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Opening Speech at a Security Council Meeting on the North Caucasian counter-terrorist operation and measures to help Chechnya’s transition to peacetime

February 25, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: I would like once again, in the presence of their colleagues, to wish a happy birthday to two members of the Security Council, Chairman of the Federation Council Yegor Stroyev and Vladimir Ustinov.

Today we are discussing an important issue: restoring federal and local authorities and rebuilding the social and economic sphere in the Chechen Republic. The issue was recently taken up at a government meeting. It became clear then that some issues related to the restoration of federal and local authorities needed to be taken up in this format.

We are facing enormous problems in the region. They are truly immense because they concern a large area with many people.

In recent years, the Chechen Republic has not just fallen out of Russia's legal and governmental orbit. It would be correct to say – and it would not be an exaggeration – that in recent years this area of the Russian Federation has fallen out of civilization, both Christian and Muslim. All institutions of state authority and management have been destroyed, because the quasi-bodies that have been set up there cannot be compared with those that have been developed over thousands of years of world history. I do not think that there has ever been such an enclave of gangsters who obey no one and nothing, no laws and no regulations.

The Chechen people are the main victims of these developments, so our sacred duty is to help them regain their statehood and restore order in their land. We will not be able to take a single reasonable step to restore order unless we rely on the local population. We have to understand that and to take those factors into consideration when we make plans. Obviously, we cannot afford to make the same mistakes as in the past years. The first thing we need to do when rebuilding the Chechen Republic's economy is to set up an effective system of control over everything that will take place there, especially in the economic sphere. Because we cannot and should not turn Chechnya into a black hole of the Russian economy. The districts where the counter-terrorist operation is over, where in the future nothing will be written off as destroyed, must be rebuilt first.

This should be guaranteed by wide-ranging cooperation between our law-enforcement agencies and the local population. We will rebuild only districts where the local population and our armed forces have jointly restored full order. If there is no stability, there should be no rush. In this case, the Emergencies Ministry should take primary measures to render assistance to the local population. It is not only useless but counterproductive to pour in state money without a clear and accurate understanding of what will happen to it over the next two or three weeks.

I would like to prepare you for this approach and give the floor to Nikolai Koshman, who will make the main report. And then I suggest that we discuss all related issues.

February 25, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow