"We have failed" - President Putin
President Putin addressed the Russian nation on television on Saturday. Excerpts from his remarks:
It's difficult to speak, and it's bitter. A terrible tragedy has occurred in our land.
Over all these last few days, each of us has suffered profoundly and experienced in our hearts everything which happened in the Russian town of Beslan, where we came up against not just murderers, but people who used their weapons against defenceless children.
And today, I am addressing first and foremost, with words of support and sympathy, those people who lost the dearest thing in life - their children.
I am asking you to remember all those who died at the hands of terrorists in the last few days. Russia's history has seen many tragic pages and grave ordeals.
Today we are living in conditions which have emerged following the break-up of a vast great state, a state which unfortunately turned out to be unable to survive in the context of a rapidly changing world. But despite all the difficulties, we have managed to preserve the core of the colossus which was the Soviet Union.
And we called the new country the Russian Federation. We all expected changes, changes for the better. But we have turned out to be absolutely unprepared for much that has changed in our lives...
On the whole, we have to admit that we have failed to recognise the complexity and dangerous nature of the processes taking place in our own country and the world in general. In any case, we have failed to respond to them appropriately.
We showed weakness, and the weak are trampled upon. Some want to cut off a juicy morsel from us while others are helping them.
They are helping because they believe that, as one of the world's major nuclear powers, Russia is still posing a threat to someone, and therefore this threat must be removed.
And terrorism is, of course, only a tool for achieving these goals. But as I have already said many times, we have faced crises, mutinies and acts of terror more than once.
But what has happened now, this crime of the terrorists, inhuman, unprecedented in terms of its cruelty, is not a challenge to the president, to parliament or to the government.
This is a challenge to the whole of Russia, to the whole of our people, this is an attack on our country.
The terrorists believe they are stronger than us, that they will be able to intimidate us with their cruelty, that they will be able to paralyse our will and demoralize our society.
And it would appear that we have a choice of resisting them or agreeing to their claims, surrendering, allowing them to destroy and split Russia, in the hope that they will finally leave us in peace.
As president, the head of the Russian state - the person who swore an oath to defend the country and its territorial integrity - and simply as a citizen of Russia, I am convinced that in reality we simply have no choice.
Because if we allow ourselves to be blackmailed and if we give in to panic, we will submerge millions of people into endless and bloody conflicts like those in Karabakh, in the Dniester region, and other well-known tragedies we know only too well.
One cannot fail to see the obvious. We are dealing here not just with separate actions aimed at frightening us, not just with separate terrorist sorties.
We are dealing with direct intervention of international terrorism against Russia, with a total, cruel and full-scale war in which our compatriots die again and again.
The entire world experience shows that these wars, unfortunately, do not end quickly.
In these conditions, we simply cannot, we must not live as carelessly as we have done until now. We must create a more effective security system, demand from our law-enforcement bodies actions which are appropriate to the level and scale of the new threats that have emerged.
But the main thing is mobilisation of the nation before a common danger. Events in other countries have shown that terrorists received the most effective rebuff where they encounter not only the power of the state but an organised, united civil society.
Fellow countrymen, the aim of those who sent the bandits to carry out this horrific crime was to divide our people, to frighten the Russian citizens, to unleash a fratricidal bloodbath in the North Caucasus. However , in this respect I have the following to say.
First, in the near future a range of measures to strengthen the unity of the country will be prepared.
Second, I think it is essential to create a new system for coordinating the forces and resources controlling the situation in the North Caucasus.
Third, it is essential to set up an effective, crisis management system, including a fundamentally new approach to the actions of the law-enforcement agencies.
I stress that all these measures shall be carried out in full compliance with the country's constitution...
It is impossible to become reconciled to the anguish of the loss. But the ordeals have brought us even closer together and made us re-evaluate many things. Today we must be together. This is the only way for us to defeat the enemy.
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