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Official website of the President of Russia

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Excerpt from an Address at a Gala Function Dedicated to State-Security Employees’ Day

December 20, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: We all know about the history of our security agencies. It is the subject of some controversy, as is the history of our country. To repudiate this past would be the simplest thing to do. A better approach, in my view, would be to learn its lessons, however bitter they may be. And, while being unsparingly critical, to keep intact the prized achievements of our security agencies which have always been their hallmark.

I know that this considered and thoughtful approach is typical of the present generation of security agency staff, of all those who serve the security interests of our motherland. This is a hard thing to do, because KGB men have for a long time been blamed for the crimes and mistakes of those in high places. Today the security agencies are entirely different. The far-reaching changes carried out in the country have given your work a new meaning. Gone are the days when this work was to suppress – and I want to stress this – did suppress human rights and civilian freedoms. The main purpose of your service now is to protect the constitutional rights of Russia’s citizens. And a civilian understanding of security is a new feature that has come to us with democracy.

Everybody knows and understands that the powers you enjoy are enormous. So I want to underscore this once again: citizens in our country should be sure that anything you do is legally above reproach. There must be not the slightest cause or reason for accusing Russia’s secret services of doing anyone’s political bidding or showing any bias. Today our secret services and – I want to stress this in particular – our authorities as well, derive their strength exclusively from society’s confidence and support.

December 20, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow