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Introductory Remarks at a Cabinet Meeting

January 22, 2001, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: Now to current business.

First of all, I would like to brief you on the decisions taken in the wake of recent developments in the Chechen Republic. You know that several days ago the head of the Chechen administration came up with a new initiative and his own plan for settlement in the republic. Basically the plan focuses on socio-economic problems, and for this reason the Government has recently been particularly concerned with some of its aspects. In this connection I would like to draw your attention to the fact that every aspect of the plan and everything that has been proposed or is being proposed on its basis should be absolutely realistic. You should not plan anything that cannot be achieved today. To judge from what I have seen of it so far and what I discussed with the Prime Minister and his Deputy, it is clearly a feasible plan. Please bear this in mind.

Now about the troops. As you know, in his plan Kadyrov allowed for a partial withdrawal of the grouping from Chechnya. On Saturday, I chaired a meeting with top officials from the Defence Ministry, Federal Security Service, Internal Affairs Ministry, and other security-related agencies. I must say that the opinion of the Chechen administration’s head turned out to be very much the same as what heads of these agencies said. So today I have decided to partly reduce and partly withdraw troops from the Chechen Republic’s territory.

This does not mean an end to the counter-terrorist operation. If anything, it will go on as vigorously as before, but will use other men and equipment and will have other accents. Special operations will get more attention. For the moment, as you know, there are no large-scale combat operations underway there, so the presence of the current grouping at today’s strength makes no sense any longer.

Meanwhile, during the past year, we have created conditions for deploying on a permanent basis the Defence Ministry’s 42nd Division with a numerical strength of 15,000 men and a brigade of interior troops numbering 6,000 to 7,000 men. On the whole the troops are well accommodated. As regards the Internal Affairs Ministry, it still has a job to do there. It also maintains an additional contingent, which will likewise be pulled out, but in due time. It will be withdrawn as the necessary conditions are created.

I repeat: the counter-terrorist operation will be continued by special personnel equipped with special weapons, and will draw mainly on the forces of the Federal Security Service and the Internal Affairs Ministry, and Defence Ministry special units. And this means that from this day on the counter-terrorist operation will be controlled by the Federal Security Service Director and the relevant agency tasked with fighting terrorism under the law.

Well, that is all I wanted to tell you. I would like the Government and the leadership of the security-related agencies to make a detailed public announcement about these plans early in the day today.

Thank you.

January 22, 2001, The Kremlin, Moscow