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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Putin in his own words
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin: "Keeping the little guys on their toes"
BBC Monitoring trawls through the speeches and interviews of Russia's new president for clues about how he thinks:

Hours before being elected as president, Vladimir Putin warned the country not to expect too much from him at once.

"I have no right to say that tomorrow miracles will occur... If you raise people's hopes, disappointment is inevitable. I think additional difficulties lie ahead for me in that the level of the expectation is very high," he said.

Yet most political commentators are not sure what to expect.

Mr Putin began his campaign by saying preferred to rely on his record in office rather than "brainwashing".

But the acting president was rarely absent from the Russian TV channels in the run-up to the vote, expounding his views and talking about himself.

On the election, Putin admitted to "special advantages" over other candidates but said the media sought to wreck the election by suggesting there was no alternative to himself. The other candidates included well-known politicians, "so, please, there is a choice".

But no matter how strong a candidate's credentials, it is popular appeal that counts, he said. A candidate "may be good or bad, but if the population is not sympathetic ... there is nothing I can do about it".

Political opposition, in general, is "like a physical pain - you know, like when something hurts, when something isn't right with this or that organ".

On Human rights and state control

  • The "rights of the specific individual, not of the crowd" should come first.

  • A free press is "one of the most important instruments for guaranteeing the health of society".

  • Intellectuals are of "immense socio-political importance" and they should work together with the government "smoothly and shoulder-to-shoulder" on the "optimum road of development".

  • People are "tired of the lack of discipline among the authorities" and are already "reacting very positively" to tighter government control. Public support for the Chechen military campaign is due, in part, to a "feeling that the state has become weak".

  • As for the president, "it is the job of the big guy to keep the little guys on their toes".

  • The pace of work of the security services under the previous government should "not only be maintained but exceeded".

    On Chechnya

  • "The terrorists have been taught a lesson", but operations will not end until "total liberation".

  • Whenever Russia has shown "even the smallest signs of weakness, scum have immediately tried to deal the final blow..., to tear it to pieces and to bring it to its knees".

  • The campaign is guided not by "the Russian political calendar" but "military criteria alone". Soldiers' lives will not be sacrificed "for the benefit of any domestic political aims" but one should not "allow the idea of excessive losses to be hyped up too much, as it would damage the public's morale".

  • It would be "pointless and criminal to pump state money" into Chechnya while "instability" continues there.

  • Western states "do not understand, or appear not to understand" the danger from Chechnya though it is in their "national interests ... to give direct political and economic support to Russia".

  • Chechnya is "just one fragment" of a "general struggle" by extremists.

    On defence and Nato

  • "The most important thing is that the defence order will be increased by 50% this year." Russia cannot be a great state "without strong armed forces".

  • The days of "getting by on conscripts alone" are over and, given the demands of high technology, "some part of the army must certainly consist of professionals".

  • In some arms of the services, "alternative service" should be an option and only professionals should have to "fight in hot spots".

  • It is difficult to imagine Nato as an enemy, but Russia wants "equal and trusting relations with its partners". The sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states cannot be violated "under the slogan of a so-called humanitarian intervention".

    "Anyone who insults us is not long for this world."

    On the economy

  • "We have lived under a totalitarian system and ... it did not achieve anything in the economic sphere." It is unacceptable to be "a rich country of poor people". Russia's long-term goal is to "rapidly modernize its economy".

  • Guarantees of property ownership are a "cornerstone of the political and economic spheres". There should be a "system of efficient management of the country's land resources" with the state playing "a definitive role".

  • It would be wrong to beg from the IMF but "if they give us credits on good terms ... it would be silly to turn them down". To quote a Russian proverb, "take when they give, run when they hit".

  • There will be no major foreign investment until there is a "stable political system ... and a strong state defending market institutions and creating a favourable climate".

  • While corruption goes unchecked "there cannot be any kind of positive development in the country".

  • As for industrial relations, "constructive dialogue" is preferable to "a constant tug-of-war" so that "people's labour is properly rewarded and well earned".

    On Boris Yeltsin's legacy

  • Yeltsin's last words in office "almost made me cry ... He said simply: 'Take care of Russia.' "

  • Parents should be treated "the way we want to be treated by our children", so there should be a "very kind and humane attitude towards ... the first president of Russia".

  • Even in retirement, Yeltsin's "prestige" can still benefit Russia abroad and he should be allowed to lead an "interesting life, full of content".

  • The Kremlin oligarchs should be viewed as "market players" with a major interest "in a set of "general rules being developed ... with the state itself being the guarantor". No clan or oligarch should be given special access to "a local authority, a governor, the president, the prime minister or a minister". All should be "kept at an equal distance and have equal opportunities".

  • The president should "stand above" the influence of lobbyists.

    Putin on himself

  • "I have friends. Unfortunately, there are not so many of them. Or maybe it is fortunate, because then you value them more."

  • "I do not bear grudges and am not inclined to believe that yesterday's opponents are one's enemies for the rest of their lives." However, it is "probably necessary" to "remember blows" on occasion.

  • Service in the KGB and its successor, the FSB, "gives you a certain perspective". Years of dedicated service without public recognition leave a "life-long inoculation against addiction to medals".

  • "The vast majority of our citizens ... lack a sense of internal stability. Let's hope that we will all regain this feeling."

    Source: BBC Monitoring Caversham 19 Feb 00

    BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), 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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