President Vladimir Putin: Esteemed friends,
You know I am regularly meeting with religious leaders, the representatives of various denominations: Christian, Muslim and others. Therefore I am especially pleased to see in the Kremlin the spiritual leaders of Chechnya and to be able to exchange with you opinions on the problems which today especially worry not only Chechnya, but also the whole North Caucasus region.
In Russia, and in the Caucasus in particular, the authority of spiritual leaders has in all times been very high. Their opinion is carefully heeded, their word is trusted.
We highly appreciate your role in the establishment of mutual understanding between the followers of the various religions, and in the promotion of stability and interethnic harmony in the North Caucasus in particular, and in Russia as a whole. And understand – it was largely thanks to your position that there failed the extremists' and radicals' large-scale ideological expansion in the North Caucasus. They were never able to consolidate their hold.
Today, when terrorists are trying to use religious values for the achievement of far from moral aims, your firm position is of the utmost importance.
Obviously the problem is particularly acute in Chechnya. Here active preparations are under way for the constitutional referendum and we highly appreciate your support. It was in Chechnya that fundamentalists tried with particular vigour to organize the propaganda of their ideas. And tens of thousands of ordinary citizens – both Christians and Muslims – became the bandits' victims in the process.
The referendum – I am firmly convinced of this and said this in my address to the Chechen people – is the sole possible way to normalizing the situation in the republic. It is the most democratic way to creating a legal basis for the activity of the bodies of power.
The adoption of a Constitution and of laws on presidential and parliamentary elections will make the work on the reconstruction of the republic effective and responsible. And what is extremely important – will open the way for a cultural and spiritual revival of the people of Chechnya. I want to stress that the adoption of a Constitution is not going to predetermine the results of parliamentary elections or of presidential elections. This only gives the legitimate possibility to do that in a worthy manner.
One major theme is the possibility of concluding a special treaty between the Federation and the Chechen Republic. A treaty which will have to concretize the ways of achieving broad autonomy for Chechnya as part of Russia.
You are carrying out big work on the explanation of the commandments of traditional Islam, and helping bring up children and young people on the values of humanism and morality. I believe that that work is strengthening peace and harmony in society.
In many regions of Russia they understand this, find a field for joint work with religious organizations, and support religious centres and educational institutions. We shall yet be able to speak about this today, I hope.
Another key question is the organization in the republic of a judicial system. Unfortunately, the commonly adopted attitude to a court judgment as one final and binding is currently lacking in Chechnya. Judicial practice encounters here both the contradictions in law sources and, let us say frankly, the unsatisfactory organization of the work of the courts themselves. Although, it has to be admitted, the very fact of their existence is already an achievement. The judicial system is being strengthened.
Without exaggeration, your word here is extremely significant. And we must together look for a solution ensuring a worthy level of protection of civil rights in Chechnya.
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I did not want to speak of the problem of Iraq today, but once you have recalled this. I know that only recently a communal prayer was held practically in all the mosques of the country over the developments in Iraq with the wish to resolve all the problems around that country by peaceful means.
You know the stand of the Russian leadership – we favour resolving all the problems around Iraq solely by diplomatic means. And our position remains invariable. I am convinced that any other development of events would be a mistake which could entail not only human casualties, which is, in itself, inadmissible – there has been a lot of suffering already – but it would destabilize considerably the international situation as a whole.
In Russia there live, as we know from the last population census, almost 20 million Muslims. This is a serious factor in our life. We cannot but take into consideration the sentiments of the Muslims, including the Muslims of Chechnya. Therefore I want to reassure you that our position remains clear, understandable and invariable.
As to the principal theme for which we have today gathered – of course, in the last decade very many mistakes have been made, including those on the part of the federal centre. In these conditions, of course, it is very hard for the ordinary citizen to make out what is happening; it is very difficult to make the right choice, to determine one's own position. And sometimes also terrifying, because when there is no power, the state cannot protect its ordinary citizen. We have no right to forget about this, and so I take very seriously your appeal that it is necessary to give an opportunity to all, including those who have not yet laid down arms, to return to a peaceful life.
I think that if the referendum passes successfully and if the results are positive, then this gives considerable grounds for the leadership of Chechnya, indeed greater moral grounds to raise before the parliament of Russia the question of solving these problems in just this way. For my part I will be ready to support that.