On New Year’s Day Acting President Vladimir Putin made a brief working trip to Gudermes to personally present awards and medals to Russian military personnel serving in Chechnya.
“Your main objective is to put an end to Russia’s breakup, and the country highly values what you are doing,” stressed the acting president at the awarding ceremony.
Mr Putin wished a Happy New Year to federal forces and their families and presented military personnel with hunting knives with an inscription “From the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.”
Speaking to reporters at Makhachkala airport, Mr Putin commented on the situation in the Chechen Republic. We will achieve the goal of eliminating terrorism in Chechnya, said the acting president and stressed that the military tactic of the Armed Forces had proved effective and would remain unchanged.
On completion of the anti-terrorist operation, the Chechen people will determine their future themselves, said the acting president.
Asked by journalists if the trip to Chechnya was the beginning of his election campaign, Mr Putin said that it was not linked to Boris Yeltsin’s latest decisions and had been planned a month ago. Whoever wins the presidential election will have to face the problem of terrorism and the problems of Chechnya, added the acting head of state.
While talking to journalists Mr Putin did not rule out the possibility of cabinet reshuffle.
Mr Putin was accompanied on his brief working trip to the Chechen Republic by his wife Lyudmila, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, and Minister of the Press, Broadcasting and Mass Communications Mikhail Lesin.