Address to the Residents of the Chechen Republic 2003-03-16 00:00:00 The Kremlin, Moscow President Vladimir Putin: Hello, Today I address those who live in Chechnya and to whom the destiny of the Chechen Republic is precious. This is associated with the event which will take place in just a few days. In the republic a referendum on the Draft Constitution, as well as on the laws on presidential and parliamentary elections will be held. For the people of Chechnya this is without exaggeration a historic moment, for this is the first nationwide referendum. And a Constitution prepared by the Chechens themselves has for the first time been submitted for discussion and to an all-people's vote. Today it is necessary to recall that the constitutional process which had begun in 1991 was forcibly interrupted, and this became the starting point of the Chechen tragedy. Then, after the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet of Checheno-Ingushetia, the situation arose in the republic that in essence led to a civil war. And subsequently to years of armed conflict. The referendum is a major step in the struggle against devastation. And a stride towards order. I am convinced: a Constitution adopted by the people is the basis for political settlement in Chechnya. Its adoption will make it possible to elect a truly democratic authority relying upon the people's trust. You know: there were many attempts to prevent the referendum from being held and they continue to be made. Provocations and terrorist acts are still continuing in Chechnya. There are attempts to intimidate people. But it is only the people themselves who are entitled to decide their future, who have the right to adopt their Constitution. And this right the Chechen people will be able to exercise on March 23. I understand that it is very difficult for people in Chechnya at present. It is difficult to cope with the consequences of the tragedy, which has not bypassed a single family. And we will have together to do heaps of work yet until these consequences are definitively overcome. However, by joint efforts – and I want to draw attention to this – it has been possible to reverse the situation after all. And the present difficulties are entirely different than what they were only two or even a year ago – when open hostilities were going on in the republic. In Chechnya a peaceful life is gaining hold, even if not so fast as we would like. In many areas new power transmission lines have been built, and the gas supply system is being restored. Hospitals and schools are functioning, students are studying. Grain is being harvested. And only he does not see those changes who does not want to see them. Yes, life in Chechnya so far looks more like a life after a natural disaster. For the many-year period of clan struggle, of the struggle for power and for money it was no other than the ordinary Chechen people who paid with their sufferings. And paid not for the first time already. Your fathers and grandfathers had encountered injustice and lived through the tragedy of the Stalinist deportation. On the shoulders of the people fell all the hardships of the forced resettlement. A resettlement that cost many human lives. And it is the ordinary Chechens who have today to restore the destroyed economy and to revive their national culture. The Constitution will enable the people of Chechnya to organize their life independently. And to realize the very same broad autonomy within Russia, of which there is so much talk now. For this purpose also a special treaty between the Federation and the Republic will jointly be prepared and concluded. And we must get it ensured that the citizens of Russia – inhabitants of Chechnya – cease to live in fear. Cease to fear a knock at the door in the night and to hide themselves from so-called mopping-up operations. The people of Chechnya must have a worthy human life. You know: the reduction of roadblocks has begun. And where they still remain – they must engage not in extortions from the civilian population, but perform their completely different function – the function of combating crime. You also know: the withdrawal is continuing from Chechnya of the surplus part of the Defense Ministry and Ministry of Internal Affairs units. With time only units to be permanently stationed are to remain here, the principal task of which must be support of local law enforcement agencies, the organs of internal affairs of the Chechen Republic itself. Restoration of the economy remains our special concern. We do understand: for the speediest possible way out of devastation the republic needs to be lent maximum assistance and support. Chechnya is indeed in special conditions – the conditions of reconstruction. And it is therefore important to revive vital industries for people here as soon as possible. For this purpose it is necessary to help the enterprises which are directly producing foodstuffs, essential goods and building materials. Enterprises need to be supported that build housing, schools, hospitals and cultural facilities. I would like to say that for assistance to the republic the federal government has already allocated considerable funds. And today it is our common task to see to it that they are effectively put to use. I know that in this connection there are serious questions to be asked of both the federal government and the republic's administration. Many problems in the course of the reconstruction work arise because of red tape in bureaucracy and corruption. I have already said that the referendum will open the way to the formation of new bodies of power. And one major task is control over the spending of the money allocated out of the budget. However I would like to add here: without active participation in the reconstruction by the Chechens themselves, without their disposition towards real work there will be no appreciable results. We also need to organize the efficient use of the rich natural resources of Chechnya and especially of the unique Chechen oil. The first steps have been taken in the revival of the petrochemical sector of Chechnya. This wealth must become a powerful resource for dealing with social and economic problems. The government of Russia is now occupied making preparations for the payment of compensations for destroyed housing. By approximate estimates, about 280,000 citizens have lost a roof over the head. And now we need, with the participation of the district administrations, to verify the lists of all who lost housing. And already this year it is necessary to start paying the compensations. Once again I shall stress: the everyday life of people is today the main concern of authority. People in Chechnya – just as throughout Russia – must have the possibility to live normally, to have rest and leisure and medical treatment and to raise and educate their children. I must say that the children of Chechnya are our special anguish. For, trials by no means childish fell to their lot. Over the past years a whole generation of young people has grown up in the republic who had no facilities to get a normal education. They were deprived of the most elementary, the most essential things. But the Chechen children, just as the children of all Russia, are our future. And we can – and we shall do that – we shall give them a good education, a good knowledge; we shall set them on their feet. The adoption of the Constitution is truly a serious landmark. This is the very moment when the people of Chechnya are taking their own destiny into their hands. And now in your hands is the future of your children and grandchildren. The future of the Chechen land itself. And therefore I call upon you to take part in the referendum and to make the right choice. Thank you.