Question: Why this surprise visit to Chechnya?
Vladimir Putin: Nothing surprising about it. It was a planned trip. And there was no emergency. But there was a reason of course. It is a little over a year since the 6th Company of the Pskov paratroopers fought an unequal battle against bandits on a height in Chechnya. It is no exaggeration to say that it was a unique occasion, a unique example of selfless performance of military duty and heroism in the history of our country. I wanted to visit that place and pay tribute to our soldiers.
As you know, one of the units is stationed nearby. It is stationed there permanently. I met the servicemen and together we unveiled a modest monument to honour our soldiers, the Pskov paratroopers. That is one thing.
Besides which, I had to see for myself how the main unit that will be stationed in Chechnya permanently is billeted. It is the 42nd Division. Some of the troops are being withdrawn from Chechnya, but I would like to repeat what I have already said: Russia will have as many troops there as is necessary depending on the situation. Some of these troops will be stationed there permanently. The 42nd Division will form the nucleus of these troops.
We know in what conditions our servicemen had to carry out their duty in 1995. We remember how they complained that they didn’t have the bare necessities, and about the conditions they had to live in. I must say that I am pleased with what I have seen. And I would like to thank the Chief of the General Staff and former Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev. The 42nd Division is at full strength and I think the conditions for service are good.
And finally, one of the main parts of the trip was a meeting with the head of the administration Akhmat Kadyrov and – and he had long been asking me to do it – a meeting with the heads of regional administrations in the Chechen Republic. It was a very useful and frank talk. I deliberately had military commanders invited. The discussions were very sharp, sometimes emotional, but well informed. I got very useful information and the same is true of all those who accompanied me on the trip. It was useful information for the heads of various ministries and agencies, including the Government’s economic unit.
In my opinion, one of the main tasks today is to establish good and effective cooperation between the heads of security agencies and the local government. Of course we won’t be able to solve the main tasks of fully restoring the republic without the support of the local population. This is evident and we have reached a point when it is necessary to restore the economy, law and order with the support of the local population. So the federal authorities, the federal special services and the Armed Forces should interact more and more with local leaders and the local population, and as conditions mature, build up the capacity of the law enforcement bodies of the Chechen Republic itself.
I think this is generally understood. To forestall any speculation on this topic I would like to stress that it will be a phased process as the necessary conditions are created. But we are determined to move in that direction. I am sure that we will succeed in addressing this and all the other problems that we still have there.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all Russian Christians on the approaching Easter holiday. I say all Christians because this year the Orthodox and Catholic Easter falls on the same day. Orthodox and Catholic believers are part of the Christian population, which can be described as the bulk of Russia’s Christian world. They have a major holiday, we all have a major holiday and I offer my heartfelt congratulations. All the best to you. Thank you.