President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. The past week saw several events very important for our country. Notable and important. The first of them is, of course, the referendum in the Chechen Republic. I must say that the results of this referendum are positive and by its indicators have surpassed our most optimistic expectations. This points to the fact that the people of Chechnya have made a choice in favour of peace, in favour of positive development together with Russia. This is the first conclusion.
The second conclusion flowing from this is that all who still have not laid down their arms, from this moment on, are fighting not only for false ideals, but directly against their own people. Their actions run directly counter to the interests and the will, clearly and explicitly expressed at the referendum – the will of the Chechen people to live in peace. But for all of Russia too, serious consequences exist, which are that we have closed the last serious problem involved in the restoration of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. In their referendum on March 23 the people of Chechnya did that straightforwardly and in the most democratic fashion.
In this regard, I want to ask senior members of the Government to urgently do everything within the shortest possible time in order to complete work on the plans for the reconstruction of Chechnya. Each ministry that has a relationship to this – above all, I call on the heads of the social-block ministries and those of health and education and other ministries – must have their own work programs in Chechnya. Of course, a particularly large load falls on those who will be engaged in the reconstruction of the Chechen Republic, in the reconstruction of Grozny and in paying compensation for lost housing. This will require considerable exertion and quite a lot of funds, for it is costly. And, of course, it will require strict control over the spending of these resources. The Chairman of the Government must assume control of all this work, this whole complicated set of questions.
In the international arena the major sore spot remains, of course, Iraq. The number of casualties is increasing on both sides. This cannot but arouse regret. There are the first prisoners of war on either side. It is known to us in what conditions Iraqi POWs are being held by the American side. And I express the hope that the Iraqi side will also fulfil all the requirements of international law concerning the holding of prisoners of war. I instruct the Minister of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Russian leadership to approach Iraq with the urgent request that they specifically observe these rules. The Emergency Situations Ministry has been instructed to establish a camp on the territory of Iran near the Iraqi border for the possible reception of refugees from Iraq. The first steps in this direction were taken last week. Please report what recent progress has been made on this task.