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Vladimir Putin answered journalists' questions during his visit to the Cosmonaut Training Centre

March 2, 2000, Star City

When speaking with journalists, the Acting President said that the Government would honour its commitments in the field of space exploration.

He said the Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City was one of most outstanding achievements of Russian science and engineering. “People who ensured the county’s breakthrough into space had been trained here. They showed by their heroic work that space exploration is not just a prestigious but an indispensable project,” Mr Putin stressed. “National security and progress in fundamental research cannot be achieved without its development.”

The Acting President said Russia was interested in building the International Space Station and would honour its international commitments on the project.

Speaking about the prospects for the Mir orbital space station, Mr Putin said that its work should continue if possible.

When asked about the situation in the Chechen Republic and the possibility of holding negotiations with separatists, the Acting President said: “We know that in his telephone conversation with one of the European leaders, [Aslan] Maskhadov said he was prepared to free foreign hostages – Polish women and a citizen of France. It means that Maskhadov controls the situation with hostages who were kidnapped for ransom. Therefore, he either provides assistance to criminals or directly controls their actions.”

Mr Putin said the criminal aspect of the problem had to be solved before the start of political talks with Maskhadov.

The Acting President highly rated the results of the counter-terrorist operation conducted by Russian military units and said that the map of the North Caucasus was a vivid confirmation of his words. “Have a look at the map and you will see the location of our military units, while bandits and their leaders speak to foreign leaders by telephone”.

March 2, 2000, Star City