Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Our agenda includes the situation in the Chechen Republic and prospects for resolving it. Today we will be considering military, political and socio-economic problems. But in the first place, of course, we are to discuss security and law and order there.
Today it is possible to state that there is a serious stabilisation of the situation in Chechnya, and mass actions by gunmen have been practically ruled out. Yet as before we are facing the tasks of neutralising the leaders of military formations and suppressing the channels of arms supply and financing, as well as the transfer to the Chechen Republic's territory of foreign mercenaries, including from contiguous territories.
Another substantial question is ensuring timely supplies to the federal forces in Chechnya.
The next complex of questions is socio-economic. There has been progress in this area distinguishing, I would say, the last year as well. Wages, pensions, and other social benefits are being paid regularly. Health care, educational and cultural projects have been developed and implemented. So far, about 60,000 new jobs have been created.
Yet we have fallen behind on a whole series of issues. Restoration and construction remain a substantial problem. With a reasonable organisation of construction several thousand more jobs could have been created, which would have enabled us to make a step forward in dealing with one of the most serious and acute problems — unemployment in Chechnya. Furthermore, the financial flow to Chechnya was unsteady, and the reports on the fulfillment of certain points of the plan have frequently turned out to be far removed from reality.
It is obvious that unemployment, the poor condition of the social sphere and economic stagnation are in no way conducive to establishing order in the republic. This does not help either the federal agencies or the administration or the republic's local government, which is just getting on its feet.
I believe that the main source of problems is the financing mechanisms we have at present. We have held long discussions on organising the financing, but I think there are still many things that need to be discussed further and improved. The money seems to go to Chechnya in a maze-like fashion through a host of agencies and banks. Entirely different entities are responsible for the ultimate use of the funds and the slow pace of work.
The government, first of all the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Treasury, should promptly develop an effective financing mechanism to exclude both abuses and schedule disruptions.
The third set of questions is problems that relate to the possibility of political settlement. Of course, it is directly associated with the process of disarming the military formations. But the process of building up the republic’s local government is also of tremendous significance, as well as ensuring its effective operation and training staff from among the local population. The courts, prosecutor's office, and other law enforcement bodies are already working in the republic now. It is very difficult to accomplish this task. Nevertheless, on the whole, it is being accomplished quite successfully.
But normal life in Chechnya cannot be restored through the efforts of federal authorities alone. In accordance with the Russian Constitution, a constituent member of the Federation must have both local self-government and a system of republican bodies, including law enforcement bodies. It is necessary to establish an appropriate regulatory base for their operation to be effective. We know that the Constitution is being discussed in the republic now, and it is a difficult question, but I think it is absolutely timely. We have created basic conditions to make the transition to dealing with peacetime tasks — I repeat, only basic — and the aspirations of the people of Chechnya for stability, based on constitutional order, are evident. I think that we should pay due attention to this process.
In addition, it is already necessary to look far ahead now. After the Constitution has been approved, we have to restore not only order in the relations with federal structures in the republic, but also democratic election procedures.
A very important matter is the work of the media. Federal television channels, including ORT and RTR, have started broadcasting in sixteen districts of the republic. The work of the republic's radio and reception of central radio stations have been resumed. District and city newspapers are being published. At the same time the information vacuum is still being filled extremely slowly. We have discussed this many times, at all levels and in varied gatherings. This task is being solved very slowly. Information work is also lacking in the zone of counter-terrorist operations.
Finally, one more important job for the republic is migration processes. The return to Chechnya of forced migrants, particularly from the camps in Ingushetia is an essential precondition for the restoration of political and social life. And not only from Ingushetia, but also from abroad, including Georgia. Our agencies have been in contact with the Georgian colleagues. However, at present the Georgian side is not ready to provide the necessary information. I very much hope that the cooperation evolving in this sphere between the Georgian colleagues and our agencies and Emergency Situations Ministry, which must be concerned with this problem, will continue and in the end lead to positive results. In each area of work by the authorities in the Chechen Republic there are still outstanding issues and problems, and today I would ask you not only to identify the sore spots, but also to come up with practical proposals that can rectify the situation.