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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Putin tightens grip on security
Vladimir Putin
Putin has been under growing pressure to act
President Vladimir Putin has ordered a drastic overhaul of the way Russia is run in the wake of a series of bombings and deadly attacks on civilians.

Mr Putin said strengthening central government control was a necessary part of the fight against terrorism.

He also announced plans to create a new federal anti-terror agency.

Mr Putin was speaking to a special cabinet meeting attended by regional governors, summoned after hundreds died in the school siege in Beslan.

Political shake-up

"The organisers and perpetrators of the terror attack are aiming at the disintegration of the state, the break-up of Russia," he told ministers, the Associated Press news agency reported.


Mr Putin admitted Russia's fight against terrorism had not been effective so far, and went on to put forward a series of radical and far-reaching reforms, including:

  • Plans to elect deputies of the state's lower house of parliament, the Duma, solely on a party-list basis - currently half are elected from local constituencies on a first-past-the-post basis

  • Regional governors to be nominated by the head of state rather than elected

  • A new federal commission to study the troubled North Caucasus region, at the heart of much tension

  • Security services to increase their international co-operation

  • Harsher punishments to be meted out to corrupt officials who help terrorists, for example by issuing false passports

  • A "Public Chamber" initiative to give Russians a forum to debate government decisions

Mr Putin also repeated that Russia had a right to take pre-emptive action to "destroy criminals in their hideouts and, if necessary, abroad".

Security has become Moscow's top concern following the school siege in Beslan and a series of bombings, says the BBC's Peter Biles in Moscow.

The new measures will almost certainly strengthen Mr Putin's own position, and further limit the power of an already weakened opposition, our correspondent adds.

The new commission on the North Caucasus - a region that includes Chechnya and the North Ossetia republic that is home to Beslan - will be headed by the government chief of staff, Dimitry Kozak, one of Mr Putin's closest allies.

Security review

Further measures under consideration include restoring the death penalty, tighter controls on foreigners and the creation of a colour-coded alert system.

The governor of the Moscow region has said he wants checks to be carried out on anyone arriving in the capital from the Caucasus.

President Putin has already ordered a review of security in the North Caucasus.

He also ordered a parliamentary investigation following criticism of how the authorities handled the three-day school siege in North Ossetia.

At least 326 people were killed, about half of them children.

The day before the siege began, at least 10 people were killed in a suspected suicide bombing outside an underground railway station in Moscow.

Another 89 people were killed last month in a suspected terror attack when two Russian planes crashed within minutes of each other.

The BBC's David Sells
"Many fellow citizens genuinely feel the need for more clout in the Kremlin"

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