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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
New start for Russia?

Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, has clinched victory in the country's presidential elections. He will be Russia's leader for at least the next four years, with the substantial powers which that post brings.

So does the vote herald a new beginning for Russia - an end to the unpredictability and uncertainty of the Yeltsin era, and the start of a new and more decisive period?

Vladimir Putin has been portrayed by some as an 'action man' with the vision and determination to steer the right course for his country. But the verdict is out on which direction he will take.

What do you think - is Russia at a turning-point - or will the election change little outside the Kremlin?

Your reaction

I expected a little more support and hope...

Yevgenia Arutyunyan, Russia (student in USA)
Whether Putin is right for Russia or not only time will show. Commentators here comparing him to Hitler or Milosevic are obviously not familiar with history and the case of Chechnya. Who else do YOU want us to choose? Somebody who would do only as you would please? Putin is healthy, strong, action-oriented man...Perhaps, it is for the better to know little about him. His KGF, or more correctly FSB, past is not surprising. But FSB is not KGB, and Russia is not Soviet Union. After all, it is our choice. As someone cleverly said, it takes time to bring out any change and it is too easy for someone in a nice comfy zone in a prosperous country to make judgements and generalisations about Russia and what Russians are to do and not to do. I expected a little more support and hope...
Yevgenia Arutyunyan, Russia (student in USA)

Putin should focus on two things that will bring major changes to Russia economic situation. 1.Direct Control of Chechnya 2.Controlling the Caspian basin. So now you know why there is a vicious Information war against Russia.
Aussie Gold, Australia

Russia presents a danger to the rest of the world under the rule of Ras-Putin-KGB regime.

Hector Viceria, Spain
Russia presents a danger to the rest of the world under the rule of Ras-Putin-KGB regime. Nothing good can come for Russia or the rest of the world under this chauvinist-army-secret service regime. Let us remember why Russians chose him - not for his democratic ideals, not for being pro-reform, or peaceful (Yavlinskiy was much better choice in that sense). They did not choose him for law and order either - Zyuganov, Primakov etc. were all calling for law and order. But they chose Putin because he started the genocide of Chechen nation for the sake of "greatness of Russia". I agree with other respondents who compare Putin with Hitler and Russia, in its current stage, with Nazi Germany.
Hector Viceria, Spain

All I saw from Putin is his miserable War in Chechnya. Putin lacks the basic skills of negotiation and will lead Russia into more misery.
H Khosh, Canada

Any country that has elections and elects a new leader looks forward to a brighter future.

Any country that has elections and elects a new leader looks forward to a brighter future. A new leadership does not mean instant changes for the better. We should all hope that Russians get economically better off with this new government instead of fearing its probable emerging power as do most of the western countries.

Vladimir Putin is a dangerous, rapacious, belligerent demagogue. Putin may try a Soviet resurgence without communism. The World should be wary of Russia.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK (in US)

The very mention of communism, the red flag, the hammer & sickle, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho-Chi-Minh, Castro, Pol-Pot, send a chill down my spine. Mr Putin, being from the KGB, sends an even colder chill throughout the body.
Dipta K. Bandyopadhyay, USA

Putin looks like a good leader for the Russian people, It is a known fact that the entire Russian federation is in trouble.
B.Kaminski, Poland

Russia has been evolving and changing ever since Gorbachov. Economic realities have forced further change. A strong leader is needed to continue the changes started by former leaders. With all the changes happening in Europe and China, Russia needs to re-invent itself and probably ally itself with Europe for future peace and the promise of stability for economic recovery.
Pat van der Veer, A Britain in Canada

He looks like a person who is just a PR puppet.

Zafar, England
Call me negative, but I would even go as far as saying that Putin is actually a puppet. Next time you see him on the news at any function, look at his body language! He looks like a person who is just a PR puppet. He often looks nervous, not confident in his posture and look.
Already you are seeing a big influx of people into the Government who have KSG or FSB backgrounds. There are also stories of old soviet style tactics being used against journalists.
Zafar, England

What Russia needs after several years of Yeltsin rule is a strong leader to get her back on her feet again. I think Putin fits the bill quite nicely.
A Smyth, UK

Being a Polish citizen I think that a win for Putin should put us Poles on red alert. Russian foreign policy has many times worked to the detriment of our national reputation, and this state of affairs is likely to increase with Putin remaining in power.
Zuzanna Karwowski, Poland

One must wait for the new generation of Russians who won't have had every last atom of personal initiative squeezed out of them.

David Robson, Australia
Commentators over the centuries have always blamed the failings of Russia on the character of Russians themselves - as per the truism, people get the government they deserve. And recognising these failings, the higher administration of pre-Revolutionary Russia was always largely the province of the more energetic and more practical-minded Germans and Balts.
As such an administrative option is hardly possible in these more politically-correct times, one must wait for the new generation of Russians who, unlike their parents, won't have had every last atom of personal initiative squeezed out of them.
David Robson, Australia

Here's to the new boss, just the same as the old boss... ad infinitum ad nausem.
Dave, USA

Compare Putin to Gore/Bush...they all get elected without announcing any policies worth a light but at least Vlad doesn't have to spend $80m!! Looks like his economic policy has started well!
Barry, UK

Well I reckon now that Putin has won that the troubles in Chechnya will continue. But on the other hand that there will be a shake up of the Russian society as well. The millions of poverty stricken individuals on the bread line feel that they are on the up again. And at least it is the psychology which counts.
Chris Hehn, Hanover

Their main interest in Putin is whether he can clean things up rather than if he can "change Russia".

Jon Livesey, USA
Leaders can change administrations, but they cannot change countries. All that can change a country is when an older generation dies off and a new generation, with new assumptions about life, takes over.
The older generation in Russia suffered that tail end of Communism and its institutional corruption, then the rule by Oligarchs and Yeltsin's corruption, so their main interest in Putin is whether he can clean things up rather than if he can "change Russia".
Jon Livesey, USA

Yes, definitely this might be a turning point in Russia's history. Putin looks promising, he is young, he is strong, he is healthy and smart in comparison with Yeltsin.
Roald Grava, Canada

The handling of the terrorists of Chechnya is a great decision taken by Putin.

Naveen V, India
Putin's victory has thrown a light to the people of Russia. I think Putin will build a stronger and stable Russia and will concentrate more on the development of the country instead of arms.
The handling of the terrorists of Chechnya is a great decision taken by Putin and all the other countries facing Militancy should take the step of Russia in crushing fundamentalist Islamic militancy. Putin's victory will show new corridors of co-operation with developing countries. Mother Russia has now got a able leader to sail in the 21st century. Hope the faded Russian glory is once again regained.
Naveen V, India

At last Russia got a leader who does not go to hospital three days per week. He can only do better.
S. Mylvaganam, UK

We shall judge him by his deeds.

Patrick Smith, England
Putin appears to be a man who listens to opinions then makes a decision. However so far very little is known of the real man. We shall judge him by his deeds.
What is vital is that Europe and the USA help and encourage Russia. A strong stable Russia will mean a strong stable friend. An economically prosperous Russia will also ensure that regions such as Chechnya will not resort to banditry.
Patrick Smith, England

How do people expect such an undemocratic person to further the course of democratic Russia? Putin is not a modern man and does not know the values of democracy and negotiation. All he knows is war and force. How can he rule Russia?
Charles, Kuwait

To those who propose that the arrival of Putin to office will bring about world war three, I would advise them to look at the current situation with a little more than hyped or propagandic paranoia. Putin has professed a desire to co-operate with Nato, and there is no evidence whatsoever of two alliance blocks forming.
Some might say that China is allying with Russia to fight the US, but soon Russia and China will clash over the possession of Siberia. Europe will also fall out with the US over time over imperialism and economic co-operation, and the time will be ripe for a Russian-European alliance. Foul fear mongers fly from international relations, a new climate of co-operation is not for you.
Adam Poter, UK

Let's be honest, Putin could go either way.

Neil, UK
Let's be honest, Putin could go either way - he could be just what Russia needs, a strong leader willing to take on the issues that matter to everyday Russians : the economy, crime, corruption. Or he could just be inhock to the Oligarchs and make no difference and that means Russia's next President will probably be a Communist.
That would be a disaster as Communism has always failed miserably to help the people it is supposed to and we (the west) would be in Cold War II - The even more expensive sequel.
Neil, UK

The people who know most about Putin, the Russians themselves, have voted him in. As for the rest of the World, well as I live in the second most insular country in the World after the US, I don't see how we can pontificate from inside our glass houses about what WE think will happen in Russia.
Let the proof of the pudding be in the eating! One thing though: Would the people that criticised the Blairs for visiting the Putins have also criticised them if they had fallen on the side of NOT going on account of Chechnya? Or would they, as I suspect, have just dragged up Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc and called them hypocrites?
Fiona, UK

Putin's victory happened according to God's will. We should pray for Putin. It is our Christian duty.
Serge Ryabin, Russia

Whatever he does it will be tough to achieve much so give him a chance.

Giles Mahoney, UK
Having recently visited Russia it seems the people are more hopeful about the future with the idea of Mr Putin as a strong leader. Whatever he does it will be tough to achieve much so give him a chance he could be the best of the rest.
Giles Mahoney, UK

Whether he can do what he sets out to do is another matter all together. But he certainly seems to have the right credentials. He seems tough, clever, and focussed.
Russia is a country used to an authoritarian style of government. When they were given instant freedom, it naturally led to total chaos. What they should have had was a controlled change process. Like what the Chinese are doing. Hopefully, they have learnt from the mistakes.
Chatura Ranaweera, UK (Sri Lankan)

With Putin, Russia opens a new chapter, but the Russians know so little about him outside his handling of Chechnya.

Riz Rahim, USA
The margin of Putin's first-ballot victory was surprisingly not as large as had been expected just a few weeks ago. This may reflect a growing disenchantment with his tendency toward centralised authority, control of press and opposition, support of questionable oligarchies who were once close to Yeltsin, campaign smear tactics carried out on his behalf. With Putin, Russia opens a new chapter, but the Russians know so little about him outside his handling of Chechnya. Chechnya may have been a uniting force behind the nationalist Putin, but it is the least of Russian worries. Putin has yet to put forward concrete policies and programs for most of Russia's problems, economy being the most pressing. He lacks experience but brings in a different attitude to Russian politics. But how successful? Time will tell!
Riz Rahim, USA

I think a win for Putin will be a turning point for Russia, because he is a strong man. On the other hand Russia will get back its respect in the international community, because Putin will follow a hard line with the west, in an attempt to gain some of Soviet legacy. Also a strong Russia will be good for the world, because it will make some balance in the world stage with the United States.
Al, Czech Rep

Societies change in slow, incremental steps; Russian society is unlikely to be any different. The chances are that the transformation of Russia from communism to a less state-controlled society will be an excruciatingly slow process, irrespective of who occupies the Kremlin.
Mohansingh, India

I think stability will depend on Russian people believing in their leaders whoever they are and they seem to have a pretty strong trust in Putin, but there is still a discontent that not the right person is available. If there are no perfect solutions then maybe a steady change instead of radical overturn might just be a welcome break needed by the old country.
Susanna Akehurst, Russia

The communist propaganda machine is very good and can make a hero overnight:

George G., USA
New start; hard to believe. Even if Putin is presented by the media as an outsider, KGB, strong man, etc..., he is just someone whom shared the power behind the scenes during Yeltsin's presidency. He owes quite a lot to many people. One will never be the president of any country, especially Russia, if it is not known that he or she will play by the rules. Otherwise you will have Javlinsky or any other reformer elected as president. They are not playing by the rules, hence, they are blamed for all hardship the Russians are enduring and are not getting elected by the public. The communist propaganda machine is very good and can make a hero overnight: (i.e., Putin).
George G., USA

I think that everybody is waiting too much for Mr. Putin. He could shake Russia but he can not change the system of power because he is part of that. We know from Russian history that Kremlin leaders think first of all about their own security and only after that how nation could be improved. Mr. Putin even does not have yet a programme.
Marko Mihkelson, Estonia

As the BBC is persistently negative and pessimistic, I would like to counter its prevailing attitude by hoping for increased stability for Russia under Putin and the hope too that the country can start to benefit from its immense resources.
Kenneth Ashburner, United Kingdom

Putin's seems genuinely to desire a more prosperous country.

David Habecker, China
I am very hopeful about Putin's presidency. He is coming in pledging to help restore order in a country which is currently adrift and without any vision, and if he can succeed even in restoring a lasting confidence to Russians, much as FDR did during the bleak days of the Depression in the States, then that in itself will be no small feat.
True, Putin might have a more authoritarian hand in ruling than did Yelstin, but frankly I think might not be all bad for Russia at this point. Organised crime is a real problem, and extreme measures might be needed to combat it. Putin's seems genuinely to desire a more prosperous country, and he realises that free market economic reforms are crucial to that goal.
David Habecker, China (but I am a US citizen)

Russia is very young to have a conclusion. This election is just a another beginning for a little bit better Russia. Mr. Putin must put his mind and thought to acknowledge the Russia's interests that only can further productive Russia to the world. No matter what Mr. Putin must not forget what happened to Russia and why happened. As long as he can understand and successfully acknowledg them down the road Russia will have positive Change. Good luck to Russia.
M.R. Bhutto, Bangladesh

Clearly the danger in Russia is its collectively abysmal self-esteem. What is most worrisome is the general feeling in Russia that the Chechnyan campaign is good. Could this small victory make the Russian Bear hungry for similar success? Meaning, could a reformed Soviet Union desire its satellite states back? And then be bold enough to go and conquer them one by one...I personally feel that we are watching the alignment of nations for a potential WWIII...
William M. Stirling, USA

He is a shadowy, unknown character.

Mark Schofield, France
Unlike many other past presidents in the making, Putin is a relatively unknown quantity. Many of the elite in Russia are ignorant of Putin and what he represents. He is a shadowy, unknown character, as befits an ex-KGB officer, who will no doubt only fully reveal himself once elected. We can only wait and see what Putin means for Russia.
Mark Schofield, France

Russian people vote by heart, not by mind.

Pimenov Ilya, Russia
Any elections in any country are a social theatre with millions of people involved in the performance. Russia has bad luck here, for the Russian elections are some kind of trudge. Nevertheless Russia lives with HOPE and due to HOPE. Russian people vote by heart, not by mind. Today Mr. Putin is believed to be the HOPE number 1. That's why he is gonna be a winner.
Pimenov Ilya, Russia

The so-called Decade of Russian democracy was a time of increased suffering for the majority of people inside Russia. While a new cast of super rich emerged. Putin, like Yeltsin, represents those.
How can a government call themselves democratic - in a country where there is no free media tolerated, where state prosecutors are removed when they begin investigations concerning fraud, corruption and nepotism, involving members of powerful families like the Yeltsins and other criminals.
Robert M. Schors, Belgium

Russians will get exactly what they deserve - a war criminal for a president.

Anya Lauchlan, UK
Russians will get exactly what they deserve - a war criminal for a president. I wonder how much of the stolen IMF money was laundered into Tony Blair's election campaign by Putin's buddies, he was so quick on his feet to run all the way to Russia to support his opera loving pal Mad Vlad on his way to the top.
He even dragged his pregnant wife with him, or was she so eager to meet a new Irod who has Chechen newborn babies blood on his hands and talk babies with his wife? I am ashamed to be British with a PM like Phony Tony, he certainly does not represent me or any of my family or friends. Who does he represent? KGB supporters? What a way to go! Let's stay away from this mad duo.
Anya Lauchlan, UK

Russia needs a strong leader and Putin is its best choice. He needs to thwart the US and UK imperialistic colonialism around the world.
Russian and Chinese leadership are the only means to instil peace and harmony to the world after Clinton/Blair have botched it up.
Henry A. Schutzbier, USA

We can't point a finger to the FSB in relation to the apartment bombing, simply because we hate Russia, and it is ridiculous to compare Putin with Hitler, we must remember that the Russians fought and sacrificed to save the human civilisation from Hitler, for this reason, the west must encourage the future president of Russia and Chechnya to start negotiation and find a solution to the human suffering and destruction.
Nasif Rafiq, Palestine

He is following the same one-track philosophy of Russian leaders who need a "small victorious war" to extricate themselves from domestic problems.

Dr Adnan Siddiqui, UK
The imminent election of Putin will certainly give Russia a leader with vision but this is only because Yeltsin was always seeing double due to vodka! Putin has been approved by the West since he has allowed Yeltsin to escape corruption charges which would be deeply embarrassing for the West since where did all those billions go?
In addition he is following the same one-track philosophy of Russian leaders who need a "small victorious war" to extricate themselves from domestic problems.
Dr Adnan Siddiqui, UK

If Putin really is a person that he is portraying himself in the media (strong and not compromising with the corruption), then his election will be a turning point for Russia. However, any election campaign (even in Russia) is a big show, therefore it is not easy to predict all the surprises that the elected President can bring (Clinton is a good example).
Ann Marel, USA

I wish Mr Putin all the best, and he should get his act together and put back Russia where it belongs, as a major world player. A world in which the USA has a free unchallenged hand is a very unsafe world indeed, Russia should not follow the UK in becoming the Puppy dog of the United States.
Ali HAmoudi, UK

Yavlinsky will win the Russian election by a huge majority.
Thomas Moyer, Canada

The next decade is going to be sheer hell and worse for the Chechens who won't even have their own land.

Seamas, Ireland
Is Putin really going to radically change the country? I mean gaining the position of president under extremely dubious means is hardly a good start.
Although it is fair to say that Russia is now a country being born again its oligarchs are now creating a new middle class which will not want to be involved in crony capitalism. But for the vast majority the next decade is going to be sheer hell and worse for the Chechens who won't even have their own land.
Seamas, Ireland

Vladimir is a tricky person, so is where his leadership comes from. His political views are influenced by the former President, Boris Yeltsin. Not only that, but Yeltsin had trust in him. The biggest question is what sort of trust. To continue, from where Boris himself left off, or to bring change?
Those are some of the answers that Russians have to decide for themselves on March 26. Above all Boris and his friend what protection against prosecution in case, the Russian courts might try to sue them. This is politics. A game of interest, self protection and manipulation of power at the mercy of ordinary people.
TM, South Africa

Putin is a hoodlum brought in by Yeltsin to make sure he and his cronies stay fireproof forever. Putin's first act was to decree Yeltsin immune from justice, his second to order his secret-service cronies to bomb the Moscow apartment blocks that gave him his excuse for the rape of Chechnya.
Roger Briggs, Germany (UK citizen)

The Chechnya dispute is Putin's ticket to presidency. By annihilating helpless civilians he is aiming to win the 'hearts and minds' of the Russian people. Is this not what Stalin did?????
John Smith, Argentina

I think, the question "who is Mr Putin? " is obsolete in today's Russia.

Alexander KIrenkov, Russia
To my mind, a lot of things will change dramatically in this country, Mr Putin is a new person in Russia's upper echelons of power. Most of the other candidates showed up on the Russian political stage back in early '90s. Figures like Zyganov or Yavlinsky ran for president more than once. I think, the question "who is Mr Putin? " is obsolete in today's Russia. I concede that Vladimir Putin is hardly known in the Western community in full. Whereas in our country this information practically known to everybody.
Alexander KIrenkov, Russia

Putin - a strong leader but what will he do to strengthen the Russian "special services" like SVR, FSB, GRU etc. It sounds as if he is going to make them stronger and threaten the West more. Scary!
Janus Bokineian, Finland

A lot has been said about the partnership between Russia and the West since the collapse of communism. But, in fact, the West is reluctant to treat Russia as an equal partner. NATO's eastward expansion, its war against Yugoslavia and the coverage of the war in Chechnya by Western media outlets demonstrate the true value of all these talk about partnership. The only thing that makes the West act with some restraint towards Russia is Russia's nuclear arsenal.
Alam Navruzov, US

Let's treat Russia as an equal partner. Give them a chance. Communism is dead.

Ian Robson, Great Britain
I tend to follow the arguments of Gary Holcombe. The West could have many areas of co-operation with Russia - notably combating terrorism. I am thinking of the Islamic militants in particular. Both Russia and the U.S.A. have suffered from there atrocities. The two countries should pool their intelligence resources to hunt them down. What about oil? Russia has large reserves. American reserves are getting depleted. The U.S.A. could help Russia with their oil drilling technology, in exchange for their oil. Let's treat Russia as an equal partner. Give them a chance. Communism is dead.
Ian Robson, Great Britain

Western Europe could do no worse than try and cultivate links with Putin should he win the election. Europe's future lays with a stable Russia, and less with, it would appear, on an increasingly unstable United States. The Russia of the future is a land of investment opportunities, oil, gas etc. Europe should get in before the rest of the world takes a share. Sometimes one needs to swallow a little humble pie and just grin and bear it. Russia now has a grip upon democracy; it may not be the democracy of the west, but democracy nonetheless. It could be worse, Berlin could still be divided city, and Russia could still be called the USSR. Putin is probably the best of a bad bunch like it or lump it.
Mark McCulloch, UK

If Putin can reverse the negative of effects of the "shock therapy" used to change to a free market based economy he might have a chance.

Mike, US
To think that one man can change the history of Russia in four years is ridiculous. The reason Russia is in such economic/ political turmoil now is because the changes initiated in '91 were based on a mind state of instant gratification/change that is impossible.
If Putin can reverse the negative of effects of the "shock therapy" used to change to a free market based economy he might have a chance. However this is highly unlikely since the new oligarchs are just as greedy and self interested as those throughout the world and it is highly improbable that they will give anything up for the common good.
Mike, US

The election will deliver a mandate to the president - and it looks as though Putin will get the vote of rather a lot of people - he will be their choice. The West has little to do other than accept, at this time, the choice of the people of Russia - it is not the choice "Western Liberals" would make - but Russia is not a Western Liberal Democracy.
There is a chance for Russia to progress towards greater freedoms, greater economic prosperity, and greater respect for what the West calls Human Rights - and like it or not, it looks like Putin is going to be the man the whole World will have to work with!
Alan Farrar, Russia (British)

Putin is nothing more than a puppet. He is certainly not a politician, he has not a single policy. Anyone that thinks Russia will change for the better is unrealistic. There is hard evidence in relation to the apartment bombings that clearly points a finger to the FSB, which means Putin. What we will also see no doubt is that his whole stance in Chechnya will change after the elections. I thought the Picture of Blair with a suspected war criminal shows in colour New Labours Ethical foreign policy!
Zafar, England

Russia never had a real democracy except for, may be, a few months of the Provisional Government in 1917, so the forseeable future of that country looks pretty dim with Putin in power or with somebody else. It may take generations to see Russia as a real democracy.
Ilya Girin, USA

Hardly a new beginning, more like taking us back to the Cold War. I fear Russia is moving back into isolationism rather than forwards.

Peter, UK
Putin's popularity is based on one thing only - his "success" in the war in Chechnya. His other policies, if he has any, are shrouded in mystery. Yeltsin may have been an embarrassment to Russia in the last few years, but at least he kept up the pretence of moving Russia closer to democracy. Putin, in the short time he's been acting president, has presided over a clampdown on the media; increased defence spending to levels not seen since the days of the USSR; signed a tough new military doctrine; and unleashed a vicious war against civilians in Chechnya. My greatest anxiety, however, is that the West is being fooled into believing that Putin can deliver democracy and is prepared to openly back a former KGB apparatchik. I am ashamed that Mr Blair chose to interfere in the election campaign by visiting Russia and giving his clear support to Putin. I see no difference here between Putin and Milosevic.
Peter, UK

I hope that Vladimir Putin can extricate Russia from its difficulties, because he seems to be a real leader who says what he thinks and does what he says. However the strange thing about his career is that he has risen from nothing to Russian leader in a very shot period of time. So he must have some powerful supporters.
Kirill, France

Western leaders and journalists should realise that Russian people are tired of their economic, political, and media advice. Ordinary people have suffered greatly in the last few years, and they do not believe that privatisation and IMF advice will make life any better. That is why Putin is so popular - he resists any outside pressure.
Sasha Volkov, Russia

I don't find any difference between Putin, Hitler and Milosevic. After the First World War Germany had a devastated economy. People were unemployed and corruption was rampant. Hitler took this as an opportunity to grab power. He ignited the fire among Germans by saying, "you are the rulers of the world and the rest of the world are your slaves". As a result of this we got WW2, Jewish Holocaust. Post Cold War Russian economy is as same as that of post WW1 German economy. Putin is igniting a fire amongst Russians by saying, "Don't forget you are the superpower of the world". So, attack innocent Chechnya. What his army is doing against the innocent Chechen public is same as Hitler Army did to the Jews, and Milosevic did to Bosnians and Kosovars.
M. S. Rahman, USA

The Russian secret service planted bombs in Moscow and other places in order to blame Chechens and fool the Russian people by raising the spirit of hatred and justifying the massacre in Chechnya.

Elmar Chakhtakhtinski, USA/ Azerbaijan
The current state in Russia resembles Germany of 1930s and Putin resembles Hitler in many aspects. The only difference: Russian regime does not openly declare its aggressive nature. The war crimes committed by Russian army in Chechnya are the best proof of the hate card played by Putin to come to power. His KGB past and unknown political positions on the economy and democracy also revealed themselves during his deal with the communists in the Duma.
Elmar Chakhtakhtinski, USA/ Azerbaijan

It'll make no difference whatsoever! This RAS Putin of a leader is no better than the Serbian leader who massacred the people of Kosovo, etc. - Milosevic - a man that Putin admires! Their media lies to the people, and will continue to do so! The only change in Russia is its ongoing demise, and for Tony Blair to go there and party with this Stalin in Yeltsin's clothing is a disgrace! Why isn't he going to Serbia and partying with Putin's hero?
A Carpenter, UK

Chechnya is not Putin's only ticket to the presidency. Recent opinion polls show that more (30%) Russians are sure this conflict will take months or years and cost a lot of money and quite a few lives. Over half of the people asked were more concerned with their family, inflation, employment, and crime. Putin doesn't have any bad habits, he doesn't talk (and promise) too much, but sounds intelligent, none of his opponents can accuse him of corruption; besides personal qualities, he hasn't done anything radically unpopular over the last six months. Russians are sure it will be a new start for them, with something really new - a leader they like.
Andrej, Russia

Had Yeltsin not picked him out of obscurity, we wouldn't have even heard of Putin.

Dr Riz Rahim, USA
Putin seems more like Gorbachev: call it "an action man" or as Margaret Thatcher had described Gorbachev, a man we can do business with. Except the fact that we don't know much about him, particularly his KGB days, and had Yeltsin not picked him out of obscurity, we wouldn't have even heard of Putin.
Putin is a strangely one-dimensional man, having been tied mostly with Chechnya. His meteoric rise and his popularity have more or less cleansed the ballot of more familiar names. Russia is at a critical turning point, and he is Russia's Chauncey Gardner, the fascinating main character of Kosinski's "Being There." Nobody really knows, least of all the US and other Western countries, as to how to plan for a Putin era, due to begin in Russia after the March 26 elections. Perhaps for the first time in our dealings with Russia (& the Soviet Union before that) that we know so little about the man at the helm there.
Dr Riz Rahim, USA

Russia has been bereft of leadership virtually since 1917 - the only glimmer of hope being Gorbachev, who was very quickly brushed aside. It's something that there are presidential elections being held, but I don't think anything is going to change. The people are too inured to the corruption, hypocrisy and mis-management that has run their affairs so disastrously, for so long.
Simon, Norway

I feel that Russia can only now get better than its previous years under Boris Yeltsin.

Gary Holcombe, UK
I feel that Russia can only now get better than its previous years under Boris Yeltsin. I certainly feel safer in the knowledge that he no longer has control over the second biggest nuclear arsenal in the world - surely that is a good thing immediately!
I hope Russia becomes a stable and prosperous country - I would love to visit there one day, but the West must do more to stop the still existing Cold War feelings between the West and Russia. Mind you, as Russia does become stronger, NATO and the US will not be able to make decisions like it did with Yugoslavia and simply ignore Russia!!!
Gary Holcombe, UK

Did the nature of the Russian rulers change after the revolution in 1917. All they did was change from a royal despot to a communist despot. Stalin killed just as many Russian peasants as the worst Czar. Will it change now? Perhaps a song would help, "Here's to the new boss...."
Dave, USA

Putin may be able to bring the missing direction and stability without pulling Russia back to isolation and dictatorship.

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
The picture of Mr. Putin is shaping up. Based on available understanding of his ways and policies I believe he is the right choice for Russia at this time. He may be able to bring the missing direction and stability without pulling Russia back to isolation and dictatorship. He appears to be very literate that you cannot say of all US presidential hopefuls (names hidden in bushes not to insult anybody).
Mr. Putin is definitely not a cocky mini-tyrant but a real leader, as real as politicians can be. He deserves all support in his current policies and ambitions. This support may have one condition and that is that he keeps the expansionist and communist elements of Russian society under control because they are there; waiting in the shadows like nazis in some other countries.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

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