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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 01:51 GMT 02:51 UK
Putin's address to the nation
President Vladimir Putin
Putin: There will be no groundless mass reprisals
In his first detailed public reaction to loss of the submarine Kursk, President Putin told Russia TV that he would not dismiss top military officers while the cause of the disaster remained unclear. Excerpts from his interview:

What can I tell you? First of all: the meeting [with the relatives of the Kursk crew] held yesterday...What can one say at all? No words will, I dare say, be enough.

It is difficult to pick the right words. It makes you want to howl.


I...feel a total sense of responsibility and sense of guilt

President Putin

Of course, yesterday at the meeting one of the participants said: "We know you've only taken up the job just recently, a little over 100 days ago, but you've placed this cross on your shoulders and now you have to bear it." And that person was right.

So, despite the fact that I've been in my Kremlin office for 100-odd days, I still feel a total sense of responsibility and sense of guilt for this tragedy.

Russians should look to the future

You know, it is a painful fact that - as has recently been happening in this country quite frequently - attempts are also being made to take advantage of this calamity in an unscrupulous way.

Let me put it more bluntly: attempts are being made to inflate the situation politically in order to make some kind of political capital or pursue certain interests of particular groups....

Today, we, of course, have to think of our sailors and their families. That is what we have to think about. We have to think of the future of the army and navy, and, without a doubt, we have to draw certain conclusions.

Sackings not the solution

You know, yesterday at the meeting, and the day before, yesterday when I met the families, and today and the day before yesterday, some fairly famous and experienced people, who have been in politics for many years, said that I had to show character, demonstrate will, somebody definitely has to be fired, or even better imprisoned.


Resignations will not be accepted... while we do not have a complete understanding of what happened

President Putin

That would be the simplest solution for me in this situation, and in my opinion the most mistaken one. This has happened more than once before. Unfortunately it makes no real change to the situation.

If somebody is guilty then they must be punished, without any doubt. But we must get an objective picture of the reasons for the tragedy and the process of the rescue operations. It is only after that that we can draw conclusions of any kind.

I can tell you today that the day before yesterday the Minister of Defence, Igor Sergeyev, and yesterday the Commander-in-Chief of the navy, and the commander of the Northern Fleet, handed in their resignations to me.

These resignations will not be accepted. I repeat, they will not be accepted while we do not have a complete understanding of what happened, what the reasons are, and whether anybody is at fault, really at fault, or if this is just a tragic combination of circumstances, a tragedy.

We will restore Russia

There will be no groundless mass reprisals under the influence of wild swings of emotion and under the influence of this combination of circumstances.

I will be with the army, with the navy and with the people. And together we will restore both the army, and the navy, and the country. I have absolutely no doubt of this...

Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 23 Aug 00

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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