President Vladimir Putin singled out the "independent character" of Russia's democratic path (file photo)
25 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the twin goals of bolstering democratic values and fostering economic and social success in the country during an annual state-of-the-nation address today. But he also singled out the "independent character of the democratic path" that Russia has taken, suggesting it is a result of a desire for order, stability, and economic development. Speaking before a joint session of the Russian Federal Assembly, which comprises the upper Federation Council and the lower State Duma, Putin said freedom and justice are essential to social peace and the state's ability to protect its citizenry. [For coverage of today's address, see "Putin Vows To Bolster Democracy On 'Independent Path.'" --> /featuresarticle/2005/04/478bccf6-b422-471b-875d-379f46ac452f.html .]
The following are excerpts from Putin's speech:
"For today's Russia, the values of democracy are no less important than aspirations for economic success or social well-being of the people. First of all, only in a free and just society can every law-abiding citizen have the right to demand firm social guarantees and protection by the state. There is no doubt that ensuring human rights and freedoms is critically important both for the development of Russia's economy and for its sociopolitical life."
"The collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. For the Russian people, it became a real drama. Tens of millions of our citizens and countrymen found themselves outside Russian territory. The epidemic of disintegration also spread to Russia itself."
"In protecting Russia's interests in foreign affairs, we are interested in developing the economy and strengthening the international prestige of our neighboring countries. We are interested in the synchronization of the pace and parameters of reform processes in Russia and CIS states [which comprises Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine] and are ready to adopt useful experience from our neighbors and also share our ideas and the results of our work with them."
"The civilizing mission of the Russian nation on the Eurasian continent should continue. This means that democratic values multiplied by national interests should enrich and strengthen our historical unity."
"We hope that the new members of NATO and the European Union on post-Soviet territory will prove in practice their respect for human rights, including the rights of ethnic minorities. Those who do not respect, observe, or ensure human rights have no right to demand that human rights be respected by others."
"Democratic procedures should not develop at the expense of law and order, or stability which has been so hard to achieve, or the steady pursuit of the economic course we have taken. In this, I see the independent character of the democratic path we have chosen. Therefore we will move forward taking into account our own internal circumstances but of course observing the law and constitutional guarantees."
"The consistent development of democracy in Russia is possible only through legal, lawful means. Any unlawful methods of struggle for ethnic, religious, and other interests contradict the principles of democracy. The state will react to such attempts by with legal, but tough, means."
"Over the past few years a great deal has been done in the fight against terror. But there should be no illusions here. The threat remains very serious, and we continue to receive very painful blows. Criminals continue to commit their terrible acts, trying to intimidate society, and we should muster up our courage and continue our work to eradicate terror. Should we display weakness or laxity, losses will be immeasurably greater and they will bring about a nationwide catastrophe."
"I think we should first of all ensure the citizens' rights to receive objective information. This is a very important political issue and it is linked directly with the implementation of the principles of freedom and justice in our state policies. In this connection, I place special hopes on the bill on the information openness of state institutions which is currently under discussion. It is important that this bill be adopted as soon as possible."
"We should create guarantees for state television and radio to be as objective as possible, to be free of influence by any single group, and to reflect the entire spectrum of social and political forces in the country."