Chechen television broadcast Vladimir Putin’s address on the evening of March 16, that is, seven days before a referendum on the draft republican constitution and bills on electing the Chechen President and Parliament.
The Russian leader expressed confidence that the new Constitution would enable the people of Chechnya to assert their own way of life, to elect genuinely democratic local authorities and to exercise broad rights as an autonomous Russian region. For this purpose, a special agreement on dividing powers between the federal Government and regional authorities will be drafted and concluded in the near future.
Vladimir Putin stressed that the referendum was a pillar of the Chechen political settlement and an important step in coping with economic ruin, terrorism and crime.
Vladimir Putin admitted that the war-torn republic was finding it hard to normalise the situation, and that Chechnya resembled a disaster area. Nevertheless, there have been some obvious positive changes, the President noted, citing as an example the fact that the number of roadblocks is being reduced and the remaining roadblocks will be used to perform quite a different function: they will maintain law and order. President Putin promised that only a few military units would be permanently stationed in Chechnya and that they would support local police divisions.
Vladimir Putin said the Government had already set aside money for restoring the Chechen economy, a top-priority objective, and that federal allocations must be disbursed properly. He said many reconstruction-related problems were mostly caused by red tape and corruption, but that the referendum would help establish new institutions of state authority that would monitor the disbursement of budgetary funding.
The payment of compensation for damaged housing remains a serious problem. An estimated 280,000 Chechen citizens have lost their homes; and the Russian Government is now working out a mechanism of payment for damages.
However, said the President, all official efforts would prove futile, unless the Chechens join in. Vladimir Putin called on all Chechen residents to take part in the March 23 referendum and to opt for peaceful life and stability.