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Opening Address at a Meeting with Members of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Board

March 15, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

I am having a Muslim day today. I met with Chechen mayors in the morning, and have just had a tea party with Chechen children, who are staying in Moscow for a few days. And now, I am meeting with you.

I congratulate you and all Russian Muslims on the upcoming Kurban Bairam. Russia has a unique culture – unique for its multi-ethnicity. Each of us, irrespective of our ethnic background, can get acquainted with every culture and every religion.

No doubt, you will entertain people from other religions at your festive table today. Russia is a home Muslims and Christians share. That has been so for centuries, and I am sure it will stay so.

Thank you for your brave civil position in support of stronger Russian statehood.

We are in great debt to you. When we met last time, many of you criticised the state for insufficient attention to established religions. Mr Farid Gazizullin, one of Russia’s key ministers, and a Muslim, has accompanied me here today.

He will testify that I have often taken up the issues we discussed at our previous meeting.

Though we have gathered here to celebrate a holiday, we can exchange opinions on a wide range of questions, just as we did last time.

March 15, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow