Moscow, 27 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Before starting to field some
of the more than 1 million questions, Putin praised Russia’s high
economic growth, calling it a vital factor for stability and higher
living standards. Russia’s economic growth, he said, puts it in the
league of developed countries. "During the last several years, Russia's
annual economic growth has been about 7 percent. This number is higher
than the growth indices of many developed countries and transitional
economies. Of course we are not absolute leaders but we are certainly
among the leaders," Putin said.
Responding to the many
questions on social issues, Putin said the government was actively
working on improving health care, housing, and education, and fighting
unemployment in Russia. Putin also expressed concern over the rise of
racially motivated attacks in Russia and pledged to step up the fight
against Nazism and fascism. "We will step up law enforcement activities
to make sure that skinheads and neo-fascist elements disappear from the
country's political map. We will do everything to that end. But, for
the excesses that have taken place and are taking place, I offer my
apologies," Putin said.
As expected, callers expressed
interest in Putin’s plans after his second and last term ends in 2008.
Putin reiterated his intend to step down in 2008, saying he would not
seek to amend the constitution to be allowed to run for a third term.
"I see my task as creating conditions in the country for the long term
so that young, competent, efficient administrators come to govern the
country. Therefore, I don't think it is appropriate to make any sudden
changes to the legislation, especially to the Constitution of the
Russian Federation. As far as I am personally concerned, as the
military people say, I will find my place in the ranks," Putin said.
questions came from Chechnya, where people spoke to Putin directly via
one of the dozen video links set up across the country for the
occasion. A Chechen woman who said her son had disappeared several
years ago asked about abductions in the war-torn republic, in which
thousands of people have been kidnapped and gone missing after
detention by security forces in the past decade. Putin said work
continued to find missing people and bring offenders to justice: "I
hope you will agree with me, sometimes is even impossible to determine
who is actually behind these crimes: whether these are bandits in
disguise or official law enforcement personnel abusing their authority.
In any case we will continue to try to find those people who have
disappeared and track down those who are responsible for these crimes,"
The president called for a political resolution
of the conflict, saying he attached great importance to the November
parliamentary elections. Most questions debated during the show were
devoted to domestic social issues. But foreign policy was also
on the dispute over the Kuril Islands, a chain of Pacific islands the
Soviet Army seized after World War II that Japan has been claiming. He
once again ruled out handing over the islands to Japan. "They are under
Russian sovereignty. This is fixed in international law. This is a
result of World War II and we are not going to discuss anything in this
respect. We are conducting negotiations from this standpoint. We want
to settle all disputes with all our neighbors including Japan," he
Putin then pledged to defend the rights of ethnic
Russians in Latvia, which Moscow says are regularly violated. Speaking
to Russians gathered on the rooftop of the Russian cultural center in
Riga, Putin also lashed out at Latvia for refusing to permit the
broadcast from a Riga square, slamming to decision as
"counterproductive." "Let us not feel bad about these people [city
authorities]. We were all born in one common big home that was called
the Soviet Union and perhaps these birthmarks of the Soviet past, as we
used to say, are still on the face of the authorities in some of the
countries of the former Soviet Union -- the desire to restrain and to
forbid everything. This is counterproductive," Putin said.
also used the opportunity to once more condemn Ukraine's Orange
Revolution that toppled the veteran pro-Moscow president Leonich
Kuchma. Responding to a request to ease border crossing between Russia
and Ukraine, Putin said the Orange Revolution had created a mess that
was widening the split between Russia and Ukraine.
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