efforts to raise the living standards of public-sector workers.

Concluding his trip to the Voronezh Region, the Acting President met with media workers and commented on the North Caucasian peace settlement. Mr Putin said the Russian authorities had never refused to hold political dialogue with representatives of the Chechen Republic and had always maintained contacts with different strata of Chechen society. Mr Putin said the federal authorities intended to do everything possible to normalise the situation in the republic. This is confirmed by the March 15 meeting in the Kremlin involving the leaders of the region’s local governments.

March 18, 2000