President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
This is the first time we are meeting in this format, and we are doing so because the subject that I propose we discuss today is of vital importance for all of us, for society in general and for our entire nation.
The subject of our attention today is extremism and what we can do to combat it. Many countries, including Russia, face this problem. I am referring primarily to terrorism, but also to all attempts to incite racial, ethnic, religious or social hatred and division through the use of violence or appeals to violence.
Combating and preventing extremism is not just a task for the state alone, although the state must take the lead in reacting to these kinds of issues. But the state cannot combat these problems effectively on its own. This combat calls for a concerted effort by all the political parties, all the various public organisations, our entire civil society and all of our citizens. It is for this reason that today’s meeting has become necessary.
Extremism, as we know, has many different faces. The various forms it takes – from acts of hooliganism to acts of vandalism and violence – generally have their roots in ideology based on xenophobia, ethnic and religious intolerance. We are all well aware that any form of extremism represents a grave danger.
The fact that materials propagandising hatred and division are so easily accessible today is of particular concern. They are easily found in bookshops, and not only bookshops, and that’s not to mention how easy it is to get access to them on the Internet. And it is our young people who are the ones most often reading and using these materials.
As you know, Russia has a federal law on the prevention of extremist activity, but there are still gaps in the law and not all our efforts to fight extremism are effective. Furthermore, we must ensure that our laws in this area are absolutely clear in their formulation and that the punishments they stipulate are certain to be imposed and are commensurate with the acts committed.
It is essential that we organise active educational work in the regions, the aim of which will be to explain clearly why extremism is a danger for the state, for society as a whole, and for each individual citizen.
This kind of activity is a task the political parties, which have an organisational network throughout the country and are in constant contact with people, could take on.
Another issue that we can only resolve through collective effort is maintaining social and political stability during election periods, given the elections to the State Duma in 2007, and also elections to regional parliaments. Elections to regional parliaments will take place in fourteen different Russian regions next March.
As you know, the current electoral laws contain serious legal barriers that make it possible to prevent extremist organisations taking part in elections. The revised law on political parties that contains provisions on their ideological and financial transparency will also help to screen out extremist groups. I would like to thank the current Duma deputies for passing these laws. I think that these were timely decisions and the right steps to take.
But, as we know, election periods naturally enough see a battle to win over voters, and this situation can give rise to the danger of overstepping the fragile line between raising and speaking out frankly on issues, and extremism. We have already seen such examples. Political parties therefore have a much greater responsibility to help maintain social stability during election periods.
All those who preach racial, ethnic or religious hatred must know that their views will meet with fitting resistance. And further, Russia’s multiethnic and religiously diverse society must know and feel at all times that the nation’s political parties have a clear and united position on this issue.
I have outlined what I see as the most important issues for discussion. I am sure you have additional points to make, though I do not want to see us stray too far from the main subject of our discussion, and I am sure you also have your own ideas of possible solutions.