President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
We are meeting today to discuss the situation in the North Caucasus. The topic of this expanded format Security Council meeting is the Measures to Counter Threats to Russia’s National Security in the Southern Federal District. I would like to make a brief comment first, and afterwards, we can discuss some practical matters of this topic.
In spite of all our efforts in recent years, the situation remains complicated, even despite some visible achievements during this period. We have made a number of decisions that essentially herald an overall change in the situation; among others, I am referring to the end of the counter-terrorist operations in the Chechen Republic. Nonetheless, we cannot let down our guard, as evidenced by recent events.
I want to cite just a few statistics demonstrating the current state of affairs. Overall, 308 crimes of a terrorist nature have been committed so far in the North Caucasus in 2009 (a terrorist attack in the Chechen Republic which is investigated under Article 205 of the Criminal Code, and 307 crimes of a general terrorist nature, including some 105 explosions). During the same period last year, there were 312 such crimes. These crimes have claimed lives of 75 law enforcement officers and 48 civilians. A total of 112 terrorists have been eliminated this year – this figure represents tangible results.
That is why we must continue our efforts to restore order and eliminate terrorist scum, regardless of the formal regime in the region. These efforts must continue throughout the entire Southern Federal District and the North Caucasus – I emphasise it again – regardless of the legal regime in place, because at stake are security, lives and health of our people.
Furthermore, the situation can develop in different ways. Despite the generally positive socioeconomic trends which have been strengthening despite the crisis, some dramatic and sad events are taking place, too. As you are aware, several days ago a terrorist act killed Daghestan’s interior minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov. This is a cynical defiance and an insult to the authorities and the entire country. The law enforcement agencies must ensure the criminals are seized and brought to justice in the very near future.
I would also like to inform you of my decision to posthumously bestow the title of Hero of the Russian Federation onto Adilgerei Magomedtagirov. Please honour our colleagues. (A moment of silence followed.)
As for the threats that persist in the region, we must identify their root causes. It is no secret to anyone here that these problems in the North Caucasus and in the south of our country in general, are systemic.
By saying that I am referring to the low living standards, high unemployment and massive, horrifyingly widespread corruption. I am also referring to the systemically crippled regional governance and extraordinary inefficiency of local authorities. Unfortunately, this quite often, though not always, results in loss of confidence in and respect toward state power institutions. This must not be tolerated.
No doubt, the situation is partially influenced by certain outside factors such as extremism brought from abroad, by some freaks who come to our country for the sole purpose of causing damage to it. But these are not systemic problems.
We all know that unfortunately, the living standard in the Southern Federal District and the republics of the North Caucasus is generally below Russia’s average, despite our continuous efforts and certain achievements of the recent years. The improvements should not be negated, but the per capita GDP in the area is nevertheless just a fraction of what is the national average. Industrial output is also significantly lower, although positive changes are taking place in many sectors.
Unemployment is a serious problem, as I have already said. In order to see inspiring results in fighting it, we all must make every step and coordinate every effort.
Another goal is expanding local businesses. Regretfully, it is a commonly known fact that local economy is structured in such a way that North Caucasus republics are heavily dependent on subsidies from the federal budget. The architecture of local economy has been taking shape over decades and did not pop up out of the blue. Nonetheless, the common goal for the federal government and authorities in the North Caucasus and the Southern Federal District is to overcome such dependence on federal budget allocations, to develop local businesses, to diversify the rendered services, and to stimulate private farming.
That is the only way to cure the situation. These are the problems from which the looming negative background originates and triggers all sorts of criminal activities. It is obvious for all of us here, and today we should discuss the economic response to the challenges.
Now, I would like to focus on a somewhat different point. Indubitably, the current threats will remain if we fail to effectively counter the existing problems, those of the North Caucasus itself. They include tribalism, crony relationships, thievery, and widespread bribery. If we are unable to find a proper response to these threats, our incessant fight against terrorists will last forever. These problems are the ultimate cause of destabilisation.
We must come up with a package of measures designed to resist the said threats and counteract whatever villains. I believe such measures may be put forward at this meeting today. Everybody present here, primarily representatives of law enforcement agencies and governors of federal constituent entities should take responsibility to devise and then implement these measures. I think the National Anti-Terrorism Committee and the Southern Federal District authorities should put together a list of actions intended to prevent acts of terrorism and minimise impacts thereof. They should also propose a package of mechanisms for suppressing felonious operations of the subterranean mobs. Furthermore, these measures and actions must be tough, decisive, and efficient.
We need to eliminate the channels of financing illicit activities, to cut off all resources that feed terrorists, both within the country and from abroad. We must combat drug trafficking, as indeed, fighting drugs goes hand in hand with fighting terrorism. Clearly, drug proceeds ultimately go to sponsor terrorists. Sadly enough, in current situation these kinds of problems originate in adjacent countries and spill over the borders. We need to joint efforts with our neighbours to fight these threats which make another factor that complicates the situation in the Caucasus.
The judicial practices is terrorism related cases should be evaluated to make sure that the cases submitted by investigators do not fail in courts due to either corruption or poor performance of investigators in collecting proper evidence. Judicial practices must concentrate on explicitly convicting true offenders, bringing them to criminal trials, and awarding well-deserved sentences to punish such evil deeds.
It is out of question that whatever other steps should be coupled with the economy rehabilitation endeavours which already are pursued by the federal government and the regional governors present at this meeting. This, too, is a key element of our policies.
Colleagues, let us begin our meeting.
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Thank you. Now, we will work in a restricted format, but I have just a few words to add.
The measures we draw up today are not just another set of proposals. These need to be specific, well balanced proposals for both practical steps and legislative initiatives. Present today are our colleagues, the speakers of both the upper and lower houses of our parliament. The outcome of this meeting should be our accord on the vision of the imperative amendments to the legislation on terrorism countering and crime fighting. We should also assess the practical application of the Criminal Code provisions, something I mentioned in my opening address.
No doubt, the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the penal laws are not legal canons set once and forever. Rather, these are malleable documents in perpetual evolution. We must adapt them to our current needs. Therefore, should we find it expedient to increase criminal liability or differentiate degree of punishment for certain offences, or should we deem it necessary to amend and ease criminal prosecution — in any case our initiatives must be open, unbiased and based on public support and approval. In any circumstances, we must progress with the subject.
I would like to emphasise once again that to meet the vital challenges, we may be required to amend criminal laws and criminal procedures. The legislation on economic activities should also be improved to facilitate development of the southern Russia and the North Caucasus. We are to engage in this work on a continuing basis.