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Introductory Speech at a Meeting with Heads of District Administrations of the Chechen Republic

March 15, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,

We have invited you to ask your opinion on the ways to accomplish the main task facing the country and the republic. How can we reinstate socio-economic life in the republic, the republican administration and constitutional institutions of state authority as soon as possible?

It is obvious that we can accomplish nothing unless we implement the most elementary projects and provide the republic with what it had lacked for many years. I understand that it is you who have now assumed the greatest responsibility. The tasks facing you may even appear insurmountable.

Today, I have invited here key Government members, on whom the solution of this problem largely depends. I believe it would be correct to arrange our work as follows. After my introductory speech, I would like to give floor to Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman, a senior Government official directly responsible for the tasks we examine today. Several Ministers will also speak. Each of you will also be able to speak, to express your views and to make your suggestions. I think it right if we discuss the republic’s problems and ways to solve them in such an informal and candid setting.

I have already mentioned that it is impossible to discuss any ambitious projects unless we settle the most elementary issues. As you may know, the Government has adopted a number of resolutions; and I would like to discuss them with you, to obtain first hand information directly from you as you know what is happening in your districts and what is being done to implement decisions made by the Government. As far as I know, 2 billion roubles have been assigned to restore the republican fuel and energy sector. About 50 million roubles should have been transferred to date. What should be done in this sphere? I would like to learn your opinion on the steps concerning the republican fuel and energy sector and the ways to use republican resources for rebuilding Chechnya.

I want you to know that there can only be one approach here: all Chechen resources available must be channelled to rebuild the republic, its economy and social sector. This is the first point.

The second one. We must restore heating mains and power-supply lines, which are the main priorities. To the best of my knowledge, power supply has already been restored in Shali and Argun. Gazprom and RAO Unified Energy Systems are working actively. I am convinced that you more acutely comprehend different problems, of which senior Government officials and myself are unaware. I also want to hear your opinion on the current situation and on what can be done in the near future.

The initial spring-time sowing campaign is the most pressing problem today. Yesterday, I received Mr Koshman a bit late, at about 11:30 pm; nonetheless, we did some talking. Although documents claim that Mozdok has received part of the 342 million roubles earmarked for the spring-time sowing campaign, Chechnya has not seen the money yet. Of this sum, 192 million roubles are to be spent on equipment purchases. Why is the money still in Mozdok? What is happening to these funds? And how, in your opinion, should they be disbursed?

And, finally, I want to know your opinion of the present-day situation and interaction with security agencies, which are still the only representatives of federal authorities in Chechnya. We will come up with our own proposals. I do not think this is much of a subject for our discussion today, but we will undoubtedly request your advice on building structure of authorities, on local self-governance and other matters. At this meeting, I would like to learn you opinion on your relationships with the military and law enforcement agencies. Please speak your mind on all issues because we must have reliable, objective and authentic information on the situation in Chechnya. This is the only way to adequately react to specific developments and to make proper decisions.

This is all I wanted to say; and now I give floor to Mr Koshman.

March 15, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow