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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Should the UK have welcomed Putin?

Russia's new premier made a swift visit to the UK, where he met Prime Minister Tony Blair, British businessmen and attended a private audience with the Queen.

Many people felt uncomfortable about Mr Putin's trip, as Russian troops continue their intense military campaign in Chechnya.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn branded the visit "premature and inappropriate", while the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain accused the government of doing business with a man who had "blood on his hands".

However Tony Blair insisted that he intended to register UK concern over Chechnya "clearly and frankly" with the Russian leader.

Should Britain have welcomed Mr Putin with open arms? Tell us what you think. HAVE YOUR SAY I believe Britain should welcome Putin with open arms. He sets an example to all the terrorists in the world that we no longer have weak leaders and the countries that are threatened by terrorists will fight back.
Dipa Patel, UK

Zafar of England is wrong to call people 'muppets' just because they have a different viewpoint. If he feels so strongly about the Chechen affair, maybe he'd like to join the Muslim cause and take along the Muslim demonstrators that were outside Downing Street yesterday. But that would mean giving up your warm, cosy existence in Britain where you are allowed to voice your opinion. So what's it to be...Chechnya or here? Somehow, I don't think you'll choose Chechnya.
Peter Blunkett, London

Blair is not at all supporting the war in Chechnya! Blair is politically correct.

V.V. Srinivasu, India/Japan
Tony Blair is just engaging Putin. What is wrong? After all Putin is an emerging dynamic leader of Russia. It is better to engage somebody like Putin in dialogue. By isolating USSR in the cold war times, nobody gained. By keeping the channels open and trying to build atmosphere for dialogue and friendship, Blair is not at all supporting the war in Chechnya! Blair is politically correct.
V.V. Srinivasu, India/Japan

Sasha of Russia, if you weren't so serious sounding I would be laughing. You give the U.S. CIA far to much credit for stirring up trouble. Yes American presidents dreamed of a break up, but it wasn't the Russian Federation it was called the USSR. Do you actually believe the rebels actually blew up those apartment buildings? Where is your evidence?
Eddie, USA

I doubt many people understand what is actually going in Chechnya, and this is due to lack of coverage.

James Richardson, London, UK
Referring to the previous comments about the so-called treatment of women within a Muslim society, it reflects the deeply ignorant understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, thanks to the biased influence of the media, people have a distorted view of what Islam really is and thus they fully condone the actions taken against a Muslim country, forced to obey the 'might' of Russia. I doubt many people understand what is actually going in Chechnya, and this is due to lack of coverage.
The reason for this is that in actual fact, many western governments have resigned to the fact they cannot do anything that would conflict their interests, ignoring human brotherhood in preference for 'national identity'. There are almost 5000 Chechen's which have been killed, and I hardly think that anyone of them were 'terrorists'.
James Richardson, London, UK

Putin is a war criminal as much as Milosevic. There may be terrorism in Chechnya and there certainly is but this is no excuse to kill thousands of innocent civilians. It is a shame that Blair overlooks all this. Obviously the West needs a working relationship with Russia and not a new cold war. Once more, the means justify the ends. Machiavelli is very much alive as well as Stalin and the KGB.
Nelson Franco Jobim, Brazilian in the UK

Interesting isn't it. The Labour Government arrests Pinochet when he comes to London. The Labour Party was only too happy to have a go at Pinochet as he was from the right. They are not arresting Putin when he comes to London. Admittedly this might just cause a major problem! However we don't hear Labour calling for Mugabe to be extradited either.
M Wright, UK

Of course Russia can not be ignored. However, Mr. Blair could not convince that the purpose of Mr. Putin's visit was to engage Russia in a constructive manner. It appeared more like Mr. Blair's effort score a diplomatic point. In any case, these days the Prime Minister presents an image of desperation. No one really believes his by now hollow pronouncements, however hard he tries to cushion them in pseudo-philosophic terms.
Tridiv, Germany/India

Chechnya is Russia's internal matter. Russia, which is fighting in Chechnya is doing nothing short of protecting its territorial integrity.

Guru Shenoy, United States
Chechnya is Russia's internal matter. Russia, which is fighting in Chechnya is doing nothing short of protecting its territorial integrity. The federation can be divided into thousands of pieces if each one was granted their own way. U.K. should refrain from trying to be the deputy to the U.S.; which can only be the true policeman. Period! Or else U.K. may want to try to absorb this Chechnyan population. I'm sure that if U.K. was to declare accepting them as refugees, every single person in Chechnya would lay down their arms and want to start a new life altogether. Putin is a man of calibre. He requires no tuition from the west. He is a man of world class diplomacy and stature. Should we not look at the years of experience that he has inducted from his past careers? The U.K. should welcome him with open arms, but maintain a arms length distance in actually trusting all that he has to say.
Guru Shenoy, United States

I am very disappointed by the action of UK leadership. I hoped that Europe understood the evils of colonialism, oppression of people's freedoms, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing, once and for good. I was eventually wrong: co-operation with the criminal Russian regime makes us the part of that crime. Instead of putting as much diplomatic pressure on Russia as we can the West tries to smooth things out by praising Putin's promise of "investigation of alleged human rights abuses". Welcoming Putin is a disgrace of human rights and an acceptance of war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
Richard Kohl, Germany

Why not! You welcomed Pinochet!!
Kofi Ellison, USA via Asuonwun, Ghana

It is very strange that so many people take what they hear on TV and radio too seriously. The whole war in Chechnya was organised by CIA in co-operation with Islamic terrorists. United States are not interested in any stabilisation in the region. Nobody wants Russia to take control of it or Chechnya to become a stable and democratic country. Only anarchy and chaos in North Caucasus could help Caspian oil to go through Turkey and possibly lead to a break-up of the Russian Federation - the dream of every US president since the end of World War II.
Sasha Volkov, Russia

How can we judge so harshly a man who has done so much to fight terrorism? We could learn a few lessons from Russia over its handling of this affair. Unfortunately we must sometimes resort to military means; as this is the only language some people will understand. Every Government in the world has a duty to protect its people and not be seen to be weak on terrorism.
Neil, UK

It is "State Terrorism". Governments will always act together as a CLUB, their only interest is to make money for their country so that they can give more benefits to its people and hence get re-elected. I find the question pitiful. State Terrorism should have no place in a civilised world.
Krishan Canagasabey, UK

I hope Putin's mission to the UK is successful for all parties and that it establishes even better relations between our two countries. Putin is new, about to embark upon some radical changes in Russia, and is the leader of a great nation; whether we like it or not, these are the realities and it would be crass to ignore them.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

The miseries, which he has inflicted over the Chechnya people, are beyond conception.

Gohar Latif, Pakistan
Mr. Putin should not have been allowed to set foot in the UK. The miseries, which he has inflicted over the Chechnya people, are beyond conception. Where are the Human Rights Associations Now? Russia should have been barred and isolated by the International community. Iraq, which has committed a very less crime against the one being done by Russia in Chechnya, continues to suffer till date. Why can't Russia be forced to face the same fate???
Gohar Latif, Pakistan

I live in the country named Russia, and so it's close to me what in the West is called "a war". Many Russians are perished in this campaign and in the terrorist acts in different towns. But anyway Mr Putin has been elected democratically and a major part of the Russian population even in same Chechnya and other Caucasian regions voted for him not only he can stop this bloody war, but because he is able to continue making a bridge with the rest of the world.
Serguey Gorbounov, Russia

This is yet another example of the West dabbling in other people's affairs. The intense animosity between Russians and Chechens goes back at least decades, and some Chechens have been guilty of the most savage barbarism ever seen. Unfortunately this is not always reported in a media uninterested in independent reporting.
Sure there should be dialogue, but we should limit ourselves to pushing for a peaceful settlement to a very thorny problem.
Paul R, UK

Ignoring or isolating democratically elected president Putin would not do any good to anyone.

Pnin, Netherlands
Ignoring or isolating democratically elected president Putin would not do any good to anyone. All these Muslims proclaiming adherence to human rights seem a bit hypocritical to me. As soon as anyone condemns their treating of women, they are the first to stand firm on their rights to sovereignty etc.
Muslim extremism is a real threat, not only to Russia but to Western Europe as well. I'm glad the Russians got in Mr Putin finally the strong, decided and realistic leader they need.
Pnin, Netherlands

Britain has welcomed plenty of foreign potentates with "blood on their hands", so, why the brouhaha over Putin all of a sudden?
Hugh MaCamley Langer, Brunei

I have always believed in the adage that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Dave, UK,

In order to get elected he blew up his own people.

Zafar, England
I can see by the vast majority of people replying, or selectively being listed that fundamental human rights and the pictures of Entire Cities and Villages being flattened by indiscriminate bombing, really invoke no passions.
And all the muppets out there who say he is a regular democratically elected premier, have no problems with the fact that in order to get elected he blew up his own people?
Zafar, England

Putin seems like a genuine leader. I'm very impressed by him and I have the feeling he will be around for a very long time. It would not surprise me at all if this prodigiously capable man is the dictator of Russia for the next 30 years. So, yes, I think it is a good idea to make friends. He is definitely more in the Big Leader mould than any of these bland Third-way mediocrities we have running around. Putin was an inspired choice for Russia.
John/NYC, US

It one thing for Tony Blair to brown-nose Putin, but it is sad to see the Queen being made to do the same on Blair's advice.
Sohail Hussain, Chechnya/UK

I don't understand why Blair is in such a hurry to embrace Putin. This demonstrates that Blair has abandoned democratic principals, as is the case with mayoral election in London.
Wanyama Wangah, Uganda

This world needs more heroes like this.

Mark, Germany
The West cannot condemn Mr Putin's war on Chechnya since every western nation has been involved in the eradication of Islamic terrorist movements and regimes for the security of our nations. We can sleep at night safely knowing that these vicious animals fomenting our demise are being faced and eradicated by men like Putin. This world needs more heroes like this.
Mark, Germany

Yes of course they should. I think its high time that there were more people like Vladamir Putin who stand up against the threat of terrorism (albeit with and necessary force) rather than constantly give in and let terrorist factions control a once powerful nation. Sadly with a weak and all to liberal leader, one who is afraid to criticise anyone who may be in a minority (unless of course it is the educated and rich) we will forever be stuck in such a situation, the answer? Emigration? Or perhaps a long hard look at ourselves and the weak politicians that we have chosen to rule our country and now sadly our morals too.

Mr. Putin mercilessly conducted a barbaric genocide of the Chechen's with a vengeance.

Shahid Parvez, USA
With no regard or respect for human rights or the International Community, Mr. Putin mercilessly conducted a barbaric genocide of the Chechen's with a vengeance. If Mr. Putin is a democratically elected representative, he must show respect for human life and human dignity and learn to resolve conflicts through peaceful negotiations and non-violent actions. It is a political crime to help or welcome such a disgusted man.
Shahid Parvez, USA

It is wiser to engage Russia in an effective dialogue with the West rather than alienate one of the world's potentially strongest countries. Russia herself is torn between her Western and Slavic characteristics, why push her needlessly into the company of rouge states like China, Kazakhstan, Iraq and North Korea?
Eric Vigod, USA

Here we go again! How is that Britain cannot recognise their own atrocity in the bombing of Yugoslavia only to be pointing accusing finger at others. Where do we get this idea that, it is permissible for Britain and the US to commit a crime as in Yugoslavia, Vietnam, etc. and get away with it. The war in Chechnya is more justifiable than that in Yugoslavia or the continued bombing in Iraq by British and American planes.
Alan IK, Canada

Whomever Mr Blair invites to the UK is up to him but let's debunk any suggestions of "ethical" foreign policies since Mr Putin heads a state that has been suspended from the Council of Europe; refused the head of UN Human Rights Commission, Mary Robinson, free access to investigate war crimes and has now been called up to the European Court of Human Rights by a nurse who was abused and saw her patients shot by Russian forces. Nobody has to go to Russia to realise it is a brutal state - like I don't have to go to Baghdad to know Saddam Hussein is a murderer.
Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, UK

Putin's UK visit offers Blair an opportunity to try to register UK's and the West's concerns over Chechnya and other issues

Riz Rahim, USA
Regardless of how it is viewed now ("premature" or "inappropriate"), Putin's UK visit offers Blair an opportunity to try to register UK's and the West's concerns over Chechnya and other issues (including clarification of the fine print on the START II approval). Putin has Chechnya in control, and may offer some meaningless gestures to appease; Blair has to continue the pressure before appearing too willing to deal with Putin. Blair also has to amend the rather unflattering image left by his visit with Putin before the Russian elections. Blair's evaluation of Putin during and after that visit was a bit too effusive. Putin may be another man the British "can do business with" but hope Blair is at least half as careful with Putin as Thatcher was with Gorbachev.
Riz Rahim, USA

Congratulations to Britain for having been selected as the introductory stop for the Russia of the 21st Century. I say 'good on you' for your willingness to take this vital welcoming step. Britons have much to offer Russia and should be encouraged to be generous with advice and co-operation across a range of initiatives. From assisting with a newly-minted legal system to opening the doors to legitimate financing for development and ensuring a firm start to a global campaign to curb terrorism, all avenues must be open so that President Putin can lead his country progressively, and underpin the beginnings of a tolerant liberal democracy. A rising tide lifts all boats.
John Anderson, Canada

As recent experience has shown, dialogue is the way forward. Germany's "critical friend" approach to Iran achieved much more than the traditional embargo and sanctions approach used by the West. The added bonus is that Germany now has strong ties with Tehran. If Britain can play a role in helping modernisation and reform in Russia then great- if it also means that our biggest nuclear threat decides we're not so bad after all then better for all of us!
Richard, UK

The invitation of Putin by Blair is yet another indication that the 'humanitarian' rhetoric used last year before and during the Kosovo crisis was shear propaganda which was solely designed to lure us into that crisis. The Chechen independence struggle is suppressed in the most barbaric and inhuman way, one that Milosevic could only dream about. Blairs statement that he feels 'comfortable' with Putin should make people wonder which standards this man is using. If Blair want's to be associated with a man who's only action yet is the destruction of the Chechen nation it's (sadly) up to him, but please spare us of his 'humanitarian' drivel in the future!
Pieter Vervaeke, Belgium

Yes, by being the first Western country that hosts Mr. Putin as a Russian President Britain can take an excellent opportunity to become the first Western country that can break anti-Western feelings among Russians and that can give the British enormous advantage with regard to economic and cultural ties over the rest of the West!
Ilya Girin, USA

How many times has the Secretary General of the Muslim council been to Chechnya or even Russia for that matter? How people, who have no comprehension of Russian life, can comment on how things are done over there is beyond me. People ought to be a little less involved in other peoples business and a little more concerned with sorting out matters closer to home.
Nobody put up trade blocks or shunned our leader when we went to clear the Argentineans out of the Falklands did they? Because we perceive others as less advanced than ourselves does that mean we have the god given right to perceive their wars as any more brutal than our own?
Eric Simpson, Wales

It seems good for the West to be open to a dialogue with Russia. Mr Putin was elected and is the legitimate leader of Russia.

Dave Adams, USA
It seems good for the West to be open to a dialogue with Russia. Mr Putin was elected and is the legitimate leader of Russia. If, there is to be world peace or political stability it must come from good communications. And, that does not mean that Mr Putin should be ignored. However, as long as Russia is building up her military machine (which is fact) it is wise to ask some questions as to 'why'?
Dave Adams, USA

It seems from the reaction of the Government and comments submitted that principle takes a back seat when it comes to dealing bullies if they happen to be big (i.e Russia). I would also like to point out that it was never conclusively proven if the flat bombers were Chechens on which pretext Russia decided to bulldoze a whole region including it's civilian population.
Naush, UK, UK

We must welcome Putin as we welcomed Gorbachev.

Jim Hamilton, United Kingdom
Clearly the lessons of history need to be taken very carefully. We have all seen where isolationism leads to - an Ethical foreign policy is one thing, but it misses the point of foreign policy, which is to increase the security and prestige of a nation. We must welcome Putin as we welcomed Gorbachev.
Jim Hamilton, United Kingdom

We welcomed the President of China, a country with a much worse record for human rights. Here is a real opportunity for Britain to have influence for the better in Russia, it is therefore desirable to influence as friends than in a confrontational climate.
David, UK/Netherlands

It really saddens me to hear Tony Blair, the man I have voted to the power for justice and safeguarding human rights, is the most lenient among the other EU leaders to Putin. The man who ordered not just the killing and gross violation of the rights of women and children in such a scale, but also flattened a WHOLE NATION to the ground with its people, resources, infra structure etc., just because of what they believe in!
Abdulaaziz Ali, UK

Certainly not. His actions in Chechnya under the guise of restoring 'order' are no different than that of Saddam Hussein in Kurdistan or Milosevic in Kosovo. He is an autocratic leader who cannot bring about democracy as some have professed. Yet it is hardly surprising that common people supported him, taking their long dictatorial history into account. The West should continue pressuring Russia economically, but take into account its nuclear arsenal.
Elijah, UK

Britain has welcomed Jaing of China, Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Pinochet et all. How can you even question a welcome for Putin? He is a duly elected leader of Russia, I hope he can make a difference.
Collin, Canada

Sooner or later, we will have to learn to live with the self-evident but frightening truth, which is that the interests of big business always come before any other considerations. Therefore, not inviting Putin would have been rather hypocritical, after the warm reception that was accorded the Chinese leader recently.
Ubong Effeh, UK

we should encourage Mr Putin to visit Mr Blair if only in the hope that our own leaders can maybe talk him into more peaceful alternatives.

Michael J Pope, Wales
I cannot even believe that a question like this should even be raised. Of course Mr Putin should be allowed to visit our country. If some people believe that the war waging in Chechnya is wrong (and believe me I don't even fully understand it yet alone condone it!) Then surely we should encourage Mr Putin to visit Mr Blair if only in the hope that our own leaders can maybe talk him into more peaceful alternatives.
Michael J Pope, Wales

Isn't it a double standard of the Labour government to treat General Pinochet, for what he deservedly did against humanity, and find that it does not apply to Mr Putin for his gross inhumanity against the Chechen civilians!
Rodrigoz Gonzales, London

Yes of course we should welcome him. These one to one meetings, as Thatcher and Gorbachev showed, have an immense capacity for good. It would be madness to isolate Russia again, and anyway, how can we criticise Russia in Chechnya when we're still bombing Iraq on a regular basis and maintaining sanctions there.
Julian King, UK

Russia is a world super power and as such it is sensible for Britain to have good relations with her. Fighting terrorism in Chechnya has little difference to the use of British troops in Northern Ireland.
There have been many calls for the West to intervene in Chechnya, like Kosovo but these are naive and to use the words of Paddy Ashdown such action could lead to world war three.
John, UK

I think Britain is wise to welcome Putin. Russia needs friends in the west and would no doubt appreciate a friendly gesture, which would lead to more dialogue and better understanding. Besides, Britain has hosted far worse, like Robert Mugabe.
Ray Marsh, Australia

How can it be good for Britain to isolate and abuse Russia?

John Walmsley, England
No, I think that Mr Putin should be made welcome. How can it be good for Britain to isolate and abuse Russia? Yes we should voice concern over the situation in Chechnya but we are not the world's policemen anymore. What the Russian chooses to do they will do and we have to accept that. But I would rather have a good positive relationship with them.
John Walmsley, England

Of course we should welcome Putin! He is the leader of one of the largest countries in the world, which - third world economy or not - still possesses large numbers of nuclear weapons. It is in all our interests to make Russia our ally rather than our enemy. By coming here first, Putin is essentially offering Britain the chance to be Russia's closest European ally. We should seize that chance. People who think that bleating about human rights violations and threatening to cut off aid money will get the results they want obviously know nothing about Russia or Russian history. If we throw this opportunity away we may all come to regret it in the end.
Neil Hewitt, UK

Mr Putin is a democratically elected head of state, and as such should be welcomed to the UK. Yes there are troubles in Chechnya, as there are in many parts of the world. We in the west find it all to easy to condemn others for taking "a hard line" on terrorism, but it seems to me that this is the only way to put down a rebellion that could once again spread throughout a larger area. We should help pay for the costs of this war.
Mark Watkins, England

This is a great privilege for to have the first Western visit by a new Russian President.

Andrew Cromwell, UK/Northern Ireland
YES - why not? This is a great privilege for to have the first Western visit by a new Russian President. Russia is a trading partner and meetings between the rulers of our countries can only lead to increased ties in trade and other relations.
Today's visit is proof that Britain can still be a leader on the world stage and perhaps this visit will foster close to personal links between the British and Russian Governments. Is it not better to have Russia as a friend and trading partner rather than an enemy?
Andrew Cromwell, UK/Northern Ireland

I seem to recall that exactly a year ago our beloved prime minister was waging war against a state that did not pose a direct threat to the UK.
James Denning, UK

There will always be some people who'll protest for the sake of protesting, and there is never any decision that is welcomed by all parties. The plane and simple fact is that Mr Putin is now a world leader of a large power and has to be treated as such. You are not going to solve anything by shouting down a telephone line. Perhaps these face-to-face talks will finally produce some refreshing insights.... Hopefully...
Paul Charters, England

I think it is safer to talk to Putin than to ostracise him from the rest of the world because of the Chechnya crisis. If barriers go up between leaders and nations, it becomes more difficult to register disapproval for acts and atrocities committed, and therefore these crimes are more likely to go unheeded and unpunished. Blair needs to stress firmly his position on these matters, but leave the door open for more talks on the subject, and hopefully, a positive resolution for the people of Chechnya.
Rachel, UK

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15 Apr 00 | Media reports
London trip 'snubs Paris and Bonn'
12 Apr 00 | Europe
Anger at Putin's Royal visit
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